New Students: Should You Join Greek Life?

By Douglas Fehlen

A Charged Topic

If you've mentioned to anyone that you're considering Greek life at your school, chances are you've heard a lot of passionate rhetoric about why you should or shouldn't join a sorority or fraternity. Supporters might make hyperbolic claims about how much better your life will be on campus while detractors are likely to dismiss these organizations as merely drinking clubs.

Greek life is a highly charged topic on many college campuses. But like most topics that inspire passionate debate, it's a nuanced subject that merits a close look. All fraternities and sororities are different - just as the campuses which host them. Giving generalizations about Greek life isn't possible.

What People Say

Before completing a personal analysis of whether joining a sorority or fraternity is right for you, it can help to consider what supporters and detractors say. Following are some of the most commonly suggested benefits of becoming a 'sister' or 'brother' in a Greek organization:

  • A support network that can yield lifelong friendships
  • Leadership and public service opportunities
  • Post-college professional networking via alumni clubs
  • Scholarship and resume-building opportunities
  • Off-campus housing for upperclassmen (often at a reasonable cost)
  • Opportunity to highlight academic or professional specialties

While there can definitely be benefits to joining a fraternity or sorority, there are also some potential drawbacks. For instance, despite being banned on campuses and even against the law in some areas, hazing persists in many groups. Here is a list of other oft-heard negatives about Greek life:

  • Expensive dues
  • Rampant drinking and drug use
  • High occurrence of sexual harassment and assault
  • Lack of focus on academics
  • Excessive time requirements that limit participation in other activities
  • A culture of conformity

Making the Right Choice for You

Because sororities and fraternities dramatically vary, choosing whether or not to join can be difficult. A good first step is to learn campus perspectives on Greek life. If it is intricately integrated with your school's social fabric, choosing to join may seem like a no-brainer. (That is, if you're a social person.) At a larger school where Greek organizations are perhaps less important, they still may represent an attractive option due to their potential benefits mentioned above.

Of course your decision on whether or not to participate in Greek life will depend upon finding the right organization for you. Many sororities and fraternities bring together people based on shared interests and abilities, for instance, organizations for high-performing students or those in a particular academic discipline. Remember that social fraternities and sororities are only one type of Greek organization found on campuses. Students wary of 'excesses' associated with Greek life might be more comfortable in a business fraternity or sorority. These groups can provide academic and networking benefits with fewer perceived negative aspects.

If you're new on campus and unsure as to whether you want to participate in Greek life, you may want to wait. Many people suggest getting a feel for the social scene before committing to a fraternity or sorority. If you do decide to take the plunge, remember to select an organization with great care.

Another hot topic on campuses is the cost of college textbooks. Learn how your professors can help lower your book bill.

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