So you’re considering joining Greek life. The biggest question on your mind is how much joining a sorority or fraternity is going to cost you.
Every school is different. Depending on where you go and the prestige of the organization you join, Greek life can run anywhere from a thousand to tens of thousands of dollars every semester. This includes membership dues, room and board if you live in the house, as well as miscellaneous costs like your ticket to the spring formal or participating in a philanthropy event.
Before you join Greek life you’ll want to crunch the numbers to make sure it fits in your budget. Here are some of the biggest costs of joining a sorority or fraternity and maybe it can help you decide if you go greek or stay geed in college.
Before you even join a sorority or fraternity you’ll have to register for formal recruitment also known as rush. This is a process where potential new members – called PNMs – visit different Greek houses. Rush lasts several rounds before culminating in Bid Day when a Greek organization issues a formal invitation for a PNM to join their house.
The registration fee for rush can vary by campus. At the University of Alabama – well known for its Greek culture – a ticket to participate in sorority recruitment costs $375. Meanwhile, rushing a fraternity at a school like North Carolina State University will only cost you $65.
There are other expenses associated with rush that can increase the cost too. You’ll have to follow a dress code for each round of the process. If you’re trying to join a more prestigious house, be prepared to fork over some cash to build a wardrobe around top name designer brands.
At schools where rush is a highly competitive process, some PNMs go the extra mile by hiring professional consultants and mentors. A sorority rush consultant, for example, can cost upwards of $3,500. That means before you’re even an official member of Greek life you could wind up spending several thousand dollars just to join an organization.
Once you become a member of a house you’ll be on the hook to pay dues. These dues go to the national organization you’re part of, the local chapter you’re a member of, as well as dues to umbrella organizations like the National Panhellenic Conference. New members can expect to pay higher dues during their first year as they transition from pledge to active member. Dues vary by house and can range from a couple hundred dollars per semester to a couple thousand.
Room and Board
Aside from dues, room and board is one of the most expensive parts of joining a fraternity or sorority. Most Greek life organizations maintain residential houses. Rather than living on campus, you can live in your house instead.
Depending on your house and the expectations of your campus, you may or may not have a housing requirement. In some cases, living in your sorority or fraternity house might be comparable to living in a campus dorm. In other cases, you might forfeit the opportunity to live in a cheaper off-campus apartment if you have to fulfill your sorority or fraternity’s housing requirement.
Most houses also come with a staffed kitchen which means you’ll be on the hook for paying rent as well as maintaining a meal plan. Even if you don’t live in the house, you might still be expected to have some sort of meal plan, especially if a chapter meal is included as part of your membership.
Greek life is known for social events and parties. Whether it’s spring formal or a themed event, parties cost money. Some houses have a budget for social activities but not everything is included. Formal events, for example, are usually hosted off campus. These are more expensive and you’ll probably have to pay out of pocket to attend. Not to mention you’ll want to dress up for the occasion.
If you’re trying to figure out how much joining a fraternity or sorority is going to cost you, talk to existing members to get a sense of what their social expenses are. If you wind up joining a house that likes to party it can cost you over the course of your college career.
Once you join a Greek organization you’ll be expected to look the part too. Instead of wearing pink on Wednesdays, you might have to wear your Greek letters. Expect to pay out of pocket for hoodies, t-shirts, bags, and other gear to represent your organization.
One important thing to note is that sororities and fraternities are ritualistic organizations. You’ll have a dress code for chapter meetings which includes wearing your badge. Depending on your budget, you can get a cheap badge or splurge on a Tiffany-set badge. Just keep in mind that there’s a lot of peer pressure in Greek life. You might feel the urge to buy gear that is outside of your budget just to fit in.
Speaking of rituals, if you’re planning on joining a fraternity or sorority you might want to keep a sinking fund for penalties. Some organizations charge fees if you’re late to an event or skip out on a chapter meeting. Think of fines in Greek life like getting a parking ticket in the real world. They’re annoying and you don’t intend to get them but life happens and you do.
