Joining a fraternity can be a rewarding experience. It can make your college life richer than you imagine. However, joining the wrong fraternity can make your life miserable.
The pros of joining a fraternity include leadership, social and philanthropic opportunities. The cons of joining a fraternity include cost, time commitments and potential hazing.
As such, it is imperative you are as informed as possible to make a sound decision.
Pros to Joining a Fraternity
Sense of Belonging
Adapting to college life is challenging. For nearly everyone it is their first experience away from home. It is easy to get lost and overwhelmed in that type of situation. Fraternity life is perfect remedy for that. You will have a built-in social network; and you will belong to an organization that prides itself on developing relationships. That is comforting for a lot of people.
If you join a fraternity, chances are your social life will be centered around your fraternity activities. When you spend that much time with people, strong bonds and relationships will tend to form. Further, the organization will likely create reunions and periodic communications that will enable you to stay in touch with your friends. The depth of the relationships you will create will make them last longer than typical college friendships.
Fraternities pride themselves on doing good in their communities. The hours and money donated is very impressive. Should you join a fraternity, you will be part of their community service efforts. Further, you will gain a sense of pride from doing your civic duty of giving back to others.
It will not be challenging to find a party in college – regardless of whether you join a Greek Organization. However, there is a distinct difference between attending a party and hosting one. In addition, there are many other social functions that fraternities have that you won’t have access to if you don’t join one. They have formal events, date functions, mixers with sororities and brotherhood events. All are a great time, and one of the major benefits of joining a fraternity.
Good chapters do a good job staying in contact with their alumni brothers. This will often lead to employment opportunities to include internships for the undergraduate brothers, and jobs for graduating seniors. However, the networking effect is much deeper than that. Greek Life Statistics show that there are a lot of fraternity men that are highly successful. It is not uncommon for employment and investment opportunities are shared because of the deep, life-long relationships brothers have with each other. It never hurts to be associated with a group of high achievers.
Being Able to Do More Because of Pooled Resources
You will have to pay dues to join a fraternity. However, those dues will be put to good use (in most cases). You can complicate things, but at the end of the day you are taking money from a large group of people to be put to use by the organization. That enables the fraternity to do things that you simply cannot do if you aren’t in a fraternity. Because of the resources, the only real limit on what a fraternity can do is caused by their creativity. Having those types of resources will lead to a lot of fun times.
A Greek Organization is one of the few places on a college campus you can learn true leadership. Most fraternities deal with six or seven figure budgets, and also have the responsibility for a six or seven figure property. The challenge of leading an unruly group of college men presents a unique opportunity that will prepare you for anything in life. The leadership opportunities will separate you from your peers when you are seeking your first job after college. Being able to explain what you accomplished with your leadership position, and explain the scale that you were responsible for will impress your interviewer should you explain your achievements clearly.
At the core, fraternities are social organizations. There will be no shortage of opportunities to meet new people. For most guys, the most appealing part of this is the opportunity to meet girls. Being active in the Greek community will certainly provide those opportunities. In addition, another easy way to meet girls will be through introductions from the girlfriends of current brothers. Being in a fraternity takes the challenge out of meeting new people.
Sense of Pride
This is hard to explain, but it is something that is real. The sense of pride you have from belonging to a fraternity is a definite confidence boost. It helps your self-esteem, and it helps your self-worth. Fraternities thrive on the belief that they are a cut above the common college student. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy in most individuals. If you think you are better, you become better and that creates an immense sense of pride.
Athletics are a huge part of fraternity life. The fraternity intramural leagues are highly competitive. If you aren’t a participant, you still will be interested as a spectator. In addition, there will be a group of guys in your fraternity that bond over athletics. There was a group of us that played basketball every day at the gym, and that only cemented the strength of our relationships. There was another group that were avid hikers/campers and another group that played golf weekly. If you are interested athletics, you will find what you want in a fraternity.
Because of all the things I described above, your experiences have the potential to be much richer should you join a fraternity. Those richer experiences lead to fantastic memories. Someday, when you look back at your college experience, you will have your education and your memories. One enriches the mind, the other enriches the soul.
