Category Archives: higher education

Higher Education

Beyond Elite: Life After Rejection from a Top College

Nassau Hall on the campus of Princeton University. Photo courtesy of Flickr user James Loesch.

Nassau Hall on the campus of Princeton University. Photo courtesy of Flickr user James Loesch.

By Ben Nye (Arkansas)

IN a March 15 article entitled “How to Survive the College Admissions Madness” New York Times columnist Frank Bruni laid out what he saw as the chief problem of the college admissions process: the effects of an increasingly large number of rejections coming from elite colleges.

Take Harvard’s class of 2018 as an example. Of the 34,295 applications the school received, only 2,048 were granted admission, or about 6%. The year before, Harvard set a record for the most applications it has ever received: 35,022. Similarly, Princeton, Penn, Brown, Yale, and Columbia all received large numbers of applications and accepted less than 10% of applicants for the class of 2018. Along with the Ivy League schools, other elite colleges maintain low admission rates. MIT admitted less than 8% of its applicants and Duke only 10.7% of its record-setting 32,506 applicants.

What’s behind this hyper-competitive admissions process? Bruni thinks it’s parents and potential students seeking a means to assess self-worth. “For too many parents and their children, acceptance by an elite institution isn’t just another challenge, just another goal. A yes or no from Amherst or the University of Virginia or the University of Chicago is seen as the conclusive measure of a young person’s worth, an uncontestable harbinger of the accomplishments or disappointments to come. Winner or loser: This is when judgement is made,” writes Bruni.

The article proceeds to show that getting into an elite college isn’t “a conclusive measure of a young person’s worth.” Bruni sees many opportunities found on the other end of a rejection letter from an elite college and he chronicles the stories of two recent graduates who achieved high levels of success despite their initial rejection.

Peter Hart attended a state school after being rejected by his first choice at the University of Michigan. Through his own initiative, Hart managed to secure employment with prestigious management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group and later went on to pursue an MBA from Harvard. Another recent graduate, Jenna Leahy, was rejected from all of her top school choices but is now managing a charter school after a stint with Teach for America. “I never would have had the strength, drive or fearlessness to take such a risk if I hadn’t been rejected so intensely before,” said Leahy.

“People bloom at various stages of life, and different individuals flourish in different climates.”

Bruni makes several admirable points in critiquing the rush to gain admittance in selective, elite colleges. For one, success may not come immediately or predictably, even for graduates of elite colleges. “People bloom at various stages of life, and different individuals flourish in different climates,” says Bruni. As an example, Bruni points to a high school classmate of Peter Hart’s – who despite a perceived advantage of attending Yale – also ended up working for Boston Consulting Group.

Along with his argument that a self-directed path to career success is still attainable, Bruni offers a less tangible consolation of attending a lower tier college. “The nature of a student’s college experience – the work that he or she puts into it, the self-examination that’s undertaken, the resourcefulness that’s honed – matters more than the name of the institution attended,” says Bruni.

It is here that Bruni might agree most heartily with former University of Chicago president and liberal arts defender Robert Hutchins. “The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives,” wrote Hutchins.

Bruni is laudable for showing that, through motivation and effort, individuals can form successful career paths on their own merit. Furthermore, in alluding to the less concrete goals of college, Bruni allows for a type of success that only comes through an examined life.

If there are weaknesses in Bruni’s argument, it is his overly narrow definition of success and inadequate description of how college – regardless of reputation – can lead to a meaningful life through self-examination.

In Bruni’s reporting on Peter Hart and Jenna Leahy, he emphasizes their employment by and selection into several highly respected institutions. Bruni also lists individuals who did not attend elite colleges who are in leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies or stand out in the prestigious startup school Y Combinator.

Implied in Bruni’s examples is the idea that organizations like Teach for America and Boston Consulting Group have confirmed that Hart, Leahy, and others like them are “successful.” Bruni’s argument still uses a paradigm that defines success as getting employed and admitted into the most prestigious and well-known companies, graduate schools, and organizations.

“The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.”

For Bruni’s argument to work fully, it needs to consider a wider range of recent graduates who may not have ascended to the heights of a prominent career like Hart, Leahy, and Fortune 500 executives.

