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Should I Join a Frat or a Sorority? The Pros and Cons of the Greek System

Updated on January 18, 2012

I remember my days as a college student quite well.

Which is not surprising, since they were among the best days of my life.

It was as an undergraduate where I made friends that I remain close to and memories that I remain fond of to this day.

It was also where I recall seeing quite a few young folks wearing shirts with strange looking letters hanging around the student union and the quad, throwing big parties and generally having a grand old time.

I knew that those people were in something that's a big staple of life at many institutions of higher learning: Fraternities and sororities, a system that has been a part of the college and university social fabric for over 125 years.

I also knew that at certain schools, particularly in the South and Midwest, you are seen as a social misfit and outcast, a - pardon the expression - "God Damn Independent" , if you choose not to join a Greek letter organization.

After having known many students in the Greek system, and after trying to pledge a fraternity myself - and having it not work out - I have developed a pros and cons list to "going Greek" and becoming a part of that life.

First, the pros...

Instant Friends - There's a reason why members of fraternities and sororities call themselves brothers and sisters; the bonds you make with your fellow Greek members are often for life.

Instant Social Life - What with all of the get-togethers, exchanges, road trips to other schools, retreats, and especially the blowout parties, there's never a dull moment when you are a Greek.

Did I mention the blowout parties?

Instant Dating Access - Many frats and their sorority counterparts partner up for parties, formals (the college version of high school proms), and little sister rushes, where couples often hook up, establish relationships, and commonly marry upon graduation.

Throughout the decades and into the 1950s and early 60s, sorority girls would say they were in school to look for a suitable husband, to obtain their "M.R.S."

While that is largely no longer the case, the fact remains:

If you're in the Greek system, there will be an embarrassment of dating opportunities for you.

Community Philanthropy - Probably the best part of college Greek life is the way they do things for the community like tutor and mentor at-risk and underprivileged kids, serve meals for the homeless, and organize fundraisers for various charities.

Which is a noble and worthwhile thing to do.

(MOST IMPORTANT) Instant Career Networking and Connections - If you are a fraternity or a sorority member, it is easier to land a high-paying job after graduation than if you are an "independent".

This is due to the fact that Greek alumni are often in high places in the workforce and help with references and recommendations upon learning that members of their frat or sorority are looking for work.

At certain schools a Greek is pretty much guaranteed a job after their undergraduate days are done, and not the proverbial "go-fer" type gigs, neither.

With economic times being what they are today, people in the Greek system are very fortunate to have that leg up in the job market.

Now that the benefits of going Greek have been discussed, here are the cons...

Cost - Being a sorority sister or a frat brother does not come cheap.

Those organizations charge steep fees for rushing - checking out the different houses to see which ones are a good fit - pledging and initiation, not to mention the regular annual dues as well as the social stuff; the road trips, retreats, and so forth.

To put it bluntly, the Greek system is not for the economically challenged.

It's fairly safe to say that many, if not most, of the sisters and "bros" in the frats and sororities hail from families that live comfortably and don't have to worry too much about their financial situations, and who come from neighborhoods that are, to say the least, well-to-do.

Conformity - A significant factor in getting accepted into the frat or sorority and getting those cool shirts is how well you can fit in and accept their culture, values and beliefs.

Students who are non-conformist and who revel in being different and doing their own thing need not apply or rush.

Also, those "instant friends" that were previously mentioned are conditional; they have your back as long as you toe the line and conform. The moment you disagree with your brothers or sisters on certain issues or grow tired with the whole thing and quit - poof! Those friends are gone in the proverbial puff of smoke.

That doesn't sound like a true brotherhood or sisterhood to me.

Cultural and Ethnic Separation - Next to Sunday mornings at 11:00, the collegiate Greek system is perhaps the most segregated part of American life, as the various groups are largely separated among racial and ethnic lines.

Though there are a small number of "tokens" - members of color - in some of the fraternities and sororities, that is usually the exception.

It's much more likely that you will not find a person of color in the predominantly white Greek organizations (maybe a handful of Asians and one or two blacks and Latinos), and vice versa; the predominantly African American Greek groups almost never have non-black members, especially in the sororities.

This separation is so complete that even the Latino, Asian, and Jewish communities have their own frat and sorority houses on campuses across the country.

I don't think this is what Martin Luther King had in mind when he spoke about his dream.

If there is even one fraternity or sorority whose level of diversity is such that no one race or ethnic group constitutes a majority, I would very much like to meet them.

Hazing - The instances of hazing - physical, verbal and emotional abuse and mistreatment of new members, commonly called pledges - have been well documented over the years.

Though the Greeks will state that hazing is illegal and not tolerated among them, do not be fooled. Although it may be behind closed doors, hazing still occurs; it has become the Greek system's dirty little secret.

Incidents such as forced alcohol binging (which is common among the frats), paddling, beatings, and cattle-style brandings have occurred with a fair amount of regularity, often resulting in humiliation, severe injuries, trips to the emergency room, and even death.

Certain frats and sororities have, incredibly, defended their hazing methods, and continue to do so. They have claimed that it builds character and unity among their pledges and is a necessary step to endure in order for a new member to prove him-or-herself worthy of belonging to their sacred organization.

To them I say that any group that submits you to any kind of abuse and humiliation in order to become accepted into such group is never worth being a part of.

At all.

it is safe to say that there are reasons for a college student to become a part of their school's Greek system - and reasons to not be a part of it.

Ultimately, whether or not you should go Greek is up to you. And you only.

if you do decide to commit to rush and join something that will become a big part of your college days, please keep this in mind...

Becoming a sorority sister or a frat brother will have a significant effect not only on your college career, but your post-college life as well.

If you do go through with rushing and pledging, I certainly wish you the best of luck.


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