When college freshmen step foot on campus, they may go to an activity fair and see members of sororities and fraternities encouraging recruits to join. They might want to know that becoming part of Greek life can have its upsides and downsides.
Whether or not students decide to let their Greek flag fly depends on their personality, their specific situation, and their goals while they are in school. Some may find Greek life incredibly enriching, and others could decide it’s a waste of their time.
Here’s a look at what Greek life is like and pros and cons you may want to consider when deciding if joining a fraternity or sorority is right for you.
What Is Greek Life in College?
Greek life is made up of communities of students who live together, volunteer for different organizations, pursue networking opportunities, and much more. The communities consist of sororities for women and fraternities for men.
Sororities and fraternities may have various objectives, but overall they exist so that students can make meaningful connections with one another, develop leadership skills, and give back.
Roughly 15% of men join fraternities at U.S. colleges, while about 18% of women join sororities.
Students who are interested in becoming members must apply and then go through an initiation process. Once accepted, they will live with their sorority or fraternity, usually in a house on campus, and participate in activities like sports, dances, parties, and community service opportunities.
Sorority and fraternity names consist of two or three Greek letters, like Phi Kappa Theta, Sigma Pi, or Delta Zeta, a nod to the first U.S. Greek letter society, Phi Beta Kappa, founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary as a literary, debating, and social club.
Many students only know about sororities and fraternities from pop culture references like “Revenge of the Nerds,” “Animal House,” “Legally Blonde,” and “Old School,” which depict a perennial party.
While that is certainly true in some instances — and fraternities have come under fire for their alcohol use and hazing rituals — Greek life can be much more meaningful and beneficial than these portrayals.
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Upsides of Greek Life
Joining a fraternity or sorority comes with a number of advantages. Here’s a look at some of the perks.
When new students first get to college, they may not know where to turn to make connections. If they become part of a sorority or fraternity, they could make many new friends right away, bond with them through different activities and social events, and remain friends for life.
Students will also have the chance to network with their new peers. When they’re searching for internships or jobs, these connections can prove to be highly valuable.
Plus, if a job hunter lists their sorority or fraternity on a resume and a recruiter is a Greek life alumnus, that could open up a conversation and make a candidate stand out.
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Possibly Cheaper Housing
Living in college dorms can be pricey. If students are sharing a house with many members of a sorority or fraternity, they could potentially save money.
They may also save money by having access to a full kitchen, where they can make meals instead of purchasing a meal plan or eating at restaurants all the time.
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Development of Leadership Skills
Sororities and fraternities need leaders who will come up with ideas for activities, pilot volunteering efforts, and recruit members.
If members step up and decide they want to become leaders, then they are taking on new responsibilities and developing crucial skills that will be valuable when they graduate from college and start to look for jobs.
Fraternities and sororities are often focused on philanthropy.
Students can participate in different volunteer projects with their fellow Greek life members and contribute to making the world a better place.
Not to mention, this will look good on a resume because it shows that a student is passionate about certain causes and wants to do their part to improve the lives of others.
Potential Downsides of Greek Life
Like a toga, Greek life isn’t a good look for everyone. Here are some possible cons.
You typically need to pay membership dues each year you are a member of a fraternity or sorority. The cost varies depending on the school and fraternity/sorority you join but, on average, you can expect to pay around $2,000 to $3,0000 for the first year.
Local and national chapter fees are not always covered in the regular monthly dues.
And if fraternities or sororities get into trouble, members could be fined as well.
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Fraternities and sororities have gotten a bad rap from movies and TV.
Worse, students have died in hazing accidents throughout the years, leading colleges to take administrative action against fraternities especially.
Some fraternities and sororities do emphasize parties and drinking, which is all fun and games until someone begins to flunk out, becomes addicted, is involved in an assault, or is injured.
It’s best, of course, to socialize responsibly and always make academic studies the priority.
Because Greek life involves so many events, and members are expected to participate, joining a sorority or fraternity means a huge time commitment.
Spending too much time on Greek life activities and not enough on studying or working at internships could have a negative impact on a student’s future.
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Determining Whether or Not to Join Greek Life
Joining a fraternity or a sorority can be a great decision, especially for freshmen who may not know anyone on campus. If they are a part of Greek life, then they will stay busy, make friends, network, and contribute.
On the flipside, if they are in a campus family that is constantly throwing parties and not interested in enriching members’ lives in a meaningful way, then joining might not be a good idea.
If you’re concerned about being able to afford the cost of joining a fraternity or sorority, keep in mind that there are a number of ways to cover the cost of college tuition and living expenses, including grants, scholarships, subsidized and unsubsidized federal student loans, and private student loans.
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A sorority or fraternity can provide camaraderie and enduring connections, and enhance a call for service and leadership. It can also be time consuming, expensive, and distracting. Greek life isn’t for everyone, but some will find it a life-changing college choice.
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