Strong fraternities know the purpose of going to college is to receive a quality education. As a result, many fraternities create an environment where excellence in academics is not only encouraged, but expected. Some chapters will take this so far that they will establish standards to ensure their membership takes their academic pursuits seriously. In my undergraduate experience, this was most often shown by brothers taking classes together and older brothers taking the time to tutor younger brothers. Both helped members achieve academically.
For some universities, the housing options if you join a fraternity are much better than the alternative. Maybe the house has better rooms. Maybe the house is in a better location on campus or maybe the food is better. Regardless, for some this is a much more desirable living situation.
Cons of Joining a Fraternity
Fraternities are expensive. Dues vary as you would expect, but in nearly every instance it is at minimum a four-figure investment. For college students without means, this is a significant amount of money. On top of that, there are hidden costs outside your annual dues. There are extra costs for functions such as formal and date events. There are the typical costs a college student incurs on a night out. Bottom line is if you join, you are making a significant financial commitment. You need to make sure the benefit is worth the cost, and you need to make sure you can afford your commitment.
You are making a significant time commitment if you join a fraternity. Typically, there will be a weekly meeting. There will most likely be a weekly social event. There will be intramurals. There could be study halls. There will be new member activities. There could be chapter events. The point is a healthy chapter has a lot of things going on. While all may not be mandatory, you can expect the brothers to try to shame you into attending just about everything. In college, this can lead to stressful situations if you are unable to manage your time effectively.
Shrinking Your Friendship Circle
Because of the time commitments I just described, it will become challenging to keep friends outside the circle of your fraternity world. You will definitely meet a lot of people, however you won’t have the time to invest in those relationships because chances are you will be spending most of your time with the brothers in your chapter. You need to realize going in that your friend universe will be centered around your fraternity.
Yes – housing is a pro and a con. The pro side has been discussed. There are cons as well. It may or may not be expected that you live in the fraternity house. Be sure you understand those expectations going in. Should you have to live in the house, realize that there are some less than desirable parts to that arraignment. The house is the center of fraternity life, and therefore will always have a ton of people there. Tons of people create chaos, and they create messes. Privacy and cleanliness will always be at a premium. Further, the morning after a house party is less than desirable. You need to be prepared for these things going in.
Stigma of Joining a Fraternity
There are people who think that joining a fraternity is a great thing, and those people realize the value of your fraternity experience. However, there are also people out there who do not like or value Greek Life. For those people, they will always believe that joining a fraternity equates to buying your friends. It doesn’t matter if they are right or wrong, but you need to realize that there are people out there with that sentiment.
You Will be Forced to Associate with People You Don’t Like
Here’s the deal – in every organization there will be people you don’t like. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about school or work and especially if you are talking about fraternity life. The recruitment model for fraternities is broken. Essentially, you very briefly meet someone at the beginning of the semester and offer them lifetime membership if it looks to be a good fit. Because recruitment is so challenging, and because it is so critical that a fraternity replenish their membership numbers, sometimes guys get in that are less-than-desirable.Further, because of the closeness of the organization, you will be forced to associate with these types of people. You need to be aware of that going in…
Good chapters establish a set of standards that all members are expected to achieve. This is a good thing. If you label yourself as exceptional, you need to hold your membership accountable to a certain set of standards. There is a negative side to that. Chapters that are serious about their standards will often cross the line telling their membership what is and isn’t acceptable. This can be frustrating, especially if some power-hungry brothers take it too far.
Hazing will always be in the underbelly of fraternity life. It is a lot less prevalent than it was years ago, but it is still out there. It is a disgusting practice, and every fraternity out there will say they have a no-hazing policy. This is an obvious risk of joining the wrong organization. Therefore, it is critical you do your homework. Ask questions like how many new members typically quit the new member process. That should give you a good clue as to what goes on during the new member process. Get a clear understanding of what you are committing to before you join.
This is another practice that will always be in the underbelly of fraternity life. In truth, it is probably very similar to all other walks of collegiate life. If you want drugs or alcohol, college students will be able to find it. The party culture of current college students is probably magnified in a fraternity. Therefore, before you join you need to be aware that those temptations will always be out there, and it is ultimately up to the individual to act responsibly.
There are many pros and cons to joining a fraternity. Many more than what I listed above. Hopefully, the list above gives you a better understanding of fraternities in general, and helps you make an informed decision on whether or not you want to join.