By Chris | November 26, 2007
My undergraduate university had a very large Greek system. There were 19 fraternities, 9 sororities, and 45 percent of students were in the Greek living system. I had some Greek friends, and was recruited by a couple friends to join there respective fraternities. The idea of buying into a group of “brothers” for life seemed bizarre to me. And, I wasn’t too keen on sleeping on a porch with 40 other guys. The impact Greek life might have on my grades didn’t even occur to me. Farley Grubb examines “Does Going Greek Impair Undergraduate Academic Performance?” (gated…sorry!):
After controlling for college major, state of residence, and SAT scores, fraternity males had 2.2 percent lower GPAs than nonfraternity males. This negative effect increased as fraternity size decreased.
The effect of sorority membership on GPA was weaker. The difference in coefficient magnitudes indicates that sorority females had a 1 percent lower GPA than nonsorority females. Nonsorority females achieved higher GPAs than both fraternity and nonfraternity males. Sorority membership, however, made female GPAs statistically indistinguishable from nonfraternity males and only clearly superior to males in small fraternities.
2.2 percent might not seem like a lot, but it is actually quite significant. It is the difference between a 4.0 and a 3.91. Grade inflation has decreased the variance in GPAs. Most entry-level job openings require a 3.0 GPA, many require a 3.5 GPA. In other words if you join a fraternity, the detriment to your GPA represents a loss of 10-20 percent (for men) of the total range of acceptable GPAs. Even though the authors correct for a range of variables (SAT’s, in-state, major) the correlation between going Greek and getting lower grades might not be all causation. I would have liked to see the authors correct for high school GPA. Nevertheless, it’s not surprising that Greek life might interfere with academics. This is yet another reason why I’m glad to have avoided the Greek system. I managed to sabotage my grades enough without the expectation of attending endless parties and social events.
To be fair, my sister joined a sorority and is very happy with her decision. If Greek life is your cup of tea, forgoing it to focus on academics certainly comes at an opportunity cost.
The magnitude of this GPA cost may be considered small by many students compared with the social benefits, both immediate and long term, that they expect from Greek membership.