Voices: On Greek Life
We’ve just returned from our first trip back to the States in a year (and our final trip of the summer—more on this to come). Part of the trip was celebrating my Big’s wedding in San Francisco, where I reconnected with so many of my Greek life friends who I hadn’t seen for quite some time. It didn’t register until recently that all of my best girlfriends who write for this monthly series were involved in Greek life throughout university—B and L in the same sorority and G and K in a coed fraternity (K and I were in the same class).
So for August’s Voices, I was inspired to prompt them on all things Greek. I hope that this is insightful, particularly for those of you heading back to school and possibly contemplating becoming involved.
why did you decide to be involved in greek life?
G: I joined Greek life to become part of the college community. I thought that Greek life was the definition of the college experience and seemed like it would be a great way to meet people and have a memorable experience.
L: I decided to get involved in Greek life because it would give me an opportunity to network, meet new people, and get out of my comfort zone.
B: I didn’t even think I was interested in Greek life when I first started college. It wasn’t until I met some intelligent, fun, and warmhearted women that I realized I wanted to be part of a lifelong sisterhood. I realized that it wasn’t so much about the partying that you see in movies and on TV shows, but actually about succeeding in life and becoming the best version of yourself while helping your sisters grow and become stronger women as well. It’s a support system of people who reinforce the good qualities you have and teach you about other things you are less familiar with.
K: One of my good friends was telling me about a professional coed fraternity he wanted to check out. I ended up going with him and realizing that I loved the concept of Greek life, a bunch of otherwise unacquainted kids, coming together with different life goals, trying to accomplish them as a force! This led to the realization that as a college kid living at home, I needed a way to meet like-minded (or not) individuals, make friends, and have a network. Living in a dorm gave everyone else that opportunity, and this was my personal way of breaking in. That's really why I did it.
describe (your unique experience with) the process of becoming involved.
G: I was sitting in my dorm room when someone walked by handing everyone fliers. I took a flier for a professional business fraternity. It seemed like it would be fun to check out their first event since it was close to my dorm and I could get a feel for what Greek life was really about. I was a total introvert back then and the people I met at the event made me feel very comfortable and excited to join. I was selected to join and went through eight weeks of an assessment process known as pledging. It was an overall crazy 8 weeks. We were given an overload of projects and tasks that pushed us physically, mentally, and emotionally. I learned to manage my time, become open to criticism, and punch the introvert right out of me. The experience really shaped who I am today and was a cornerstone of my life journey of learning to believe in myself.
L: I pledged two very different Greek organizations during my undergraduate years. The first had a very intense pledging process where hazing played a large part. I ultimately withdrew because I could not see myself as a good fit in that group. One year later, I pledged another Greek organization where the new member process consisted of very little hazing.
B: One of the most nervewracking parts of Greek life was rushing. You meet so many different and unique women and try to find where you fit in best, which group will make you feel the most comfortable and strengthen your best qualities. It’s terrifying because you aren’t sure what they think of you or if you’ll get to be part of their organization. It’s a lot like dating, except instead of getting to know and see how you vibe with one person, you're joining a whole family. Pledging is what most people see as the dramatic, traumatic experience in films and on social media. But honestly, I loved my pledging process. It was definitely hard because you were expected to learn about the organization and build relationships with all of the members and other pledges in the sorority. It was also a lot of fun. I formed so many new friendships and learned the history behind what made my sorority what it is today.
K: I had no idea what getting involved was going to be like. I attended the first week of rush events thinking it was a breeze. The second week was invite only—psh, I got this! I didn’t know that there were going to be two months of actually trying to get in after that. And in those two months, man, I learned so much. I learned about people, how they work, their psychology and the positives and negatives, you name it. Those two months of balancing school, home (parents and my older brother), and the personalities in and responsibilities of pledging almost killed me. And, mind you, I didn’t stay on campus. All I can say is, do your research on Greek life, initiation processes, what it takes to be involved, and make sure that the time and effort you put in will be well worth it.
how involved were you once you became a member?
G: I was super involved. You could argue that I was the most involved member in the organization. I loved the sense of community and purpose the organization gave me and I was very gung ho about it. I was very proud to wear my sweatshirt with Greek letters.
L: I was very involved once I became a member. I moved into the chapter house and became a member of the executive board the semester following my new member process. I would say Greek life consumed about 75% of my social time, while the other 25% was spent with friends from work and classes and visiting my mom.
