Positive and Negative Effects of Greek Life in College

by Chris Blake

    Greek life is a big part of most college campuses. More than 730 accredited schools across the United States have a Greek system, and nine million students choose to join a fraternity or sorority. While joining a Greek organization can be rewarding, there can be negative aspects of becoming a member as well. If you are interested in becoming a member, do your research to determine the best fit for you.

    Being a member of a Greek organization provides you the opportunity to maintain a steady group of friends who share similar interests throughout your time in college and afterward. The membership education process is designed to allow incoming members to learn about the organization they are pledging and to meet the current brothers or sisters. Because Greek members spend a majority of their time together, these bonds often become stronger than friendships made by other means.

    A stigma attached to Greek life is that members are doing nothing more than paying for friends. Most Greek organizations have put together strenuous and selective screening processes utilizing rush events and other tools to determine who they want to become a new member, so the process can seem limiting to those who aren't chosen. And just as spending a large amount of your time with a certain social group can bring you closer together, it can become more difficult to make friends outside of the group.

    According to national statistics released by the University of Missouri - Kansas City, on average, 71% of all Greek organization members graduate, while only 50% of non-Greeks do. Greek members also have a higher average GPA. And of the nation's 50 biggest corporations, 43 are run by former Greek lifers. Greek brothers and sisters have become Supreme Court justices, presidents and community leaders. This is attributed to the fact that Greek organizations give their members the opportunity to govern and lead their peers, which teaches lessons that can't be learned in the classroom.

    Being in a fraternity or a sorority often comes with the stereotype of being a party animal who drinks too much. Underage and excessive drinking is a common theme on college campuses regardless of Greek affiliation, but peer pressure can seem more intense within the Greek system. Fraternities and sororities are known for their social events and parties, and often alcohol is included at these events. To non-members, Greek organizations can seem more like drinking clubs than philanthropic and academic organizations.

    Most fraternities and sororities have roots dating back a long way. While some students do join Greek organizations for the social benefits, others join to build networks and develop skills that will be useful when they graduate. Greek organizations are unique in that most have thousands of alumni members who value the tradition of their respective brother- or sisterhood. Students can benefit if business leaders, employers and others see a Greek organization on their resume.

    Joining a Greek organization will add to the cost of your college experience. On average, only 2 percent of the total cost of your college education will go toward membership dues, which are generally paid at the time of initiation. While that might not seem like much, throw in money for clothing with Greek organization letters, dues to live in the house and other costs associated with being a member, and the price can start to add up.

    Greek organizations encourage participation in community service and philanthropic events. Fraternity and sorority members volunteer approximately 10 million hours of community service each year. Often these groups hold fundraisers and find other ways to make money to donate to the philanthropic cause represented by their respective group. Most Greek organizations support more than one cause and raise significant amounts of money or volunteer time to their cause.
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    Hazing is against the law and is prohibited by national fraternity and sorority headquarters, which govern local chapters on college campuses. However, it is common knowledge that hazing does occur during the member-selection process. The process, which is designed to help associate members grow and learn about their Greek organization, can sometimes turn ugly when the wrong people are in charge of the membership-education process.

    Joining a fraternity or a sorority is a personal decision that you should make based on your own conclusions. Being able to determine the course you take in college is a part of growing into a mature adult. Weigh your options before you decide to join, and determine whether the positive aspects of Greek life outweigh the negative ones for you. Greek organizations can provide a rewarding college experience, but they are not for everyone.

    About the Author

    Chris Blake has been writing professionally since 2007. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and political science from West Virginia Wesleyan College. He works and coaches high school basketball in Washington, DC.

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