In addition to formal, formal events, you’ll also need to budget for informal formal events. Think spotting a sister the next time you pop into Starbucks or picking up the tab next time you and the brothers go out. These are things you’d expect to pay for during your college career but the cost can increase when you join a fraternity or sorority thanks to the social element of these organizations.
Again you will want to fit in so at some point it’ll be your turn to cover the cost for something, even if it’s not in your budget. Plan on these types of little expenses when you’re considering whether or not to join a fraternity or sorority.
Once you graduate from college and your Greek days are behind you, you’ll still be on the hook to pay dues. To be eligible for alumni benefits you’ll have to pay fees as an alumni. These dues double as donations and can be tax-deductible. Fortunately, they’re much cheaper – in some cases less than $100 per year.
Is Joining a Sorority or Fraternity Worth the Cost?
Depending on what your goals and expectations are, joining a sorority or fraternity can be worth the cost.
Greek life provides an entire social network during college, not just with the house you join but with other Greek houses on campus too. These groups not only provide lifelong friendships but they can establish important professional relationships too. According to Cornell University’s student-run newspaper, 80% of top executives of Fortune 500 companies were members of fraternities during their college years.
That being said, there are other organizations on campus that provide the same benefits as Greek life for a fraction of the cost. You can join an academic group or a club sports team and develop relationships that can also help you land a job or build lasting friendships too.
How to Pay to Join a Sorority or Fraternity
If you’re set on joining a fraternity or sorority and you aren’t independently wealthy, you’ll want to develop a plan to pay for it. The good news is you have lots of options. The bad news is not all your options are going to be good ones. Here are a few ways to pay for Greek life.
When you join you’ll probably get information about the costs broken out by semester. This can be a lot of money upfront and can be hard to balance with your tuition bill. Talk to your organization to see if they can put you on a payment plan. This can help break up payments throughout the calendar year rather than by the academic year.
Scholarships and Grants
Like college admissions, Greek life offers scholarships and grants that can offset the cost of joining. Some scholarships are offered by specific Greek organizations while others are offered by umbrella organizations like the Interfraternity Council. These can be quite competitive and you might need to join a Greek organization first before you’re eligible to apply.
Depending on your financial aid package, you might be issued a refund by your school’s bursar’s office. This money is intended to cover costs not directly billed by your school such as books. It can also be used for other expenses like housing or Greek life.
Even though this might feel like free money it isn’t really. You’ll be on the hook for paying it back, with interest, once you graduate. While you technically can use it to cover Greek life dues and expenses, just be mindful that it’ll cost you later on.
Similar to your student loan refund, credit cards or other lines of credit can also be used to cover expenses associated with Greek life. While your credit limit might not cover the full bill, it can cover things like trips to Starbucks or buying a dress for formal.
Be mindful that you’ll have to pay all that back at double-digit interest rates. If you’re new to credit cards and are unsure how to budget, it can lead you into debt very quickly.
Working a Part-Time Job
Once you join Greek life you might be surprised to learn that many Greeks aren’t independently wealthy. In fact, a lot of Greeks work part-time jobs to cover their costs. This can actually work to your advantage. If you work at a late-night dive and can bring leftovers back to the house after your shifts, your brothers and sisters will love you.
Joining a fraternity or sorority isn’t cheap. There are a lot of extra costs beyond just paying dues. Before joining you’ll want to create a budget. In your budget, think about the extra cost of living in the house and participating in social activities. While Greek life can be a good investment, it’s only a good one if you can afford to take advantage of it. If you’re too broke to socialize with your brothers or sisters it might not pay off in the way you hope it will.
The good news is not all Greek organizations have to cost an arm and a leg. There are service organizations like Alpha Phi Omega and a whole host of social clubs on campus that provide many of the same benefits as Greek life for a fraction of the cost. Evaluate the costs and figure out what makes sense for you before joining.
Editor: Ashley Barnett Reviewed by: Robert Farrington
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