Fraternity Recruit an Old Guy

This question was submitted by one of our readers. If you have a question you want me to answer go here to submit it: Fraternity Advice.

Question:

My current fraternity president met a 32 year old dude at the gym and wants him to join the fraternity. He’s a cool person but do you think the age would be a problem?


Answer:

It is very difficult to pass judgment on a situation when you really don’t know all the details. That being said, I think it is very bizarre that a 32 year old would want to be involved as an undergraduate brother. At 32, you have such a different perspective on life and different priorities than a guy at 18. I just don’t see how he would be a good fit.

However, if a brother thinks it might be a good idea, then have other brothers talk to him. The biggest thing you want to find out is why he wants to be a part of the fraternity. And remember that even if he gives the right answers, then you need to make sure that the brothers are comfortable with him joining the fraternity.

You also need to think about how this will impact your recruitment efforts. Some guys you are recruiting may think it is weird that this guy is hanging around, and it might turn some of them off to your fraternity.

My gut tells me that this just isn’t a situation that your fraternity wants to get involved with. It just doesn’t make too much sense as an outsider looking in. If the guy does join, then I think there is a high likelihood that he will disappear shortly after becoming a brother.

Trust me on this one, old guys become older and their interests change.

 






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19 thoughts on “Should Our Fraternity Recruit an Old Guy?

  1. It’s been said before but there are plenty of men who have joined the military after high school and haven’t had the opportunity to go to college until leaving the military.  A lot of people love the military because of the bond we share. It is a true brotherhood (as in a fraternity I’m sure).  Some guys’ reason to join a fraternity may do little/ nothing to do with partying, girls, alcohol, etc. Many guys miss the brotherhood and bond they shared with the other guys who served with them, which they could possibly get from a frat.  The discipline and leadership we learn in the military would actually be a good thing to bring to these young men. Also (at least in the Army) as a single guy, you have to live in the barracks with young men who are usually 18-23. 

    Obviously you have to see the intentions of each person because I am sure there are creepers out there, but that shouldn’t deter anyone from considering an older student.

    I’ve never been in a fraternity so my opinions are just that and may not mean anything but I did want to share it. I have been serving in the Army for a little over ten years. I would have 100% joined a fraternity had I gone to college instead of joining the Army. I believe they are great organizations . I don’t regret serving but it would have been a great experience to be a part of a fraternity.

  2. As a young man in my 30’s, let me offer another aspect in regards to the “creepy” and “weird” comments.

    I am 34 years old and am interested in joining a Grad Chapter as I will be starting my program next year. I was one of those kids that didn’t care about school growing up, so I had no interest in going to college when I graduated from high school. Longer story short, 7 years later, I realized that I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I went back to school and because I was now “grown” and working, I couldn’t go full-time and it took some time to get my undergrad degree. Now that I am finished, I want to continue on and get my Master’s.

    In the meantime, I’d like to join a group of brothers that are about their business. A group of brothers that have a goal to be the best men in life is what I need in my life. Being 34 years old, you don’t find too many around your age that are into what you are. While most have family or other obligations, I’m doing homework or studying. Brothers in my chapter (should I get into one), completely understand what I am going through. We have that commonality.

    While a lot of you are saying young guys want to party and kick it with the girls, I’m sure that is NOT the reason you joined a frat. You joined because the way that you want to ultimately live your life is aligned with the principles of the organization. THAT part does not change no matter how old you get.

    So it may have taken longer from someone like myself to realize what I want out of life, but the fact is, I know. If those principles align with that of a great Greek Organization, why not offer a bid?

  3. I am a returning student myself. I’ve always wanted to join a fraternity. After serving in the military and as a current undergrad, I’d still like to join a fraternity. I have to admit though, in some ways I am a bit immature for my age; in other ways I’m ahead of my years. Part of what may be the reason for some of my immaturity is growing up mostly an only child and NOT having this camaraderie early on.

    I still look like a 21 year old even though I’m 28, many of my friends still go out to clubs and stuff, however the “way” we go out is different. I don’t really know how to describe it, but it’s different. I can see both points of view and ultimately I’d like to avoid putting myself (or the brothers) in a weird situation.