B: I was quite involved throughout my time as a member, serving on the executive board and then as a Panhellenic team member (across all sororities). I really enjoyed working to better the sorority and keep our mission and purpose going. I also enjoyed working to help our members improve in school and get more involved across campus. The events that we were able to organize and participate in, mostly for charity and community awareness, were the most fun for me. We were able to make a difference while spending quality time with our sisters, other Greek members, and community.
K: Very! I wanted to come in and change opinions, do things differently. I had my eye on leadership positions and committee chairs. I had the coolest executive board title, Master of Rituals, and I also competed with one of my best friends for President (she, rightfully, got it). I participated in every weekly meeting and event. It was exciting for me, especially since I had sacrificed a lot of sleep and peace of mind to get there, haha. However, I was the most excited to get to know other people and learn from them.
what (if anything) surprised you about greek life?
G: The more I got involved with Greek life by taking on board positions, the more I learned about what it takes to make an organization work. It was an incredible experience learning how to motivate others, manage difficult times, and lead by example.
L: It was eye-opening to me just how much Greek organizations can vary from one to another. From the outside looking in, it seemed like there were two types of fraternities and sororities: the "cool" ones that thought they owned the entire campus and the more "laid back" ones that accepted anyone who would pay monetary dues. Once I became a member, I realized that there are vast differences. I also realized that Greek life takes work even after the pledging process, and that you aren't granted whatever you want once you cross or become a member. Your experience is what you make it, as it is in life.
B: I guess I wouldn’t really say I was surprised since I’d heard people say this so much, but I personally didn’t expect to experience how much Greek life can change you. I had always been a very timid person, maybe a little insecure, which made it difficult to show my personality and confidence. Being surrounded by strong and supportive women throughout my time at college really made me feel more comfortable being me. It helped me get out of my shell and express myself in front of other people more.
K: I think how the concept is sold and what the actual product is are two different things. Greek life is sold as the cool thing to do. You’ll automatically be part of the cool crowd, you’ll have to break your back to get there, you’ll have relationships that last for your lifetime, etc. While some of these things may be true, that isn’t how it actually is. Eventually, you discover people are people, you can’t hold onto friendships forever, and you won’t be more attractive because you have a bunch of Greek letters on your shirt. BUT! What you do pick up are life skills—how to manage time, accomplish objectives, carry out events, navigate different personalities, and work with people you may not like. And if you can do all of that while having fun, it’s the icing on the cake.
can you address any of the stereotypes/rumors/assumptions about greek organizations?
G: Greek life is associated with partying, binge-drinking, and rape culture because some organizations take their traditions and hazing to dangerous and irresponsible levels. I was lucky to have been part of an organization that focused on personal growth through meaningful projects. I do have female friends who were part of Greek organizations that would force them to lose weight, offer their company to male Greek organizations, and drink heavily. Before joining a Greek organization, definitely do your research. It's fun to have a crazy college experience, but it's important to know what crosses the line and how to stay responsible.
L: Although you pay monetary dues in order to stay an active member, you aren't just paying for friends. You will get what you make of it if you are willing to put in the work while pledging and serving your duties as an active member.
B: One thing I have to address is that sorority women are extremely bright. Academics and hard work were things we valued in our sorority. We had study groups, library dates, and tutoring, and tracked our overall GPAs and academic success. As a whole, we wanted to make sure everyone was successful in school so they could be successful in the working world as well.
K: Hazing is the first thing that comes to mind with partying being a close second. I think Greek organizations have a bad reputation of being crazy, wild, and full of drugs, alcohol, and sex. Much of this comes from how things are portrayed in the media, but much of it is also very real. There were quite a few instances that were reported on the news, which saw organizations get banned from universities. I've also heard many stories of certain organizations having incoming members perform ridiculous tasks. However, I do think there are organizations that are helpful, educational, and well balanced. There are a lot of benefits to being part of a balanced Greek organization—if you find the right one, it can enhance your college years in so many ways.
did being involved in greek life impact your academics?
G: During the eight-week pledge process, my grades tanked. I struggled to juggle my Greek workload with my school workload. I had to retake a few classes over the summer break to make up for it.
L: Yes, but not sure if in a positive or negative way. Some Greek organizations help you form study groups and leverage different resources to get your grades up. Mine did not. However, being involved in Greek life did indirectly help me with my studies. Having a Greek social life as well as a part-time job while juggling my studying forced me to learn how to manage my time and prioritize my studies over my social activities. It taught me how to study smart and ultimately improved my grades.
B: I think when I was first pledging, it took a little toll on me because it forced me to learn how to manage my time better. I wasn’t very good at time management when I first started college, and being in a very time-intensive organization will force you to improve this skill. Once I was a member, however, my academics always came first and I had a huge support system of intelligent women to help me through it.
