Going, Going ... Greek?
Lauren Joffe - The Real College Guide
Going, Going ... Greek?
Struggling with whether or not to join a fraternity or sorority?
Check out the pros and cons of becoming a pledge -- from those who have been there.
Deciding if you should go Greek isn’t as easy as alpha beta gamma. It’s a commitment that affects relationships, schoolwork and even your wallet. And while most states have anti-hazing laws, many fraternities and sororities have found ways to get around these, so you might be hazed to some degree if you go through the pledging process.
But aside from worrying about a drink-till-you-drop challenge, you should consider other factors before you, um, rush into a decision. University of Maryland junior Brett Becke says, “At UMD, it doesn’t matter if you rush or not, but most people will because they feel it’s the best -- and only way -- to fit in.”
Let’s break it down .…
Going Greek is great for forging friendships. Beyond your basic social circle (kids on your floor and friends of friends), it’s awkward to just walk up to someone on the quad and say, “Hey, wanna hang out?” Through rushing and pledging, you can zone in on students you click with while filtering out those you perceive as flakes.
Points in heaven
University of North Carolina Wilmington junior Ocean Gildee, a member of Sigma Sigma Sigma, points out what she sees as a Greek myth: “People think it’s like the TV show Greek and that we party all the time. But at UNCW, we’re only allowed one social per month. It’s really restricted, so we use our time in other ways, which is usually about meeting community service requirements.
“Every year, we adopt a highway and participate in a cleanup effort. We also raise money to build play atriums in hospitals for terminally ill kids. Right now we’re planning a rock-a-thon, where we rock in chairs all day in front of the student center. We’re having a band, hula-hoop contests, raffles. Students don’t usually have money, so we’ll get donations from sponsors. In the spring, we’re having an event called Moonball, which is glow-in-the-dark volleyball at night, and we’re charging a $10 entry fee to raise money for our scholarship fund.”
So while it might not be all keg-offs and toga parties, Greek life provides a consistently solid social life. If you’re somewhat antisocial and need a shove in that direction or if your school is in a remote area with little to do off campus, pledging is a way to be sure your weekends are packed. Says Nicole DeAngelis, a junior at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.: “If you want a social life at Lehigh but aren’t on a sports team, you rush. There’s nothing else to do!”
If you’re thinking Animal House-like mayhem, think again. Each group is tightly run by an executive board, resembling a high school student council, with president, social chair and treasurer positions. The exec board decides how to allocate dues, which houses to socialize with and what to do when a member breaks a house rule. Each prestigious position in the Greek system is greatly sought after and difficult to attain. If you get elected into one, you’ll have something substantial to plug into your resume.
Many fraternities and sororities offer the option of living in digs that are usually more roomy and posh than dorms. “Many are like mansions, and some sororities even have personal chefs,” says Gildee. “At UNCW, Sigma Sigma Sigma has a suite, which is basically the floor of an apartment building with 10 rooms. There’s a common area and full-sized kitchen. Each girl gets her own bedroom, and while they still have to share bathrooms, there are less students sharing. As soon as you’re accepted, you can move into sorority housing, and it costs the same as living in a dorm.”
While it’s nice to have options, some fraternities and sororities require that you live in their housing. This limits access to friendships and activities outside of the house and may even give off an air of exclusivity.
Even if you don’t live in sorority/fraternity housing, you may feel isolated from the rest of campus because Greek organizations often only socialize with other specific groups. This has the potential to throw you into the nasty world of cliques.
It may seem like joining a sorority or fraternity ensures that you meet others with similar interests, hobbies and aspirations. In some cases, that’s true. Says Mike Meyer, a UNCW junior and Phi Gamma Delta pledge: “When I looked at the schedule of events during recruitment, some included Monday night football, wing night, cigar tasting. I was not interested. When I saw laser tag and dollar tacos, I knew that was the one for me!”
But this doesn’t guarantee you’ll hit it off with everyone in your group. Says Gildee: “Even though a lot of them have stuff in common, girls in my sorority don’t always get along.”
Your grades could take a hit. With a light course load, you’re probably in the clear. However, if you’re pre-med, watch your back … or more accurately, books. Many groups keep you up late, night after night, doing “bonding” activities. Be cautious about letting that A slip to a C.
“Actually, the all-sorority average GPA is higher than the all-women’s average at UNCW,” notes Gildee. “All the sororities require study hours, designated times when we all go somewhere on campus, like the library, to study and do homework. It’s a good way to see your sisters while being productive at the same time. Last year, the girls living in the Sigma suite had the highest GPAs in our sorority.”
Beware of hefty dues that could sneakily suck the life out of your savings account. Dues can reach up to $800 per semester -- a whopping $1,600 a year! And while dues are supposed to include social events, you may have to fork over even more cash for something like a hotel room for an out-of-town formal. And if you’re thinking of studying abroad or taking a semester-long break, you’ll still have to pay lighter membership dues while off campus.
“Some do all-inclusive dues; others don’t,” says Gildee. “Mine are relatively cheap, and half that goes toward nationals. They put some into an account for housing, and our dues cover minimum requirements for philanthropy. But not included are T-shirts, for example. Semi-formals and formals are sometimes included, sometimes not.” Since dues vary, research what each org charges to be certain it’s something you can afford.
To Greek or not to Greek? That is the question.
Jordan Young, junior at Syracuse University, opted against it: “It didn’t seem worth it, because I had friends. Why force myself into a group if I already have one?” Like Jordan, if you have a posse of pals, you might not feel the need to rush and that’s OK.
On the flip side, we’d suggest signing up for recruitment to get a feel for what’s out there. Mingling with some brothers and sisters will help you get the inside scoop. Besides committing a few weeknights or weekend days, there are no strings attached to rushing and it will help you reach a decision. No regrets.
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