It’s that time of the year! With summer well on its way, incoming new college students are either getting excited or feeling anxious about going to college this upcoming fall. Something that is on the mind of all college students, however, is the prospect of Fall Rush. Whether you are excited about thriving in a new environment or are scared about the big changes that come with college, Greek life is something to consider that can enhance your college career.
We already know what you’re thinking: why would I join Greek life? Isn’t it just comprised of overpriced friendships with people whose lives are centered around partying? Surprisingly enough, Greek life is not about using your parents’ money to buy friends or developing a substance-abuse problem. After people rush, they usually realize how being a part of Greek life actually helps them find their place in college. Greek life can help those who cringe at the thought of starting over in a new school feel like they belong. The college institution allows people to make friends and feel more comfortable and confident in who they are as individuals.
But is Greek life really for you? Whether you are a die-hard frat (or srat!) star, or you are on the fence about rushing, even just going through the rush process may help you get to know who you are. Seeing where the Greek road takes you and “giving it the old college try” doesn’t hurt!
Most incoming freshmen all probably ask the same question: what exactly is “rush”? The Greek life process for choosing new members is completely different depending on whether you rush a sorority or a fraternity. Each type of organization has a different system based on the specific criteria for which they look.
Sororities or women’s fraternities (yes, they are different institutions!) have a quick and compact rushing process. Usually, the process will last for three to five consecutive days. Potential New Members (PNMs) will have the opportunity to visit every house at their university, and each woman will be given a fair and equal chance to their best foot forward and impress the houses to which they go.
It’s customary to go to every house you are called to, or you may be dropped from the process. Keep this in mind. Even if you don’t plan on receiving a bid from a sorority, it’s most likely in your best interest to go, anyway. Who knows, you might find that the sorority you couldn’t stand on the first day is your first choice on the last.
Men’s and co-ed fraternities have a much more relaxed rushing process. Most of the time, there will be an event where each fraternity has their own booth that PNMs can visit to get a feel for the active members of that fraternity.
Over a period of two weeks, the PNMs will have the opportunity to go to different events put on by the fraternities. They must attend a certain number of events to be considered for a bid, but they are not required to attend all of them. Unlike rushing a sorority or a women’s fraternity, PNMs of men’s and co-ed fraternities can pick and choose which houses they want to visit. There are also many different types of fraternities.
The first kind of fraternity that comes to mind for most people are social fraternities, but there are also business fraternities, pre-law fraternities and even film fraternities. Co-ed fraternities in particular are very appealing to PNMs because of their dynamics and flexibility.
While rushing is the first step in joining Greek life, it is certainly only the beginning of the whole “Greek Life Experience.” After receiving a bid from a sorority or fraternity, there is a completely different side to those perfect groups of people that you met during recruitment. Once the guise put on by current members of fraternities and sororities for the rush process is shed, the good, the bad and the ugly of Greek life is revealed.
There are many obvious benefits to joining a sorority or fraternity. The first is the reason most students join in the first place: You have the privilege of being a part of a close-knit sisterhood or brotherhood. Where you were once lost in a sea of strangers, you are now surrounded by a group of like-minded people who share the same values as you. Being with a group of people who mirror themselves can help nervous students feel more comfortable, confident and accepted. If sisterhood or brotherhood is what you are looking for in college life, you have certainly made the correct stop on the college extracurriculars train.
Another advantage of being a part of Greek life is the fact that you gain exclusive access to certain events. It is a dream of many to be asked to a formal or date party. It can be a night of romance or simply a night of fun memories shared between friends. While formals and date parties are considered the main events of college semesters, there are other, smaller events where you can bond with your sisters and brothers and meet people in other chapters.
Exchanges and swaps are events that include two or more fraternities or sororities. These are usually casual events where members of one chapter get the chance to meet members of other chapters without the social pressure of a date. Exchanges are events that include a men’s fraternity and a women’s fraternity or sorority, while swaps usually include two or more chapters of the same category. Exchanges and swaps are a great way to get to know the rest of the Greek community while bonding with your fellow active members (actives).
