9 Things Parents Need to Know About Greek Life

education-parents-greek-lifeCollege—it’s a rush.

The moment students get on campus for their freshman year, they’re bombarded with opportunities to join campus organizations, including sororities and fraternities. If you’re the concerned parent of an incoming freshman wanting to join over 9 million Greeks nationwide, here are nine things to keep in mind:

1. Not all chapters are the same.

Even though each organization is governed by the same bylaws and rules, it’s the members who make the chapters what they are. It’s a good idea to have your son or daughter talk to current fraternity or sorority members who attend the same university and get to know the personality of each house on their campus.

2. Going Greek is not the most important thing about college.

If you were Greek in college and had a positive experience, definitely encourage your child to give it a try. If they join and they love it, that’s fantastic; but if they don’t, it won’t put a damper on their college experience. College is all about learning—and not just in class. Joining campus organizations is a great way for students to step out of their comfort zones and discover new interests, friends and ways of looking at the world. If going Greek isn’t your child’s “thing,” they’ll easily find their niche somewhere else on campus.

3. Don’t trust the media’s interpretation of Greek life.

Both the Internet and the media seem to enjoy perpetuating negative stereotypes of Greek life. Sites like Total Fraternity Move, Total Sorority Move and GreekRank are written by college students for college students and are not a good source for your research. TV shows and movies like “Greek,” “Legally Blonde” and “Animal House,” while entertaining, are not truthful representations of what being a Greek member is like. Current Greek students are your best resource for learning about the recruitment/rush process, academics, what the social scene is really like, time management and lots more. Use them as a resource—they love it!

4. Yes, there are risks.

Let’s cut to the chase: hazing. This is a national concern that parents, university administrators and students are trying to address. Websites such as stophazing.org and the Greek Anti-Hazing Hotline provide ways for students to prevent hazing at their universities. Hazing happens across a range of student groups, from athletic teams to honor societies, and most incidents involve the consumption of alcohol. Make sure your child is aware of these risks and know how to recognize a potentially dangerous situation.

5. But…not everyone experiences these risks.

Not all Greek organizations haze. It’s hard to say which ones do or don’t, but joining a Greek organization and being hazed certainly do not go hand in hand. Most colleges, universities and Greek organizations have very strict anti-hazing policies, in addition to hazing prevention programs. A lot of national sororities and fraternities recognize “anti-hazing week” and hold events to discuss ways to further prevent hazing on their campus and on others.

6. Greeks love to give back and get smart.

Philanthropy and scholarship are huge parts of Greek life. As undergraduates, Greeks raise around $7 million per year for various philanthropies, and the Greek system is the largest network of volunteers in the U.S., with members cumulatively donating over 10 million hours of service each year. All Greek organizations have a minimum GPA requirement for active members, and the average all-Greek GPA is typically higher than the average non-Greek GPA.

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Photo courtesy of Won By One To Jamaica, University of Missouri

7. It opens up more opportunities to get involved on campus.

If your son or daughter goes Greek, they will be surrounded by other students who might be members of other campus organizations. Going with a sorority sister or fraternity brother to a club meeting or an event is a great way not only to meet more students, but also to find more organizations and clubs to join. Who knows, you may be eating dinner with a future fraternity or sorority member and Accounting Club president!

8. It helps develop important skills for the future.

Being in a Greek organization is a fantastic way to develop useful conversational, networking and leadership skills. Going through rush or recruitment alone is a great launching pad for learning how to talk about yourself and your accomplishments in a quick and comprehensive way (not to mention practicing the perfect handshake!).

9. You get out what you put into it.

If your child does decide to go Greek, what they do next is entirely up to them. If they want to get really involved and maybe hold a leadership position, fantastic! If they don’t want to get super involved, that’s fine, too. The experience is defined by the effort.

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Photo courtesy of Chi Omega Women’s Fraternity

Pictured top right: Butler University Kappa Alpha Theta