Student Life

A Parents’ Guide to Greek Organizations

All parents of college students share, to some degree, the desire for their children to make good grades, develop leadership skills, build lifelong relationships and flourish in their independence. But parents’ responses run the gamut from unbridled enthusiasm to aversion when it comes to one key option for their students’ college experiences: fraternities and sororities. Consider the following, which will help you show thoughtful support for whatever choice your student makes:

Tradition: For many families, Greek involvement at college connects generation after generation. If your children have known your sorority song or fraternity handshake as long as their ABCs, they’ve probably considered following in Mom or Dad’s Greek footsteps. As parents, it’s easy to relive the college glory days vicariously through our kids. However, our students need unconditional support for where they choose to invest their time and energy, even if that means pledging a rival fraternity or foregoing Greek organizations altogether. Let your children make their own memories to cherish.

Another look at tradition: On the other hand, some parents may find the perceived traditions — i.e. secret societies, hazing, partying — to be detrimental to their students. While each college campus and university is different, each fraternity/sorority is different as well. If your student is rushing a sorority, which means going through the process of joining one, encourage her to research the sororities’ values, traditions, history and members. As a parent, you can also look into the university’s policies on hazing and housing for Greek organizations.

Service and scholarship: While some fraternities and sororities focus on social connections, others exist as a network for specific areas of study or as service organizations. Greek organizations on some campuses also offer academic assistance through time management workshops, study partners or tutors, and most have a minimum GPA requirement to remain an active member. While being a member of a fraternity is a time commitment, the investment can pay off, rounding out your student’s resume with a social membership, service projects and leadership positions. After college, fellow Greek alumni will provide your student with an invaluable network during the job search.

Money: Joining and maintaining membership costs money. Make sure your student understands all of the regular fees and one-time expenses to be in a fraternity or sorority. There are usually local chapter fees as well as dues to the national organization. For fraternities and sororities with housing, fees are higher per semester. Look into payment plans, and help your student work these expenses in his/her budget. Once your student has joined, there may be opportunities for members to apply for scholarships or grants.

Social connections: Sororities and fraternities can make the transition to adulthood easier for your student, offering numerous social, academic and leadership opportunities. But your student can find those elsewhere as well. Many students love being part of the brother/sisterhood of a Greek organization, and many others find that it’s not for them. Allow your student to decide what’s best for him, and then support his decision.

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