The more underrated benefit of joining a sorority or fraternity is the opportunity to hold a leadership position. This isn’t the first thing most people think of when they decide to rush, but it can be beneficial in the long run. There are more rigorous and imperative roles that actives can take on, as well as smaller ways for them to get involved in their chapter. Gaining leadership experience in college is a big deal and is something employers will notice and love! Adding the element of responsibility to the mix of Greek life can teach young adults how to collaborate in a low-risk environment. After all, you do have a brotherhood or sisterhood to help you every step of the way in navigating your leadership position. Who knew?
Of course, being a part of any organization is not all smiles and roses. Being involved in Greek life is admittedly time consuming, especially during the initial pledge period. You get out of the commitment what you put into it, but what’s the point if you don’t have the time to commit? Many freshmen become overwhelmed in their first semester because they haven’t perfected time management yet and overbooked their schedules. If you know that time management can get out of your hands quickly and easily, something to consider before going through rush is how being a part of Greek life will add to your own schedule.
Another common problem within Greek life is the gossip and cliques that come with being in a tight-knit group. It’s the unfortunate part of high school that just can’t get left behind, and it’s almost impossible not to get caught up in it. College is about figuring out who you are, but most people have already figured out that they don’t like needless drama. If you know that drama is not something that you are equipped to handle, then proceed with caution. Not every chapter has a serious problem with cliques and gossip, but most will naturally have its own groups and issues.
Unfortunately, the problem with drama and cliques isn’t isolated within individual fraternities or sororities. Entire campuses can be the victims of feuds and rivalries between chapters. It’s instinctual on some levels to stereotype others, but that doesn’t make it cool. The conflict between chapters can lead to university administration stepping in, which doesn’t really put any chapter on a dean’s good side. Chapters must be careful with how they treat others especially because they must uphold the standard that Panhellenic and IFC love everyone.
"It’s all of our responsibilities, collegians and alumnae, to live our values and tell the positive sorority story."
— NPC (@NPCWomen) June 11, 2019
— North American Interfraternity Conference (@nicfraternity) February 27, 2019
The biggest problem faced by college students involved in Greek life is the issue of dues. These monthly payments can become pretty pricey, especially if you start acquiring late fees. The amount you pay in dues is usually determined by your chapter’s national branch. Nationals is the organization that the leadership in your chapter reports to in order to stay safe and uniform with your chapters on other college campuses. Because a sorority’s chapters need to be uniform across their different college campuses, the price of dues cannot be changed, no matter the circumstance. This drives away many PNMs who feel their money is better spent elsewhere.
While considering both the good and the bad, it’s rare to meet someone who regretted going through the rushing process. Even if at the end of your experience with Greek life you decide it isn’t for you, it’s likely that it helped you grow as a person. Being in a sorority or fraternity might be tiring and anxiety-inducing, but rush can end up empowering a PNM. They have the chance to meet lots of new people whom they wouldn’t have met otherwise had they not gone through rush. Most actives even admit that they would happily go through the process again. Rushing as a PNM is a special experience, as it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for almost everyone. Cherish the moments if you can because it’s something you may never be able to do again.
Is Greek life for you? Even if the answer is still unclear, you might find that you have fallen in love with your chapter if you stick with it. If you have given the organization a chance and you still feel it’s not right for you, no one is making you stay. It’s normal to decline a bid right after receiving it or even later on during your pledging period.
The biggest takeaway out of all of this is that you might surprise yourself. Who knows? You could be absolutely married to the idea of being a part of Greek life but later find that it wasn’t the place for you. Others may be skeptical now, but after everything, they usually find it to have been the best experience of their lives. The decision is completely up to the you, the PNM. Don’t forget, Greek life is what you make of it!