Every year, new college freshmen have hundreds of decisions to make.
These decisions can range from very minor things, including “what should one actually wear on the first day of college?” to very important things, such as “what am I going to major in?”
Among these important and often difficult decisions is whether or not to join Greek life on campus.
Greek life is comprised of fraternities and sororities and has been around college campuses since the 1820s. Traditionally, these societies were private organizations for like-minded individuals to have discussions and prepare members for aspects of careers that professors didn’t adequately train them for. Although still an important cornerstone of Greek life, this aspect is not necessarily foremost in the minds of most of the news media — or most college students signing up for that matter.
Greek organizations have developed a reputation for wild events and memorable experiences (or not so memorable ones) in college. However, regardless of these stereotypes, those that take their membership in these organizations seriously can leave college with an advantage that can seriously benefit them later on in their careers. This begs the question: Is Greek life actually worth it?
Attend any Greek recruiting event and you will inevitably hear about the numerous academic benefits of becoming part of Greek life. For many students, this type of support and responsibility is essential for success while in college. However, some studies have found that these talking points do not always apply across every student in Greek life. In fact, it found that many students in these organizations actually have lower grade point averages than a control group of students that were not Greek.
Researchers were not able to pinpoint one particular reason why students who were members of a Greek organization might have lower grades. Possible hypotheses include difficulties balancing the numerous Greek events and social pressures with academics. In order to combat this, many frats and sororities require their members to maintain a minimum grade point average or face expulsion from the organization.
Oftentimes members struggling with academics are required to attend study sessions, get tutoring help from other members or a class TA, or prove that they are communicating with professors. The study found that pledge season was often the most difficult for both new members and current members participating in the pledge process. Learning how to maintain an academic-social balance is critical to academic success.
Most Greek organizations also tout their extensive network of current and previous members nationwide as a powerful tool for networking after graduation. And they are not wrong. According to some estimates, over 85 percent of Fortune 500 executives were part of Greek life in college. Since Greek life became mainstream, the vast majority of U.S. presidents have been a member of a fraternity.
Membership within a Greek organization offers a unique connection to literally thousands of “brothers and sisters” that are bonded through Greek life. Greek life offers many opportunities to build leadership skills, organize events, and work with sometimes difficult community members. All of these things can seriously bolster a resume and make getting a high-paying job right outside of college distinctively easier.
Additionally, becoming a member of Greek life can provide a unique opportunity to interact with like-minded people studying different things. These friendships born through shared experiences in Greek life can be lifelong. The bonds that one makes during four years of Greek life cannot be underestimated, and many involved in the organizations are profoundly happy with their decision.
Of course, the Greek community has a number of very serious issues and allegations to overcome. These range from things such as issues involving increased sexual assault reports across campuses to extreme hazing during pledge events. Some statistics indicate that at least one hazing-induced death occurs across college campuses every year — most of which are associated with binge drinking.
Likewise, there has been a recent increase in the number of STDs reported among college students. Currently the CDC estimates that 1 in 2 sexually active people will contract some sort of STD or STI before the age of 25. They suggest that yearly testing and talking with partners about STD risks prior to sex can make a big difference.
Fortunately, the majority of Greek organization are working furiously to combat the negative image that these statistics have created. Most are incorporating tougher hazing restrictions to prevent bullying and, in extreme cases, deaths. Furthermore, they are developing strategies to facilitate smart, consensual interactions among college students by leading the charge to increase awareness and identify where help can be obtained.
other valuable tips:
Finding YOUR Greek Community
Choosing to go Greek is a big decision in and of itself, but just deciding to join isn’t enough. The majority of colleges are home to multiple different organizations, each with a different vibe and community focus. For the best Greek experience, it is important to look critically at each organization and decide whether or not it would be a solid fit for you.
Perhaps most importantly, do not choose an organization simply because it has the most fun rush week events or the most prestige. Take time to seriously talk with members of different frats or sororities and find the one that most closely aligns with your personal philosophies and is the most likely to help you to reach your goals. Some organizations may cater towards a certain type of major or specific hobby.
Additionally, chat with members about life and ask yourself if you can see yourself spending a great deal of time with them. After all, you will be spending the majority of your time with them over the next four years; it’s best to start off on a good foot with people you share interests with.
There are a lot of things to think about regarding whether or not Greek life is right for you. If you are considering joining a Greek organization, make sure you will be able to balance the academics with the social life, build a strong network, and work to be part of the solution to negative issues circling Greek life in college. Before deciding, take the time to find the organization and the people that are right for you. And have fun!
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