I was an initiated member of a nationally recognized Greek organization my freshman year of college. Since then, I have withdrawn my membership, but I gained a lot of knowledge about Greek life in that year. This is an honest and straightforward account of that experience.
Greek life is expensive. At my small school with only four sororities, dues were still astronomical, and we did not even have a house! For some students, the cost might be the make it or break it factor, because it is pricey. Fortunately, a lot of organizations have scholarship and finance chairs who work with members to make sure that they can afford their membership, which is fantastic. Some may even be able to set up payment plans and work with members on an individual basis. Depending on who is paying, whether it’s your parents covering your dues or if you’re paying it yourself, you have to work out a budget and figure out how much of your money is actually going to Greek life and how much you have left to spend or save for the future.
The problem is that while dues are the only “mandatory” payment, every t-shirt, bonding event, theme party, etc., requires some purchases. So if you’re okay with not buying any event t-shirts, and you are thrifty and crafty and able make most of your gifts and costumes during your membership, you’ll probably be in okay shape. But for those who don’t plan on doing that—because let’s face it, those t-shirts are cute—this is an added cost that has to be factored in as well.
We’ve all heard it a thousand times, “Greek life is paying for friends.” And in many ways, it is. You pay the abovementioned money to be accepted into a group of people that you will be associated with, not just for the next four years but your entire life. On top of that, they have to claim you as one of their own too. Is this a bad thing? No.
If you are entering any size campus and want to automatically be set up with people who share at least one thing in common with you, then Greek life is a great way to do that. Not only will you have the members in your organization, but every other member in any other Greek organization now shares a bond with you as well! Just understand that while your potential best friend might be waiting for you inside your Greek organization, they could also be found in another aspect of your life instead.
A benefit from joining a Greek organization that you may have heard about is all the great networking opportunities with alumni of your chapter. I know many people who have gotten jobs, or at least interviews, because of a connection they made through their organization. This is great for college students, especially anyone who feels daunted by the impending job search. If there happens to be an alumnus of your chapter who runs their own accounting firm and you’re an accounting major, you may have just gotten yourself a job or perhaps a summer internship! But, with everything in life, this is not a guarantee, nor is it the end-all, be-all source of networking.
If you do not join a Greek organization, are you doomed having no networking contacts forever? Of course not. Greek life puts networking and connection opportunities right in front of you, but it is just as easy to connect with professors or community members. In addition, your parents or extended family members might have connections or know someone in their circle who can help you with your future job search. Greek life is definitely not necessary to securing a job, though it may help get your foot in the door. But so could being a member of your school’s choir. Opportunities are everywhere if you look hard enough.
What I’m about to say may shock you: I know members in every single Greek organization at my school who do not drink. There are plenty of people in college who choose not to partake in alcohol consumption until they are of legal age or not at all! I will be completely honest: no one cares if you drink or not. If you want to go to a party or a tailgate to have a great time, make memories, and build friendships, then you should go about that in any way you feel comfortable.
Greek organizations are under pressure to avoid hazing, should you be forced or coerced into anything you don’t want to do. However, avoiding hazing charges is not the only reason your Greek organization should not care if you drink or not. In general, Greek chapters are organizations of upstanding young people who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. And good people don’t make other people do what they don’t want to do. Simple as that. If you ever feel pressured by your organization to do something you do not feel comfortable or safe doing, whether as a member or during rush, this is an entirely different issue that should be handled by your school.
Greek life is big commitment. On top of mandatory weekly meetings, there are bonding events, philanthropy events, outings, parties, and more you may be required to attend. If you are truly at home in your organization, then these events should not feel like a burden or a waste of time. But, just as you budgeted your money to find out how much is going towards dues, you need to budget your time and figure out how much you want to go to Greek life.
If you are involved or want to be involved in other organizations on campus, keep in mind that your commitment to Greek life might take precedent. Again, if you’re okay with this, then go for it. But if you want to be involved in a broad spectrum of activities and organizations at college, you have to figure out how to manage it all, on top of maintaining your grades, your health, and your other relationships. I know a ton of people who seem to do it all: Greek life, clubs, organizations, internships, even sports! Of course, I’m convinced these people are superhuman. Beware of spreading yourself too thin or not prioritizing your responsibilities. Finding balance in college is hard as it is.
Greek life is just another amazing opportunity that going to college can bring. However, there is always the struggle of balancing your time, your money, and the rest of your life! When deciding whether or not to join a Greek organization, be honest with yourself about what you want out of your college experience and what kind of involvements will do that for you.