For every Teach For America and Boston Consulting Group alumnus, there are many more public high-school teachers and assistant managers at local grocery stores. How do these people define success? Might they have had more post-graduate opportunity with an elite college education vs attending a local college?

The reader is also left to wonder how a college education can contribute to a meaningful and successful life beyond giving one career prospects. How do college graduates find meaning in their lives? How might their college educations have contributed to their living an “examined life?”

The article also makes the vague claim that “education happens across a spectrum of settings and in infinite ways.” While this is certainly true, there are no examples to back up the claim.

Fraternity members are well familiar with these outside-the-classroom educational opportunities, but these and other students in similar groups are beyond the scope of Bruni’s thesis. No examples of the fraternity members who made lifelong friendships or athletes whose commitment to the team kept them accountable to class attendance are included. These considerations and questions Bruni leaves largely unexplored.

For the best example of how higher education can lead to a life of meaning, Bruni should consider the work of Scott Samuelson and his essay entitled “Why I Teach Plato to Plumbers.” Samuelson, a community college professor, has extensive experience teaching philosophy to blue collar workers. “I recently got a letter from a former student, a factory worker, thanking me for introducing him to Schopenhauer,” recounts Samuelson. “The letter explained that I’d quoted some lines from Schopenhauer in class, and they’d sparked my student’s imagination.” Bruni would have done well to find someone similar to Samuelson’s factory worker to articulate the intangible benefits of college education.

Several interesting ideas are presented in “How to Survive the College Admissions Madness.” Bruni’s points about not defining self-worth as acceptance into elite colleges and allusion to the intangible benefits of higher education are well received.

However, if the goal of an education is purely focused on post graduate employment in high status institutions, potential students may be justified in feeling disappointment in rejection from elite colleges. After all, for every Peter Hart and Ivy League graduate, there will be many more recent graduates of average colleges who won’t ascend to prominent careers. That doesn’t mean that their college educations were a waste of resources or they won’t have successful lives.

Broadening the scope of success and better showing how college leads to a life of self-examination would further help prove Bruni’s thesis that college is still valuable beyond elite schools. Like the factory worker cited by Scott Samuelson, the reader may find that a college education has led to a lifetime of discovery and a love of learning.

From Passive to Powerful


Mike Dilbeck is the founder of RESPONSE ABILITY and speaks to audiences around the country about bystander intervention and courageous leadership. Brother Dilbeck is an initiate of Sigma Nu’s Lambda Epsilon Chapter at Texas Christian University.

Like many of you, I have been paying close attention to all the news regarding the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma. As someone who visits campuses and speaks to tens of thousands of college students each year, I often think I have heard it all. However, I wasn’t prepared for this. Maybe it was because I had just seen the inspiring footage over the weekend of the tens of thousands of people marching in Selma, Alabama. Maybe it was because of the tears I shed as I listened to our president’s remarks in front of that bridge. Maybe it’s because the actions were just outright abhorrent and, as OU President Boren swiftly and powerfully said, “disgraceful.”

Even amidst all of my personal feelings, I know this is not who we are as members of the national fraternity and sorority community. I know this is not what Sigma Alpha Epsilon is truly about. I know this is not what represents the millions of us committed to dignity and respect for all. However, this is an opportunity for all of us all to pause and reflect on why something so divisive and offensive can happen at all.

There are many different ways to look at this incident and, rather than address the actions of the perpetrators, which most people will do, I want to explore the actions of another group of people involved: the bystanders. Anyone who was on that bus at the time of this racist chant and wasn’t participating in the activity is a bystander. Whether they wanted to be or not. Whether they chose to be or not. Whether they liked it or not. The simple fact is: when we see or hear something — anything — being done or said, we are a bystander.

What kind of bystander are you?

Now, here’s the question for them and all of us to ponder: what kind of bystander are we going to be? When we witness or hear anything that is inappropriate, offensive, unsafe, unhealthy, unlawful, dishonorable, or just plain wrong, we have a momentary choice to make. Are we going to stay silent, walk away, or laugh along? In other words, be a passive bystander? Or, are we going to choose to stand up, step in, and speak out for what’s right? In other words, be a powerful bystander? This is the choice we have — and we do make a choice, whether we experience making one or not.

