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The advantages and disadvantages of joining a fraternity

Embracing the Greek life.

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Ann Hermes, Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images Ann Hermes, Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images William Hageman, Tribune Newspapers With the fall semester soon upon us, some incoming college freshmen, as well as their parents, may be wondering whether the student should consider joining a fraternity or sorority. And it's something students in high school may be thinking about as they look ahead to their future college careers.

Is Greek life for them? What are the advantages? The first step in the process is to put aside any preconceived notions. I can't come up with one movie that portrays Greek life in a positive way. There are gray areas. Times have changed, and fraternities and sororities at times seem to be struggling to find their place. How can we measure it and improve it? One of the traditional selling points for Greek life is the connections one can make, not just with current chapter members, but with the network of former fraternity or sorority members in the business world.

A fraternity is not a four-year college experience, like a school club; it's a lifetime involvement. Of course, in 2013 there are myriad other ways to build your network. Cohen also pointed out that a university offers many other opportunities to meet people in small group settings, "whether it's joining the newspaper or a dance company or an a cappella group.

If a student has other interests, I encourage you to look at all the opportunities to find students on campus the advantages and disadvantages of joining a fraternity common interests. Fraternity housing is generally less expensive than living in a residence hall.

And the fraternity or sorority house experience also exposes a student to more real-life situations — the house must be maintained, bills paid, a cook hired, etc.

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Cohen said the cost depends on the fraternity or sorority and the year the student is in. She said sharing an off-campus apartment may be cheaper than living in a dorm. And living in a fraternity can be more cost effective — but you have to do the homework.

What are the real costs? Have them lay them out.

Find out if they'll be saving or not. Through various fundraisers, fraternities and sororities raise money for national and local charities, as well as individual causes. Bosco said that students belonging to fraternities and sororities generally have higher grade-point averages than the rest of the student body though other factors may be a factor. They also have higher freshman and sophomore retention rates and more service hours, Bosco noted.

Cons Financial, time commitments: Both can be substantial. Cohen pointed out the Greek life involves many social engagements that need to be balanced with the class workload. Then there's the financial commitment.

Get a specific dollar amount. The fraternity and sorority should be upfront. Don't be afraid to ask, 'What should I get for this money?

Embracing the Greek life. Or not.

If a freshman typically carries 15 hours, go with 12. The advantages and disadvantages of joining a fraternity are too many fraternity-related commitments that can interfere with studies. A fraternity could raise tens of thousands of dollars to buy puppies for needy children, but one hazing incident halfway across the country is what makes headlines and what people remember. Hazing is universally deplored by fraternity and sorority officials and it should be pointed out that it occurs in other non-Greek organizations, such as athletic teams and bands, as well.

Still, it does happen. According to a recent report by Bloomberg News, 59 students died in incidents involving fraternities since 2005, 10 of them in 2012 alone.

I joined the chapter I belonged to 30 years ago and asked that question, and they kept their word. My rule is, if you think it's hazing, it's hazing. Instances when they occur have to be dealt with in a no-tolerance manner and be dealt with quickly. One way to check an organization's commitment to studies is to look at a fraternity or sorority's website and find the last three years of records of their grades.

Bosco also suggested that parents visit chapter houses and ask about the commitment to student success. I would look for that," he said. They may not want you: Wanting to be part of Greek life doesn't necessarily mean you can. You still have to be accepted, and not everyone is.

Bosco says that fraternities and sororities need to work harder in several areas, such as focusing on their successes and connecting better with the academic side of the university. They have to get serious about their contributions to students' success.

Specifically, freshman and sophomore retention rates, graduation rates, and if they're going to be bragging about networking, let's quantify that with numbers about jobs and internships for members. Will I be valued?

Will my personal experiences contribute to the overall success of this group? Will I have an opportunity to practice my leadership, perhaps have some fun?

Advantages and disadvantages of joining Fraternities or Sororities

Will this complement my academic goals? Both answers are just fine.

There shouldn't be any pressure to do it.