When you’re thinking about college, joining a fraternity or a sorority may be one of the first things to come to mind, after academics and freedom, of course. But not all colleges and universities actually offer Greek life to their students, and some campuses only offer certain chapters. Rice University in Texas, for instance, hosts no Greek organizations, while Best College Reviews lists Washington and Lee University as the number one college in the United States for Greek life, with nearly 80% of students belonging to a fraternity or sorority.
Choosing a school based solely on its Greek offerings isn’t a good idea, but if you are interested in pursuing Greek life, or are decidedly NOT interested, you’ll want to take into consideration the number of students who participate in Greek life on campus and whether or not it’s offered at all. This will directly influence your campus experience and your life outside of the classroom. When I was applying for college quite a few years ago, I knew that I wasn’t interested in joining a sorority. I applied to several different schools, but none with over 40% participation in Greek organizations because I didn’t want campus life to be dominated by Greek life. I ended up choosing a school with no Greek organizations at all; it was the perfect choice for me.
However, Greek life is definitely the right choice for some people. Aila, a student at Case Western Reserve University, says “I went through recruitment because I wanted to branch out of my freshman bubble. I went to classes with freshmen, lived with freshmen. I chose Delta Gamma because I never felt like I was pretending to be someone or [trying to] impress anyone. I was always comfortable talking to everyone I met every single day. Once I joined I realized everyone is just as goofy as I am and everyone embraces everyone’s quirk.”
Greek life may be the right choice for you if:
- You want access to a huge network of ready-made friends. Joining a sorority or fraternity not only gives you access to people on campus who are in the same chapter, but also people across the nation who are in the same chapter. This network is something that won’t go away, and you’ll find that even after college graduation, when you meet another Chi Omega, for example, you’ll instantly have an in and be able to make a connection. The people you meet in your chapter will become your friends, family, confidants, and support system all in one.
- You want to participate in a variety of events and community service. Greek chapters often are affiliated with certain charities and community partners for which they complete service projects. Members are also generally highly involved on campus, and encouraged to be so, from giving tours to prospective students (which you can put on your résumé) to joining the choir.
- You want to boost your résumé. Typically, fraternities and sororities have minimum GPA requirements for their members, so you’ll automatically have some incentive to keep your grades up (and we all know that flunking out of college never looks good on a job application). Other than grades, though, you may be elected to a leadership position within your chapter that showcases certain skills (including president, vice president, treasurer, and head of recruitment), encouraged to join other campus activities, and required to participate in community service.
- You want to improve your communication skills. Rush week (recruitment) is pretty crazy. You will be talking to current members of different sororities and fraternities for days on end, trying to not only sell yourself, but also determine where you will fit best. And this is just the beginning. After you’ve joined, you may do recruitment again as an older student, and this time you’re trying to sell your chapter to someone else!
Maybe think twice about Greek life if you’re worried about:
- The cost: Going Greek is not cheap. Not only are you going to be subject to initiation fees, (one student paid $900 to join a chapter at the University of Arizona), there are also membership dues to be paid as frequently as each semester, clothes required for ceremonial activities and events, Greek gear, housing at the fraternity or sorority, and other miscellaneous fees. One woman wrote an article about how four years of being in a sorority ended up costing her over $16,000. Granted that includes room and board, but that is still a hefty sum, and so you’ll have to decide whether the benefits are worth the cost.
- Greek students being viewed as a stereotype: There are awful stories of what happens during initiation, the amount of hazing that occurs, and the partying and drinking culture. While some stereotypes are rooted in myth, there is truth to others. Most Greek chapters have a zero-tolerance hazing policy, but there may still be a thriving party culture that supplements the community service and academic portions of Greek life. Just because the stereotype exists, though, doesn’t mean that you have to fulfill it, or that an individual sorority or fraternity does either. Don’t feel obligated to do anything that you don’t want to do, and learn how to party safely.
- Tunnel vision: Though Greek members are encouraged to participate in campus activities outside of Greek life, it can be easy to get swept up by the excitement of all things Greek and forget to do anything else. This is particularly true for students who choose to live in Greek housing, meaning that for nonacademic hours, they’re spending time with their brothers or sisters. If this is something that concerns you, make a concerted effort to join an intramural team, start a study group with students not in your chapter from one of your classes, or join a club. There are plenty of ways to make friends who aren’t Greek, and no one in your chapter will resent you for it.
Even if you decide to rush and are offered a place with a fraternity or sorority, you are not obligated to join a Greek chapter. Take some time to decide if you really enjoyed the people and the community enough to shell out the big bucks. Once you’ve made your choice, embrace it! If you pledge, get to know all the other members of your sorority or fraternity, but make time to find other friends on campus too. Set time aside to spend with friends who aren’t Greek, and balance Greek activities with your academics and other extracurriculars. If you decide that Greek isn’t for you, make the most of college. The world is your oyster either way, and the experience is what you make of it!