College students are faced with many choices, often very early on. One such choice is whether or not to participate in Greek life. From 2005 to 2013, fraternity membership grew about 40 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. Despite this substantial increase in participation, thoughts regarding Greek life remain somewhat mixed as students, parents, and administrators try to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of Greek systems.


Benefits of Greek Life

When people think about Greek life, they often think of social fraternities and sororities whose main priority is to organize parties and fun events. In this way, Greek life can provide a social support group and a hub for students to interact, and help develop interpersonal skills. But other opportunities exist that enable students to share like-minded interests as well: For example, Alpha Phi Omega is a co-ed national fraternity that emphasizes community service, while Phi Delta Epsilon is a co-ed international fraternity that brings together aspiring physicians.

Finally, many people find that being a member of a fraternity or sorority simply makes them happier, both in college and beyond. In fact, a recent Gallup survey found that those students who were members of fraternities or sororities enjoy greater happiness and success in the future than students not involved in Greek life. This may be due to the emotional support system they derive from their fraternity brothers or sorority sisters, as well as the transformative learning experiences they have as members of Greek organizations.


Factors to Consider

Due to differences in policies toward Greek life, there are certain colleges where fraternities and sororities have an enormous presence on campus, yet other schools where Greek life is virtually non-existent. According to the New York Times, nearly 40 percent of students at Northwestern participate in Greek life, while schools such as Rice University have no Greek system at all. Others, such as Harvard and Georgetown are somewhere in between: they have off-campus fraternities that are not officially recognized by the school.

These differences are important to consider when deciding which schools to apply to or attend. For example, a student not interested in joining Greek life might benefit from choosing schools where Greek life is non-existent on campus or does not dominate the social scene. Alternatively, if you feel that belonging to a sorority or fraternity is a top priority for you in choosing a college, then choose colleges where you will have many Greek options.

Before joining a Greek organization, it’s important to evaluate the culture of each fraternity or sorority in-depth by speaking with students on campus. Doing this preliminary research will give you some insight into the general culture of Greek life at your specific school, and help you determine which fraternities or sororities may be a good fit for you. Involvement in Greek life typically requires a strong commitment of time and energy, which should be evaluated within the context of your other commitments. Will you be able to balance Greek life with academics, athletics, or any other extracurricular activities? How important is it for you to join a fraternity or sorority relative to these other commitments?

Finally, consider the cost associated with joining a fraternity or sorority, which according to Forbes can include the cost of recruitment, membership dues, as well as fees for clothing or social events.

Current Attitudes Toward Greek Life

Unfortunately, incidents of hazing, binge drinking, and sexual assault continue to be associated with participation in Greek life. Thus, administrators at schools across the nation have been closely examining Greek life, working to ensure that these organizations carry out their activities safely and appropriately.  This is no light matter. A number of schools, including Emory, Lehigh and Cornell have recently put fraternities on suspension or probation due to misconduct. For the past few decades, fraternities at Amherst College were allowed to exist off-campus, but as of July 1st, membership in any fraternity or sorority will be strictly prohibited. While few schools have entirely abolished Greek organizations, the trend toward stricter policies for Greek organizations is certainly a reality.

The decision of whether or not to join a fraternity or sorority requires careful consideration of your school’s culture and social scene, as well as your own priorities and goals. And if you have any questions, contact Collegiate Gateway – we’re always happy to help.