Is pledging really an advantage?
June 15, 2012 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Does a Greek affiliation really help in the real world?

Standard fraternity/sorority selling points include how much your affiliation will help you get a job/advance your career/etc. Have there been any studies about the legitimacy of this idea? Though I admit my field is self-selected for nerdy and artsy types, most adults I know are loathe to admit they ever pledged and are quite embarrassed about it if they did. Are there certain fields that going Greek helps with more than others? Looking more for studies than anecdotes.
posted by ferociouskitty to Work & Money (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It definitely meant something to my dad's cohort (business middle and upper management, class of '59). It's not something I've personally ever heard someone bring up anywhere I've worked, but I've always been decidely in the lower ranks.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:07 AM on June 15, 2012

The only way you could parse out the data correcting for selection bias (i.e. a certain "type" tends to predominate in the greek world - not everyone, but a lot of them - and that type also tends to flock towards professions that place a high premium on social skills. They are also predominantly white and middle class or upper middle class) would be to examine that cohort vs a similar cohort from schools that lacked a greek system. So if you looked at Georgetown (no frats) vs Vanderbilt (very fratty) are those people who go into fields that select for social skills and networking going to be on average more successful from one school than another? No probably not.
posted by JPD at 10:16 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

For your first job, it can. My brother being the case in point went he went into political social media in the 2008 election. That is because you've got a lot of people you know who are the same position or one higher who are also in the field, it is a good way to go from intern to employee. Unfortunately, it's not the Masons (and neither are the Masons anymore) and doesn't really work as a career centre long after university. If you can find a real professional fraternity that doesn't have a major fundraising agenda for anything other than a conference, I suggest that you check them out thoroughly to see if there are people inside with whom you would be interested in working.
posted by parmanparman at 10:18 AM on June 15, 2012

This 2001 study of students at Dartmouth [pdf] states:
We examine how Dartmouth College seniors use social networks to obtain their first jobs. ... One of the most robust results is that students obtaining high paying jobs are likely to have solicited help and advice from current and alumni members of their fraternity or sorority. ... [A]mong students who did not rely on help from fraternity and sorority members and alumni, 22 percent accepted or plan on accepting a prestige job. In contrast, 63 percent of students who did use fraternity or sorority help plan on entering a prestige job.
So, in at least one case there is some statistical evidence that membership in a Greek organization improves employment prospects. The study only uncovered a correlation, however, and selection bias may play a significant role. Another question is whether a study of Dartmouth students in 2001 is generalizable to other colleges in 2012.
posted by jedicus at 10:20 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

So, in at least one case there is some statistical evidence that membership in a Greek organization improves employment prospects. The study only uncovered a correlation, however, and selection bias may play a significant role

Right the question you have to answer is if those Dartmouth students went to a non-Frat school how would the outcomes have differed.
posted by JPD at 10:26 AM on June 15, 2012

A number of Greek organizations refer to the following study (I haven't found it online yet): "The Impact of Greek Affiliation and Life, by the Center for Advanced Social Research, from the University of Missouri-Colombia."
posted by xingcat at 10:26 AM on June 15, 2012

Sure, in the sense that you have a big alumni network that you can rely on for jobs and career leads. It would not impress a potential boss who sees it on a resume, and it may backfire.
posted by moammargaret at 10:37 AM on June 15, 2012

Not on your resume. Maybe on your network.

The most valuable part of it was teaching me how to navigate internal politics and run an organization without a specific mission. Social fraternities are groups of men and women bound together by some common traits, but no specific reason like clubs are. Navigating internal politics and running the group taught me invaluable lessons that you can't get in a classroom. You'll also learn how to market yourself and your group.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 10:40 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I know you didn't want anecdata, but I think this merits mention. Frats and such have accumulated such a bad reputation for being on-campus party animals and excessive drinkers, that there are managers (I've run across a few) who don't want to hire anyone with a three-greek-letter group associated with their name. It may not be bright, or even legal, to exclude people in such a blanket way like that, but there you have it.
posted by Citrus at 11:22 AM on June 15, 2012

It's not something I've personally ever heard someone bring up anywhere I've worked

Me either, and I'm in a field rife with former sorority and fraternity members.

