Improving Chapter Scholastic Performance

“I’m not sure why we’re not doing better in grades. We’ve got the new members doing study tables four times a week. What else can we do?”

The answer is: a lot. Many chapter scholarship programs assume that study tables are the answer to weak academic performance. Rarely will that be the case. Think about the whole notion of a study table: you take a group of energetic young students, put them at the same table in the same room and the same time, and make them study. Sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it? It should, because the study table concept assumes that the best time of day for everyone to study is from 6-10 p.m. or whenever your study tables are held. The problem is that evenings aren’t the best time to study for everyone even though they may be the most convenient time for study tables. Members’ biological clocks differ, but we try to treat them all the same. No wonder it doesn’t work very often. No, the key to a successful chapter scholarship program is not study tables – it’s much more. Successful scholarship programming must have a strong individual emphasis because what works for one member may not work for the next. This being true, the chapter needs to devise a scholarship program that meets individual members where they are and takes them to where they are capable of going in terms of academic performance.

Chapter Influences on Academic Performance

Besides the scholarship program, many aspects of chapter life influence whether or not members get good grades. Think of what has influenced the GPA you have received in the past. Your overall results were probably tied to a number of variables and influences. The following are some of the questions to consider about how your chapter may be affecting the academic performance of your members.

Recruitment

  • Do you talk with prospective members about scholarship and identify their motivation and goals?
  • Does your chapter have a set GPA standard you try to apply during membership selection?
  • Do you look at an individual’s class rank?
  • Do you stress the academic standards of the chapter to prospective members during recruitment events?
  • Do you note the chapter’s academic support programs in place?
  • Do you spend a significant portion of recruitment talking about academic programs within the chapter, or do you emphasize social programs more exclusively?

New Members

  • Does your chapter have the new members set individual GPA goals?
  • What types of time management/study skills programs do you offer for new members?
  • Does your chapter have realistic expectations for the chapter’s demands on new members’ time?
  • Is the ability to serve as a scholastic role model a requirement for Big Brothers or Big Sisters?
  • Does the chapter offer a variety of incentives for academic achievement among the new members?
  • Are new member activities carefully scheduled so they do not conflict with major exam periods?
  • While you shouldn’t only emphasize new members in your scholarship program, it is obvious that the chapter will suffer if new members fail to perform well academically. First, it is likely to reduce your initiation and retention percentages and the number of new members who can become actively involved in the chapter. Second, it ensures that the chapter GPA will suffer the next few terms while new member grades are improving. Finally, it lends support to faculty members who argue that freshmen should not be able to join Greek organizations.

Initiates

  • Can the scholarship program guarantee that everyone will get good grades? Not likely, but it can go a long way to creating a chapter culture that promotes academics.
  • Is scholarship somehow talked about in chapter each week?
  • Do you provide regular recognition for members doing well on tests and in classes?
  • Do you offer awards for outstanding academic performance over the course of a term?
  • What types of time management/study skills programs are offered to members?
  • Does your chapter provide for tutoring?
  • Are members’ grades a factor in their ability to hold a leadership position and obtain other privileges?
  • Does the chapter set and enforce minimum grade point standings for members? For officers?
  • Is chapter grade point for recent terms graphed and displayed prominently so members can see the chapter trend?
  • Are members harassed by other members when they don’t want to go out to the bars or participate in other alternatives to evening study?
  • Does the chapter plan stress relievers for periods around exams?
  • Do you pay the initiation fee for members elected to honor societies?

Social

  • Does the chapter schedule major social events on the weekends so weeknights are left free for studying?
  • Do you enforce social probation or limited social privileges for members with poor grade point averages?
  • Do you have a realistic calendar of social events or do you have more activities planned than any other chapter on your campus?