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Greek Life. It is considered to be one of the most controversial parts of any university campus. The opinions surrounding Greek Life are strong regardless of one’s stance, with very few seeming to have a neutral opinion on the collective organizations. That is what intrigued me so much about the topic of Greek Life. I grew up in an immediate family in which everyone was involved in a fraternity or sorority at one point, and I myself recently joined a fraternity. This being said, I’ve only really thought of them as being a positive force in one’s life. In order to get a clearer view of the subject, I decided to take a step back and objectively evaluate the side of Greek Life that I have considerably less experience with: sororities. Over the course of my observations of the Pi Beta Phi sorority, I sought to discover the extent to which sororities help or harm young women throughout their college careers.


The initial chapter of Pi Beta Phi was formed in 1867 at Monmouth College in Illinois. According to UNC Pi Beta Phi’s website, some of their main values consist of friendship, intellect, and integrity, and they seek to use these values in order to cultivate leadership potential in their members (

There have been several studies delving into whether or not Greek Life is helpful or harmful for college students. There are several noteworthy conclusions found by these studies. For example, Greek affiliated students tended to have a good mentor figure more often than their unaffiliated peers due to their access to older students that had previously taken similar classes. There is also a positive correlation between sorority membership and first year satisfaction, first year GPA, and graduation rates. However, the effect of sororities on young women is not positive 100% of the time (Bowman and Holmes, 2017, p.1019-1020). Another study states that students involved in Greek organizations do not see a boost in critical thinking skills or overall education levels, and that the majority of the time, Greek Life will have a different effect on each person depending on what they were like prior to joining their respective organization (Hevel, Martin, Weeden, and Pascarella, 2015, p. 466). To summarize, there does appear to be some positive effects on education and overall well-being, but it is not definitive.

Observations and Analysis


My first true observation took place at the philanthropic event “Read, Lead, Achieve” on February 29 in Cary, NC. The purpose of the philanthropic event, briefly, is to encourage kids to read and increase overall literacy by donating books to teachers and after-school programs. The teachers and caretakers arrive at the site and were greeted by a member, who explained to them how the process would work before leading them to their personal shopper. The personal shopper helped them find books for their students before sending the selected books to be packed up by another group for the teacher to take home. I made a few observations throughout this process. For instance, the greeters seemed to all be very outgoing. I wondered if they had always been like this or if it was a result of the constant social interaction thrusted upon them by the sorority. Also, even though the greeters were obviously the most outgoing, at no point did any of the members look uncomfortable dealing with a stranger. This is likely because they have become accustomed to it meeting members of their own organization. They were all incredibly polite and poised no matter who they were talking to. Even those who were not aware of what I was doing there treated me kindly and spoke to me as if they already knew me. I spoke to many girls regarding their opinion of the philanthropy, and one thing that stuck out to me was that many stated that they were happy about doing the event, despite the fact that they likely wouldn’t do it had they not been required to. One quote that stuck out to me from a freshman included the line, “Even though it wasn’t my first choice to have to drive to Cary on a Saturday, I’m glad that I did it.” This really made me consider how these organizations are causing so many more young women to give back to through philanthropical events such as this one, which results in a better all-around community in Chapel Hill and surrounding areas.


For my second observation, I interviewed a freshman at Panera Bread on March 5th. Due to the few personal details and for simplicity state, I will keep her name anonymous. Because I knew the member beforehand, the conversation was very relaxed and she seemed very comfortable with me. We covered a wide arrange of topics regarding what sorority life actually looks like. One of the topics we covered that I found particularly interesting was their recruitment process. It is incredibly stressful for them and many girls simply drop out of the process because of the stress of trying to impress the sorority members. As she put it, “You feel like you have to say the right thing in every single conversation… there isn’t any room for error.”  However, she seemed very grateful for the process as a whole due to the fact that she ended up with a group of girls with whom she felt accepted and happy. She spoke so passionately about the girls and talked of how it really did feel like a sisterhood. At this point I began to consider if this truly was the cause of all the claimed benefits of sororities. As research I’d done suggested, much of the satisfaction from sororities comes by means of your fellow members and mentor figures. I came to the conclusion that as long as the fit is right, academic and social success can be greatly amplified through involvement in a sorority.


            At the beginning of this ethnography, I was concerned that my notions of Greek Life would change and that I would become disillusioned with the subculture as a whole. However, after conducting these observations and doing research, I can confidently say that I am still a firm believer in their benefits, especially with sororities.

In these groups, young women may find friends and mentor figures that not only care about them as friends, but also as students. This shared concern for academic growth leads to an increase in grade point average and overall knowledge gained, as well as the comradery that most people associate with Greek Life.

Another big reason I fully support sororities is due to their philanthropic work. Without the requirements of these organizations, thousands of young women would not be involved in service projects that benefit the community. Through events such as “Read, Lead, Achieve,” these women get the opportunity to help in a way that they wouldn’t otherwise and not only enrich the lives of those they are helping, but their own lives as well.

Thank you.

Works Cited

About Pi Beta Phi. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2020, from

Bowman, N. A., & Holmes, J. M. (2017). A Quasi-Experimental Analysis of Fraternity or Sorority Membership and College Student Success. Journal of College Student Development58(7), 1018–1034. doi: 10.1353/csd.2017.0081

Hevel, M. S., Martin, G. L., Weeden, D. D., & Pascarella, E. T. (2015). The Effects of Fraternity and Sorority Membership in the Fourth Year of College: A Detrimental or Value-Added Component of Undergraduate Education? Journal

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