Choosing a college is probably the first major decision you will make in your life, so naturally, you’ll ask yourself a lot of questions during the process. How far away do you want to be from home? (Answer: close enough that your parents can visit, but not so close that they can drop by unannounced.) Do you want to go to a school where you’ll know a lot of people? (Answer: No. It’s okay to have a few buddies, but try not to make college thirteenth grade.) Are you interested in an urban, suburban, or rural setting? (Answer: As long as you can find a way to get alcohol, it doesn’t matter, because college is its own little world.) Will you be more comfortable at a large school or a small school? (Answer: I’m tired of figuring out your life for you. Answer this yourself.) With all things to consider, I hate to make your life more stressful, but I’m going to do it anyway. What about Greek life?
Charlotte Alter wrote in TIME that “deciding whether to join a fraternity or sorority should be a major part of the college selection process.” It absolutely is. But how do you know whether or not you want to go Greek before you’ve even set foot on a college campus?
Consider The Social Scene
There are tons of reports online that will let you know how much of the campus is Greek, but believe it or not, mere percentage doesn’t necessarily dictate the influence of Greeks on the social scene. Twenty-five percent doesn’t seem like a huge Greek scene, but on a college campus, this can feel huge. Consider that there is a percentage of commuter students, and a percentage of students whose social lives are…well, different, than yours (re: they don’t go out), and the percentage of Greeks seems to grow. Nothing can substitute a firsthand account of Greek influence at a given school. Ask your campus tour guide or your older brother’s girlfriend’s sister about the social scene at a school and how it relates to Greek life. Answers will vary from “I don’t know how anyone has friends if they aren’t Greek,” to “You don’t have to go Greek to have fun, but it definitely enhances your experience,” to “Our campus Greek life is a joke.” If the frat life isn’t for you, then it’s best to avoid going to a school where the social strata is Greek heavy. If you think it is something you’re interested in, you’ve got some more work to do, so read on.
Go Shopping For Answers
So you definitely want to find out how much of the social scene is Greek by asking someone who goes to the school. The same goes for what the system is actually like. Is it out of control parties 24/7? Do they actually really care about philanthropy? How hard is it to get a bid? Nothing is going to be as informative as asking someone who is living it, but getting the info here is a bit more tricky. Anyone who is in the system is obviously going to tell you that their university’s Greek Life is ah-mazing. And maybe it is, but they aren’t exactly unbiased. So if you can, ask some people who are both in and out of Greek life so you have a wide range of views on the systems at the schools you are considering. And try to get as many current opinions as possible – just because being Greek was awesome when your dad went there in the ’80s doesn’t mean that’s still true today.
The Search Bar Is Your Friend
You’re clearly reading this article on TSM. So you see that little magnifying glass up there on the right? Click it, type in the names of the schools on your list, and click search. Then meander on over to TFM and do the same thing. Then maybe try it on Google, adding the words “Greek Life”, “fraternity” or “sorority.” What shows up in the results can tell you a lot about a school’s Greek system, whether they raised over $100,000 for charity or they aren’t allowed to have hard alcohol at events. The best Greek systems will have a mix of “good” (philanthropy) and “bad” (out of control party) stories – balance is key. So look for it when you’re basing your school decision partly on Greek life.
Do The Math.
It’s a fact that being a member of a fraternity or sorority costs money. Exactly how much money differs depending on the campus and the chapter. So part of doing your homework is determining the costs of being Greek on the campuses you are considering and if you can afford it, on top of your other college expenses. Odds are, you aren’t going to get exact numbers (we keep those pretty close to the vest), but the school’s Greek Life office can probably give you a ballpark figure. Give them a ring, get some numbers, and, if it’s important enough to you, add it in to your budget along with tuition, housing, food, books and financial aid. For a lot of us, affordability is a key factor to deciding where to go to school, and paying for a Greek membership can definitely play a role..