Is Greek Life Worth It?
- Joining a fraternity or sorority is a great way to meet new people and build lasting connections.
- Many fraternities and sororities offer academic support and leadership opportunities.
- Greek life requires a significant time commitment throughout the year.
- Some Greek organizations have a history of harmful alcohol- or hazing-related behaviors.
Many first-year students enter college having already decided they want to join a fraternity or sorority. Alternatively, some students may be considering Greek life, but are wondering if it's actually worth it, or are wary of the negative stereotypes associated with it.
There are many advantages when it comes to joining a fraternity or sorority. Greek life is a great way to meet new people, gain leadership skills, and build lasting connections — and then there's also all the parties and events you'll be attending.
Conversely, fraternities and sororities require hefty membership dues and a significant time commitment in terms of social and philanthropic events. Moreover, fraternities and sororities are often associated with hazing and alcohol abuse; this is a common deterrent for many students.
In this article, we'll cover the ins and outs of going Greek and whether it's worth participating in one of these organizations.
What Is Greek Life?
Collectively referred to as "Greek life," fraternities and sororities are value-based, undergraduate organizations that are mainly associated with colleges and universities. At their core, they provide academic support and help young college students develop social and leadership skills.
Many fraternities and sororities are national organizations, with chapters on hundreds of campuses across the country, while others are campus-specific. Members of a fraternity or sorority often share common interests and support one another's journey through college and beyond.
At their core, fraternities and sororities provide academic support and help young college students develop social and leadership skills.
Since their inception in the late 1700s, Greek organizations have faced their fair share of critics. Between binge drinking and hazing scandals, many traditional Greek organizations have had their reputations damaged by irresponsible — and dangerous — incidents.
While most Greek organizations maintain rules against these behaviors, the reality is that hazing remains prevalent on many college campuses. This is why it's so important to carefully look into any chapter you're interested in joining.
Benefits of Fraternities and Sororities
One of the lesser-known aspects of joining a fraternity or sorority is the academic support members receive. Many organizations actually provide an array of academic resources, such as on-hand tutors, study files, and coursework from popular classes. Some school chapters also have GPA requirements that members must uphold.
Because of these resources and requirements, members of a fraternity or sorority are more likely to graduate than their non-Greek peers. So while you may assume that Greek life is all about partying and social events, fraternities and sororities often place a strong emphasis on academic success.
Perhaps the most well-known benefit of Greek life is the ability to build instant connections and create lifelong friendships. Many students struggle in their early college years to meet new people and find a social circle, but sororities and fraternities help foster these tight-knit connections right off the bat.
As a member of a fraternity or sorority, you'll have the benefit of developing your social and leadership skills early on in college. Through chapter events and volunteer activities, as well as by simply spending time with members of your chapter, you can learn from those around you and participate in various social events.
You've probably heard that joining a fraternity or sorority increases your chance for success after graduation. And generally speaking, that's true. Once you become a member of a fraternity or sorority, you benefit from a strong alumni network.
Nationally, fraternities and sororities boast about 750,000 undergraduate members and more than 9 million alumni. This means that 4-5% of the adult population in the U.S. belongs to a Greek-affiliated organization.
The benefits of networking are made even more evident when you consider the following statistics provided by The Fraternity Advisor: About 85% of Fortune 500 executives and 76% of all members of Congress belong to a fraternity. This information highlights how valuable these alumni connections can be when it comes time to secure job interviews and references after college.
A significant part of Greek life is the philanthropic contributions and activities that members support. Many chapters focus heavily on community service projects and fundraisers, often raising thousands of dollars each year for charities and groups in the surrounding community.
At an individual level, these events give you a chance to gain some volunteer experience and take part in leadership opportunities. Many chapters have leadership positions for members who are heavily involved in planning and organizing service events. Partying is a staple of Greek life, but you should also be prepared to devote time and energy to volunteering and service work.
Other Factors to Consider Before Going Greek
It's no secret that Greek life can be expensive. Between Greek apparel, suits and dresses for social events, and membership pins, you can expect expenses to pile up throughout the year, in addition to chapter dues.
The costs of joining a fraternity or sorority vary significantly by school and chapter. Some Greek organizations offer housing and meal plans, with costs that are often comparable to university room and board costs — and sometimes even cheaper.
For example, at the University of South Carolina, the average housing cost for a fraternity or sorority member ranged from $2,560-$3,650 per term for the 2018-19 school year. Meal plans ranged from $1,200-$2,050. When compared to UofSC's room and board costs, many Greek life members actually save money on their housing and meal plans.
Additionally, not all Greek organizations offer housing and meal plans — some only charge semesterly dues. At UofSC, the average membership dues for a fraternity or sorority member ranged from $275-$1,000 per semester during the 2018-19 school year. However, over the course of four years, these membership costs can start to add up.
Risk of Hazing
Currently, all but six states have anti-hazing laws, and virtually every college and university prohibits harmful hazing activities. Unfortunately, it's still fairly common. Although there have been many reports of hazing-related incidents in sororities in recent years, the practice is far more prevalent in fraternities.
More than 40 male college students died from hazing-related events between 2007 and 2017 alone. Additionally, in 2019, there were four hazing-related deaths all within a one-month span. Keep in mind, these are just the documented incidents. Many more instances of hazing may go unreported.
So, what does this all mean? Despite efforts made over the years to ban hazing, it remains an issue on many college campuses. This is why it's crucial to research each organization you're considering to see if it has a reputation for hazing pledges.
Not every student has the availability to meet the commitments of Greek life. During the pledging process, which can last 6-10 weeks, you can expect to spend all your free time attending meetings and events. Once pledging is over, you'll be required to attend house meetings, chapter events, and fundraisers throughout the year.
The time commitment isn't innately a negative aspect of Greek life, but if you plan to work a part-time job or struggle with time management, then you may find it difficult to fulfill your sorority or fraternity obligations.
Some fraternity and sorority chapters throw parties every weekend, while others may only host a few events throughout the year. Parties can be an attractive feature of Greek life, but if you need time to wind down or study over the weekend, this lifestyle could overwhelm you.
Furthermore, some chapters have less-than-ideal housing arrangements. Larger organizations that provide housing may have more than 100 people living in a single house, meaning you could be sharing a room with five or more people. As you can imagine, these houses tend to get pretty dirty, and typically stay that way throughout the year.
If you have trouble sleeping or need space to yourself, these aspects can seriously impact your academic performance and mental health. With this in mind, make sure you're aware of the lifestyle and housing arrangements at each chapter you're considering so you know what you're getting yourself into.
So Is Greek Life Worth It?
Before you make a decision, take some time to research the fraternities or sororities at the schools you're considering. Some campuses feature a vibrant Greek life, with thousands of participating undergraduate students. For example, more than 35% of the undergraduate population at the University of Alabama — about 11,000 students — belongs to a Greek organization.
On other campuses, Greek life isn't as prevalent (or may even be nonexistent). At schools where only a small percentage of undergraduate students join a fraternity or sorority, it's often easy to find social activities unrelated to Greek life, and schools themselves may take more responsibility for planning events for students. You don't need to join a fraternity or sorority to have an active social life.
The Greek lifestyle isn't for everyone, so make sure you consider what you want your college experience to look like. If you're more reserved or plan on having a busy schedule, the obligations of Greek life might overwhelm you. However, if you're outgoing and attracted to the sense of camaraderie that comes with Greek life, joining a fraternity or sorority can benefit your time in college and beyond.
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