Decide if the Greek Life Is for You

If ever there was a college decision that rests on individual preferences, this is it. Despite its popularity on many campuses, the Greek system eludes a single description that all students agree on. Those who belong to fraternities and sororities almost always enjoy their social, academic, and personal benefits. Those who aren't members may be indifferent to the Greeks, or they may dislike the system's selective nature, costs, and excesses.

As fraternities and sororities vary from college to college and within each campus, no single experience can be predicted for a school's Greek system. Freshmen are better off waiting until they get to campus and then finding out on their own if fraternity or sorority membership is right for them.

Consider participating in "rush" — a period, at the start of semesters, of visiting different houses and sampling Greek life in hopes of finding a match. And if you receive a bid from a fraternity or sorority, you don't have to accept it. Socially, the Greek system is great for some people and limiting to others. Membership, while by no means prohibiting involvement in other campus activities, can in some cases cut into one's time to get involved elsewhere on campus.

The Pros

Some of the reasons you may want to rush include the following:

  • You'll have a constant source of friends throughout your college years and beyond.

  • The chapter house will serve as a home where "brothers" or "sisters" will always be — something that can't be said of dorm life, where most faces and names change every year.

  • The social life affords frequent opportunities to mingle with the opposite sex.

  • You will get involved in charity endeavors — something you may aspire to do but never actually take the time to do on your own.

  • You'll have many chances to build leadership and personal-growth skills, through organizing events, coordinating communications, and working with a team. Also, academics are emphasized; many houses pride themselves on having cumulative grade-point averages above the campus-wide average.

The Cons

Some fraternities and sororities may present an air of exclusivity, with limited chances to interact with those who are different. Other cons include:

  • The costs can be daunting — a one-time initiation fee followed by regular dues. High insurance premiums that fraternities and sororities must pay are partly responsible for this. Living in the chapter house, however, does not usually cost significantly more than a college's standard room and board fees.

  • While Greek life may not be as wild as some movies make it out to be, the allegations that they sometimes overemphasize partying and alcohol are not without merit.

  • Some students will find the commitment overwhelming; although they're free to socialize with others, they may feel that they do not have the freedom to really stretch their wings.

  • The hazing issue has haunted the Greek system, mostly fraternities, for years. Freshman pledges have died or been seriously injured after hazing stunts. While the hazing problem has largely abated, its ugly face surfaces on occasion.

So, should you rush a fraternity or sorority? It comes down to your personal choice. Especially on big campuses, it's likely that there's a Greek house that fits anyone's personality — but you must take the initiative to check the houses out.