Rush to the Finish Part 1: Should You Rush into Greek Life?

As the school year comes to a close, quite a few of us will find ourselves going through some sort of transition.  Many of us have just graduated from high school and are looking toward college as a brand new environment we feel ready to experience.  Or we’ve just graduated but are unsure about our future at a university, or any type of post-secondary institution.  For a large portion of us, however, we have already experienced a year or two of college, having immersed ourselves in our respective school spirits with regard to football games, Homecoming week, and extra curricular activities.  Included among these activities are Greek organizations.

More often than is acknowledged, the actual percentage of college students affiliated with a Greek fraternity or sorority is less than what it appears to be, based on its presence on campus.  At my university approximately 30% of our student body is affiliated, but at times it seems like there are more.  Sorority women walk around with their letter bags, while fraternity men will usually sport their letter shirts on certain days of the week.  It seems like an integral part of the school’s community.  Is it, though?

Rushing versus Pledging
For those of you who are preparing to enter your first year of college and are interested in joining a fraternity or sorority – and for those of you who preferred not to join your first year – you may have already been told that you should at least rush.  Now, there is a difference between rushing and pledging—quite a large difference at times.  Rushing is when you familiarize yourself with the house(s), speak to members of the chapter, attend various events, and possibly receive a bid at the end.  Pledging occurs after you accept the bid (if you choose to), and it involves becoming educated about the history of the Greek organization, as well as taking part in chapter, or group, activities, leading up to your initiation.

Is Greek Life for Me?
I chose not to rush as a freshman; I was quite firmly against it.  Outwardly I said I’d keep an open mind, but internally I knew I didn’t want to go through rush.  My roommate, though, did go through it.  She ended up joining a sorority and loved it.  This is partly what made me decide to go through formal recruitment the following year, as a sophomore.  My school didn’t allow freshmen to rush their first semester, but from spring semester on we could go through either spring formal recruitment (going to some or all of the houses), or fall informal recruitment (going to one house, if the chapter took part in this type of recruitment).

Before you decide to rush or pledge, you should consider the pros and cons of doing so, as they apply to you, and to you only.

Familiarity:  Rushing is a great way to familiarize yourself with Greek life on your campus.  You can get a feel for what each chapter is about and decide where to go from there.

Community:  When you join a fraternity or sorority you are, quite literally, joining a brotherhood or sisterhood, respectively.  You have a support system surrounding you and are connected to people who are quite compatible with you personality-wise.

Networking:  Being affiliated with a national Greek organization is a great way to network.  My sorority has an expansive networking database online, where members of various chapters can help active sisters and alumni land jobs and other great opportunities.  Even within your chapter while you’re still at school is a great way to network.  Brothers/sisters can refer you to good professors you should take class from, or to internship opportunities with which they have connections.

Drama:  With every close-knit group of people comes at least some drama.  You’re not going to avoid it, no matter where you are or what groups you’re in.  Even if it’s latent, it’s still there.  My sorority is the smallest chapter on campus, and while we’re relatively drama-free, it still can creep up on us.  If you can’t tolerate being around a significantly large group of guys or girls in one organization for extended periods of time, this is something to consider before rushing or pledging.

Recruitment:  Most chapters require each one of its members to be present at every recruitment event.  This is not necessarily a con, but it is a large time commitment and sometimes occurs after the start of classes, not before, depending on the university.   There are also fines you must pay if you are unable to make an event, sometimes even if it’s excused (the fine would usually just be less, in that case).

Finances:  All chapter members must pay dues.  My sorority has a payment plan option for those who may not be able to pay them all up front, but not all do.  Normally your first semester as a member is significantly more expensive than the subsequent semesters (typically because of your pin that you receive upon initiation).  Sometimes the national organization will offer scholarships, and there are other opportunities to fund your membership.  Still, the finances are something to consider as well.

That being said, based on experience I would say there is no hurt in rushing.  While you should consider the time it takes out of your schedule to attend rush events, and the fee to rush (yes, you normally must pay to register), I think it is a worthwhile way to at least give Greek life a chance.  I have quite a few unaffiliated friends who never regretted declining to rush, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that either.  It depends on how being affiliated will fit into your schedule, into your life, and simply put, if it feels right.  Coming from someone who wouldn’t give it a chance her first year at school, and now realizes that it has become an integral part of her life, it’s beneficial to wet your feet in the shallow end before you decide to take the dive.

Check out “Rush to the Finish Part 2:  The Process of Going Through Recruitment” for more information on the formal (and informal) rush process, problems that may arise, and how to address what may meet you around the next corner.

– Jamie Schlansky