BACK-TO-COLLEGE 2013: Going Greek Doesn’t Have To Be All About The Partying

BACK-TO-COLLEGE 2013: Going Greek Doesn’t Have To Be All About The Partying

Thinking about joining a fraternity this semester (or next)? Perhaps you have your reasons for wanting to go greek. Maybe you simply have an idea as to what you think the greek life is all about. Either way, we’re here to help clarify what your options are and how you can better choose your path to success via the greek life.

There are, in fact, many reasons why people initially want to join college fraternities: networking, giving back to their communities, a sense of belonging, and, most prevalently, scholarships. Adults returning to school may think that their opportunity for joining one of these organizations has passed them by. After all, the binge partying days are usually behind us as we have developed or been forced into becoming mature, responsible people (wink, wink). So, if you’re looking for another option, here’s five types of fraternities that won’t make you feel like you’re someone’s mom or dad coming to crash the party:

Honors Fraternities/Sororities

Most fraternities/sororities place a strong emphasis on academics, but there are some that base their membership solely on high academic achievement. Some honors houses are by invitation only. If your school sponsors one and you have a high GPA, odds are you will automatically get an invitation in the mail. If you don’t and you believe you qualify, you can contact your Student Life Office to get in touch with the head of the organization. From there, you may be able to request an invitation. Other honors societies are open to applications, but will still require the high GPA. Their scholarships present an opportunity for funding for those transferring to four-year schools, along with all the other benefits of being in a fraternity/sorority such as community service, seminars, and networking opportunities for life.

Professional Houses

Like honors societies, professional fraternities/sororities may require a minimum GPA, though the standard is not necessarily as high. The purpose of these organizations is to promote and help those interested in a particular field of study. Therefore you will have to have made a definitive conclusion on what you want your major to be before considering this option. Many professional houses require a pledge process, but since their main objective is the integrity of their profession your odds of reliving a scene from Animal House are slim. And once you decide which organization you want to join, you may have to forge a friendship with someone within the existing membership to get an invitation, or just pledge during rush. A unique aspect of these organizations is that the equivalent of your “big brother/sister” is likely to be a mentor. While you may have opportunities to participate in leadership roles or service to the community, the conferences you go to will have topics more specific to your field of interest than “leadership” or “community service.”

Fraternities/Sororities with Community Membership Options

Some houses offer membership to community members. These organizations are less likely to be about the social life and more likely to be about community service and leadership. Enrollment in such houses is usually open to application instead of invitation.

Service-Oriented Houses

Purely service-oriented houses usually have a majority of their membership who have already met maturity. Those who join this organization are looking mainly to give back and have a communal brother/sisterhood with their fellow members. Not as many of these offer scholarships, and are not likely to get professional benefits from joining, but you will get the satisfaction of contributing to your community on local and national levels along with getting to know a bunch of new friends. These groups are usually not associated with colleges and are not academic in any way.

Join a School Sponsored Club

You can opt to forgo the letters all together. The same people at your Student Life Office that can help you find a fraternity/sororitiy can help you find a school sponsored club that fits your interests or major. You will still have opportunities to serve in leadership positions, make new friends, and include an extracurricular organization on your resume. And all this without having to pay membership dues. The downsides to joining a school-sponsored club versus a fraternity include the fact that you will not have the national network to rely on, community service may not be on the club’s agenda, and scholarships are not usually offered as a benefit of membership.

Other Things to Consider When Joining a Fraternity/Sorority

Make sure the organization is legitimate before paying any dues. If you have never heard of the organization and it is not sponsored by your school, do additional research and try to talk to members who are not in leadership positions about their experience with the group. Consider the time required (many collegiate organizations do not require any time commitment from their membership, but will reward it,) versus the time you can realistically allocate to your new group.

You will also need to decide what your priorities are and what you are willing to forgo. Community service may have to give for professional interest. No membership dues usually mean a smaller network. A more mature fraternity can equal less opportunities for scholarship, and an honors society may mean more time at the books.

Don’t let the opportunities these organizations offer pass you by because you feel that you are too old or because common stereotypes lead you to believe all their events are house parties. They have a lot to offer, and you and your unique set of experiences have a lot to offer them.

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