We don’t know everything that happened on that bus this past weekend, but what has already become clear is there were both types of bystanders in reaction to the offensive and hurtful actions of a few. First, we know of at least one powerful bystander — someone who chose to take out their smartphone and record video of the chant. Then, hand that video over to someone who could do something with it to make a difference. By now, you already know that this video has gone viral and caused the SAE chapter being closed, all brothers moving out of the house, and the expulsion of two students. This action has also elevated the already-existing national conversation on race.

The reality is that we are expecting college students to do something that many will argue they are not developmentally ready to do.

As the founder of RESPONSE ABILITY, a program on bystander intervention and courageous leadership, I share various actions available to each of us in being a powerful bystander and intervening to prevent, end, or diffuse a problem situation. One of these actions is to do exactly what this bystander did — record video. This can be a powerful and safe alternative to direct, in-your-face confrontation to a behavior (which is also sometimes appropriate). They made the momentary choice to go beyond whatever fear they may have had and take some form of action to intervene. What this bystander did was brilliant and very effective. What this bystander did was demonstrate courageous leadership.

Which brings us to the other bystanders on the bus that evening. I want to believe there were more students who had a gut response that this chant was wrong. Granted, there will be more details to come out and we may very well find out that others did do something. However, my skepticism — even my own cynicism — doubts that anyone did. I fear that every other bystander that evening chose to be passive.

The reality is that we are expecting college students to do something that many will argue they are not developmentally ready to do. We are asking them to go beyond a deep-seated and real fear of standing up to their fellow peers and taking great risks in doing so. We are asking them to be bigger than they know themselves to be. Yes, we are asking this — not only of them, but of us all. Even though these students are at a distinct time in their lives, it takes something from all of us to do what we are not comfortable doing. There is nothing comfortable about intervening, regardless of age. Nothing! For many of us, this may be the greatest fear we have. Yet, none of this excuses us from tolerating the abusive, offensive, hurtful, and violent behavior we witness in our lives.

Are you going to give yourself permission to go from passive to powerful in order to be the man you have committed yourself to be?

To be clear, I am not telling you what choice you should make — this is up to you. My mission in life is to wake us all up to the opportunity we have to go past that which stops us in making the difference we are out to make. To empower us all to stand up, step in, and speak out for what’s right. To give us all permission to go from passive to powerful.

So, whether you are a college student, a parent, an employee, an employer, a spouse, a community activist, or any other role in life, you are a Sigma Nu. You are a man who has given your oath to the values of Love, Honor, and Truth. No matter how long ago it was when you were initiated as a Knight in Sigma Nu, you took a lifelong oath to uphold — and live by — these values.

Which brings us to my final question: are you going to live these values in your life at all times — or just when it is convenient and comfortable? Are you going to let these values guide you and empower you to stand up, step in, and speak out for what’s right — or turn your back on them and experience the shame and guilt from doing so? Are you going to give yourself permission to go from passive to powerful in order to be the man you have committed yourself to be?

When we do live from these values and make the choice to take an appropriate, effective, and safe action to intervene, I call this courageous leadership. And, I do truly believe in our ability to respond to any form of discrimination, sexual violence, corruption, cheating, bullying, hazing, and other issues by going beyond our shame and fear to demonstrate courage in momentary choices.

For colleagues. For family. For friends. For strangers.

In organizations. In business. In community. In life.

If you would like to empower yourself — and others — in making this kind of difference, I invite you to join The Revolution for Courageous Leadership by visiting our website. Here, you will get exclusive access to valuable and free resources, including the recently-published eBook, “The Manifesto for Courageous Leadership.” Mike’s personal website is

Mike Dilbeck

Alabama Governor Issues Proclamation Honoring Sigma Nu Fraternity

Jacksonville State University, where tonight a proclamation will be presented declaring January 1, 2015, as "Sigma Nu Day" in the state of Alabama. Photo by flickr user Jay Williams.

Jacksonville State University, where tonight a proclamation will be presented declaring January 1, 2015, as “Sigma Nu Day” in the state of Alabama. Photo by flickr user Jay Williams.

Jacksonville, Ala. – Alabama House Representative K.L. Brown will read a proclamation this evening recognizing the chapters of Sigma Nu Fraternity in the state of Alabama. The proclamation, signed by Governor Robert Bentley, will recognize the historic men’s fraternal organization as the only such group founded in direct opposition to hazing and rooted in the honor principle.