    I know if we–any 19 year old–met out in a club, or somewhere on campus, in class, or at a party or something there’d be no awkwardness; like I said most people think I’m much younger than I actually am. The only thing that concerns me is whether or not people think the actual number–age–matters, and if so how much. I do still hang out with younger people, I met a dude who was 19 last week shooting pool, I also hang out with some much older people; and depending on who I’m hanging out with we may do completely different things.

    So, would you agree that it would be a fair statement that it really depends on the “look and feel” of the situation rather than the actual number? Or would you still hold firm, the number matters?

  4. I joined an undergraduate chapter at 30. I have no regrets and my brothers have no regrets.

    My situation was unique because I skipped college (despite numerous scholarship offers), got married, and followed an entrepreneurs path out of high school. I ended up divorced at 29 and went back to school for personal enjoyment. As a successful business owner, I knew a bachelors degree would have no effect on my career or earning potential, this was strictly my way of enjoying the college experience and networking with a younger crowd some of the time. I wanted to make Greek like part of that.

    Our chapter was brand new, was one of the first Greek organizations on our campus, and received its charter the semester I pledged. The organization was young and needed leadership. Because of my life experience I was offered leadership rolls my fist semester as a brother. I declined in order to ensure the opportunity for the younger guys to step up, but have been a behind the scenes guy helping this chapter grow and succeed from day one.

    When we had problems with school administration, I helped us navigate the path. When we needed a place to throw a party, I opened the doors to my 6br/3bath home. When 8-10 police officers showed up to break up an event, I talked to them and they turned around and left. I’ve helped brothers with employment recommendations, hired some into my company, invested to help another brother start his first business, and have a mentoring roll with many of the guys in my chapter. When they have problems with their girlfriends, school, or life in general, many come to me for advice. I am helping them get their first fraternity house. Shockingly even some of the sorority girls on campus look to me for advice as well. Even though I’m technically a Junior undergraduate student, I act more like an alumnus in my relationship to the chapter. A brand new chapter has no alumni, so this was an important role to be filled.

    I look younger than I am, and I come across as confident and successful, so needless to say I don’t “creep out the girls” in any way. I don’t hang out with my brothers every day, or participate in every single on-campus event. I don’t spend every night drinking ’til blackout and partying. I don’t live in a chapter house, and I have plenty of other things going on in my life.

    That being said, I’m not some quiet, lame, old man. I host and attend parties, I play sports with my brothers, I go out to bars with them on occasion, and sure, there have been times I hooked up with 18-20 year old girls at fraternity events. Yes even a freshman once. I’m completely unapologetic about that. They were attractive, legal, and into it. What single guy barely out of his 20’s wouldn’t hook up with hot college girls on occasion if he could? Is that why I joined? Nope. Do I typically date professional women over 25? Yep.

    Overall its all about the person, whether or not he fits in with the chapter, and whether or not he can contribute to the goals of the chapter. Age (within reason) means nothing. Talk to the guys at the chapter you are interested in joining, and see if there is a good fit for you. In life you rarely regret the times you took a risk, but you almost ALWAYS wonder “what if” for the rest of time when you are too much of a wuss to get outside your comfort zone and do something cool. I say give the old man a shot!

    • Your story sounds EXACTLY like what I see as an ideal situation for me. Being able to bring something to the table that a younger brother wouldn’t and not being a creeper or needy dude but someone cool, different, and still fits with the vibe. Cheers to you brother. You mind sharing what frat?

  5. Sup guys,

    I’m actually a 30yrs old looking to pledge this fall 2012 undergrad. This is a question that I posed to a truck load of friends in fraternities/Masons… and their answer to me is, “Age does not matter”. You will have young 18-21yr olds that are very mature and dont allow peer pressure to move them, and so they go through politics with in thier own frat/chapter. And need people to have thier back or dont have anyone to talk to.

    if someone if choosing you based on age, then they are not looking to progress their frat. Most get togethers you go too w/ your LB’s and LS’s you are going to meet older members in their 30-40… so whats the different between pledging someone 25-over … I understand if maybe someone is in thier 40’s or 50’s … thats weird. but, now a days their are many people in the military or men and women going back to school … and a lot of that does not depend on mixers or meeting girls or guys… its more the brotherhood, giving back to a certain community, networking.

