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Sororities--Everything You Need to Know: Part 3
Part 3—Why / Why Not Join a Sorority? More to Consider…
We’re continuing the discussion of considerations to be made when deciding whether or not to join a sorority…
Social and Athletic Activities
To many, parties are the hallmark of sorority life. In reality, social activities are a fun and visible symbol of Greek life that nonetheless pales in comparison to scholarship, charitable volunteerism, and other activities. After all, if a member’s grades are not up to par, there are no sorority social events until they come up! The same goes for athletics—participation in the Greek intramural sports at many schools is a great way to make friends and stay fit, but keeping the grades up and fulfilling all other requirements as a member is a must.
Some particularly dedicated students who belong to sororities welcome the chapter-sponsored dinners, mixers, softball games, and formals as the only social life that they have. Most, though, enjoy both the chapter events and the combined events with other sororities and/or fraternities as another opportunity to make friends and have fun. These events are usually monitored by alumni, Panhellenic/fraternity council members, or both, and there are strict rules regarding behavior and safety. Alcohol is banned in the sorority houses themselves, and is carefully restricted at official events off campus. Individuals who break the rules can be brought up before their chapter’s Standards Board and placed on probation, suspension from the chapter, or even expulsion from the sorority. These infractions can also lead to investigation by the collegiate Panhellenic and/or fraternity council and could result in a sorority’s probation, suspension, or dismissal from campus. These are extreme cases, however, and the vast majority of sorority members know how to have a great time with each other without veering into dangerous behavior.
Without a doubt, the financial commitment of joining a sorority is one of the biggest negatives in the decision-making process. Many girls considering sorority membership receive financial support or assistance from their parents, and it is important to discuss the financial responsibilities of membership as a family. Most collegiate Panhellenic boards post a list on their websites of dues and costs for new members and initiated members at each sorority on campus. New membership is more expensive due to initiation fees and pledge training, and dues usually drop somewhat after initiation. These costs, and the additional “t-shirt/souvenir” costs of membership, should be carefully considered before making the commitment to join.
House funds are the biggest chunk of a member’s dues—particularly if the chapter in question owns its own house on or near campus—and often price membership out of reach of many potential new members. However, there are many schools whose sororities do not maintain expensive properties, meeting instead on campus and significantly lowering the financial burden of their members. It's also possible to alleviate costs by planning to live in the sorority house if possible, thus eliminating dorm fees.
Another financial black hole comes from the never-ending onslaught of opportunities to buy event t-shirts, water bottles, or other labeled paraphernalia celebrating specific parties, formals, or fundraising events. Many members have a hard time not going completely broke purchasing every single trinket available, but with discipline, focus, and resolve, it can be done. Some purchases will be required, but sorority membership, while often expensive, need not be a total drain on the bank account.
Another consideration when thinking about sorority membership is the time commitment. As a new member, especially, there are mandatory pledge meetings, new member activities, big sis/little sis events, and initiation preparation in addition to the usual chapter meetings and social gatherings. As mentioned above, study halls are often required for new members, but the rest of a chapter’s scheduled events can place a burden on an already demanding academic agenda. Even the most disciplined students have a big adjustment to make when starting college and the addition of sorority events to the calendar should be carefully considered. If a new member’s degree plan requires additional lab time, performance hours, or field study, those hours should be also be weighed against the time commitment of a sorority.
Also, as higher education costs soar, more and more sorority members find themselves working at least part time in order to stay afloat financially, and while chapter leaders are usually very helpful in working out attendance conflicts with working members, a potential new member needs to weigh her schedule against the chapter calendar. Missing too many activities can dilute the sorority experience and add stress to an already full schedule. Once again, this is a matter that a potential new member should discuss with her parents before making the decision to join.
Hazing (defined as any type of harassment, abuse, or humiliation in connection or association with initiation into a group) is a serious concern in the Greek community and is not tolerated by the National Panhellenic Conference. Unfortunately, hazing still occurs because victims are unwilling to report abuse for fear of losing their membership and of retaliation from their assailants. Most collegiate Panhellenic boards post the status of all sororities on campus; if a sorority is on probation or suspension, it’s usually not too difficult to investigate the reason, although under those circumstances, the sorority will probably be restricted from recruiting new members until their probation or suspension is complete.
New members who witness, experience, or hear about hazing should report it immediately to their chapter advisor and to the collegiate Panhellenic. Sorority membership is an honor and a privilege, but self-esteem, safety, and health are more important than any initiation ritual or tradition.
The images of drunken fraternity parties and backstabbing sorority schemers have become iconic in American pop culture and foster the most negative opinions of the Greek system imaginable. Even the reality shows revealing “what REALLY goes on in sorority houses” are caricatures of the typical sorority chapter. Sadly, these images are the only exposure many people have of sororities and can trigger some truly hostile reactions to the Greek system as a whole. Others base their poor opinions on hearsay, rumors, and speculation on what goes on during a sorority’s closely guarded rituals. There’s also the perception on many campuses that the Greeks are the spoiled trust fund babies who have purchased their like-minded friends and look down on the non-affiliated rabble.
There was a time when sorority membership was primarily for the wealthy and the connected, and there will always be individuals and sometimes entire chapters who may approach the stereotypes portrayed on TV and in movies, but for the most part, the behavior and attitudes displayed in these fictional accounts of sorority life are frowned upon by sorority members, their chapters, their national organizations, and the National Panhellenic Conference. Over the past decades, NPC has passed numerous agreements between its members that have opened up sorority membership to many outstanding young women who once would have had great difficulty getting through the front door of a sorority house due to their family’s lack of Greek affiliations. Chapters are encouraged to embrace member diversity in all forms, and are far more accommodating to members whose academic or financial workloads keep them from attending every sorority function on the calendar. There is also a greater, unifying emphasis on Panhellenic sisterhood—or in the words of the Panhellenic Creed:
We, as Undergraduate Members of women’s fraternities, stand for good scholarship, for guarding of good health, for maintenance of fine standards, and for serving, to the best of our ability, our college community. Cooperation for furthering fraternity life, in harmony with its best possibilities, is the ideal that shall guide our fraternity activities.
We, as Fraternity Women, stand for service through the development of character inspired by the close contact and deep friendship of individual fraternity and Panhellenic life. The opportunity for wide and wise human service, through mutual respect and helpfulness, is the tenet by which we strive to live.
- Sororities--Everything You Need to Know: Part 1
Joining a sorority is a uniquely American experience. Learn what sororities are all about in this five-part series.
- Sororities--Everything You Need to Know: Part 2
Part 2 of a six-part series on sorority recruitment and membership focuses on the pros and cons of joining a sorority
- Sororities--Everything You Need to Know: Part 4
Part 4 in a series outlines the steps to take when preparing for sorority recruitment registration
- Sororities--Everything You Need to Know: Part 5
In Part 5 of a series, we look at ways to organize and prepare for sorority recruitment week
- Sororities--Everything You Need to Know: Part 6
Part 6 of a series on sorority recruitment and membership, focusing on what to expect during Recruitment Week
- The Sorority Recruitment Cheat Sheet--Top Tips for Sorority Success
Here’s a cheat sheet to take you all the way through the process of joining a sorority.