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Greek Life and Grades: How Do Today’s Students Measure Success?

How is the success of the modern American college student measured? Does success come from a high grade point average and academic achievement? Is it reflected in a high-paying job offer at graduation? Or is it found in the development of relationships and experiences that pave the way for a life well lived?  

If you believe a recent report analyzing the impact of Greek life on grades and post-graduation salaries, America’s college students care about extrinsic rewards. News outlets across the country are reporting the results of a recent study analyzing how pledging affects grades. Since involvement in Greek organizations may distract from academics, they claim, fraternities and sororities are detrimental to future success. However, such a narrow view flies in the face of the values held dear by the young people populating America’s college campuses.

Greek Life and Personal Development

For many, living the American dream means buying a home, starting a family and living comfortably behind a white picket fence. This is the model of success many children were shown growing up, but for many young adults this lifestyle seems restrictive and unfulfilling. So, what does success look like to them?

According to a performance analysis of fraternity and sorority pledges performed by two researchers from Miami University, success in college is measured by money and grades. The study found that Greek life impacted social skills and development for pledges. Establishing a social network and building relationship skills have proven to be critical for long-term success, but the Miami University study homed in on a single observed correlation and drew a narrow conclusion about how Greek life is impacting students: affiliation with a Greek organization has a negative impact on GPA. Media outlets across the web have spun this research into a fantastical tale about fraternity affiliation being bad for personal and professional development. But here’s the thing: they’ve completely missed the mark.

Skills and experience make good leaders, not cash and status. The young men and women looking to develop the skills that will make them leaders in our society can easily find the enrichment they need in Greek organizations. And as young people find more and more value in experiences over material things, it’s clear the next generation is redefining success in a manner that makes the results of the Miami University study largely meaningless.

Young People Redefine Success

Sometimes, an active social life can be a distraction from the classroom, but it can also just as easily plant the seeds for success in the future. Millennials and the generations following are more educated and better connected than ever before, largely due to the growing impacts of technology on our lives. But they aren’t chasing the big houses and fancy cars that dazzled their parents. Instead, they’re looking for work that is more personally fulfilling.

For most young people in America, success is no longer tied to the pursuit of material things. High grades and bank account balances just aren’t as important to today’s college students as the people they meet and the experiences they have.  Millennials and Generation Z are redefining success by shifting the focus away from consumerism and towards humanism. Fraternities and sororities offer the opportunities for relationship development and life experiences that young people need to help them shape a future that is holistically successful.  The time spent building important relationships and learning life lessons through Greek life may distract from grades, but it’s a valuable investment in future success.