Pledging a fraternity or sorority isn’t a simple decision. On one hand, it can create lifetime relationships with devoted mentors and friends. At the same time, it might include degrading and often dangerous hazing. Is Greek life right for you? Here are a few things that might help you decide.
The Perks of Greek Life
You have an automatic friend group. In high school, did you float among several circles, or did you stick with a small, tight-knit group of friends? If it’s the latter, Greek life can be the perfect way to find your new crew. When you’re part of a fraternity or sorority, it can be easier to form new friendships, and you’ll have an instant, built-in social life.
The connections you make can last a lifetime. The classic reason for joining a fraternity or a sorority (besides the parties) is to build a network that can help you in the future. That still holds true, but it goes much deeper than that. Greek life can connect you with mentors and role models who help you adjust to college life and find opportunities once you graduate.
You can learn to lead. Serving on your chapter’s leadership team can give you hands-on experience in organizing events, raising money, and advocating for causes that matter to you. These are all skills that will serve you well, whatever career you choose.
Greek life can offer support for minority students. Matthew Bruce, President of Phi Beta Sigma Inc., joined a Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLO) at the University of Iowa because he felt isolated on a predominantly white campus. “My first year on campus I felt very alone, I had a hard time finding community and my fraternity gave me that family I was looking for,” he said.1 Other specialty fraternities and sororities serve members who are Asian-American, Latinx, Christian, Jewish or LGBT.
Your housing options can improve dramatically. Instead of a cramped dorm room or nasty apartment, you might end up living in a mansion with dozens of friends. While many fraternity and sorority houses are, admittedly, dumps, some will blow your mind. This new, $13 million Phi Mu sorority house at the University of Alabama has a white-marble foyer, grand staircase, and formal living room.
The Drawbacks of Greek Life
Hazing is real. Every year, new hazing horror stories are reported in the news. In 2017, Penn State sophomore Tim Piazza died after drinking excessively during a fraternity hazing ritual and then falling down the stairs. His fraternity brothers knew he was hurt, but didn’t call 911 until late the next morning.2 Every time such a tragedy happens, colleges vow to crack down on hazing — but the rituals continue.
Sorority hazing tends to be less physically brutal, but the rituals are often seen as more emotionally traumatic. Pledges may be mocked until they cry, forced to perform suggestive acts and made to sleep in a basement (and share a bathroom with 42 other pledges), Tess Koman writes for Cosmopolitan. For Koman, the hazing was worth the sisterhood she found, but that’s not true for everyone.
It can be expensive. “Experts say membership fees for chapters vary among different campuses, costing from a couple hundred of dollars to more than $3,000 a semester, “according to U.S. News.3 Sororities and fraternities are supposed to disclose dues before you join, but the true cost may be much higher once you factor in event costs, charitable donations, and mandatory purchases like special-occasion clothing.
It can trap you in a bubble. While it’s illegal for fraternities and sororities to discriminate on the basis of race, the fact remains that Greek organizations on many campuses are predominantly white. Not only that, but sororities, in particular, can be obsessed with maintaining a homogeneous image (remember the crazy Alpha Chi Omega email that demanded Spanx, sleek eyebrows and “one normal color” hair?) Spending your college years only socializing with people who look and act exactly like you do can mean denying yourself the opportunity to have friends with diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
It monopolizes your schedule. During pledging, “I was made to feel pretty terrible about any activity that I was doing that wasn’t sorority-related,” Koman writes. “We were constantly monitored and scheduled throughout the day.” If you’ll have to abandon other passions and interests to commit fully to Greek life, it may not be the right choice for you.
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