    If you ask me, your specific chapter or frat would be one that for being biased on age for the sake of picking up girls, would be one that people would def avoid. I know a gentelmen that pleadeged at 35yrs old he was the anchor of his Line and he had more connection and was a big brother figure to many young gentlemen in his frat. thats the beautiful thing about Greek life… cultures and ages, nothing is the same. It’s all about brotherhood at any level …

    I typed this quick so pardon any mispelling or wording.

  6. I still think this is weird for a 32 year old guy to want to be an active brother on the undergraduate level.

    Again, this does not mean there is not a place for him in the fraternity. He can be initiated as a brother and can be part of the fraternity. However there has to be a disconnect due to the age gap.

    I can see him serving in some type of advisor role or in a big brother capacity. I just have a hard time seeing a 32 year old connecting with 18 year olds in the everyday running of a fraternity.

    I’d love to hear if there is anyone who has been in this position before. I could be completely off base on this – it just strikes me as odd….

  7. Sorry for the second comment, but please let me clarify one thing and add one thing. I missed that it was one of the commenters who wrote about a 27yo and the original post was about a 30yo. I think my comment stills hold true.

    The other thing I wanted to say was, its important that this new potential member has a good support system outside the fraternity, too. If the fraternity is it, then he’s spending 100% of his social time with 18-22 year olds, and that’s not totally healthy. But if he also has gym buddies, faculty friends, family, colleagues at work, or anything like that, then I think the fraternity will add to his life and that the fraternity will benefit too.

  8. Gosh, for the people who are voting “no” to initiating this potential member — haven’t you ever had or known anyone with a cool older brother? It’s the same thing. Focus on what you can do together, what you can enjoy — the commonalities.

    Is service a major component in your chapter? A 27yo can participate and lead the same way as anyone else. In fact, most of the time when a chapter performs service, they are teamed up with a multi-generational group. Habitat for Humanity had senior citizens working side-by-side with us. So that’s not strange or unusual.

    Do you have a pool table and bond with each other while playing? Or play sports in the yard? Or video games? Campouts and weekend trips? A 27yo can do those things and have fun. So can anyone’s older brother and so can your dad for that matter.

    Do those over 21 go out to bars sometimes? A 27yo can too. And might have a wider variety of friends to introduce others to.

    I’m trying to think about what else was important to us when we were undergraduates. He’ll likely have a car, which is always helpful. He may have excellent study skills and organizational skills — which means he can help others, and, improve the chapter’s GPA.

    I’m sure that the fraternity will not be the only thing in his life — just like it was for any of us who had jobs, other extracurriculars at school, or full courseloads. So I don’t think it’s unusual that he’d enjoy spending SOME of his time with a younger crowd, and it might say a lot for him that he’s respectful toward, and wants to have friendships and connections with, people from a different generation. I’m sure he’ll also easily make friends with alumni.

    Think of the common values — brotherhood, friendship, service, loyalty, and fraternal values.

    Four things I would say to watch out for are: alcohol habits, drug habits, any obvious red flags for depression/mental health issues, and domineering/controlling personalities. If he displays those, there’s a problem because those things get more entrenched as time goes on. But otherwise, I think you’re in the clear.

    And yes, if you have a really immature mandatory pledging process (involving cleaning, millions of shots, submission, and the like) he may think you’re utterly ridiculous, so your fraternity can accept the challenge and grow a little and get rid of some of the things that aren’t helpful to anyone.

  9. Even so I also agree with another part Dennis about how you ” don’t want them giving a bid to a sharp 18yo from a good family & played sports in HS unless he also has the character/beliefs that align with our principles/ritual/mission.” You are right I believe that what is more important is whether or not and how aligned they are with the mission, values and principles and less or heck more of a non-issue really of age issue. For example, I do not care if that guy has like a 4.0, is sharp , is a marching band leader or player, or stuff like that like you said; if he really does not fall in line with the values based on who he is ( as Ive heard of students and ppl who have 4.0s or 3.9s yet guess what? they are jerks) then ultimately what he does do wouldn’t matter, he wouldn’t get it.