Earlier this year Governor Bentley signed the proclamation declaring January 1 as “Sigma Nu Day” in Alabama.

The proclamation will be presented during a ceremony at 7:00 p.m. CT this evening on the 11th floor of the Houston Cole Library on the Jacksonville State University campus.

Rep. Brown will be joined by national alumni leadership from Sigma Nu Fraternity, including Sigma Nu Educational Foundation (SNEF) board member Ralph Moore, past Sigma Nu Fraternity board member Austin Landry of Birmingham, and SNEF chairman Joe Gilman of Atlanta. Mr. Gilman is also a past national president of Sigma Nu Fraternity. Dr. William A Meehan, president of Jacksonville State University, is also expected to attend.

The story behind the proclamation is a testament to the strong student leadership that has come to define Sigma Nu Fraternity. Kenneth Smith, a political science major and member of the Sigma Nu chapter at Jacksonville State, originally proposed the idea to Rep. Brown. “I wanted to do something different to celebrate Sigma Nu and our Founders’ Day for 2015,” Kenneth said. “With everything going on in higher education right now I know elected officials and other public servants like to hear from younger college students.”

“This proclamation reaffirms the ideals Sigma Nu stands for at the campuses where we have chapters and in the communities where our alumni live,” Kenneth continued. “To some this might seem like merely words on a paper. But I’m glad I get to live out these high ideals and hold this brotherhood close to my heart.”

The signed proclamation, included below, will be framed and displayed at the Sigma Nu Fraternity national headquarters office in Lexington, Va.


By the Governor of Alabama 

WHEREAS, since its founding on January 1, 1869, at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, the Sigma Nu Fraternity has been a pioneer in the fraternal world; and

WHEREAS, Sigma Nu currently has 172 active chapter and colonies on college campuses throughout the United States and Canada. Sigma Nu has initiated more than 230,000 members since its founding; and

WHEREAS, active Sigma Nu chapters in Alabama are located at Jacksonville State University, University of Alabama, Auburn University, Samford University, The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Birmingham-Southern College and Huntingdon College; and

WHEREAS, originally founded and known to this day as The Legion of Honor, Sigma Nu is the only social fraternity in existence founded in firm opposition to hazing and based on the principal of honor; and

 WHEREAS, Sigma Nu is the first general college fraternity to offer risk reduction policies and a comprehensive membership education program, remaining committed to both their mission and vision for more than 140 years; and

WHEREAS, the mission of Sigma Nu is to develop ethical leaders inspired by the principles of love, honor and truth, to foster the personal growth of each man’s mind heart and character and to perpetuate lifelong friendships and commitment to the fraternity; and

WHEREAS, Sigma Nu’s organizational structures and internal operations provide for the effective deployment of resources to deliver an unmatched level of service to its constituents; and

 WHEREAS, Sigma Nu is continually increasing its membership and capabilities as it creates and capitalizes on new markets and opportunities that support the fraternity’s mission; and

 WHEREAS, Sigma Nu enhances the experience of its members and builds a sense of community in a way that generates a desire to invest time, talent and treasure in the development of both the organization and its future members which is recognized by all as a contribution to the greater good:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert Bentley, Governor of Alabama, do hereby commend the Sigma Nu Fraternity upon its 146th Anniversary on January 1, 2015. 

Given Under My Hand and the Great Seal of the Office of the Governor at the State Capitol in the City of Montgomery on the 20th day of November 2014.

JSU at the Rock

Brothers of Iota Lambda Chapter (Jacksonville State) during a visit to the Headquarters Shrine earlier this year.


Research shows how fraternity membership enhances personal growth

Sigma Nu Leadership conference

Chapter presidents share best practices at College of Chapters, Sigma Nu’s flagship leadership training conference.

By Merritt Onsa

The UniLOA assessment is a 70-item, self-reporting instrument designed to measure student growth, learning and development or “GLD” of college and university students. The research is conducted by the Center for Learning Outcomes Assessment at Indiana State University.

UniLOA measures behavior at key points in a student’s college career and focuses on seven critical domains: critical thinking, self-awareness, communication, diversity, citizenship, membership & leadership and relationships. In the last few years, this diagnostic tool has provided a rich source of new data to inform program development and support services on campuses across the nation.