K: It certainly, certainly did. Lack of sleep, having other priorities (projects with people I didn’t know), and never being home took a toll on my GPA. I was a straight-A student throughout most of school, and boy did that change. I managed to get by that semester...some people don’t. Please prioritize your academics! I know the glitter and glow of Greek life are enticing, but keep it in perspective. Your life is much more than an organization!
how did it impact your social university experience?
G: My social university experience was amazing. We had a large organization that was very close and I would be constantly running into other members everywhere. I always had someone to study with, party with, do nothing with, go on adventures with, drive to the beach in the middle of the night to see the sunrise cause why not with.
L: Being in a Greek organization shaped a large portion of my overall social experience. However, I made a conscious effort to not let it become my entire social life. I'm a believer in diversifying your portfolio just in case something happens, so I also spent a bit of time with friends I made through classes and my work study program.
B: As a member of Greek life, I participated a lot more on campus and in the community. We were always updated about community service and inter-organizational social events. It was a great way to meet a lot of people and get to be involved and show your face or represent your organization for good causes.
K: It gave me everything I was looking for in terms of friends and a network, especially for somebody who was commuting to and from university every day. I’m very appreciative for the people I met as some of them are my best friends to this day.
what (if any) opportunities did your involvement in greek life provide?
G: It made me a more polished and goal-oriented person. It taught me to aim for higher achievements and surround myself with motivated people. Overall, it helped to shape a hardworking mindset that led me to a successful career path.
L: Being part of a Greek organization provided me with a small professional network during my undergraduate studies as well as post graduation. It gave me opportunities to volunteer and be a mentor to younger members. I learned the intricacies of throwing an event and the behind the scenes and logistics that go on leading up to an event.
B: Being part of Greek life gave me a chance to participate in many campus and community events I otherwise wouldn’t have. Just being part of a group or team made it easier to sign up for events. It was also a good networking opportunity for me and helped me find good work experiences while I was still in college. I knew that I wanted to work in the health field for example, and two sisters helped me find doctors' offices where I could get some experience.
K: I think a professional business fraternity gave me insight into the corporate world, hearing about application processes, internship experiences, etc. through my seniors. It was a way to learn how I should be going through those processes and what kinds of jobs I would be interested in. It definitely gave me a leg up on the competition in business school. I was poised, well put-together (I think, haha) with a decent looking resume, and ready to tackle all the interviews! These skills take time and guidance to develop and the fact that I had the time and guidance of so many others who had gone through it made it a great learning experience.
what did you enjoy most about greek life?
G: I loved the sense of community.
L: Getting dressed up for various events.
B: My favorite part of Greek life was always having a home away from home at school. I still miss our old sorority house sometimes. I remember on the most difficult days, when I was feeling homesick or down or like school was kicking my butt, I could walk into our sorority house and be surrounded by family—my sisters. It was the best support system I could’ve had while away at school for years, and some of my sisters remain part of my strong support system and family to this day.
K: The social aspect of course! Found my best friends, saw life through a different lens, learned a lot of soft and hard skills. It really shaped me as a person.
what did you enjoy least/find challenging?
G: Since we were all so close in the organization, everyone was in everyone’s business (like a giant family) and it would drive me nuts sometimes. As a board member, I got to see the good, bad, ugly, and omfg wth is going on ugly. Dealing with the ugly was never fun and very draining over time.
L: I hated having to pay dues because I was a broke ass college student.
B: One of the most challenging parts was definitely time management. We needed to maintain good status in order to be “active members.” This meant that we needed to contribute enough community service, academic, and organizational hours to the sorority every semester. Of course these were all important and good causes, but they really force you to prioritize and be as efficient as possible with your time. It was especially difficult because I was involved in other organizations at the university as well.
K: Haha, hm. Life is high school and people are high schoolers at any stage. It can get a little difficult navigating friends, relationships, and romantic interests. I honestly couldn’t make conversation with some people while I could spend hours of doing nothing with others. It was challenging to work through things with people I didn’t get along with or, simply put, didn’t care about. Those were the parts that were prickly for me.
if you could go back and do it again, would you? what would you change (if anything)?
G: I would definitely do it again because I met so many of my closest friends that way. I think this time around, I would be slightly less involved. I was at a constant 110% energy in the organization. I would bring it down to 70%.
L: To be frank, if I could do it all over again, I would have done more research on the different organizations. I don't really think the benefits paid off for either of the groups I joined (one social and one academic). Although I had a great time and it helped shape my overall undergraduate experience, it didn't provide me with adequate resources to set me up for success in the working world. I don't attribute my success in my career to my involvement in either of the Greek organizations I belonged to.