  10. I too agree that it may be weird to initiate a 32 year old guy. Yet at the same time, I don’t think its fair to criticize him because he is that age and how he would be this or that to the girls and other people. Rather instead of age being the main issue, which yeah I get that older people tend to have different agenda and different mindset, I believe we should be more open-minded and more importantly consider and look at their character,potential, who they are and whether or not they are in line with the values, history, ideals and mission statement as well as if they have anything ( be it experience,etc) they could offer That I believe takes a lot of strong character to do that I think many chapters seem to be carried away with due to their need for “animal house” they need to live by which in my opinion is not the right thing personally.

    For example in talking about a minority of chapters, I know one chapter on my campus, or colony so to speak that recently initiated a 29 year old guy who served in the military for years, is a undergraduate freshmen yet non-traditional student who is married and has about 2 kids. Although it might be weird and hard for him and the people as Im sure being a parent and veteran, he had a different perspective, what mattered as I know he was a founder was more about his character, which I believe his military service speaks a lot for that and not his age for that fraternity, esp since I know they are known for their high character. And even so Im sure after they initiated him, contrary to what some would think, the colony seemed to get along fine. Yet at the same time, the catch is what the chapter is about and the guys who I know they are mostly of high character yet also academically focused and service-oriented. From that, I believe that he deserves credit for what he could offer in terms of perspective as a 29 year old parent whether it’d be life, dating, school given his maturity and not his age.

    At the same time, I do agree that it is ultimately up to the chapter. It is just Im saying as I agree with Dennis that we should at least be more open minded and look past age.

  11. I have to agree that it’s weird that a 32 year old man wants to join a fraternity. Does a 32 year old really want to involve himself in the antics that 18, 19 and 21 year olds do? Is he joining to pick up 19 year girls or to get drunk or because he just wants to pretend to be 21 again, these are all big red flags that spell trouble. As for the 27 year old out of the military, I supose he could just be curious too but again, he must realize that there is going to be a disconnect. Does a 27 year old wnat to stand around in a jock strap in a line with a bunch of 19 year olds during fun and games? That said, I can remember we had an older member, he was 27 and was finishing his Masters. He had pledged when he was 19 and took a long time to get through his program. He was a great guy but you could tell there was a disconnect and at time s he seemed more like a parent running around telling the rest of us what we ought not be doing. On the other hand, After I had pledged, and graduated at 23, I did the military thing then relocated to Tampa, I was the 27 year old guy. I didn’t know anyone in Tampa but then realized the University of South Florida had a brother chapter. I contacted them because I wa s hoping they could help orient me more to the scene s in Tampa. They did and I must say they were very nice but I, at 27, felt awkward hanging around people who were 19, 20. After that semester, I got my footing and basically started seperating myself from the guys (although if they stopped by, I was always polite and engaging). But at the end of the day, it’s going to be up to the Chapter to decide what to do if a 32 year old come s through RUSH.

  12. Pat,

    I know, like me, you were a military officer. I assume you also saw plenty of 30+yo LTs that got a late start in life, and they operate just fine on the same level with 22yo officers taking orders from 25yos CPTs like the age differences don’t matter – because they don’t.

    Of course I don’t entirely disagree with you. It’s a minority of chapters that have the character/maturity to give a guy like that a fair shot. And yes, a minority of older guys that could humble themselves to their fraternity age rather than their physical age to successfully do this. Of course those things need to be figured out before a bid can happen.

    The simple answer is… it’s a low probability scenario; we’re a membership org; financially, 3 pledges are worth more than the time/effort spent considering this one case; cut the guy and direct your energy where it will be most productive. But that’s the wrong answer.

    The chapter already knew that. My job as an advisor isn’t to validate the easy way out for them. My job is to press them to the hard rights over the easy answers.

    I don’t ultimately care if they give this older guy a bid or not. I care that they give it open-minded consideration, that they put aside the ancillary BS, and make a decision based on the principles/ritual/mission of the org.

    Cause ultimately, I don’t want them giving a bid to a sharp 18yo from a good family & played sports in HS unless he also has the character/beliefs that align with our principles/ritual/mission.