To ensure high reliability, the authors spent three years developing and testing the instrument before reporting their findings. Now, after six years of data collection, themes and patterns have emerged about the impact of fraternity membership on the development of male students.

The spike in development—especially in the first 15 credit hours—is not seen in athletics, student government or residence life; it’s found uniquely in fraternity members.

Five national fraternities have participated in this research along with more than more than 300 institutions of higher education. Students—not just fraternity members—from across the campus life spectrum have participated in the study.

However, the results confirm what many fraternity members have known all along—the fraternity experience positively influences the personal development of male students. This is demonstrated in three key outcomes from the research:

  • Fraternity men experienced higher net gains in growth over their academic lifespan in each of the seven critical domains.
  • Average growth of fraternity men was higher than non-affiliated men during the first semester of their first year in college, which is often the “pledge” semester.
  • Fraternity men scored substantially higher in “citizenship” and “membership & leadership” than non-affiliated men.

The spike in development—especially in the first 15 credit hours—is not seen in athletics, student government or residence life; it’s found uniquely in fraternity members. And the North-American Interfraternity Conference President and CEO, Peter Smithhisler, says it’s the best argument against deferred recruitment. “The earlier a man can join, the more significant his development,” he says.

Sigma Nu Leadership conference

Director of Leadership Development Scott Smith facilitates a discussion at the 2014 College of Chapters in Roanoke, Va.

Of course, the authors of the UniLOA acknowledge that growth, learning and development happen naturally through the maturation process; but meaningful and consistent engagement in organized activities like fraternities tends to accelerate the rate of GLD for those students.

The NIC has been aware of UniLOA for the past five years; however, the organization waited to react to the results until the data could be replicated. Now that it has been deemed a reliable and valid instrument that consistently reveals the same overall patterns, the NIC is working to help undergraduate members and college administrators understand the total impact of the fraternity experience on male student development.

“While we own, acknowledge and are dealing with the issues that are out of line with the values of the fraternity experience, we also have to start identifying what’s going right. As a result of the new member experience, young men have leadership opportunities, interact with a diverse group of students and develop personal relationships. If we can eliminate the negative aspects and enhance the positive aspects, I expect the fraternity experience to become even more impactful,” says Smithhisler.

Sigma Nu Leadership conference

Chapter presidents discuss ways to positively influence their campus at the 2014 College of Chapters in Roanoke, Va.

And that opportunity rests in the hands of our current chapter members. “Our current undergraduates are entrusted with the future of fraternities. What they do today in the ways they recruit, create expectations and how they lead, all of these things will determine the focus of fraternities in the future. And it’s up to the undergraduates to ensure our future,” says Smithhisler.

At the same time, alumni play an important role in the development of young men. Smithhisler challenges all fraternity alumni to reengage with their organization as role models and mentors. “Undergraduates need positive role models to provide guidance and encouragement along the path to becoming fraternity men. It’s through mentorship that student leaders are taught the value of fraternity membership and how to live out those values in their daily lives,” he says.  Equally as important, “alumni must resist perpetuating the myths and stereotypes through their interactions and expectations of the young men in our chapters.”

Sigma Nu Leadership conference

Vice Regent John Hearn stands by to assist chapter presidents during a goal-setting session.

To continue to share the research outcomes, the NIC created The Case for Fraternity Rights website and is working through multiple channels to disseminate the information therein. They are communicating directly with IFC and campus leaders, especially those campuses with deferred recruitment. And they’ve translated the research into a 60-minute presentation that their 75 member organizations can use at national conventions or provide to traveling staff members to share with individual chapters. In case you’re wondering, the NIC is not affiliated with UniLOA and does not commission, finance or influence the research in any way.

In addition to communicating the good news about fraternity life to those closest to the experience, the NIC is working to share this research with other stakeholders like the media, government officials, parents and potential new members.

To learn more about the research visit and help us spread the word about the dramatic positive impact fraternity life has on student growth, learning and development for the young men who join.

This story originally appeared in the fall 2012 issue of The Delta.

7 Higher Education Stories to Watch in 2013

The University of Wisconsin, Madison announced last week a new program to award knowledge-based bachelor’s degrees that require no formal coursework.

As we’ve noted many times before, the major issues facing higher education — rising costs, degree inflation, lower job prospects — will make fraternities more relevant as students (and their parents) seek to squeeze as much value as possible from their college experience. Here are seven stories we’ve been following that could have a major impact on fraternities and sororities.

