The Cost of Greek Life on Campus: Weighing The Pros and Cons of Joining a Sorority or Fraternity
by Jasmine Powell
Each year, roughly 750,000 join a fraternity or sorority. What are the factors these students consider before taking the plunge and pledging to a Greek organization?
After all, sororities and fraternities tend to get a bad rap. From hazing incidents to going viral for all the wrong reasons, pledging a sorority or fraternity can come with its pitfalls. However, there’s also a lot of benefits to being part of a college Greek life, from social, professional and recreational.
As a member of a BGLO (Black Greek Letter Organization) myself, I experienced how Greek life can be a ton of fun and inspiring.
But before making a decision to invest your time and money in a Greek organization, you should weigh the pros and cons of Greek life and consider how your participation in a frat or sorority might impact your financial future.
First, let’s get a few things straight.
Not all sororities and fraternities focus on the social aspect of its members.
Greek organizations centered around activities such as band (Kappa Kappa Psi) or academic sororities and fraternities still make social connections. The focus of its members, however, is on achieving professional or educational goals.
Not just a boys club (or girls club)
While some have gender-exclusivity being exempt from Title IX, others like Alpha Theta, Lambda Lambda Lambda, and Alpha Phi Omega are co-ed. These fraternities openly accept members from all walks of life, regardless of biological sex or gender identity.
Now let’s get down to business, and what you really came here for: the pros and cons of Greek life.
Perks of joining a sorority or fraternity
Community on Campus
One of the most valuable things about being a part of Greek life is the connections you can make. Many pledges or rushes are recruited based on compatibility and like-mindedness. This creates an immediate bond and sense of community that can support and up-lift you while you’re away from home.
The famous NASA mathematician and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom Katherine Johnson references her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters throughout her memoir. Her AKA sisters served as a support system for her after the loss of her first husband, throughout her career, and in her retirement. These connections last a lifetime and extend beyond the bounds of campus.
Networking on Campus and with Future Employers
Did you know that 85 percent of Fortune 500 executives are fraternity members?
When you become a part of a fraternity or sorority, you have access to a plethora of brothers and/or sisters that may be established in your desired field after graduation.
Connecting with Greek alumni can expand professional opportunities.
During my undergraduate years, alumni members helped me when I needed references and gave feedback on my resume. They even helped me get my first clerical job on campus. Utilizing these Greek-based connections can benefit you immensely.
These connections can prove extremely useful as simply getting a degree to land your dream job may not be enough anymore. Graduates getting a job after college isn’t as high as it used to be. In fact, the unemployment rate for recent college grads exceeds that of the general population. Nearly 34% of recent college graduates are underemployed, and 43% of graduates are underemployed on their first job.
Stretching your social network and comfort zone
Not only that but being a part of an organization can help you learn to communicate with different personalities. It can take you out of your bubble, and open your eyes to new opportunities and experiences.
Another huge benefit to joining Greek life is the amount of opportunities to practice leading. From inside and outside of your organization, Greek life can push you out of your comfort zone and develop your leadership skills.
With my organization, I was given many responsibilities as a member. It wasn’t just solo cups and toga parties. I had to manage volunteer projects and meet deadlines. At one point, I found myself as President of my chapter and a Vice President of the NPHC (National Pan-Hellenic Council) on campus.
That time was a balancing act of educational obligations and Greek duties, which frankly, was a struggle. I became more aware of dates and deadlines. Having these leadership roles showed me how important it was to plan ahead. It also made me uncomfortable, which is important when growing and becoming a leader. Although it was a tumultuous journey, I could feel myself maturing and becoming more responsible.
If you decide to take the plunge and pledge, make the most of it. Take advantage of these opportunities.
Potentially the greatest barrier that keeps new graduates from getting a job is that they don’t have any experience. With the amount of volunteering and projects that Greek organizations do, it can build your resume. The number of projects and volunteering projects that I did during the semester made my resume stand out, especially to future employers.
Not only does it show that I am active within my community, but it showed that I was willing to dedicate my time to help. It showed that I was responsible and that I cared.
Until you have gained some experience from internships or positions, listing your Greek projects can help you attain the opportunities you want.
Downsides of joining a Sorority or Fraternity
Registration and New Member Fees
You spend a lot of money joining a sorority or fraternity.
There are application fees and rushing fees (depending on the type of org you’re joining). Registration fees can vary from $50 to $200.
Once you’re chosen by your desired organization, costs continue to go up. New member fees can average from $600 to $1,000, and this covers just the membership.
If you’re a first-generation student like me, these costs can seem staggering. Staggering, but not impossible. Plan ahead. Ask alumni for ranges and go from there.
Most of all, save and budget in a way that doesn’t leave you in a hole after joining. Remember, short-term decisions can have a lasting impact and ruin your relationship with money if you find yourself resorting to taking out extra student loans or using credit cards.
Dues and Housing Costs
After joining, you will be responsible for paying active member dues each semester. You’ll have to pay dues to your chapter along with national dues. Not only that, but you will also be responsible for paying your council dues as well. These fees can be upwards of $600 depending on your organization and your council.
If you have the option to move into a house with your specific organization, those costs only rise
To live in the chapter house, members usually pay between $1,000-$7,000 each semester.
Social events like formals, retreats, and step-shows can be costly. During the semester, there are many events that that you cover out of pocket. Decorations and supplies don’t pay for themselves. There can be a lot of pressure to step up to the occasion, and if you’re not financially prepared, it can make you feel inadequate.
Greek paraphernalia like letterman jacks and shirts can also be expensive. Shopping for events can have you spending as much as $500.
To ease some of the financial stress of these social events, utilize apps like Pinterest or Poshmark to find outfits that are sensible, stylish, and affordable.
Making the final decision to join a sorority or fraternity
Before joining, it’s important to make sure you’re capable of taking on the membership financially.
If you want to join an organization but are afraid of costs, don’t give up just yet. Aside from your parents, side-hustles and part-time jobs, and financial aid disbursement, there are alums who may be willing to support you and help with membership costs.
Whatever your decision may be Greek-wise, remember that wealth is more than just about the dollars and cents. Greek life could be the embodiment of community, culture, and experience that is worth your financial investment. Just make sure that you’re financially prepared for the monetary obligations that comes with joining a sorority or fraternity.
Jasmine Powell is currently a graduate student at the University of Memphis and an intern at Nav.it. Her goal is to make writing her living and create material that will help people of color in their daily lives.