Does joining a fraternity or sorority lead to happiness during and after college?

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Jesse True

Mrs. Dempster

UNIV 200

6 February 2016

Does joining a fraternity or sorority lead to happiness during and after college?

I have chosen to research this topic because just last semester I rushed, pledged, and joined a fraternity here at VCU. Although I haven’t been in this fraternity for very long, what I have experienced so far has been very enjoyable. As of right now I plan to stay in this fraternity for the rest of my time here at VCU. I have many friends who have also joined other Greek organizations at schools all around the country. The ones who have shared their experiences with me have notably been positive, but a few have expressed how they were disappointed with the whole process and are considering leaving their organization next year. From these conversations and experiences I have shared with my friends, it interests me whether or not joining a Greek organization in college can lead you to be happier then you were before you joined.

There are many stereotypes about Greek organizations but that is not what I will be addressing in this paper. This question merely pertains to the correlation of joining a Greek organization and a person’s overall happiness. I believe that joining a fraternity or sorority plays a huge role on one’s overall happiness. In this paper I will be exploring whether or not that role is for the better or worse. I have found some great articles and research pertaining to this topic but I still need to find more articles that argue that joining a Greek organization does not lead to more happiness.

One source I will be using to write this paper is a Wall Street Journal article by Douglas Belkin called, “Greek Life Shown to Be Linked to Real-Life Happiness; Survey Finds College Graduates Who Were in a Fraternity or Sorority Are Generally More Content.” Douglas Belkin covers higher education for The Wall Street Journal. He has worked since 2007 in The Journal’s Chicago bureau, where he has covered Canada, national politics and general news. Prior to joining The Journal, Belkin was a reporter and bureau chief at The Boston Globe, where he was part of a team that won the 2004 American Society of News Editors prize for breaking news reporting.  Belkin has a bachelor’s degree from Colby College in Maine. According to Belkin, a new survey finds college graduates who were members of a fraternity or sorority are generally happier than their peers who didn't pledge. The portion of Greek graduates who described themselves as engaged at work was 43% compared with 38% for non-Greeks. And 37% of Greeks strongly agree that their institution prepared them for life after college, as compared with 27% of non-Greeks (Belkin). Although engagement at work may not be the best way to measure one’s happiness, it is still a very interesting statistic that I could work into my report.

A second source I will be using is an experiment and article done by Gallup titled, “Fraternities and Sororities: Understanding Life Outcomes.” The results for the Gallup-Purdue Index are based on Web surveys conducted Feb. 4-March 7, 2014, with a random sample of 29,560 respondents with a bachelor’s degree or higher, aged 18 and older, with Internet access, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, and 5,137 fraternity and sorority members. From the national report, we know that extreme involvement in extracurricular activities and organizations is one of the six crucial elements associated with higher odds of workplace engagement and well-being later in life. Members of fraternities and sororities, not surprisingly, are significantly more likely to strongly agree they were extremely involved in extracurricular activities. It turns out, they are also more likely to report being emotionally supported and having experiential and deep learning. Additionally, college graduates who were members of fraternities or sororities are more likely to be engaged in work and thriving in all five elements of well-being compared with graduates who were not fraternity or sorority members (2). This source has a lot of useful data in it and touches on many different aspects about how Greek life improves your life. Fraternity and sorority members are more likely than all other college graduates to be thriving in each of the five elements of well-being (purpose, social, financial, community, and physical) (8). I believe I will be able to incorporate a lot of the data from this article into my paper.

A third source I will be using is by Ernest T. Pascarella titled, “On Student Development in College: Evidence from the National Study of Student Learning.” Ernest Pascarella holds the prestigious Mary Louise Petersen Chair in Higher Education in the University Of Iowa College Of Education and is the most cited researcher in his field, which focuses on college’s impact on students and student persistence in higher education. In this article Pascarella argues that joining a Greek organization has negative cognitive effects for one’s self. With statistical controls for potentially confounding variables, men who were members of social fraternities had significantly lower end-of-first-year reading comprehension, mathematics, critical thinking and composite achievement than their peers who were not affiliated with Greek organizations. First-year fraternity membership had its strongest negative effect on critical thinking (24). Pascarella draws a correlation between Greek life and scholarly achievement. I believe I will be able to correlate scholarly achievement to happiness.

The last article I will be examining in this research proposal is titled, “Advantages of Greek Life on College Campuses,” by a number of authors. In this article the authors examine the psychological value of joining a Greek organization. Greek societies as a whole have made a positive impact on college campuses and communities throughout the nation. They're involved in community service, philanthropy and often make a significant contribution to the diversity of the student body (David, 2004). Each has its own unique, rich legacy that carries on the traditions of a higher institution. Sorority and fraternity members invest ample time and effort to achieve and maintain their memberships, and their social lives revolve around such personally important groups (Crandall, 1988). In essence, these organizations provide a market for students to “invest” in while they are students (Jackson, 2002). This article provides very good insight on the psychological factors as well as some hard data that I can incorporate into my essay.

In order to complete my paper I need to find more sources that directly correlate happiness to Greek like. Many of my sources touch on the area and others that have something to do with happiness, but I still need to do some more research. I know I stated earlier in this research proposal that I shouldn’t touch on the stereotypes of Greek life, but now I wonder if maybe I could connect that to happiness? Maybe I could write about how the stereotypes make people feel unhappy or even happy when they realize the majority of them aren’t true. No matter what I need to collect more sources and find ways to connect what these authors are stating to the overall theme of happiness. One last question I have is about bias. Should I not implement my own opinion into the paper because I have joined a Fraternity? I feel like when it comes to Greek Organizations everyone, whether they’re in one or not, is a little bias about them. I’ll have to find a way to work with this or around it.

Works Cited

Belkin, D. (2014, May 27). Greek life shown to be linked to real-life happiness; survey finds college graduates who were in a fraternity or sorority are generally more content. Wall Street Journal (Online) Retrieved from

David, and Jackson. "Advantages of Greek Life on College Campuses." (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 6 Feb. 2016.

North-American, Interfraternity, and Conference. FRATERNITIES AND SORORITIES: (n.d.): n. pag. Gallup. Web. 6 Feb. 2016.

Pascarella, Ernest T. "1-1-1996 On Student Development in College: Evidence from the National Study of Student Learning." Http:// N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Feb. 2016.

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