Sororities and fraternities are as varied as the individuals that belong to them, offering different opportunities, experiences, and cultures. Many students have a picture in their minds of what belonging to one of these organizations will be like. Thanks to a plethora of Hollywood movies surrounding the subject, the expectations of what Greek life will be like are vastly different than reality.
Many incoming students picture a club that will allow them a lifetime of friendship and opportunities and a place to belong. Others picture the silly antics of old movies like “animal house”, hoping to be a part of the charades and partying that takes place in the film.
Before you decide that Greek life is for you, it can be helpful to look at the whole picture first.
History of Greek Life
According to Greek Yearbook, the first Fraternity was developed by a student at William and Mary College in 1722. John Heath, who had been rejected by two secret Latin societies on campus, felt jilted enough to start his own little secret society, which he named Phi Beta Kappa. While the organization itself was little more than a name, it served as a way of naming future college organizations by using Greek letters.
Later, in 1825, Kappa Alpha Society was formed at Union College in New York, and later on, Sigma Phi and Delta Phi. The organizations quickly spread to other campuses around the country.
Not to be outdone, women formed secret societies too. The first Sorority was established at Wesleyan College in 1851 and was named the Adelphean Society. Its purpose was to promote “the mental, moral, social, and domestic improvement of its members.”
Since time began it seems, humans have competed with each other in one way or another to elevate themselves by proving their physical strength, wisdom, or secret knowledge. It is also just as true that many groups have achieved superiority in each of these qualities. It is in this way that the collegiate Greeks seem to have developed.
A Sense of Belonging
In spite of being an opportunity for elitism and one-upmanship, Greek life has also served an important purpose attractive to many students—it provides a community of belonging. Much like a religious organization, being a member of a fraternity or sorority renders you an insider to its comforts and sense of family and inclusion. Perhaps this is why it is so attractive to those just beginning a life far from home.
The Advantages of Greek Life
Despite some of the negative media attention and what some may find to be an antiquated ritual, Greek life is still alive and well on campuses all over the country. And the fact remains that students are attracted to it for some very positive reasons. Among these are:
1. A Strong Bond Among Other Members
Greeks take their relationships with their fellow members seriously and this creates a strong family-type bond not found elsewhere on campus.
2. Better Housing Opportunities
Most Greek organizations have their own housing that allows for more spacious and comfortable accommodations than regular student housing.
3. A Built-in Social Life and Schedule
Greek life is often regimented with activities regularly scheduled for members. This can make it easier for those who need structure to adjust to college life.
4. Personal and Business Connections
Most members use their lifelong friendships to promote positions from within Greek organizations. This means that if you are looking to break into a particular organization and your prior Greeks are in senior management, it’s likely you will have an “in” as opposed to other candidates.
5. Emotional and Academic Support
As many fraternities and sororities have GPA requirements, members offer academic support to one another. And if a member should have a family or medical emergency, it’s likely they will not find themselves lacking in support in that department either. Much like the military, these clubs take care of their own.
Should You Join a Fraternity or Sorority?
That really depends on your personality and what you expect to gain from the experience. Students who tend toward more social activities and like a full schedule of activities may find that Greek life is exactly what they need to round off their college experience.
The opportunity will include many chances for volunteering, philanthropic endeavors, and developing contacts that can serve you well beyond graduation. In essence, being a Greek is not a “what you know, but a who you know situation” that can provide future social and career advantages.
However, if you are the type that plays to the beat of your own drum and would rather be left to your own devices, Greek life may not be for you. It will require commitments of your time and resources beyond your current academic requirements.
In short, social butterflies are going to love Greek life. Loners are best left to observe it from afar.
What to Expect If You Want to Join a Fraternity or Sorority in Your First Year
Rush week will typically happen during the first few weeks of your fall semester. At this time, you will have the opportunity to meet with different fraternities and sororities to see what they are all about. Members will typically participate in recruiting activities by talking to you and deciding if you are a good fit. You may be invited to some events to mingle with other members.
At the end of the pledge period, you will be officially initiated upon acceptance. There are many different initiation processes, most of which are secret. Some of these processes may include hazing. While hazing practices are now forbidden in most places, it’s important to realize that through a combination of secrecy and peer pressure, they do still exist. You should be 100% sure before you choose to pledge to an organization that you will not be put in harm’s way and if you have any reservations whatsoever, opt-out and move on.
Final Thoughts About Preparing for Greek Life in College
Your choice to become involved in Greek life ultimately boils down to what you want out of your whole college experience. If being part of an established community of support and activities is important to you, pledging to a sorority or fraternity may provide an ideal experience that will only enhance your higher education.
If you find that you want to take things on your own without the influence of peer pressure or interference from others, your independence may trump your desire to be part of a Greek organization. Ultimately, you will make the choice that is right for you.
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