When my daughter began her college search process, Greek life was at the top of her must-have list.
She had always wanted to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps and pledge Zeta, her national sorority. I had my concerns (most of them related to the social aspect of Greek life), but I supported her dream and her college choice based on this criteria.
Just a month into her freshman year, rush began. Many of her new friends were interested in pledging sororities and they all attended recruitment events. When the bids arrived, my daughter was invited to pledge two sororities and picked the one that she felt fit her personality best. When the months of pledging and “hell week” were over, my daughter became a member of Alpha Phi.
Before your son or daughter jumps head first into Greek life in college, consider these pros and cons from a parent’s perspective:
Her grades suffered.
The two months that my daughter was pledging had a devastating affect on her GPA. While the sorority claimed they required their members to study, those study sessions were late at night and unproductive. Freshman year sets the tone for your entire college career and she had to work hard to get her GPA back up after that first semester.
Whether they admit to it or not, hazing happens. All colleges post rules and regulations against it, but it happens. I had many arguments with my daughter about reporting the infractions, but she assured me the hazing wasn’t that bad. I never liked it and could not see the need for that type of initiation.
Greek life does mean parties and those Greek parties always have alcohol. Drinking is encouraged and it’s a rite of passage during pledging. They don’t care that your freshman is underage.
Greek life will add hundreds of dollars a semester to your college expenses. The obvious costs are dues. But, add to that T-shirts, out-of-town trips, and additional event fees that may not be included in the semester dues. If you have a daughter, she will need dresses for numerous semiformal and formal events throughout the year.
The peer pressure to participate in risky behavior was strong. If you didn’t drink, you were an outcast. If you didn’t “hook up” you were a prude. Add this to the desire to belong and be accepted, it can lead to devastating consequences.
My daughter made some great friends during college, many in her sorority. Her “big sister” became her best friend and that relationship is still strong today. Her big sister helped her through some difficult times in college (the deaths of friends and grandparents) and helped her navigate the ins and outs of college life.
Greek life does force you to become socially active. The events and activities enable you to become comfortable in social situations and help you learn how to meet and make new friends. You’re part of a family and this helps, especially if your family is miles away (as we were) and you need a “home” to go to.
Going Greek affords you tremendous networking connections during college and after graduation. Since you’re part of an alumni group, you have outside contacts that can help with your job search and give you an upper hand in the post-graduation job search.
My daughter served in numerous leadership capacities within her sorority and as part of the on-campus Greek council. She learned how to delegate, organize events, and manage finances, all while being a part of a Greek organization.
All Greek organizations adopt a charity. Their members work hard to support that charity and participate in fundraising events throughout the year. This teaches them to give back to others and it promotes a mindset that they take with them after graduation.
So here’s the big question: Am I glad my daughter went Greek? Yes. In the long run, it was a positive experience for her. During the short term, I was frustrated with some of the negative influences and attitudes I witnessed. It was right for her, but it’s not right for everyone.
If your teen has his or her heart set on Greek life, ask questions and be prepared to have some of the same mixed emotions I had.