With “Bama Rush Tok” on the rise for the second time–questions, concerns and judgments about Greek Life have sprung up again.
These critiques are valid since traditional fraternity and sorority life has deep-rooted issues, including but not limited to a history of racism, fatphobia, hazing and antisemitism. These are especially prevalent in schools like Alabama University, which actually had segregated sorority life until 2013.
Yes, you read that right, 2013.
While it is imperative to keep holding greek life and their respective institutions accountable, it’s also important to acknowledge that Greek life can and has had productive impact on many of its participants. When it’s managed, monitored and led correctly and diversly, it really can be a positive force.
Personally, I was heavily involved in sorority life at my university and have learned a great deal from those positions and experiences. I can easily say that being in a sorority changed me for the better, and that in many ways the experience is what you make it.
And I have some less common examples as well. Of course, being in a sorority can teach you about friendship, networking and volunteering. But I also walked away with specific shifts in my skills as a person and a professional.
If you are on the fence about going through recruitment (which is totally understandable), here are five ways I personally found positive growth from my years in a sorority.
1. I know how to handle rejection with grace.
One of the first things Greek Life taught me was how to face rejection with class and use it as motivation to improve.
I learned this lesson within the first few days of sorority recruitment when organizations dropped me from their rounds. I remember opening my schedule for the day and seeing that a few of my top choices had not invited me back. This was truly heartbreaking for me because I took it so personally! I believed the sororities that dropped me thought there was something wrong with me. I let this self-hatred and sadness build up throughout my process and I struggled a lot with that rejection.
Although I loved my sorority, I felt slighted by the other chapters that dropped me for a long time. But when I started recruiting the following season, I learned that sorority recruitment is a numbers game and almost wholly decided by computer programs. It’s really not near as personal as you think!
Learning to face rejection like this sets you up for success in adult life. You will face rejection in many forms after graduation, whether in a job interview, friendship or a romantic relationship.
Learning how to handle it with poise and confidence is crucial and I take that with me now.
2. I know when to lead and when to delegate.
During my junior year, I was granted the opportunity to join my school’s Panhellenic Council, the governing body for sorority life. I was able to plan fantastic philanthropy events, raising thousands of dollars for charity. But with these unique opportunities came a lot of challenges.
During my first semester as Philanthropy President, I was drowning in work. I didn’t know how to handle certain complex situations. At one point, I had a colossal philanthropy event on the way that required hours of preparation, but I also had midterms, projects, and presentations to work on. I was a mess! Thankfully, the rest of the council helped me organize everything and plan a successful event. But, I could have saved myself a lot of stress if I had asked for help originally, and better allocated responsibility and resources.
Asking for help isn’t shameful, and learning that through Greek Life has helped me improve. We cannot handle every situation alone, and knowing when and how to ask for help can improve your work quality. I now know how to work in a team, and this skill will carry with me into the workforce.
3. I know how to manage my time.
Building off that, time management is one of the most important skills you can have in your adult life. You must learn to juggle work, exercise, hobbies, family, platonic and romantic relationships, housekeeping, and rest time. It could be extremely overwhelming if you weren’t training for this during college! Being in a sorority is time-consuming since you constantly attend philanthropy events, mandatory chapter meetings, social swaps, and sisterhood experiences. On top of all that, most organizations expect you to keep high grades, and you have to allot time for studying and classwork.
It took me a while to learn this. During my first semester in my sorority, I was not doing well academically or mentally. I felt overwhelmed with the comittment of being a student and having to attend member events. I was used to going with the flow and not planning my day. Becoming active in Greek Life forced me to use my planner and calendar, creating daily schedules so I could stay on top of everything.
That habit of consistent and reliable time management is something I leverage now on a daily basis, and am thankful that I learned.
4. I can respect others without being their friend.
One of the negative stigmas surrounding Greek Life is the ‘backstabbing mean girl’ stereotype in sororities. While this is not accurate for every member, it is essential to remember that you will not always love every girl in your organization.
I can speak from experience when I say there will be disagreements, complaints, and eye rolls no matter what group you join. Within my first year in my chapter, I had already compiled a short list of girls I could not stand. I found them condescending, stuck-up, and toxic. I would have loved to have a full-blown fight with these girls in the middle of a meeting, but I kept my composure due to mutual respect.
This is something that translates directly to the workplace, where you’ll consistently need to be able to partner and collaborate with people you wouldn’t necessarily choose as besties.
That’s ok, that’s life. And you learn that quickly in greek life.
While I am definitely not friends with all the sisters, I respect them. Most sororities have diverse personalities, and getting along with every person is impossible. Not everyone will be your cup of tea, and that’s fine.
Learning this early on in college made me realize that as long as I show kindness and respect toward everyone I meet, I can work with anyone.
I know this development will carry on into the future and will help me no matter where I find myself.
5. I know how to stand up for my values, even if that means going against the group.
As many of us know, there are a lot of bad things that come along with Greek Life. Some chapters still practice hazing and other forms of degradation towards their new members. Sororities and fraternities have had issues with protecting or supporting sexual assault suspects and other problematic behavior in the past.
While not every chapter or school is like this, it’s essential to stay true to yourself in situations like this.
During my time in fraternity and sorority life, I saw many things that bothered me. One of the things that I could not stand for was the degradation of sisters by other sisters. This was a big problem in my organization at the beginning, and the bullying left some of the other girls feeling horrible.
I took it upon myself to stand up for those girls and ensure everyone was accepted in our organization.
If you see bad behavior, don’t just sweep it under the rug because they are your friends or you don’t want to ruin relationships.
Report things that don’t feel right and help improve your community.
Don’t let the dramatization of Greek Life compromise your values.
This lesson has definitely stayed with me past college life. Many situations in your adult life may present you with the chance to call out negative attributes or let them slide. Being in Greek Life and learning to stand up for what I believe in has prepared me for these decisions.
Overall, there are many opportunities to grow and advance in fraternity and sorority life. There are, of course, networking, service, and social opportunities that may help you develop, but there are also lessons you will learn–about yourself, about others and about the life you want to lead.
I have learned the importance of doing what’s right and when to ask for a helping hand. I’ve realized how crucial it is to value my beliefs and take the time to care for myself in stressful situations. I genuinely believe that with all this knowledge, I can take on the world and achieve my goals.
Life is one big lesson, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to keep on learning.