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.
So rush week is this coming week (I’m a freshman btw). My parents (who aren’t keen on the “Greek-life” thing) told me that I’m allowed to rush, however I can’t accept any bids for this year. Basically they want me to not join a house until my sophomore year. Does turning them down for this year hurt my chances on still being a part of their house next year? Cause I don’t want them to think badly of me because of that. Should I just wait until sophomore year?
To answer your question directly, if you are absolutely not going to accept a bid then don’t go through fraternity recruitment. It’s disingenuous. There’s nothing wrong with getting to know the different fraternities and making friends outside the rush process, but if you’re not in rush to accept a bid then you’re lying to the different fraternities and wasting their time/resources.
In terms of hurting your chances, most likely it will. No matter what your original intent, if you go through and don’t take a bid it’s going to appear you weren’t given one from the fraternity(s) you wanted. When you go through again, it’ll look like you’re settling for second best. No fraternity thinks of themselves as second best and they don’t want a member that thinks of them like that.
However, if I were an active in a fraternity being asked this question by a freshman, I’d give different advice.
I would say you should absolutely go through rush this semester. Because I don’t care about your reputation with other fraternities or what your parents want, I only want to evaluate if we want you. I’ve seen hundreds of people go through rush saying they didn’t know if they wanted to join a fraternity. I know once we sell you on our fraternity that you WILL join no matter what you thought at the beginning of the week or what your girlfriend or parents or anyone else says. Then we can help you clean up the mess after the fact like we have with hundreds of people before you.
Selling most rushees, it doesn’t take much more than showing them the lifestyle and that we’d make a good group of friends. They don’t get it yet. They’ll figure it out in the new member program and be glad they joined. Fraternities aren’t about parties and chasing women. I was raised as Christian, so I heard this description of faith being this warm embrace and inner peace of being in the presence of God. That it not only feels great, but you feel lost and empty without it. Not to sound weird, but that’s similar to how people feel about their fraternity after initiation. I know if I show you a little bit of that relationship between brothers and with the organization that you won’t want to let it get away.
I also know we’re really pretty good with parents and we have alumni advisors that can help with that. So, I’m not worried about it. I’m worried about you. Either we want you or we don’t, and either we’ve sold you on us or we haven’t.
Aside from your question though, I get what your parents are saying, but there are consequences of waiting.
I don’t know what school you’re going to, and that does matter. If it’s a hyper competitive system then you are dramatically reducing your chances of getting a bid at all, certainly you’ll have less shot at the top fraternities you may have had access to as a freshmen. Being a 4.0 transfer from Harvard wouldn’t change those prospects.
One of the biggest reasons for that is financial. I hate to make it seem like fraternities are all about money, because they absolutely are not, but no one intentionally makes a bad business decision without a really good reason.
We are membership orgs. A constant flow of new blood is the most important thing to our survival and success. We spend a ton of money on fraternity recruitment. I’ll use my campus as an example. I’ll spare you the details (ask in the comments if you want me to explain), but we actually spend more for each new member we take than an active pays in dues for a full year. Minus quitters and national dues/insurance, it takes you paying dues for almost a year and a half after your new member period ends before the fraternity gets the first net spendable dime from you.
That’s not exactly how it works of course, but it’s the easiest way to express the net versus gross income. If they took only sophomores rather than freshmen, they’d be giving up 50% of their budget for social or anything else they want to do. That’s the difference between busses to a city five hours away for a weekend long amazing formal or renting out the dingy hotel ballroom next to campus and hoping your girlfriend will agree to be your date given how terrible the event will be, and you’re paying the same dues either way.
It’s okay to take sophomores, but every time you do it you’re consciously deciding to make a sacrifice because you want that particular individual more than all freshmen going through rush. So does that hurt your chances? Yeah it does. How much or how little will depend a whole lot on how large and selective your Greek system is.
There’s more to it than money though, you’re giving up a year of fraternity time.
You’re a new member your first semester. You aren’t going to have a major role your first active semester (you’ll still be a new member during elections). You should be able to run for a mid-level position the following year. Depending how you do on that will determine if you can run for higher office. A lot of fraternities, including mine, run year long positions like President from Spring to Fall so they have continuity over the summer & the outgoing officer is still around for at least a semester to help mentor his successor. That means you have to get elected President at the end of Fall in your Junior year. If you were a new member as a sophomore and were PR chair the next Fall, that’s pretty much not going to happen. I know you aren’t thinking that far ahead, but you are really limiting what you’ll be able to achieve at the end of your college career.
I’m not telling you to defy your parents. While I’m sure they have a lot of trouble letting go of their baby, I’m certain they love you and have your best interests at heart. You should respect them, but you also have to be a man and make your own decisions. If joining now versus waiting is the right decision for you, then make them understand that. But if you’re going to do this, then you owe them your performance. You had better stay out of trouble and make your grades. If they aren’t paying for school unless you wait and you can’t change their minds, then respect the fraternities by being honest and not wasting their time during rush. You can try to get to know them later in the semester.
Whatever you decide, good luck. Have a good time, but make sure you find the place you really belong rather than the place that happened to have the best party one night. A lifetime, or at least the next several years, of your happiness and personal development depends on it.
– This answer was written by Dennis Nall, an alumni brother from Alpha Tau Omega and contributor for the thefraternityadvisor.com. If you are interested in writing for thefraternityadvisor.com – let us know (CLICK HERE)!
To learn more, check out our most in-depth article on fraternity recruitment: The Complete Guide to Fraternity Recruitment.