Student Life

It’s Greek to me

By Diane Schwemm with Priscilla Childress

You’re always happy to hear from your busy first-year student, but this announcement might catch you off guard. Your son or daughter is considering rushing a fraternity or sorority.

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High School Parent | College Parent

On some campuses, “rush” — the period when Greek organizations select their members — takes place at the beginning of the school year. At others, it happens later in the semester or second semester.

If participation in Greek Life is a tradition in your family, you may be wholly supportive. If not, you may have questions and concerns. Recent news stories have spotlighted the role Greek Life has played in incidents of hazing, binge drinking, sexual assault and racism on some campuses.

To help you advise your student, here are answers to common parent questions.

1. What are the advantages of joining a Greek organization? Greek life offers its members benefits that they wouldn’t necessarily receive outside the organization. Examples are:

  • Group identity and strong friendships – Finding their place is important to first-year students, and Greek life provides an identity and a home away from home. This may be especially appealing at a large university but fraternities and sororities are found at many smaller schools, too.
  • Community Service Opportunities – Greek organizations are rooted in giving back to the community. Fraternities and sororities dedicate many hours to helping others on a local and national level.
  • Leadership Opportunities – Greek men and women are often leaders on college campuses, and Greek life offers students many leadership opportunities within the chapter. Serving on the council of a chapter or on an appointed committee gives members a chance to hone skills that may help in their future careers.
  • Networking Opportunities – Fraternity and sorority members can network with alumni of their local chapter and the national organization. Alumni groups host presentations on resume building, provide connections to local companies, and mentor chapter members. After graduation, students can connect with the national organization to find local alumni groups in their area.
story-icon-bar-convo-3Make sure your student understands that joining a sorority or fraternity typically involves a substantial time commitment (required events and meetings) that some compare to taking an extra class.

2. What does it cost? Membership fees vary, so you and your student should discuss how participation in Greek life fits into her college budget as a whole. Typically the first semester is the most expensive but there will be annual dues and additional fees. Some schools publish the fees but at others this information can be harder to locate. In addition, “incidental” expenses can add up for members of some chapters: gifts, wardrobe augmentations, philanthropic expectations, and fines if members miss meetings.

3. Will my student live in the house? Some chapters don’t have residential houses but rather lodges where meetings are held. Some require members to live in the house and at others housing is first-come-first-served. There are differences between fraternities and sororities, and from campus to campus.

4. How can my student find out more? Your student can visit the website of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life at her college or stop by to introduce herself. At campus informational sessions, she can meet members of the Greek community who will be happy to answer her questions.

5. What other questions should I be asking, and where can I look for information? Start with the Greek Life page on the college website. Independently research the individual fraternity or sorority — on both a national and local level. What are the organization’s anti-hazing and alcohol policies? Is it involved in leadership and philanthropic activities on campus? What is the average GPA of student members? Is the group diverse? Is there housing and if so it is operated by the college or is it independent? What has the organization’s relationship with the college been like historically?

As always, begin and end by talking to your student about her own personal goals. What has she found out? What does she hope to experience by joining a Greek organization?

Did you enjoy reading this article? Sign up for UniversityParent’s weekly eNewsletter and purchase the Guide to Supporting Your Student’s Freshman Year for additional tips, insight, and to help your college student succeed. You may also add to the discussion and get feedback from fellow college parents by joining our Community Forum and College Parents’ Facebook group.

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