    Strong chapters are great, but the up & down business cycle of a chapter is less important than accomplishing the things our founders created the thing for. If we’re not making good decisions for the right reasons, particularly membership decisions, then a strong chapter is just a social club and complete disservice to everything we say we believe in. Business issues are important, but success at the cost of your beliefs is not acceptable. That’s the right answer from an advisor. Maybe it’s not the easy or quick one, but it’s the right one.

  13. I’m more open minded on this one.

    Last year I was at a bid drop night. The chapter voted on a 27yo freshmen just out of the military. He was the sharpest highest quality guy going through all of rush. They had concerns about connecting with pledge brothers/chapter & creeping out underclassmen girls. They had no issue at 27, but concerned about being around 4yrs at 32. If he’d been a senior or even junior they would have bid him. They voted him down, and I ripped their butts.

    First of all, my fraternity will not penalize men for serving their country. That is unacceptable. There are a lot of guys coming off active duty right now & coming through rush, or at least available to recruit. They each need to be evaluated, but can easily bring more to the table than any 18yo freshmen.

    As a mid-aged chapter advisor, I haven’t been in school for a long time. So, while I care deeply about my fraternity, I really don’t care if my chapter defended the anchor splash title or got a mixer with the hot sorority. But that’s not because of my age, it’s because I’m not in school or the active chapter. I still make fast connections with undergrads. Yes I have more life experience and a different perspective on things, and that’s a good thing. It means I can help them find other avenues of approach to accomplish their goals. I’m still friends with undergrads and do hang out with some of them outside my advisory role. I hang out with people older than me too. Age alone isn’t that important. Who you are underneath is what matters.

    Just understand if you’re voting this guy down on age that it has little/nothing to do with him and everything to do with how other people – mostly girls – view him. Not sure when you start letting girls decide who you bid, but it’s your chapter. There’s chapters still to this day that don’t take black guys because they think it’d creep out girls or alumni or they wouldn’t fit in with the chapter. An openly gay guy would be treated the same way. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong. I’m just saying if you’re making a decision like that then put the BS aside, know why you’re really making it, and make sure you’re morally comfortable with that.

    Ultimately, a fraternity has nothing to do with college. You have a creed/ritual that explains a lifelong mission to change the world based on some set of principles & beliefs. 99% of that mission happens as alumni. College is where we recruit high quality like minded people, give them basic training as pledges and advanced training as actives, so that when they graduate they can go into the world and execute the calling we committed our lives to. If you don’t believe that at the very soul of your being, then you should turn in your pin immediately because you don’t belong in a fraternity. That is the one and only reason we exist. Everything else from grades to social is at best secondary. Those business details aren’t unimportant, but they should never overrule the main mission.

    So, does this guy live your principles? Is his belief system compatible with your ritual/mission? Does he bring experience/skill set to the table that would help advance that mission beyond college? Would he be able to help others learn the lessons of the fraternity as an undergrad? Can he humble himself enough to take those lessons from someone a decade younger than him? If you can check those boxes then you should seriously consider bidding him. Once you make that decision, then you should be confident about defending it on that basis. If some dumb 18yo girl doesn’t respect that then screw her. There’s 10 more where she came from anyway.

    But hey, your choice. I just want you to really give it an open minded chance and know why you’re making the decision you do. As long as you do that, I’m fine with it.

    • Great great points. You are right that it has absolutely nothing to do with age or anything else, but more with the person involved. Let’s be careful though not to go too far into the politically correct world. It isn’t normal for a 32 year old to want to hang with 18 year olds. You made a point about you not caring about sorority mixers or anchor splash titles. Someone in their 30s would feel the same way. However, 18 year olds do care about that stuff, and that would cause the disconnect which makes this situation difficult.

      It would take a special case in my eyes for this to work out in an undergraduate chapter. Could it work – absolutely. However, the expectations for both the brotherhood and the 32 year old would have to be clear. Both need to know what they can contribute, and what they get out of the fraternity.

      Also, as someone was in the military, I really appreciate your support for those who serve.

  14. I read this question expecting a very different answer than what was provided. Usually your responses are spot-on, but this time, fellow Fraternity Advisor, you missed the mark.

