Congratulations! If you’re reading this, it means you’ve survived the most challenging week of the semester thus far. You’ve studied for three exams, knocked out a 10-page paper and tried not to slap your classmates while preparing for yet another group project. You had to sacrifice precious hours of sleep and sell your soul to Starbucks to find the energy to keep going, but it’s all over now — and if you’re lucky, you’re packing your bags to travel somewhere far, far away from Ann Arbor for Spring Break.

While it may seem obvious, our collective pursuit of academic achievement is what we all have in common as students. But as a member of a sorority, I’m often bothered by the lack of attention given to the scholastic achievements of our Greek community. One of the most prominent stereotypes about fraternities and sororities is that their members are stupid — caring more about an upcoming party or going shopping than their homework or that exam next week. (See: John “Bluto” Blutarsky and Elle Woods.)

I won’t dispute that among the University’s 5,000 Greeks, there are probably some who fit that stereotype. But as a community, we certainly don’t. At the University of Michigan, the All-Greek GPA is consistently higher than the All-University GPA, suggesting that fraternity and sorority members aren’t only matching their non-Greek counterparts in the classroom, but actually outperforming them.

Certainly, every student at a university as prestigious as ours is intelligent, and there are lots of men and women here who are doing well in their studies without being affiliated with a Greek organization. But it’s clear that Greeks enjoy an academic edge. So the question becomes, why? In my experience as a leader both in my sorority and in the greater Greek community, I’ve identified several factors that, in my opinion, make fraternity and sorority members more likely to succeed.

The first thing to consider is the sheer foundation of our organizations. The earliest fraternities and sororities began as scholastic groups and literary societies — places for men and women to meet outside the classroom and discuss what they were learning. Over the years, Greek organizations have incorporated social and philanthropic elements, but the original emphasis on scholarship hasn’t been forgotten. Today’s Greek organizations have high expectations for their members, and most chapters have minimum GPA requirements that are enforced for current brothers and sisters and for the men and women who are interested in joining their organization.

While GPA requirements may seem trivial, I think they have a major impact. In my two years of recruiting women for my sorority, I’ve seen that scholarship can make a big difference — there have been potential new members who we’ve removed from our consideration because they didn’t meet our academic standards. On the contrary, if I learn that a woman going through recruitment had graduated at the top of her class in high school, I will want her to join my organization because I know that she has high personal standards and prioritizes academic success. Additionally, a GPA requirement forces current fraternity and sorority members to continue to prioritize their studies throughout college because falling below it could result in expulsion from the organization. Thus, if members prioritize their Greek involvement, they must also prioritize their grades to remain a brother or sister of their organization.

Fraternities and sororities also develop scholarship programs to help their members succeed academically. These programs vary widely from chapter to chapter, but they often include providing places to study and recognizing high achievement. My chapter, for example, has two rooms in the house reserved for quiet study and holds a scholarship dinner every semester to honor the women who have succeeded the most in their studies.

Other chapters do things like reserving rooms at University libraries for their members or raffling off gift cards to sisters who have aced a test recently. Furthermore, the Panhellenic Association encourages chapters to publicly announce their members’ accomplishments at weekly Panhel meetings. Most importantly, fraternities and sororities can assist members who are struggling by finding a brother or sister to tutor them or developing individualized study plans for each member who needs help.

Regardless of the reason, fraternity and sorority members at the University are definitely making the grade, perhaps even more so than non-Greek students. So let’s leave Hollywood stereotypes behind and recognize that Greeks aren’t stupid — they’re actually pretty darn smart.

Sarah Smith can be reached at smisarah@umich.edu.

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