1. Faced with budget shortfalls, 38 states and counting have cut higher education spending, according to The Atlantic.

2. University of Wisconsin, Madison is experimenting with a program that awards bachelor’s degrees based on knowledge instead of coursework or credit hours.

3. A record 30% of Americans 25 or older have bachelor’s degrees, according to GOOD magazine.

4. More and more jobs are requiring bachelor’s degrees that did not as recently as five years ago.

5. San Jose State joins a growing list of universities offering free online classes for credit.

6. In case you haven’t heard, the cost of a college degree has skyrocketed and shows no sign of slowing down.

7. Is the cost of a college education still worth the price tag?

Bonus: ‘The Looming Higher Education Bubble‘ (The Delta, winter 2012 issue)

7 Tips to Ace Finals Week

Image by Flickr user rosipaw

1. Visit your professors’ office hours.

Of the already small number of students who actually use office hours, few of them know how to take full advantage of the face-to-face meeting.

Rather than asking the professor what’ll be covered on the exam – a question that should be obvious and was probably already asked by the inattentive student in the back of the room – ask some thoughtful follow-up questions related to subjects from class.

Even more valuable than asking questions is the chance to help your professor put a face and personality with the name (or worse, student ID number). When your professor is slogging through hundreds of answer sheets the night before grades are due, she’ll remember the personal interaction with students who bothered to take advantage of her office hours.

2. A) Make a list of distractions. B) Don’t do those things.

Important Desperate times call for pro-active desperate measures.

Delete Facebook, Twitter and Angry Birds from your phone until after finals week. If you’re especially prone to compulsive Facebook use, give your username and password to a trusted friend to avoid the temptation while in the computer lab.

Fill your Netflix queue with some documentaries that complement your classwork so you won’t be tempted to watch an entire season of The Wire all in one sitting.

Find a study carrel that faces away from high-traffic areas. It might be terrible feng shui, but keeping your back to passersby can improve focus and limit the temptation to compulsively hit “refresh” on your favorite news sites.

Finally, have some good excuses ready for when your friends come calling with invites to Benihana.

3. Make your own study guides.

At least one week before the test, complete typed study guides for each chapter or subject that will be covered on the exam and carry them with you everywhere. Summarize the information in your own words and use small pockets of time between classes or waiting for a friend to quiz yourself.

Once the semester is over you can stick the study guides in the chapter’s scholarship file for future brothers who take the same class, provided they meet your school’s honor code guidelines.

4. Explain the class to your grandmother.

You’ve probably heard the popular saying “You don’t truly understand something until you can explain it to your grandmother.” (Those who’ve tried to explain Twitter to their relatives at Thanksgiving dinner can relate.)

Okay, maybe you’re not actually going to give Nana an organic chemistry lesson over the phone. But explaining the core concepts of a class to a friend or family member can be a useful way to see how well you know the material. If they can repeat it back to you then you’re on the way to owning this exam.

For another strategy, try forming a study group with classmates and assign a different section to each person. Sometimes you don’t really understand something until you teach it to others.

5. Simulate the testing experience.

A buzzing cellphone, a new building, a frigid classroom, an unfamiliar testing format. The tiniest [or justifiably maddening] thing can throw off your concentration. Thankfully there’s a way to prepare for that.

Don’t let the actual exam be the first time you’ve been tested on the information. Write some practice tests using class materials and the study guides you created earlier, and then take one in the same building where the exam will be administered.

Trick yourself into thinking this is the actual thing – however you do here will be your actual grade. This is it, no redo. Use your score to make adjustments accordingly. Repeat.

This is how prospective graduate students master entrance exams like the GRE, GMAT or MCAT. Simulate the testing experience so the real thing feels like a piece of cake.

6. Take care of yourself.

Eat. Sure, you may not have as much time to cook or sit down to eat during exam week, but this doesn’t mean you need to eat stale Funyuns from the vending machine every day. Make a trip to the grocery store and stock up on some relatively healthy snacks you can carry around campus. Eating small meals every few hours will help you stay focused.

