Greek Life for Non-Greek Parents

If you haven’t personally experienced fraternity and sorority life, chances are everything you know about “being Greek” comes from a combination of Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, and SNL.

These tongue in cheek depictions are far from the reality that young men and women experience throughout the country. We’ve put together some of the common questions that families want to ask before their son or daughter signs up for fraternity life.


What is a Fraternity or Sorority?

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Fraternities and sororities are gender based student organizations. Typically only found at four year colleges, students can join at any time during their undergraduate years, but most join in their freshman or sophomore year.

As a whole, fraternities and sororities are governed by national umbrella organizations who set and maintain standards that the individual groups must live up to. These groups are run by professionals in student affairs who are dedicated to maintaining the integrity of the institutions they represent.

National Panhellenic Conference (NPC)

The NPC is a joint governing body that oversees twenty-six national and international sororities. All NPC participating organizations share a similar structure for recruitment and rules of membership.

North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC)

The NIC is a collaborative organization representing the national bodies of over 60 fraternities. Similar to the NPC, the NIC works to create standards of governance that are conveyed down to the collegiate chapters.

National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC)

The NPHC (or Pan-Hell) represents the nine traditionally African-American fraternities and sororities. All NPHC groups share similar rules for membership and recruitment policies.

National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations (NALFO)

The youngest of the four umbrella organizations, NALFO represents sixteen member organizations, all with a focus on Latino membership. All NALFO groups share similar policies for membership and recruitment.

All four of the national governing bodies share the same mission. To work together as a national voice on the issues of fraternity and sorority membership and provide guidance for how the groups work together.

Every local community of fraternities and sororities are held accountable to a similarly structured local board, who is in turn accountable to the national governing body. Together these groups uphold the principles of joining a Greek organization.

Why Should My Son or Daughter Go Greek?

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Membership in a fraternity or sorority is an opportunity to identify a community of friends with a shared purpose. Together, fraternities and sororities hold members to high standards, including requiring specific grade point averages to participate in activities. In addition, many groups provide scholarship opportunities that can help cover the cost of tuition during college and graduate school.

Fraternal organizations teach leadership skills and contribute back to their communities through philanthropy activities that have both a local and national impact. For example, did you know that members of Delta Delta Delta Sorority has donated over $50 million to St. Jude Children’s Hospital since 1999?

After college, Greek membership can open doors to networking opportunities and future job offers.

Does Hazing still Occur?

Hazing is illegal in all 50 states, and any group (Greek or not) that is found hazing will be closed immediately and may face further legal repercussions. Every September, members are invited to participate in National Hazing Prevention Week to educate their members about what is considered hazing and ensure that it does not occur within their ranks.

What about drinking?

College students drink. That’s no surprise. Fraternities and sororities are required to uphold national laws, and to ensure that underage drinking does not occur whenever possible. Nationally, alcohol is not allowed in Sorority Houses, and members found drinking on the premise (even if they are of age) may be subject to expulsion. Fraternity Houses vary based on the organization’s policies and the campus regulations.

Many organizations require that all members take part in an alcohol poisoning education program, helping provide tools and warning signs that are not mandated for the rest of the student body.

How Much Does it Cost?

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Every organization and campus is unique, but most groups have some due expenses that members are responsible for each semester. If the local chapter has a living facility, there may be a requirement for the collegiate members to live in the home together. Often this is similar or more affordable than other campus housing options.

You can expect most chapter dues to cost between $500 – $1,500 per year. These costs often include social activities and meals.

How will they decide what group to join?

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Recruitment for most fraternities and sororities takes place at the beginning of the semester, and may occur twice a year. The campus student life office can help your student sign up and provide information about the specific details of that campus’ Greek recruitment.

Greek Life Vocabulary

Bid Day

Bid Day occurs immediately after recruitment. This is when members receive their invitations (bids) to join an organization.


A potential new member who is related (daughter/son, granddaughter/grandson) to an alumni member of a greek organization.

New Member

In between joining and formal initiation, members are called new members. Many years ago, this was referred to as pledges.


Potential New Member. Anyone interested in joining a fraternity or sorority is called a potential new member until they pick a chapter.


The time of year when fraternities and sororities select new members. This may be a formal schedule or informal networking events.

Rho Gamma/Rho Chi

A sorority member who provides assistance to those interested in joining a chapter. These women disaffiliate from their chapter during recruitment and are impartial throughout the recruitment process.

Joining a fraternity or sorority is an exciting lifelong commitment that can help your student grow and develop throughout their college years and beyond. We hope this quick overview helped you learn more about these organizations.

Still a few years away from college? Check out our post on why you might send your teen to boarding school.

Photo Credits: Romer Jed Medina, Elijah Carter, University Unions, Unsplash

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