College Fraternities

If you plan on attending a college, in which the fraternity system is still in place, you may be wondering whether these organizations are worth the investment and time and effort it takes to attain membership. Just what is a fraternity? If you grab a dictionary and look it up, you might find something like this “the quality or condition of being brothers”, or “a group of people joined by similar backgrounds, occupations, interests or tastes”. There are different kinds of fraternities, formed for different purposes: professional, social, service, and honorary.

The one that most people recognize, is the college fraternity (which is a social organization). Most of these were founded for community service, education, and leadership, though most today are strictly social with no set precepts or programs for specific goals. You might be interested to know that the old reputation of fraternities as nothing more than a campus bar has resulted in some fraternity organizations declaring their buildings as ‘dry’ with no alcohol allowed.

In case you didn’t know, you can’t just walk in a join a fraternity. You have to be invited to be a member, and when you are a member, you will live in fraternity housing instead of a regular dorm. Many fraternities are national organizations with local chapters on various campuses across the country. These organizations often impose requirements that are designed to create uniform rituals and policies for membership, housing, behavior and standards. Other fraternities are local and these fraternities are free to establish their own bylaws and standards for membership and rituals.
When you consider a fraternity, look at their history and rituals.

Fraternity hazing has fallen out of favor in some organizations, but in others, it is still considered a tradition. These hazing ceremonies and rituals can result in injury and death and are often designed to challenge a member to engage in risky or dangerous behavior they might never otherwise consider. People often ask why young men would consider these activities. For an outsider this may seem like a reasonable question but when coupled with the group dynamic and peer pressure experienced by a ‘pledge’ in a fraternity organization, the activities (no matter how bizarre or dangerous) can result in disaster and tragedy. While these instances are, thankfully, becoming less common, you should ask about policies regarding hazing and rituals before you accept membership in any fraternity organization.

If you are admitted to a fraternity, you will be expected to maintain a certain grade point average and to demonstrate certain behavior as a role model for others on campus. Upperclassmen who are your fraternity ‘brothers’ will act as your mentor to show you the ropes. Perhaps the most compelling reason to consider a fraternity, is that relationships formed during these years often continue into your career and adult life, and your network of ‘brothers’ can be a great help in making connections and getting internships, and jobs. These ties run deep!


Katherine Harrison

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