If you want to achieve something in life, it always starts with a good plan. It sets your direction, it organizes everyone, it guides the decision making, and it shows what you are trying to accomplish. As I travel to different chapters; I have seen many great plans, good plans, not-so-good plans, and no plans at all. The one plan I usually see that needs the most work is an Academic Success Plan. Today, my plan is to help you formulate a plan to guide your chapter to academic success.
Before we begin, let me talk a little about study tables/hours. Many chapters start their plans off with these, and with some chapters that is all there is. From what I have seen, I do not feel study tables are that effective. They are hard to manage, they feel like work, they can be distracting as some use them for social hour, and the requirements can be highly unequal among brothers. If you are going to include study tables/hours in your plan, here are some things to consider:
- Allow tutoring hours, lab hours, and group assignments to count towards the hours. These hours can sometimes be more effective than just sitting at a table for hours.
- Do not have different standards of hours for initiated members and new members/pledges. There is no reason to have the two different standards. This is hazing.
So before we begin with the plan, we need to discuss what you are trying to accomplish. Are you trying to have the highest GPA among IFC chapters? Are you trying to be above the all men’s average? Do you just want to raise the cumulative GPA by a certain percentage? What about having 80% of the members above a certain average. These are all great questions to ask, and the people you should be asking is your membership. Find out what they want by doing a small survey. Which will help you determine what all your plan needs. Keep in mind that to be an active chapter within Sigma Pi, the chapter cumulative GPA must be at or above a 2.7 average.
The Sigma Pi Bylaws state:
BYLAW 19 - Scholarship and Standards
Section 1. Each Chapter and Colony of the Fraternity shall be subject to the following standards of Academic Excellence. The Grand Chapter, seeing that the following standards are a minimum, encourages each Chapter and Colony to set local standards higher than that of its host institution and the Grand Chapter.
(a) All potential new members must meet a GPA requirement equal to or greater than the academic standard for new members set by the North-American Interfraternity Conference, and published by the Executive Office for the benefit of the Grand Chapter, and the Chapter’s host institution in order to become a Pledge.
(b) All Pledges must meet a GPA requirement equal to or greater than the academic standard for potential new members set by the North-American Interfraternity Conference, and published by the Executive Office for the benefit of the Grand Chapter, and the Chapter’s host institution prior to initiation.
(c) Each Chapter and Colony of the Fraternity will maintain a cumulative GPA equal to or greater than the academic standard for Chapters set by the North-American Interfraternity Conference, and published by the Executive Office for the benefit of the Grand Chapter, and the Chapter’s host institution.
(d) Every member will maintain a cumulative GPA equal to or above the all men's average at the Chapter’s host institution, with the minimum GPA required being a 2.5 on a 4.0 scale.
Now here is the standouts from this. Every chapter will maintain above a 2.7 cumulative GPA, and each member will maintain at least a 2.5 cumulative GPA. If the chapter falls below a 2.7, then the chapter will receive an Academic Warning from the Executive Office. If it happens for a consecutive semester, then the chapter is suspended and will be limited to certain functions.
So what should you do about setting a standard for members? Here is a good suggestion. Let’s say the IFC average is 2.91 and is higher than the All Men’s Average. I would use different levels of accountability:
Level 1-2.91 cumulative GPA or higher and the brother is doing great.
Level 2- 2.90 to 2.7, the brother should go to the academic success center to take a test on study habits. Right now they are not hurting the chapter with their GPA, but they are not helping the chapter be above the IFC average.
Level 3 -2.69 to 2.5, the brother should take the academic success center testing, work with a personal tutor, lose their chapter vote, and maybe limit social and brotherhood events. They are bringing the chapter below the 2.7 GPA and could cause everyone to face suspension.
Level 4 - 2.49 and 2.0, the member would take the academic success center testing, lose their chapter vote and only be able to attend chapter meetings, community service events, and philanthropy events. They should not hold any position within the chapter.
Level 5- 1.99 and below, all of the previous standards would apply, and they could face expulsion from the chapter.
It will also be important to set up your chapter goals. You can always reference the Standards of Excellence to help you with your goals.
Once you have your goals in place, you will need to assemble the plan. Here are the areas I think are crucial to a plan:
Always provide as much information as possible. Provide your members with the information to the school’s academic success center, the writing lab, or any academic assistance areas. I would include what they provide, where they are located, when they are open, and how to contact them. You should also provide the link to their webpage. It is more impactful to include the information instead of taking a chance that they might not click on the link.
Find out what scholarships, awards, and academic organizations are available. The school has many awards that no one bothers to apply for. The Sigma Pi Educational Foundation also has many different scholarships. Do not let these opportunities go to waste. Attach the links and encourage to your members to apply. You should also provide information on how to be on the Dean’s List and other academic achievements. There are academic societies such as Gamma Sigma Alpha that gives academic recognition to Greek life.
Have a brother mentor program. Team two brothers up in a like major and have them hold each other accountable. If one knows the other is having a test in a certain class they can study together or at the very least, they can remind each other to study.
Invest in your membership. If your budget sets aside $1,000 for Recruitment, $1,000 for Social, $1,000 for Brotherhood, and $100 for Scholarship, then your chapter is not that serious about grades. I think a start would be to set aside $400 for Scholarship. Here would be an ideal breakdown:
- A $75 gift card to the highest semester GPA. 2nd receives a $25 gift card.
- A $75 gift card to the highest semester GPA new member. 2nd receives a $25 gift card.
- A $75 gift card to the most improved GPA from the previous semester (use the percentage). 2nd receives a $25 gift card.
- A $50 gift card to each of the members for the best brother mentor team.
- Contact an area business that and ask them if you can receive bonus gift cards for if you buy so many of them. It cannot hurt to ask.
- Don’t hand out cash or take money off of dues. Make it tangible and have the presentation in front of the chapter. This will motivate some of your audience.
Try a Fantasy Academic Draft.
Here are the rules:
- Based on the chapter size, determine how many teams there will be. It is best to split three ways for small, over 40 then start splitting by 10's. 40 then four teams, 50 then five teams and so forth. Everyone throws in $5 by the next meeting.
- Find out the top individual semester GPAs ahead of time. Then those present will be the team, captains.
- Determine who will go first by picking a number 1-100. Then based on what number you chose, line them up accordingly.
- The first individual can choose from any active member whether or not they are in the room. I would have a roster available to pick from, but no grades should be available. This way they have a little bit of a guess as to who is smart and who is not.
- As a member is picked, they will stand behind their team. No one can announce their GPAs.
- It is a Snake Draft. If there are four teams, then you will have the teams pick in a row and then team number 4 will pick twice. Then it will reverse direction and when it comes to team number 1, then they will pick twice and reverse order again.
- The team then decides their team name, all the while the 4th counselor is typing in the information about who is on what team.
- After everyone is picked, then at the end of the semester the team with the best average GPA takes the money and goes out to dinner. They cannot spend the money on alcohol.
- To start off the next semester then they will draft again.
- GPA's hopefully increase and the world is a better place.
All of these ideas can help you provide the tools necessary to increase your chapter GPA. You should be able to formulate a good scholarship plan that will encourage members and hold them accountable when it comes to their grades. I would also reach out to your Chapter Director, Regional Director, Faculty Adviser, and Fraternity/Sorority Life Adviser for help in formulating your plan. They can be a great resource. Last but not least, remember to submit your Academic Success Plan to the SOE by October 15th