B: I would absolutely do it all over again. If I could change one thing, though, I would’ve dedicated a little more time to my sorority during my last year. It is a common pattern and makes sense that once you’re looking for jobs and trying to graduate, you lose a little bit of the passion you started with. I still loved my sorority and attended the required events, but I didn’t spend the extra time getting to know our newest members and really enjoying it while I was still living at school. Now that I’m in the working world and living on my own, I realize just how much I miss being there and being an active member of my sorority.
K: Absolutely and without changing anything. I believe things happen for a reason. You live and you learn. Everything must’ve taught you something so why change it? I do wish I dormed, though...
to what extent are you still involved with your organization?
G: Now that I've graduated, I still have close friends from the organization. I keep in touch with my family tree and my littles.
L: None at all.
B: Now that I’m an alumni member, I’m not as involved. I still keep in touch with many of my sisters and try to go to our reunion events when I can, but since I live further away, I don’t get to visit as often. The best way that I stay involved is through our online groups where we share information for more professional and career-oriented purposes.
K: I only keep up with my close friends at this point in life.
what effect (if any) has your involvement in your greek organization
had on your life post-university/professionally?
G: Greek life helped me to become a more mature and hardworking person. That's helped to push me into many opportunities that I never would have thought to pursue before.
L: It didn't and hasn't really helped or hindered my post-university life. Although many Greek organizations offer a network of professionals who can help you get a leg up in entering the workforce, I don't attribute any of my work successes to my involvement in Greek life. Maybe one day down the road I might.
B: Greek life has made me a much more confident and outgoing person. I’m not afraid to advocate for myself because my sisters taught me and made me realize how perfectly okay it is to be you and let people know who that is. It’s helped me not only in my personal life, but also in my professional life. I’ve been told that I’m much more personable in interviews and when networking because I can show my personality and stand out among a crowd. I’m also not afraid to go for tougher or more intimidating roles and positions because I’m not afraid to fail. I know I can pick myself back up and keep trying.
K: As I previously mentioned, it definitely gave me professional skills in terms of stepping into Corporate America (resume writing, dressing for success, interviewing, etc.). However, it taught me more about the human psyche. Meeting and interacting with so many personalities gave me exposure to “real life." You'll come across coworkers, work friends, out of work friends, managers, etc. and automatically know how to approach, work with, and maintain a relationship with each of them.
would you recommend being involved in greek life to others?
L: Yes, but it's not for everybody. If you're looking to get involved and meet new people, then I'd recommend going Greek.
B: I would definitely recommend Greek life to anyone who wants to work to better themselves and build a family of peers. Like I said though, it is work and you have to want it. It isn’t the unconditional family you have at home where you can be a bum and still feel loved. You have to work to get to know people, they will challenge you and force you to better yourself. But it is incredibly worth it. It will make you the best version of yourself and will give you something you’ll value for the rest of your life.
K: Of course! I think all of my responses indicate that while it was gruesome to break in, I picked up a lot of life skills on the way.
what tips or advice do you have for someone who might be interested in greek life?
G: Do your research. Make sure you like the organization’s culture. And at the end of the day, your academics are your number one priority. No amount of friendship and partying is going to get you a diploma or employed after college. You have to keep your grades up.
L: The experience is what you make it. It's not for everyone. If you're already a social butterfly and like to make friends and network on your own, then Greek life might not suit you. But if you're looking for another outlet or something to give you a nudge, then going Greek may be good for you. I would also recommend doing your research and seeing what kind of group may interest you. If a particular philanthropy resonates with you, this may be a priority when looking into which organization to join. If you're looking for one that will give you lifelong friendships, then that is also something to consider. If you're looking for one that will develop you professionally and prepare you for the "real world" outside of college, then you might look into a professional organization instead.
B: My biggest tip is to find the right fit. It took me more than one try before I found the right place for me. At first, I was devastated after I realized the first sorority I rushed wasn’t the right group for me. I thought that meant I was done, that there was nothing for me in Greek life. I was so wrong. Every sorority is different, has a different personality, different focus, different people. You have to search until you find where you belong and where you’ll be happy.
K: Go to involvement fairs, try out different organizations during rush week, talk to as many involved members as you can, and then make an informed decision. Knowledge would be your best weapon—be sure to Google/Facebook/Instagram as much as you can as well. In today's age of technology, it's a lot easier to find information that you wouldn't otherwise obtain through word of mouth. See how organizations carry themselves, what events/causes they're involved in, what their social media presence is like, and make sure you'd like to associate with that. Work hard, have fun!
Read more of our Voices series below!