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“I positioned myself in college in such a way that I can’t have a meaningful romantic relationship, because I’m always busy and the people that I am interested in are always busy, too,” she said.

Their time out of class is filled with club meetings, sports practice and community-service projects.

For some, the only time they truly feel off the clock is when they are drinking at a campus bar or at one of the fraternities that line Locust Walk, the main artery of campus.

At 11 on a weeknight earlier this year, her work finished, a slim, pretty junior at the University of Pennsylvania did what she often does when she has a little free time. Their relationship, she noted, is not about the meeting of two souls.

She texted her regular hookup — the guy she is sleeping with but not dating. “We don’t really like each other in person, sober,” she said, adding that “we literally can’t sit down and have coffee.” Ask her why she hasn’t had a relationship at Penn, and she won’t complain about the death of courtship or men who won’t commit.

But there is an increasing realization that young women are propelling it, too.

Hanna Rosin, in her recent book, “The End of Men,” argues that hooking up is a functional strategy for today’s hard-charging and ambitious young women, allowing them to have enjoyable sex lives while focusing most of their energy on academic and professional goals.

In this context, some women, like A., seized the opportunity to have sex without relationships, preferring “hookup buddies” (regular sexual partners with little emotional commitment) to boyfriends.

Others longed for boyfriends and deeper attachment.

Typical of elite universities today, Penn is filled with driven young women, many of whom aspire to be doctors, lawyers, politicians, bankers or corporate executives like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg or Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer.

Keenly attuned to what might give them a competitive edge, especially in a time of unsure job prospects and a shaky economy, many of them approach college as a race to acquire credentials: top grades, leadership positions in student organizations, sought-after internships.

These women said they saw building their résumés, not finding boyfriends (never mind husbands), as their main job at Penn.