Joining a sorority for me was an interesting decision. I was coming off of over 10 years of athletic and team related participation and had recently decided to not pursue softball at the collegiate level. As a first-generation college student, I had the typical assumptions about Greek Life, but was encouraged to see what it was like by my father because he had spoken to several people about the networking opportunities. If anything, I hoped that I would find at least some resemblance of the “team” culture I was familiar with.
Going through recruitment was nerve-wracking to say the least. Everyone had an opinion regarding which chapter was best for me, and in my freshman dualistic mind (look at Perry’s Theory of Intellectual and Ethical Development), I simply wanted some higher authority to tell me what the best choice was. Going through recruitment I felt pretty solid that I was going to join one organization, but during the third night of recruitment I met one member of another organization which in that moment forever changed my decision. I knew I wanted to be in the organization where I could get to know her. My somewhat brash decision had been made. I wish I could say that the philanthropy of the organization I chose was close to my heart, or that I really found the chapter to hold similar values to mine, but that wasn’t the case. I will be honest in saying that I didn’t mind the colors, but it was really meeting one woman in a matter of 5 minutes that helped me make the decision that I was going to be a sorority woman.
Contrary to popular opinion, the “Greek Experience” is not solely based on parties, mixers, and the “social” components. According to Patrick Daley and his site “The Fraternity Advisor,” Greeks provide the largest network of volunteers in the country, contributing over 10 million community service hours each year. Although I did not join my organization specifically for the philanthropy which we serve, over my 4 years as a collegiate and my time now as an alumna, I have grown to understand the importance of the service that we do. Regardless of the organization, the root value is to help others and that is a fundamental characteristic that any Greek or non-Greek individual can understand. For many students, participation in a Greek organization has launched a passion for a cause or has offered insight into how to plan an event which can help others. Greek communities serve not only their individual chapter philanthropies and charities, but many have also adopted community wide projects. Many campuses participate in the program “Up ’til Dawn” to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital while many female communities have worked to provide funds for projects such as Circle of Sisterhood that funds female education in third-world countries. Service and philanthropy may not always be the reason members join an organization, but in many situations it does contribute to why they stay.
Patrick Daley also published that “A U.S. Government study shows that over 70% of all those who join a fraternity/sorority graduate while under 50% of all non-fraternity/sorority persons graduate. Why is this you may ask? Academic accountability. Every sorority and fraternity have minimum GPA expectations and encourage academic success. Students participate in study tables and chapter challenges. You also have an entire organization concerned about your academic success.
The last statistic that Patrick Daley shared which I also want to share with you is that “Over 85% of the student leaders on some 730 campuses are involved in the Greek community.” Greek members are tour guides, orientation leaders, student government representatives, and are present in many of the clubs and organizations on your campus. Participants in Greek organizations are encouraged to participate in various organizations outside of their own and take on leadership roles in those organizations. Where else are students encouraged to challenge themselves intellectually, academically, and through leadership opportunities?
Utmost, I have found that most of the members with whom I have interacted maintain their membership in their organization because they found a place where they could be the best version of themselves. They found friends who supported them through the hardest experiences that college can present including academic struggles, eating disorders, addiction issues, loss of a parent, friend, or family member, cancer diagnosis, or suicidal thoughts. In the media we hear stories of social organizations hazing and mistreating the people they call their brothers and sisters. According to USA Today College, “since 1975, there has been at least one hazing-induced death per year across college campuses and 82% of these have come as a result of binge drinking.” Although these statistics speak to the activities going on within some individual chapters, they do not speak to the experience of the majority of Greek Life members. I would love to see the documentation of positive experiences, and that is why we as Greek members should advertise the positive experiences that we have had;flood the media, published or social, with memorable stories, thoughts, and lasting impressions. Don’t be ashamed of your experience, promote it and encourage others to continue in the growth and development of Greek organizations.
Looking back on my experience, I could not have made a better choice. The organization I chose embraced my individual characteristics while challenging me to be my best version of my self as a leader and in my academic achievement. Although I was initially interested in joining a sorority as a networking opportunity, I could have never imagined the multitude of reasons, stories, and experiences I had that made me a lifetime member.