Going Greek Feb09

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Going Greek

Is your college kid thinking of joining a fraternity or sorority? Should you encourage or discourage them to consider Greek life? Should you even get involved in your kid’s decision about whether or not to “rush?” What about the whole recruitment process? Are parents involved?

Although each school is different, some schools actually encourage parent involvement. And some kids may want their parents involved, if for no other reason than to have some support through a stressful (and sometimes disappointing) process.  Many college kids want very much to be part of a fraternity or sorority and may be determined to go through the recruitment process. And the number of students rushing a fraternity or sorority does not appear to be declining. In fact, approximately 9 million college students are members of a Greek organization. (See Examining the benefits of Greek Life by Nicole Glass)

Greek life at college can have many rewards – a significant one being a community in which lasting bonds of sisterhood or brotherhood are formed. Having an instant group of friends can be very appealing, particularly for freshmen students who are often in a rush (no pun intended) to feel at home in the strange, new world of college.

Beyond that, belonging to a frat or sorority helps kids forge lifelong and worldwide connections, both personally and professionally. And although one popular aspect of Greek life is the party scene, the rituals, leadership-building and community service can help kids develop discipline, social skills, and connections (and build their resumes for future employment). The Greek system can provide students with an excellent support system at college and beyond.

As with most anything else, there are costs that come with membership: initiation fees, dues, event fees, and clothing to purchase (with the fraternity or sorority lettering). Room and board, if living in the fraternity or sorority house, however, can often be less expensive than living in a dorm or off-campus apartment.

Greek life at college, however, is not for everyone. At some schools, it dominates the social scene and if they are not a part of it, some kids may feel left out. At others, Greek life is enjoyed by a smaller percentage of students who easily co-exist with kids who prefer to find their community through joining clubs on campus or playing sports. Getting involved in something outside of academics and partying is the key – it enables kids to be part of a smaller community within the larger college community.

If your kid is set on rushing, be aware that not everyone will get into a sorority or fraternity. At Indiana University, for example, the number of bids sororities are able to give out is less than the number of girls going through the recruitment process, leaving many without a bid to join any house. In some cases, the expectations of the students rushing a house, and the houses themselves, may be very different, leading to disappointment if a bid from one of the student’s “desired” houses is not extended.

Interestingly, although there can be many benefits to being a part of Greek life at college, the public perception of sororities and fraternities of late has not been overwhelmingly positive. USC imposed strict rules last year on sorority and fraternity events after a student was injured at a party. A fraternity was banned from Wilmington College due to a hazing incident. And it was not until 2013 that the University of Alabama desegregated its sororities in the face of racism claims. And Arizona State University dropped a fraternity due to complaints of racism.

Some institutions, including Princeton, ban recruitment during freshman year and others ban recruitment during the first quarter or semester of freshman year because of a perceived risk to freshman who have not yet had a chance to get their bearings at college before joining in Greek life.

But are these the extremes? It seems every organization can have members who abuse the system or act in a way that gives a bad name to the entire organization.

The decision to go Greek at college is a very personal one. Some may go through the process, join a house and decide on their own it is not for them. Others may not initially be interested but might later change their minds about joining after making friends who are active in Greek life. As parents, we should try to be supportive and let our kids decide what is right for them – while, of course, also being there to cheer them on when things are great and lend a sympathetic ear when they are not.


Want to know more?

For general information on sororities and sorority recruitment, see: The Sorority Life.

For general information on fraternities, see: North-American Interfraternity Conference.




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