    Perhaps my surprise is grounded in my own experience: I was offered a bid at age 32, and was initiated about a year later.

    Now, my situation and the one described may be a bit different – I guess I would want to know more about the potential brother: is he completing an undergraduate degree? Is he out of school and working full-time? What can he bring to the chapter besides being a “cool person?” What are his motives for wanting to join? Is he planning to serve as a role model and mentor younger guys once he becomes a member? Having an open and honest conversation with this man would provide all of those answers and much more.

    I joined after working with a new chapter (at that point still a colony), because the undergraduates felt I lived by some of the same values they were seeking in future members. My alma mater did not have a Greek Community, so I was unaffiliated as an undergraduate. The men in the chapter thought enough of the time I had invested in them to make an investment in me and make me a member. Would my participation have changed any had I not been initiated? Certainly not. However, being a member has afforded me the opportunity to step up and serve as their primary advisor, get more involved at the national level, and has given me a bond of brotherhood that I share with 50 other men who were initiated during our reinstallation, and every subsequent initiation class.

    When I speak to the chapter, I use words like “we,” “our chapter,” and “us” all the time, and there is weight behind them because I wear the same badge they do. I regard my initation as far more than a ceremonial formality, nor do I consider myself a paper member. I doubt any of my brothers think I am less “official” than they are. Sure, I do not have stories of late night antics, I don’t travel to brotherhood retreats, and I don’t gather with alumni and talk about the good old days when we all lived together in the house. I do, however, cherish the opportunity to share our Ritual every time we initiate a new class of brothers. I value the impact I can make on so many young lives, helping them find their calling in life. And I am thankful for all that I have learned from them over the past 7 years of working with them.

    So before we cast aside an “old dude” for creating a potential weird situation, look at what the fraternity stands to gain by a unique experience. I can already say unequivocally that I have gained much in my life by being a part of something I did not have the opportunity to do as an undergraduate, and my story of joining is a point of pride for me at any fraternity function.

    –An Old Dude, and proud Greek member

    • Fellow Old Dude – Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It provides a very interesting insight I hadn’t thought about. My thoughts were obviously about participating as an undergraduate brother. I realize there are exceptions to every rule, but I didn’t see how it would work due to the age difference. Your example shows that the situation can work, as long as both parties realize what they are looking to get out of the fraternity. I think your main point that it really depends on the individuals is spot on. That being said, in the majority of the cases, I still don’t think it is a situation that will work out.

    • In 2010, I went back to school after 25 years in my profession, when I found myself unable to get a job in my field without the four-year degree that was not required when I started. One of the other guys in my major recruited me for the fraternity he was in. It started out wit hhim inviting me to “a party” to “meet some guys” and they kept inviting me back. I was offered a bid and accepted.

      I became a fraternity guy at age 42.

      The faculty advisor was one year older than me.

      I had the time of my life.

      Many of the brothers came to me for advice, help with their school work, and when they were in big trouble and needed someone with some miles on the tires, I was the one they called. The guys in my pledge class are still my friends today, and I am still active in the fraternity. Yes, I went to the parties. I was accepted as a brother–age simply didn’t matter. At one party some chick started making fun of “the old perv at the frat party” and was told to leave by my brothers, despite being smoking hott. I was ready to just accept her insults as part of the package when you are literally double the age of everyone else, but the loyalty my brothers showed to me was humbling and showed an emotional maturity on their part that tells me they will be great men in a world that desperately needs some.

      I showed them how to party and still keep their grades up (I graduated with a 4.0) and I SERIOUSLY helped the chapter’s overall GPA! They showed me how to be 20 years old again. And yes, my house name was BLUE!!

      I wouldn’t trade my fraternity experience for anything. I still proudly talk about that part of my college years and would do it all over again in a heartbeat. How old is too old to pledge a fraternity? That depends entirely on how our you feel…and how old you want to be. If you’re a boring, middle-aged douchebag, then no, please stay away from rush week and stay a GDI. If you want to enjoy those wonderful days, meet some great guys and appreciate the experience of Greek life with the perspective of knowing what you know now (and believe me, you’ll appreciate it SO much more) then get your ass to Rush week and find a house that clicks with you.

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