Fraternities and sororities are among the best-known social organizations on any college campus. Choosing to join a Greek organization is a big decision and one that you should consider carefully. You will have to separate fact from fiction and let go of your preconceived notions about these groups in order to make the decision that's right for you. Consider the following advantages and disadvantages of Greek membership and speak with friends and family before choosing to join.
Advantages of Greek Membership
You may have heard quite a few stories about what goes on inside fraternity and sorority houses. You may also have seen movies and TV shows that put a certain spin on these groups. Very often they are portrayed as places where members do nothing but throw wild parties, and some think Greek involvement means you don't have to pay attention to schoolwork. However, these extreme stereotypes are rarely true. Greek organizations have persisted because they are valuable to their hosting colleges and to their members.
The most immediate benefit of joining a fraternity or sorority is the camaraderie and friendship that exists in these organizations. These men and women choose to unite based on shared values, goals, and interests. They get to know each other well and learn to depend on each other through good times and bad. While participating in the full breadth of Greek activities, students develop a deep bond with their chosen brothers and sisters, and for many students, this bond lasts a lifetime.
Another benefit of joining a Greek organization is leadership development. As a member, you will have the chance to hold a meaningful office and help direct your organization. You will also benefit from student-to-student mentoring and possibly from alumni mentoring. Your chapter will sponsor speakers or workshops designed to make all members more effective leaders. Greek chapters also tend to encourage their members to vie for leadership roles outside of the chapter. On many campuses, Greek members hold the top leadership positions in student organizations, such as newspaper editor and student government president.
Greek organizations also perform a remarkable amount of community service each year. Many chapters have a particular cause or agency that they work closely with, and some have several that they work with throughout the course of the year. Such service translates into valuable experience, good citizenship, and important parts of a resume. You get to work side by side with your good friends and make a genuine difference in your local community. You also get the chance to earn positive attention for your chapter and your school. Though good deeds rarely get national news coverage, local news organizations will often highlight a Greek chapter participating in a park cleanup or helping to repaint a local shelter.
One of the greatest benefits of joining a fraternity or sorority, particularly one that is nationally or internationally affiliated, is the opportunity for networking. In addition to your fellow members, each campus chapter will have alumni who are eager to assist you during your college years and beyond. You are also likely to be plugged into a national network of alumni of your fraternity or sorority. You may attend a college in the Midwest and find that you have fraternity brothers or sorority sisters on both the east and west coasts. When you are looking for a job and need to make professional connections, these alumni networks can be invaluable.
Each fraternity and sorority is founded on a specific set of principles. An organization may have a creed or formal statement of values. If the organization treats these principles as more than words on paper and attempts to live up to the values in a meaningful way, students benefit even more from membership in the Greek organization. A written code that is not followed has no value. Each member must abide by the principles of the organization for it to be a complete and successful group.
Other benefits of Greek membership include academic support while you are a student. Some chapters maintain study libraries complete with lecture notes or test guides for specific classes or professors. Many chapters will organize study groups for members taking the same class, and often an older member who has already had that class can serve as a tutor. Some chapters recognize or reward members who do well on assignments, achieve high GPAs, or show the most academic improvement. A few organizations even have scholarship support for members who live up to the ideals of the chapter. And many organizations offer some sort of group housing, often in conjunction with the school, which allows you to live with your closest friends.
Fraternity or sorority networking will certainly benefit you after graduation, but it can also help you while you are in school. Alumni from your organization may be able to help you get a summer job or internship. Your fraternity or sorority may also have local alumni advisors who can act as tutors for classes that are particularly difficult.
Disadvantages of Greek Membership
Greek membership is not for everyone, and there are very good reasons for an individual to decide against joining a fraternity or sorority. A significant disadvantage of Greek membership, for some, is the necessary time commitment. You will be expected to participate in a wide variety of activities and attend all formal functions. This includes meetings, seminars, and social events. If you are actively involved in other campus organizations or intercollegiate athletics, you may find it hard to manage all of your commitments in addition to your academic responsibilities.
What is the difference between a local and a national fraternity or sorority?
Local fraternity or sorority chapters (sometimes referred to as “interest groups”) exist only on your campus, and national (or international) chapters are branches of organizations that exist on many college campuses. National organizations have resources for training, risk management, insurance, and alumni networking. Local chapters or interest groups tend to be short-term, though they sometimes petition to join a national fraternity or sorority.
Similarly, Greek life involves a lot of social interaction with the other members of your chapter and of other chapters on campus. If you prefer to be by yourself or with a small group of friends, then joining a Greek organization will present a big challenge for you. Some students also struggle to maintain friendships outside of the fraternity or sorority, particularly on larger campuses. A possible expectation at a fraternity or sorority may be that your brothers or sisters come first. If this is the case, you may have trouble finding time for other friends.
One thing you should consider is that fraternities and sororities require dues. These funds help pay for chapter insurance, membership materials, and other education resources. While the amount varies by chapter, dues can be a significant expenditure for someone on a tight budget. Even if you can manage the dues — either alone or through scholarship help from the chapter — you will be expected to pay for other things during your membership. There will be T-shirts for the chapter and numerous special events, and you will need to buy gifts for your big brother or little sister in the chapter.
One of the biggest disadvantages of membership in a Greek organization is hazing. Though virtually every state, school, and national Greek organization has rules prohibiting hazing, forms of it still take place on most campuses. It is difficult for colleges to catch much of the hazing that occurs, and students who deeply desire membership in a particular organization are often reluctant to say “no” to dangerous or humiliating activities. Hazing does not just mean potential danger for students, but it also may be an indication that the organization does not respect the individual and does not subscribe to its supposed code of values. If you have heard that hazing is a part of a particular organization's membership ritual, avoid the group, for your own safety. There are certainly other organizations that will show concern for your well-being.