I was at my best friend’s wedding last weekend and when she made her speech she thanked her bridesmaids and laughed about how ironic it was that when we were in college (10 years ago) during sorority prefs, we used to always say, “I know these friends and sisters will be the bridesmaids at my wedding”; and there we were. So I started thinking about Greek Life and how different my college experience would have been without it. I realized that being in sorority had not only introduced me to the people I’m closest with today, but more importantly set me up for the successes I’d encountered in the future.
Like many people, I was defiantly “anti” sorority when I got into the University of Florida. I thought joining a sorority was for people who “had to buy their friends” or couldn’t network on their own. What I realized during my time in college was that the Greek system was actually a microcosm of the corporate world. Looking at statistics, it now makes sense to me that Of the nation’s 50 largest corporations, 43 are headed by fraternity or sorority members. I understand why Nationally, 71% of all fraternity and sorority member graduate, while only 50% of non-members graduate. And why 85% of the Fortune 500 key executives are fraternity or sorority members. It was not because they had bought friends; it’s because being part of the Greek System lends you an experience in networking that is unmatched anywhere else.
When I was at UF, there were about 50,000 students (on campus); but what I noticed over “Summer B” (everyone in FL schools goes to school over the summer) was that the people who were running things on campus – from Cicerones to politics – were all part of the Greek System. WHat I also noticed was that even when I went out; the businesses were run and managed by people all wearing Greek letters. I felt like I was surrounded by “Greeks”. So I listened to my mother and went through sorority rush. NOTHING could have prepared me better for going into an interview process in the job world. Day one and two consisted of interviewing with women; 8 houses / day for 40 minutes each / sometimes speaking with 3-5 women in each house. Each house had a different ‘mission’ (similar to a business’s mission) and I had to attempt to show how I would ‘bring value’ to a house as well as help grow their vision. Sound familiar? It was like an onslaught of group interviews. Cuts had been made after round 1 and it was clear I had been cut from the houses I had been most uncomfortable in. A similar process continues for rounds 2, 3, and 4 whereby houses ‘show off’ their philanthropies, their GPAs, and try to find if their house is a “good match” for you. Once again, similar to the interview process, the conversations get deeper with each round and by round four, I knew which house was for me.
After getting the house I wanted (GO AEPHI!), the learning experience was magnified. Similar to a large training class in a new company, I was not learning about the values, mission, and what was expected of me with 60 other women. I also had to learn very quickly how to get along with not only the 60 differing personalities in my pledge class, but the other 200 women in my sorority. Talk about learning patience, tolerance, and appreciation for people’s differences of opinions. Like any company, the sorority has an “exec board” (C level team). There is a President, VPs, and usually a total of 10 roles that keep the sorority running. Much like a company, there were decisions made on the executive level that were not in agreement with the house; I learned how to play politics quickly. I also learned that in order to have an impact on the larger ecosystem – the University of Florida – I would somehow have to maneuver my way onto that exec board.
Being on exec was an unmatched experience. Holding a leadership position for 200 + women was far harder than any management role I’ve held to date. It takes incredible discipline to walk the fine balance of putting the ‘sorority’ as a whole before the interests of your closest friends. But it taught me how to do what I do today; I can put the interests of a company before my own and before the relationships I have made in the office and sometimes out of the office. Similar to being part of a C level team in a company, you define the mission, execute on that mission, and ensure that the rest of the house is ‘on the same page’. It was part management and part sales; and looking across the members that were on my exec. board – ALL are now extremely successful, either owning their own businesses or making 6 figures in a legal or corporate career. I firmly believe our experience on the exec board aided in this process.
While many may disagree with me; they listen to the stories of the hazing and the ‘date rape’ drugs and all of the other outliers that do not define the Greek system, but are actually the opposite of what the system stands for (one offs), what one can’t disagree with is data. And data shows that being a part of the Greek system leads to higher graduation rates, higher GPA, a higher likelihood of getting a job, and a higher likelihood of holding a leadership role when older. My first recommendation to someone going to college: “Get in with the Greek”.