Based on the portrayal of sororities and fraternities in movies such as “Animal House” and television shows such as MTV’s “Sorority Life”, it wouldn’t be a surprise that a parent sending their child off to college for the first time may send them with a big anti-Greek message: Don’t join up with one of those organizations. Based on the media, you can’t blame parents for being worried.
When I started college, I swore I would never join a sorority. I’d fallen into the trap of believing everything I’d heard, from hazing horror stories to the high cost of being part of these groups. Besides, I wasn’t sorority material. I’d never been the popular girl, nor was I even the pretty one. Yes, I went to college with a great many judgments, but sorority and fraternity life had never been portrayed to me as anything but a big party that only those higher up on the social ladder were a part of.
In my first year of college, I found out that I wasn’t completely right about the whole thing. As a founding member of my own sorority, I was given the chance to mingle with other Greek organizations on my small college campus as well as sororities from other colleges in the state. What I found was quite surprising to me. Fraternities and sororities weren’t all bad. Granted, there were a few stereotypes that were met quite well. They did throw some good parties after all. But my predetermined impression was all but shattered and I spent my college career reaping the benefits of being in a sorority.
To any parent worried about their student joining a fraternity or a sorority, or to any college student unsure if a Greek organization is for them, the following is a list of the positive benefits of joining. You won’t see these on a movie or a reality show, but they are just as real and can make for a great college experience.
1. You’ll make real friends – There’s an old criticism of fraternities and sororities that says they’re nothing more than a way for someone to pay to have friends. While Greek organizations usually do require members to pay dues, you most certainly are NOT paying to have friends. In these groups, you make friends based on your personality and interests, like you would anywhere else. In an especially large organization, there’s no guarantee you’re going to get along with everyone anyway. Joining a fraternity or sorority gives you the opportunity to meet people, and once you’ve established your friends, it gives you common ground and a chance to make some great memories.
2. You’ll learn responsibility – Contrary to what National Lampoon’s would have you believe, life in a Greek house is not a 24/7 party. These students take their education just as seriously as everyone else, in many cases more so. Some organizations even require a certain GPA for a student to remain a member, or pledge in the first place. Those voted into officer positions will take on a great deal of responsibility in the leadership arena. Most fraternities and sororities have a philanthropy as well, and will spend many hours during the school years raising money and awareness for it. Members will find a time for having fun, but they’ll also be getting a good education in life skills along the way.
3. You’ll make connections – Alumni of fraternities and sororities usually keep strong connections with their organizations after graduation, sending monetary donations and coming back for reunions to say hi to old friends and meet new members. If you’re looking to get into a certain professional area after graduation, knowing one of your predecessors in that area can be a big help in finding a career. Alumni can give you connections, references, and even the scoop on a good entry level position. You won’t be able to get a great job on your connections alone, but it always helps to have someone on the inside giving you a hand up.
4. You’ll gain a good dose of self-esteem – Few people have escaped hearing the horror stories of fraternity and sorority hazing where pledges are made to do demeaning things just to get into the group. I won’t say that this doesn’t happen, but I will say that many groups don’t go to the extremes that are portrayed on TV and that you hear about in the news. In general, joining up with a Greek organization can build a student’s self esteem. Making friends can make someone feel good, and being seen as part of a leading group on campus can be the influence even the shyest of people need to get out and do things. When you’re a part of the group, you find that you can wear your letters with pride, and knowing you have a whole organization to back you can give you self-confidence you might not have realized you had.
5. You’ll earn points on your resume – Society in general might not have a high opinion of fraternities and sororities, but many businesses know the benefits that come from being in one. Putting your organization on your resume will not only look impressive, it will give you a jumping off point to showcase some of your skills. If you held an office within your fraternity or sorority, make sure to list what it was and what some of your basic skills were. Don’t hesitate to talk about your philanthropy and your role in working for it. All the responsibility you learn from being a member of a Greek organization will come in handy when selling yourself to a future employer.
Fraternities and sororities aren’t for everyone, even with all the benefits. But to judge Greek organizations just by what the media tells you can lead you to miss out on a great college experience. If you (or your college student) are interested, I highly suggest you ask around and check out some of the rush activities on campus in the next semester. You could find yourself a great new college family and a group that will help you get through your college career.