Stereotypes about Greek life are pervasive. Going Greek has distinct pros and cons for college students. Here’s a look at both sides.
There are lots of networking opportunities
Many leaders have sprung from Greek organizations, including George W. Bush, Sheryl Crow and Katie Couric.
Who knows: The next president, major pop star or news anchor could be in your pledge class!
Many people have gotten jobs because of people they met in their fraternity or sorority, and many fraternities and sororities churn out leaders in business and politics.
“Many Greek members are leaders outside the Greek community on the campus, and they make connections with people outside Greek life,” says Chris Haughee, assistant director of Greek life at the University of Michigan. “Within Greek life, there are built-in networking opportunities. Also, there may be some programming senior year that may involve résumé writing, how to do a good interview, and how to appropriate contacts at companies you are interested in from the Greek organization.”
You’ll develop close friendships
Because members of Greek groups spend a significant amount of time together, from making breakfast to sharing bedrooms, the bond that sisters and brothers make is often incredibly strong.
Nick Zuniga, director of Greek life at Texas A&M University, says, “I think that on a variety of different campuses, it allows students, especially ours, to make a 35,000-person campus a little smaller, a little more like home. It offers a number of ways to get involved in the campus because houses combine freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors.” He says the rush process also allows students to bond by going through similar experiences.
Haughee advises students to choose a sorority or fraternity based on your compatibility with other students, values and programming.
Members get involved on campus
Sororities and fraternities are often the social trendsetters on campus, throwing parties and organizing social activities that set the tone on many campuses.
Fraternity parties and sorority fund-raisers tend to draw hundreds of students at campuses big on Greek life. Greek organizations also organize trips and formal dinner dances throughout the year.
At Adelphi University on Long Island, fraternities and sororities are becoming an increasingly larger presence on what used to be a mostly commuter campus. Says a staffer in Adelphi’s student life office, “The sororities and fraternities sponsor fund-raisers for community groups, plus parties and socials on campus that draw students together.”
Employers may not care
Some students involved in Greek life choose not to put it on their résumés for fear of how potential employers may react to it.
Involvement in a sorority or fraternity can be intensely time-consuming, especially if you are involved in a leadership position. So if your main goal is résumé building, you might be better off joining major-related activities.
“Students have to decide how they want to deliver their message and who they are,” says Haughee. “If they want to put it on their job materials, they should discuss what they found both uplifting and challenging. Students should list it not just as membership in a sorority or a fraternity, but also as what one did and how it could make them a better employee.”
It costs money
At some schools, living in the fraternity or sorority house is cheaper than on-campus housing or your own off-campus apartment. But fraternity and sorority dues can neutralize the money saved by living in the house.
“Costs aren’t always prohibitive, but there certainly are financial obligations that one needs to be comfortable with paying,” says Haughee.
There might be questionable activities
It is both a truth and a stereotype that sororities and fraternities are involved in more drinking, drug use, academic dishonesty and sex-related crimes.
A now-defunct sorority at DePauw University came under intense media scrutiny for dismissing all of its overweight and “unattractive” members in an effort to improve the sorority’s reputation on campus.
Hazing is a dangerous (and illegal) activity. And campuses like Texas A&M, which Zuniga says has a “zero tolerance” policy for hazing, are cracking down on some of the more scandalous fraternity and sorority antics.
Says Haughee, “There is a nature of peer pressure, whether it’s in clothes or activities or the like, that are not a positive aspect of life.” But in Greek life, as in high school, the choice on how you handle peer pressure is up to you.
Liz Funk is a freelance writer and author. Her book Supergirls Speak Out: the Secret Dilemma of Overachieving Girls was be published in January of 2009 by an imprint of Simon and Schuster. She edits the teen blog GirlHeadQuarters.org.