RE: the Dartmouth study, I also suspect the students who included networking with alumni from the same fraternal organization were also the same ones who were better at networking with everybody they know, which is the real skill that leads to landing good jobs - not exactly what the network itself is. If these students were "likely to solicit help" from one resource they have available, they may be equally likely to have solicited help across the board, from friends, parents, former employers, club affiliations, etc. The study looks at the groups separately - I didn't see anywhere that it compiled states based on how many different network streams each individual used and whether the more you use, the more likely you are to get a job overall.

Also, it definitely specifies that it's most pronounced in the field of finance, whereas for medicine and law, relatives were more important sources of networking, and for education and academia, professors were more important sources. So as someone said above, the effect is probably limited to fields already built on the fraternity model w/r/t gender, race, class, and personality factors.


The association with use of the Career Services office and "prestige job" is equally strong.Forty-four percent of students using Career Services take prestige jobs versus 16 percent among those not using Career Services.
posted by Miko at 11:26 AM on June 15, 2012

I think that it may depend upon certain ethnic groups as well. The Black Frats/Sorors are very different than regular Greek organizations.

Just thought I'd throw that in there.

By the way, you made me laugh! I'm 50 and none of that crap has ever mattered anywhere that I've worked.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:35 PM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

It will show leadership and campus involvement, which is good to have when you are looking for your first job. It won't matter again again that. Of course Student Government, College Republicans or Democrats, Concert committee, etc all do the same thing for you.

The treasurer of my college frat was essentially the accountant for a $500,000 a year business. That's not bad experience to have.
posted by COD at 12:45 PM on June 15, 2012

I think it probably depends more on what sort of person you are and how you develop your own network than anything else. If you're the sort of person who is good at making connections and getting people to help you get ahead, then it's likely you are the sort of person who is able to use the network of fraternity connections. But this is no less the case with respect to, say, the Rotarians. I would suggest that getting into a fraternity with the idea that its going to help you in business later in life would be one of the worst reasons to join. As an anecdotal point of reference, I belonged to a medium-large national fraternity when I was in college (Phi Kappa Tau) and have never even met a Phi Tau I didn't personally go to school with.

Ruthless Bunny makes a good point regarding the different nature of historically African American Greek letter organizations.
posted by slkinsey at 12:54 PM on June 15, 2012

Anecdatapoint: I was in a fraternity (at Dartmouth, in fact) and I would say that having been in one is roughly comparable to the other networks I'm in in terms of hiring/networking. I was also active in other activities (volleyball, outing club) and alums and friends from those groups have been as much if not more useful to me than members/alums of my fraternity.

Another datapoint: I don't personally know anyone who takes the national affiliations seriously. Say I was in frat ABC; if I saw frat ABC on a resume from either my school before or after I was there, or from some other school, I would not personally be positively or negatively affected about that hiring prospect. In fact, I've found most of the people who I've met who were in my house not at Dartmouth to be kind of annoying.
posted by Aizkolari at 2:31 PM on June 15, 2012

Correct citation for the University of Missouri study:

Thorsen, E. The Impact of Greek Affiliation on College and Life Experiences. Columbia: Center for the Advanced Social Research, University of Missouri, 1997.

I'm at the University of Missouri and I can't get the thing in full text, and it's nowhere on the open web. Here's the author, and here's an old online news article that summarizes the study.
posted by denriguez at 3:11 PM on June 15, 2012

That should be: Center for the Advanced Social Research

Stupid fingers.
posted by denriguez at 3:12 PM on June 15, 2012

It will show leadership and campus involvement, which is good to have when you are looking for your first job.

Yyyyyeahhhh, maybe, but as a hiring manager, it doesn't show more and maybe shows less of this than other non-frat campus leadership.

Seriously, outside the network of direct connections where you're kind of obligated to help each other out, I'm not sure I see any additional value that you wouldn't get if, say, you were an officer in Chavurah or started a sewing club or whatever else shows leadership and campus involvement.
posted by Miko at 8:28 PM on June 15, 2012

« Older How can I safely sell a videogame console?   |   Pranks with my friend's car Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.