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Your student tells you they are interested in joining a social Greek letter organization… what do you do?

Perhaps you’re not familiar with Greek Life on a college campus and what it involves. You might wonder if you should encourage or discourage them from learning more about Greek Life. I was Greek Advisor at a university for 10 years and served as my fraternity’s president in undergrad. This article reflects my perspective as both a former member and Greek Advisor.

It can be helpful to dig a little into the history of Greek Life to learn about its beginnings and how it’s evolved since its inception in 1776 at the College of William and Mary. A resource for this is Learning the terminology associated with Greek Life can also be helpful, and the following website includes standard definitions:

The benefits of joining a social Greek letter organization (typically called a fraternity or sorority) include academic accountability, leadership opportunities, community service involvement, a sense of belonging through brotherhood/sisterhood, and networking opportunities.

  1.  Academic accountability is one of the most significant benefits of joining Greek Life. Many Greek organizations require minimum grade point averages to maintain active status in the organization. National Greek organizations often give awards for their campus “chapters” (the fraternity or sorority at a specific university/college), so there is an incentive for the members to strive for academic excellence.
  2. Leadership opportunities are abundant in Greek Life. Each chapter elects officers to help lead the organization, and many chapters require their members to be part of a committee or subcommittee at least to encourage involvement among everyone. From managing the chapter’s finances to hosting large-scale events, there are plenty of opportunities for involvement and leadership development.
  3. Community service is championed and frequently required within fraternities and sororities. Often, the national organization has a specific non-profit they encourage their local chapters to partner with through regular service involvement. Community service is an integral part of Greek Life, whether it be a fundraising event (again, another leadership development opportunity) or other service opportunities like tutoring in a local school.
  4.  A sense of belonging is helpful to persisting in college. The idea of “brotherhood” and “sisterhood” involves investing in the other members of the chapter. Fun social events can build a sense of belonging as well as playing intramurals together or serving together. Students often find an immediate place of belonging within their fraternity or sorority and build on those relationships throughout their college career and beyond.
  5. Networking opportunities are also a benefit of being a member of Greek Life. Alums of a chapter often stay connected to the local chapter. As a result, current members can connect with alumni in their potential career fields.

Find out about the Greek culture at your student’s college/university. Encourage your student to ask questions about the new member process, the chapter’s stance on hazing, the amount of time they expect new members and active members to invest in the chapter, and what the chapter is known for on campus.

Your student can also ask people on campus who are not members of Greek Life what they think about the different organizations. They can find out more about Greek Life at their campus through formal recruitment that typically occurs at the beginning of the fall or spring semester. The recruitment process allows them to visit several chapters and find out which one (if any) is the right fit for them.


Dr. Jason Castles is the Program Director and Associate Professor in the Higher Education Leadership doctoral program at Maryville University.