Originally Posted: Mar 16, 2016
Last Updated: Sep 26, 2016
What immediately comes to mind when you hear “sororities” and “fraternities”? Wild late-night parties? Rich students in expensive clothes? Scary hazing traditions? Whatever stereotypes you might have, be ready to throw them out the window. In total contrast to how they are often depicted in the movies, countless Greek organizations around the nation have set exemplary examples of strong social interactions, academic excellence, and heartwarming philanthropy. The question isn’t whether you should go Greek—it’s how you should choose your best Greek life.
(Before we dive into Greek life, you might want to get to know its common terms. Elon University offers this guide!)
It’s all Greek to me
The whole idea of “going Greek” can be foreign and confusing at first. Why Greek? Why not Roman or any other cultures? Do you have to have any Greek nationality in your background? (The answer is no.) In simple terms, to go Greek means to join a Greek letter organization commonly known as a sorority or fraternity—for example, Delta Nu (ΔΝ) or Delta Psi Beta (ΔΨΒ), to borrow fictional examples from Legally Blonde and Neighbors, respectively.
The specific goals of each organization depend on which chapter (local Greek letter group) you join, but usually the widely shared purpose involves promoting philanthropy, developing leadership, and building lifetime bonds with fellow brothers and sisters. Greek organizations are often nationally and even globally networked, and today more than nine million students around the world belong to sororities and fraternities.
Greek activities on campus begin with rush, which is when students become acquainted with the various letter organizations in school. During this typically one-week period, students are encouraged to meet the chapter members and understand their values and focus. However, the actual process of getting recruited and joining a fraternity or sorority takes a bit more time. If a student expresses a clear interest and capability to join a chapter, they might receive a bid, which is a formal invitation to membership. And if they accept the bid, the pledging process begins. Unlike the relatively speedy rush, the pledge can take anywhere from a few weeks to a full semester! But during this time, the pledges continue to get to know the active members, the fellow pledges, and the Greek organization’s history and traditions. The pledge is officially initiated into the chapter once he adheres to his decision to join and successfully carries out the initiation traditions and rituals, which are usually kept a secret (shh!).
Greek life: what’s it about?
It’s about your interests
There are four main categories of sororities and fraternities: social, multicultural, professional, and service. The most important factor to consider when choosing a Greek letter organization is whether you support its central values. For instance, if you are not willing to devote a significant portion of your time for community service, or if you don’t believe in a certain religion, it would be wise to reconsider joining organizations that emphasize those values. As a matter of fact, the more you agree with the goals of the chapter, the more enjoyable and meaningful your Greek life will be. Just keep in mind that you will be spending a lot of time with your sorority or fraternity, so you want to be super enthusiastic about your organization’s causes. Speaking of which…
It’s about time
Time commitment is a huge part of joining a Greek organization. While you will obviously have plenty of other things going on in college besides your Greek life, it can and probably will take up a lot of your schedule. Whether it’s planning (and attending!) social or volunteer events or going to mandatory study groups or other required get-togethers, Greek life often means having many time commitments you need to plan for and around. But, luckily, they’re generally fun and productive events!
It’s about connections
As mentioned several times above, to pledge a house means to open a door to priceless lifetime connections. The brothers and sisters you meet in your Greek life will continue to be your brothers and sister even after graduation. Greek organizations are famous for their vast social connections that reach well into society, where many alumni effectively introduce their chapter members into the working world. The bonds you establish in sororities and fraternities truly extend beyond your four years on campus: they are lifelong friendships. So when you’re deciding on a Greek organization, see if you can imagine forming enduring relationships with your chapter members. Pledging a house is almost like pledging to become best buddies with your members. In the very least, you should feel comfortable around them.
It’s about money
Joining a Greek chapter is kind of like buying a car. The price of the car is a fixed amount, so it almost seems like getting a car is a one-time payment. Well, that’s not quite true. If you account for the extra fees that go into maintaining a car, such as gasoline, insurance, and repairs, you realize that the cost of owning far exceeds the initial payment. It’s the same deal for going Greek. The dues to join a chapter (paid every semester or school year) might be around a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, but the hidden, scattered fees can easily inflate your budget by additional hundreds of dollars (or more). However, although going Greek includes costs for trips, social functions, and a growing wardrobe of fun t-shirts, joining a Greek organization might actually reduce the financial pressures of college. Some sororities and fraternities offer cheaper housing than living in a dorm or a residence hall, so being a Greek member can be the solution to making college a bit more affordable. It all depends on the sorority or the fraternity, so be sure to weigh each chapter’s realistic costs before pledging.
It’s about learning
Some Greek organizations require that you achieve and maintain certain grades. In fact, students in sororities or fraternities generally have higher GPAs than non-members. Academic excellence is an important aspect for many chapters, so it wouldn’t hurt to be aware of their academic expectations. In other words, when you go Greek, be prepared to balance intense outside campus commitments with rigorous learning. The good news is that some organizations offer scholarships for academic excellence. Just remember your options, and you will be able to find your best Greek life!