What do you imagine a typical college experience to be like? If you’re like most people, you probably think of cram sessions, pulling all-nighters, a healthy dose of debauchery, and of course, Greek life.
And when you think of fraternities and sororities, you probably think about matching t-shirts, togas, and wild parties that campus security has to eventually break up. But there’s more to Greek life than what you’ve seen in movies. Just like everything else in life, being a member of a fraternity or sorority has its pros and cons.
Let’s start with a few pros…
You can’t underestimate the feeling of belonging you’ll experience once you’re part of a fraternity or sorority. Greek life fosters a sense of community within a group and, for some students, it’s what keeps them anchored during their college career. Some colleges have close to 40,000 students, so it’s easy to feel lost in the crowd. When you’re part of a fraternity or sorority, you’ll have a home base among all the new faces.
You’ll quickly learn that you can count on members of your fraternity to help you, support you, and provide guidance when needed. In other words, your fraternity or sorority will function much as a family unit – one that you get to be part of for life.
Once you pledge and become part of your Greek family, you’ll be tied to something bigger than just you. The experiences you have as part of a Greek organization will be unique and shared only with those who are part of your fraternity or sorority. This means the friendships you make with your sorority sisters or fraternity brothers will be special and unlike any other friendships you’ll have in the future.
Social events and philanthropy
On some college campuses in the U.S., parties hosted by fraternities and sororities are the place to be for a wild time. And students look forward to these epic parties year after year. But Greek organizations do more than just plan exciting parties. The reason they host these galas, fairs, auctions, athletic events — and any other type of activity you can think of — might surprise you.
The reason Greek organizations offer these events isn’t just so that they’ll be known as the epicenter of campus fun, but because they’re raising awareness and money for causes they care about. You see, at the heart of every Greek organization is a philanthropy. In fact, they’re leaders in philanthropy, organizing for causes that speak to the heart of the group. You’ll find that they hold fundraisers for causes that they believe in.
Many fraternities and sororities see themselves as philanthropy organizations more than anything else and are connected to well-known national organizations that fight cancer, child abuse, and diabetes. Other organization raise money for 9/11 first responders and families of injured military veterans.
They also do more than raise money and awareness for causes. Fraternities and sororities also volunteer and are active in their communities by adopting highways, tutoring in local schools, and otherwise helping a community in need. They’re service-oriented, which is what most people don’t know or expect when it comes to Greek organizations.
Finding a job after college is hard. It’s common for a student to spend more than six months looking for a decent job even if they’ve left college with great grades, experience, and recommendations. As many career counselors explain, networking is essential to not only moving up in your career but also starting your career.
“You need to consider the mission, history, and organizational culture of the fraternity or sorority you’re interested in joining.”
If you’re part of a Greek organization, then you already have an advantage. Remember that once you’re a member of a fraternity or sorority, you’re a member for life. This means you’ll have those connections to current and past members who are interns or established professionals in companies and organizations you’re interested in. You’ll be able to reach out to fellow brothers or sisters for informational interviews, resume advice, mock-interview practice, and anything else that you can think of.
So, while most people will need to spend time making connections after college, you’ll already have a full network of support in place through your fraternity or sorority. Having a network already in place will help expedite your job hunt.
And now the cons…
Social drinking is a common aspect of Greek life. Unfortunately, so is binge drinking. This is one instance where what you see on television might reflect what you’ll experience in real life. It’s rare to attend a fraternity party and not find beer or some other alcoholic beverage readily available.
At those same parties, many of the games you’ll encounter will be drinking games that reinforce negative alcohol consumption habits. If you add peer pressure, it’s easy to see how youthful indiscretions lead to real consequences like substance abuse.
Fortunately, colleges and universities offer help to people who might have developed a substance abuse issue. Hence, if you find yourself in a situation where you’ve been drinking more heavily than usual, there are typically campus resources that are available to you.
To be fair, substance abuse issues aren’t only a problem for people who go to Greek parties, but the easily available alcohol you can obtain from these events can quickly lead to irresponsible behavior.
Besides alcohol, drug use is also common at college parties, including those hosted by Greek organizations. Not only is drug use illegal, like underage drinking, there are also consequences from being caught in possession of drugs that can lead to expulsion. Be smart and stay away from any activity that could potentially get you into legal trouble, whether that’s at a Greek party or other campus event.
Committing to the wrong group can be exhausting and isolating
Think about a situation when you were forced to spend time with someone you deeply disliked, or at least found somewhat annoying. It wasn’t fun, right? Weren’t you counting the seconds until you were free to do what you wanted instead of being around that person?
Now imagine those people are your fraternity or sorority peers who you live with in a house (some fraternities and sororities have their own housing). If you commit to the wrong group, you’ll feel uneasy and agitated every time you have to interact with these individuals. And that doesn’t make for a positive college experience.
It’s very isolating when you’re around a group of people who you don’t want to engage with. You’ll easily feel singled out or ignored. You’ll feel alone and will be likely to suffer in other areas of your life.
Therefore, you need to consider the mission, history, and organizational culture of the fraternity or sorority you’re interested in joining. Typically, students can get so caught up in all the exciting events of rush week that they forget to ask the right questions or pay attention to how the group works together.
You want to join a Greek organization that cares about their members, is welcoming, and has a firm grasp on its mission and core values. Most importantly, you want to join a fraternity or sorority whose core values and belief systems align with your own.
Becoming part of a fraternity or sorority can make your college years unforgettable. From parties to philanthropy, you’ll befriend like-minded men and women with whom you will forge powerful relationships. Just make sure the group you join comprises people you enjoy spending time around.
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