When considering colleges to apply to, I sought out schools with strong academic programs that still had dynamic social environments. For me, the social aspect of school meant an enriching arts community, school spirit, and Greek life.
When I arrived on campus the first week of freshman year and immediately started the Panhellenic recruitment process, I started to grow apprehensive about my participation. I became concerned that I would not have enough time to devote myself to this new community and my classes, and I also grew nervous that the sorority I joined wouldn’t have any engineers who understood the challenges that come with the field of study.
However, once I joined my sorority, Gamma Phi Beta, my nervousness dissolved. I found an immediate community of interesting girls passionate about what they did. It’s true that most people in Greek life are not engineering students, but, in all fairness, most students at USC are also not engineering students. There are also benefits to joining a community of non-engineers. My friends from Gamma Phi are not my friends because we spend hours in class together each week or have similar academic interests, we are friends because we have a genuine connection based on shared values. Furthermore, regularly interacting with people outside of engineering has strengthened my ability to talk about the design work I am doing and has generally made me a better communicator. This is important because engineers do not do their job in a silo. We need to be able to interact with people in and outside of engineering to accurately assess and efficiently solve problems. Greek life can introduce these sorts of interactions.
For those of you worried about the time commitment of Greek life or feeling too overwhelmed freshman year to join Greek life, USC has recently made changes in the Greek recruitment system to alleviate these stresses. In order to go through recruitment at USC, a student needs to have taken 12 academic units at USC. This means that freshman can no longer join a sorority or fraternity their first semester, allowing them to gain a footing in their classes before they become a part of the Greek community. That said, being a part of Greek life does require some time commitment, and I have found the more time I put in, the more rewarding the community is (as is true with most things). However, the time I devote to Gamma Phi is not just attending events or meetings, it is time spent getting to know and hanging out with my sisters. The people in my sorority, and Panhellenic in general, are so interesting that simply chatting with my sisters has led me to so many connections within and outside of the house.
Ultimately, I have found my best friends from Greek life, and that’s why the community is so valuable to me. If you aren’t interested in Greek life, consider joining one of the other hundreds of organizations on campus, which will also provide you with a similar community. In RPL, for example, I have found an academically and socially enriching community.
Regardless of what group you join, whether it be Greek life or SWE or a design team, join something. The two most important aspects of life in college are your level of engagement and the connections you make with people. Student orgs, social, professional, or technical, will develop your strengths in both of these areas