Every story has two sides.
For some, joining a sorority has been a lifelong dream. Maybe you’re a legacy. Maybe your BFF rushes, so you do too.
Greek life isn’t for everyone, though. Even members of sororities recognize that it’s not all fun and games, and the downsides to being Greek sometimes prevail. So before you rush, consider these disadvantages.
Going Greek will cost you
On top of tuition and fees, room and board, books and other costs associated with college (collegiettes know the list all too well), joining a sorority takes a monetary commitment. Some of the cost associated with sororities is fairly straightforward – if you live in a house you have to pay rent, some Greek organizations collect dues to pay for functions, etc. But that’s not all that is expected of your bank account.
One sorority sister, Jackie*, class of 2010, said these “hidden fees” were the biggest problem after joining. “During rush this year our rush chair was a NIGHTMARE,” Jackie said. “She submitted our invite lists back late numerous times which resulted in penalty fees for my house. Guess who had to pay for them? Us. We were all fined $20 or so because she couldn't get her act together.” Jackie also had to dip into her purse when she and her sisters were forced to donate to charity or pay for unsold tickets to philanthropy events. Also, she said, big-little week cost her hundreds of dollars on “stupid junk” for her little.
Is this fair? If I had a genuine desire to rush, would I be forced to leave if I didn’t have the funds? Nicole Lumbreras, University of Iowa '12, said she chose not to rush because of the expense. “I'm outgoing and very involved, but I don't need to pay thousands of dollars to make friends, get volunteering options and live in a house full of girls (which is a whole new reason not to join for me on its own).” However, sororities will sometimes take financial aid into account, and some offer scholarship programs, so if you’re concerned about paying for membership, don’t let it deter you—contact your school’s Panhellenic organization before you make any decisions.
…Sometimes more than just $$$
Being in a sorority is a big time commitment. There are Greek-sponsored functions you have to attend, pledging activities, and Greek Week events, all on top of parties and informal get-togethers because of the social nature of sororities and fraternities. Unless your life consists of only classes (sans homework) and Greek life, then as a sister you’re going to be busy (and that paper due may take a back seat to the hot frat party that everyone is going to). In other words, being Greek can get in the way of other responsibilities, especially academics.
What about hazing? Even though it has been banned across the country, hazing still occurs on campuses all over the U.S. During my freshman year at CSU I had a close friend who went through hazing for her sorority. Through an anonymous tip to the Greek Life office, the sorority has since been banned from campus, but I saw almost firsthand the effect hazing can have. Not only is hazing detrimental to the girls being harmed, it affects the reputation of the entire Greek system and the university.
Socializing outside the Greek system can be tricky
When it comes to meeting new people, being in a sorority sounds like a great way to meet new friends and socialize with attractive frat boys.
Unfortunately guys in fraternities have bad reputations associated with them just like girls in sororities do, such as frat guys being jerks (hot jerks, but nevertheless…not BF material). Whether that is true or not depends on the individual, but it is a fairly common discovery by girls’ newly-broken hearts.
Also, it can get much harder to dedicate quality time to friendships outside of your sorority.
Sorority girls are stereotyped…
We all know the stereotype, whether you’re in a sorority or not: Greek girls are seen as bitchy, narcissistic and shallow. There are the not-so-bad stereotypes too: fun, gorgeous, and über-feminine. For the most part, I doubt you want these labels stuck to your forehead automatically (regardless of accuracy) when you wear your letters.
“Never was my sorority the number one thing that defined me,” said Jackie. “I don't appreciate people making blanket assumptions of me based on my sorority.”
Annie*, a Colorado State junior, said one reason for not rushing was the negative stereotypes some houses perpetuate. “I personally wouldn't want to people think I fit the stereotype. It just gives people a reason to judge you without really knowing you.”
…Some of the stereotypes are true
Sorority girls are commonly seen as overly-dramatic and extremely gossip-prone. While I admit this description can fit a number of girls in and out of sororities, drama and gossip frequently run unchecked in sorority houses. If you think “high school drama” ends when you reposition your tassel on graduation day – you’d be wrong. If you hate drama (like I do, with a serious passion) you may want to consider how much you’ll have to deal with in a sorority.
While some girls hate being stereotyped, others maintain it and allow the “misconceptions” to continue. Emily*, a sophomore at Syracuse, pledged and then chose to deactivate because she realized Greek life was just not for her. “Too many girls defined themselves through their sororities, and I couldn't handle all the judgment and stereotypes among the houses. There was so need for it, and I felt like it was more about partying with the ‘good frats’ and having a high ‘ranking’ on the campus Greek hierarchy than about sisterhood and friendship.”
Problems in the Greek system
Sarah Nadler, HC’s former Campus Correspondent at The College of William and Mary, wrote an opinion editorial on her school’s newspaper about rush. Sarah rushed her freshman year because it was the “normal” thing to do. However, she disliked the way she was “dirty rushed” –older sisters told blatant lies and gossip about the other sororities in order to gain prospects. None of it, she said, was actually true.
During the rush process, Sarah lost a good friend because she chose to rush a different sorority. Regardless, she stayed with her sorority for three years and had a lot of fun in the process. That was until she published her editorial, however. This is her story:
“I ended up quitting because I did not agree with the rush process. I thought it was sexist, antiquated, and a big waste of time. The real reason why I quit though, was my chapter's reaction to my editorial on rush. People thought it was ‘conduct unbecoming’ for a sorority girl to speak about the process in such a way. My chapter president uninvited me from rush because of the opinion article and refused to hear me out. Overall the process was so antidemocratic, so backwards, I couldn't imagine being part of an organization that would literally attempt to censor me.”
When sorority sister Alice* got drunk at a party and had a brief make-out session with another girl from her pledge class, she and the other girl were yelled at. “They told us it was our fault if the chapter got a slutty name, and we were given 10 hours each of community service…the fact that they would issue sanctions like that really made me angry. What if we were lesbians? The fact that they called us in is an example of how unaccepting sororities really are. They don't want you to be different; they don't want you to truly voice your opinion. Instead, they want you to be pretty and proper in order to give the chapter a good name on campus.”
Ultimately, deciding to rush should be a personal decision. Regardless of what your friends do or what your family may expect of you, only join if it truly makes you happy. I decided my freshman year that being in a sorority was not the college experience that I wanted – but, being informed of the pros and the cons (you can’t blindly trust the girls recruiting to give you the dirt on the negatives) is the first step to making a smart decision that fits you.
* Name has been changed because source wished to remain anonymous. Some sources also wished to keep their house (if applicable) and school anonymous.
Nicole Lumbreras, University of Iowa Campus Correspondent
Sarah Nadler, President and Campus Correspondent, Her Campus W&M The College of William and Mary '11