Life Goals among Greek College Students

Article excerpt

Ninety-six undergraduate Greek students (60% sorority, 40% fraternity members) from Bucknell University voluntarily completed an extensive confidential questionnaire which included an assessment of their ranking of 19 life goals. Goals ranked the highest by these respondents were "being happy," "being in love," "having close friends," "having a life partner/spouse," and "having relatives." Significant fraternity-sorority differences emerged on several goals. In spite of the public image of the Greek system as fostering and socializing their members for public life and political office, these respondents emphasized emotional, personal, relationship goals over a life of public service. Implications for students, faculty, and administrators are suggested.


At the beginning of the millennium, about 350,000 college students were members of a fraternity. This membership was down from a peak of 400,000 in the early 1900s (Reisberg, 2000). While Greek membership (both fraternity and sorority) has declined nationwide, 60 percent of the 3350 undergraduates at Bucknell University (where the data for this study were collected) were members among the 12 active fraternities and 7 active sororities. Indeed, "Bucknell students have affiliated with fraternities and sororities in larger numbers than at other institutions of comparable size ... average fraternity chapter membership is 60 members and an average sorority chapter numbers 85 ..." (University Office, 2002, p. 24).

While some attention has been paid recently to the positive role of fraternity or sorority membership in reducing social alienation among students on campus (Lane and Daugherty, 1999) and in providing support for general education in the liberal arts (McNamara and Cover, 1999), fraternities and sororities have most often received visibility for general alcohol use (Cashin, Presley & Meilman, 1998), binge drinking (Dowdall, Crawford & Wechsler, 1998), and for fostering gender inequality (Stombler and Martin, 1994), permissive sexual socialization (Lottes and Kurlioff, 1994) and a campus rape culture (Boswell and Spade, 1996). But little attention has been given to the life goals of their members. This study reflects the life goals of 96 members immersed in the Greek system at Bucknell University, a private eastern university in Lewisburg, Pa. Our intent was to provide new foci and more depth to the common view of Greek students than the traditional negative image.


Ninety-six undergraduate sophomore to senior students attending Bucknell University in April 2001 provided the data for this study. Among the respondents, 60% were sorority women; 40% were fraternity men. Respondents were primarily white, with only 6% of either sorority women or fraternity men self-identifying as non-white (African American, Latino, Asian, Asian-American, or biracial).

Sixty-four percent of those surveyed were sophomores; 36% were juniors or seniors. No first-year students were included in this sample; first-year students are not allowed to affiliate with or join fraternities or sororities at this institution. These students were from predominantly urban areas (64%) living in intact families (84%). Forty percent of the respondents identified themselves as Catholic; 40% Protestant; 9% Jewish; 3% Muslim or "other"; only 6% responded that they had "no religion." Twenty-two percent of the respondents regarded their family as upper class; 57% as upper middle class; 18% as middle class; only 3% identified their family as working class.

The confidential 56 page survey questionnaires were completed by students at prearranged times on campus under the supervision of the first author and her research assistants. This purposive sample of fraternity and sorority members was generated by working with chapter presidents to contact members and to solicit participation. Their incentive for participation in the survey was the opportunity to participate in a lottery and individually win one of several gift certificates to the campus bookstore. …