Student Life

Everything You Need to Know About Greek Life

Take a look behind the headlines and stereotypes to get the truth about life in a fraternity or sorority.

Everything You Need to Know About Greek Life
When you hear the term “Greek Life,” what’s the first thought that pops into your head? Maybe you think of the countless headlines of terrible hazing practices. Perhaps your mind conjures up scenes from films like Animal House, or more recently Neighbors. You may even recall hearing that joining a fraternity or sorority is a way to “buy” friends. Greek Life, however, is more than headlines, cliched movies and stereotypes. It can provide lifelong connections, philanthropic opportunities and academic accountability. You just have to take a little deeper look past the perfectly manicured lawns and giant houses.

Living in a Greek House

From the outside, a Greek house can look pretty intimidating. With an entire staff at its disposal, the front lawn and landscaping are meticulously kept, common areas are cleaned on a daily basis, and each meal is prepared by a head cook and other staff members. That may seem extravagant, but it’s actually no different than living in a dorm and dining in the campus cafeteria. In a fraternity or sorority, just about everyone has roommates. The homes typically house 60+ students, meaning that the rooms are not any bigger than your typical dorm room. Common spaces usually include a formal living room, dining room, TV room and study room. Finally, most fraternity and sorority houses have a chapter room – but its location is a big secret. Meals are held at designated times, meaning if you miss the meal and don’t reserve a plate for later, you’ll miss out on eating completely. Usually, meals cannot be super customized to fit a particular diet, unless there is a food allergy. However, the house can work together with the head cook to try new recipes or work to incorporate more local, organic foods – as long as it’s a group effort. Finally, most fraternity and sorority houses do have a grown-up living on the premises, oftentimes lovingly referred to as “House Mom” or “House Dad.” These individuals are employed by the local chapter and run the management of the house and staff. They also work as a liaison between the students and the House Board, a group of alumni who make all of the financial and managerial decisions as it relates to the house and the students living there. However, to be clear, they aren’t walking throughout the house at all hours to ensure that students are behaving themselves. Rather, they’re more behind-the-scenes.

What Is Required from a Fraternity or Sorority Member

Once a student becomes a fraternity or sorority member, they have to meet certain requirements in order to maintain their membership. Granted, like most clubs and organizations on college campuses, these vary by Greek house as well as by each chapter (A fraternity or sorority usually has multiple chapters across the country, located on different college campuses). Generally, however, every chapter in every Greek organization will have academic standards that members of the house must meet. If a student falls below those standards, they could be placed on academic probation, which means they are banned from attending certain events or at risk of losing their membership altogether if their grades do not improve. At the same time, Greek houses will provide these students with extra tutoring or a study buddy in order to help them in the classroom. Philanthropy is also very important to fraternities and sororities. Each semester, a fraternity or sorority will commit to organizing at least one campus or Greek-wide charity event. A lot of work goes into these events, which can sometimes last for an entire week. With that, each member is required to contribute in order to maintain membership. It should be noted, fraternities and sororities do NOT require students to be hazed in order to become a member. In fact, it is against the bylaws and codes of conduct for every single fraternity and the sorority in the United States. When a Greek chapter is accused of hazing, the national organization takes the case very seriously, oftentimes suspending or dismantling that chapter entirely if they are found guilty. Unfortunately, the threat of punishment is not enough to prevent some chapters from engaging in hazing; and when they conduct these terrible acts toward their peers, they are doing it of their own accord – not because it’s mandated by their organization or “higher-ups.” Finally, fraternity and sorority members must pay their dues. There are fees associated with being part of a Greek organization; and if these are not paid, the member will become deactivated. According to thebestschools.org, these dues can be as much as $1,000 per semester; however, many fraternities and sororities offer scholarships to students who may not be able to afford the entire bill.

How to Join a Fraternity or Sorority

In order to join a fraternity or sorority, each student must go through Recruitment, which is held either once or twice a year. Traditionally, recruitment lasts for a few days. Students get to visit each of the houses within the Greek system in order to identify the house that they would like to join. There are multiple rounds to recruitment, and after each round, a student can remove a Greek house option from his or her list. Likewise, a Greek house can choose not to ask a student back to the next round if they feel that he or she is not a good fit. Each round, students meet with multiple members of the Greek organization and engage in very casual discussions in order to get to know one another. Prospective members will also get tours of the home. This is their chance to ask questions in order to make the best possible decision for themselves. Students should keep in mind, however, that going through the Recruitment process does not mean they have to choose a Greek house at the end. If throughout the process, they find that Greek Life is not suited to their college experience, they can opt out. Check out this article from U.S. News on things you should consider before and during the Recruitment Process. Sometimes, houses will have an “open bidding” period, where they can ask interested students if they’d like to join the Greek organization. This is more casual than Recruitment; however, it only happens when a prospective member already has relationships with others in the house and has expressed a personal interest in joining if the opportunity arose. Ultimately, Greek Recruitment on each college campus is different. To get a better idea of what your school’s Recruitment process, visit their Greek Life website.

Lifetime Benefits of Being in a Fraternity or Sorority

The Greek experience is not limited to just four or five years of college. There are lifetime benefits to going Greek. Much like your college’s alumni, your Greek organization also serves a network. Individuals can also use their Greek membership and alumni platforms to find new career opportunities. Whether it’s an alumni member of your Greek house or someone from another chapter entirely, having that connection will catapult you toward job interviews, reliable references and letters of recommendation. Furthermore, being a part of a Greek organization is practice for working in the real world. You’ll learn the art of small talk through the Recruitment process; and once you’re in, you’ll master time management and organization skills as you balance academics, team sports and Greek events and meetings. Chances are, you will be placed on a committee or two, which will prepare you for working on a team with one goal in mind. As you advance in your Greek career, you’ll very likely be the head of a committee at one point or another, helping you further develop and hone your leadership and managerial skills.

To Go Greek? Or Not to Go Greek? That is the Question.

Going Greek isn’t for everyone. But you could also go through the experience, not knowing if it’s right for you, and come out on the other side so thankful that you gave it a shot. After all, there is more to Greek life than what you see on television and in movies – or what you read in the headlines, sadly. When a Greek house is healthy and committed to the safety and betterment of all of its members, a fraternity or sorority can be a wonderful place to grow as a student, friend and professional. For more information on your school’s Greek system, check out their Greek Life webpage.

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