Sleep. There are various conflicting studies out there about how many hours of sleep we need each night. The important thing to remember is that there’s a point of diminishing returns to sacrificing sleep for cramming sessions. No matter how well you’ve prepared, don’t expect to ace that 100-question multiple choice psych exam after sleeping for only two hours the past five nights. (If you’re following these tips ahead of time, you won’t have to.)

Exercise. You don’t need to hit the gym twice a day or schedule a Tough Mudder during finals week to stay mentally awake. Just commit some time each day – as little as 15 minutes – to take your mind off studying with a little exercise. Jog around the block a few times. Do a few sets of push-ups and pull-ups in your room after waking up (hopefully after more than 2 hours of sleep). Walk to campus instead of driving. Or maybe you’re more of a desk treadmill kind of guy?

7. Leave nothing in doubt.

This final tip for exam week preparation is more of a mindset than a tangible study habit. “Leave nothing in doubt” means you’re going to leave the exam room already knowing your score. You were so focused and thorough in preparing for the exam that you don’t even need to wait for the grades to post to know how you performed.

Congrats, you killed it. Now you can go home and watch all those Netflix documentaries.

New Group Learning Environment Mirrors Fraternity Leadership Development Programs

Faculty member Dave Mainella works with chapter presidents during the 2012 College of Chapters in St. Louis.

GOOD magazine has a new story up about an intriguing program at Penn State that aims to provide professional mentoring for college students all living in the same house:

Imagine as many as 60 entrepreneurial college students living under a single roof and being mentored by successful professionals in their chosen fields. That’s the idea behind a social living project called in State College, Pennsylvania.

Working with more than 50 student interns from Penn State, New Leaf built the framework that will serve as a model for other universities interested in the project: a two-year program for juniors and seniors that includes a semester of training, the opportunity to lead a semester-long project, a summer internship, and a personal mentor—plus a plethora of professional networking options in-house.

It sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? What are some ways fraternities could collaborate with GOOD or on a similar project?

Student Loan Debt Makes Page One of Sunday Times

Just in case there were any doubts over the importance of watching for a possible higher education bubble, the ever-unfolding story received Page One treatment in the Sunday edition of The New York Times last weekend, attracting attention to the issue through the experiences of several current and former students struggling to pay off sizable student loans.

The NYT’s coverage is yet another major story related to our winter 2012 feature that discussed the likelihood of a higher education bubble and the possible impact on student organizations. As we have mentioned several times before, fraternities and sororities are in a good position to add value to the college experience at a time when many are starting to question the very idea.

For additional commentary on the NYT story, visit here and here.

Underemployment Continues Among Young Graduates

Coverage of the looming higher education bubble just won’t go away. A new Rutgers University survey finds that only half of the graduates from 2006 to 2011 are working full time jobs. Close to half of the graduates who do have full time work have jobs that don’t even require a college degree, according to NPR’s coverage of the survey.

We’ve been watching the higher education bubble for a while now, both here at the blog and in the magazine. Our feature story from last year explored the factors contributing to a possible bubble, including the alarming increase in student loan debt and the inflated value of a college degree.

Coverage of the higher education bubble, student loan debt, underemployed young graduates, and the worth of a college degree has been surprisingly scarce on remedies for weathering the storm.

If the value of a college degree is in fact deteriorating, as many believe, those most likely to come out on the other side will have to find ways to get more out of their college experience. And as we’ve noted many times before, fraternities are uniquely positioned, if you’ll forgive the catchphrase, to offer this value.

If there is a higher education bubble, and if it bursts, tapping a network of support will be even more important as a growing number of applicants seek a relatively fewer number of jobs. The social skills absorbed from fraternity membership, combined with the applied career and life skills learned from the LEAD program, will give an edge to the members who took full advantage.

“In our very technological society, we need people who are very effective at relationship building and that value the importance of connecting with people and solving problems together,” McKeirnan says.

Read our full story here.

Time Well Spent

From “10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won’t Tell You,” published earlier this week in the WSJ:

1. Your time in fraternity basements was well spent.

The same goes for the time you spent playing intramural sports, working on the school newspaper or just hanging with friends. Research tells us that one of the most important causal factors associated with happiness and well-being is your meaningful connections with other human beings. Look around today. Certainly one benchmark of your postgraduation success should be how many of these people are still your close friends in 10 or 20 years.

Full list available here with a mix of more sound advice and some other not-so-inspiring advice (see No. 10).