I have a question about Greek life. My daughter is looking at University of South Carolina, University of Georgia, Florida State and University of Florida. We've been told that sorority costs at these schools can be over $5,000 a year, in addition to the regular costs of these schools. This sounds obscene to me. First of all, is that true? And secondly, is it possible to have a social life at these big southern schools without going Greek?
The sky-high figures you're citing are not exaggerations, although the cost of membership will vary from sorority to sorority and from school to school. But before you die of sticker shock, keep in mind that the biggest numbers usually include room and board or at least a meal plan for non-residents. And often it's actually cheaper (or at least not more expensive) to live and eat in a sorority house than it is elsewhere on campus. Some sorority chapters (and the universities that host them) even have scholarship money available for young women who couldn't otherwise afford to join. But typically these funds are reserved for the most disadvantaged and aren't simply for folks who are freaked out by “obscene" figures!
Sorority pledge fees and annual dues vary widely, too, as do hidden costs, which can include big-ticket expenses such as formal dresses, coordinated T-shirts for countless special occasions and even hotel tariffs for out-of-town events (and the limo rides to get there). So any student who is considering sorority membership is wise to take a close look at the projected bottom line before signing on the dotted one.
At the southern universities you name, it can sometimes seem as if Greek life dominates the social scene. Yet if you check out these figures provided by The College Board, you'll see that, at all of these places, more than two-thirds of the women did not pledge.
Percentage of Students in Sororities:
- University of South Carolina: 22 percent
- University of Florida: 22 percent
- Florida State: 23 percent
- University of Georgia: 31 percent
And all of these places offer ample opportunities for students to have a fulfilling and fun extracurricular and social experience without going Greek. Every college has a head-spinning number of clubs and activities that bring together Frisbee players or foodies, kayaker or cat lovers. Many universities even offer organizations with Greek-letter names but which aren't part of the campus' pan-Hellenic system. These groups, instead, might have a professional focus (e.g., business, law) or a special interest aim (e.g., community service). They allow students to meet others with similar goals yet are far less pricey than traditional fraternities and sororities and also don't dominate a student's schedule the way traditional Greek life often does.
If your daughter doesn't want to join a sorority, before committing to any college she should visit campus and be sure to talk to students there who are involved in Greek life as well as with those aren't. She can ask how non-Greeks fit in and also how Greeks and non-Greeks interact. She shouldn't necessarily expect consistent answers, so the more students she questions, the better.
But if she wants to join a sorority although you're convinced that it's financially out of reach, she would be wise to create a college list that includes options where Greek life is minimal or non-existent. You don't want her to be like the proverbial child with her nose up against the glass window of a candy store as she observes sorority life in action. But first, urge her to query as many students as she can at the colleges that interest her to find out where Greek life fits in. And, without even leaving home, the College Confidential discussion forum is a good place for her to start ... and for you, too, because as you probably know well by now, the parent perspective can be different!
If you'd like to submit a question to College Confidential, please send it along here.