Frequently Asked Questions
Your son or daughter has embarked upon a great adventure by choosing to attend The Pennsylvania State University. Your student has many opportunities ahead of him/her as a student at Penn State.
By joining a fraternity or sorority, s/he is joining hundreds of other new members in their search for a sense of community at the University. Sometimes students can feel overwhelmed once they are in a new environment. Penn State, as a State-related University, permits students to join fraternities and sororities during their first semester of enrollment.
For many parents, the fraternity and sorority community reminds them of images of the movie Animal House. There are many myths about the fraternity and sorority community, but the reality is that men and women in fraternities and sororities are committed to their academics, volunteer their time in the community, develop and strengthen their leadership skills, and form a campus network with other fraternity and sorority members.
Parents Often Share These Initital Questions:
How will my student benefit from joining a fraternity or sorority?
Sororities and fraternities have a rich history at Penn State dating back to the 1870s. These organizations are rooted in founding principles that foster academic achievement, student involvement, community service, and life-long friendships. Fraternities and sororities are groups of men and women who come together to form a personal network of individuals with similar ideas, interests, and a mutual pursuit of a well-rounded college education. Advantages include:
- A support group to help make the adjustment to college easier
- Scholastic resources to help student achieve their academic goals
- Leadership skills acquired through hands-on experience
- Encouragement to get involved and maximize their potential on campus
- Opportunities for active participation in community service projects
How will joining a fraternity or sorority affect my student's academic pursuits?
Sororities and fraternities serve as a great resource for students academically through study hours and tutoring programs. Most chapters require a high grade point average for initial membership into the organization. All chapters are Penn State are required to hold a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.5; however, many of our chapters pride themselves on their outstanding academic achievements because they hold grade point averages much higher than the minimum requirement.
What are the social aspects of fraternity and sorority membership?
The fraternity and sorority community at Penn State has made serious efforts at creating a more responsible and safe environment for its members at social events. All fraternities and sororities have strict policies regulating the consumption of alcohol for underage members and guests, and all organizations are held accountable for violations of their respective governing council's social policy.
What is the financial obligation?
Like any opportunity for involvement in college, there is a financial commitment associated with a joining a fraternity or sorority. The costs got toward the Inter/National fees, chapter operating expenses, and social functions. Financial obligations differ among individual chapters. New member can expect to pay higher dues their first semester than in subsequent ones. Additional costs throughout the semester will go toward chapter meal plans, pictures, gifts, t-shirts, etc. While your son or daughter is participating in the recruitment process, encourage him/her to ask about the financial obligations of membership.
Is hazing a part of the fraternity and sorority culture at Penn State?
Penn state has a zero-tolerance policy regarding hazing that is consistent with State law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Hazing includes any activity that subjects members to harassment, ridicule, intimidation, physical exhaustion, abuse, or mental distress. Hazing is contrary to the purposes of the fraternity and sorority community and the University; therefore, it is not tolerated.
If you sense your student may be participating in inappropriate activities as a result of membership in a fraternity or sorority, you should contact the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life immediately. All calls will be handled in a discreet manner. Or you can now confidentially report the hazing incident online.
Who is actually in charge of the fraternities and sororities?
Individual chapters elect officers to manage the day-to-day operations of the organization. These officers are assisted by alumni who act as advisors. Each chapter is also responsible to its Inter/national organization, which offers support, advice, and direction through paid professional staff and regional volunteers. The professional staff in the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life at Penn State serves as advisors to the four governing councils and serve as the primary contacts for the fraternity and sorority community.
What is my role as a parent?
- Students need support throughout the process of recruitment/intake and new member education. Be supportive and learn as much as you can about fraternity and sorority life by asking questions of your student as he or she meets members in fraternities and sororities.
- Keep an open mind -- fraternity and sorority life is not for everyone. Just because you may have been a fraternity or sorority member doesn't mean that it is the right choice for your son or daughter.
- Fraternities and sororities are different on every campus. Groups that may have been strong on the campus where you attended school may not have the same reputation at Penn State. Let your son or daughter choose the group that he or she feels the most comfortable joining.
- Talk to your son or daughter beforehand about the financial obligation. Determine who will pay for what and where the limits are.
- Know that the system of fraternity/sorority recruitment at Penn State is competitive. Not everyone who wants to be in a fraternity or sorority will receive a bid.
- Do not become too involved in the sorority and fraternity recruitment/intake process, this is your son or daughter's decision. There will be plenty of activities and events for you to attend or even help plan once your student joins one of our organizations.
- Too often, parents do not allow their students to "fight their own battles." It helps the student mature and gain some assertiveness when allowed to call various offices if they have questions or concerns about their decision to join a fraternity or sorority.
- Keep the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life contact information on hand if you have any questions or concerns.
For more answers to your questions, please consider reading the Parent's Manual, a guide to Fraternity and Sorority Life at Penn State for parents.