Information for Parents & Families
My Student is Thinking of Joining a Sorority/Fraternity
Your student has embarked upon a great adventure by choosing to attend Penn State. Your student has many opportunities ahead of him/her as they learn to navigate the campus, classes, and life.
It is not uncommon for students to feel overwhelmed in this new environment and the search for a sense of community. Some students will explore joining traditional collegiate social organizations, such as fraternities and sororities for that community. By joining a fraternity or sorority, your student is joining hundreds of other student members who can offer an environment of friendship and familiarity.
Penn State's priority is the safety and well-being of all students and new measures announced in June 2017 focus on that goal. In addition, the University is committed to fostering the positive aspects of fraternities and sororities, such as leadership, character, responsibility, and scholarship.
Penn State students can join fraternities and sororities after earning 14 credit hours at Penn State or 27 transfer credits, or if they are an adult learner. University officials believe that the first semester is a time for students to focus fully on their academics and acclimate to the University as well as mature in their decision-making abilities. For more information on requirements to join, visit our how to join page.
Overall, the members 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
- 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 at 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 and hold grade point averages much higher than the minimum requirement. Visit the online scorecard for each fraternity and sorority to learn more.
- Who is actually in charge of the fraternities and sororities?
In the recent past, fraternities and sororities operated under a self-governance model with the belief that it was a growth opportunity for students, who would learn, develop, and mature through these leadership opportunities by overseeing their own operations. However, to increase the safety for members and others on campus, the University instituted a number of new measures, which include University oversight of the fraternity and sorority organizational misconduct and disciplinary process. Other measures include strict social restrictions and monitoring of social events by University staff members.
The Interfraternity Council (IFC) and Panhellenic Council both serve as the governing bodies for fraternity and sorority chapters on campus, helping to unify and oversee the groups, and serve as a link to campus, community, and University administration. Fraternities and sororities at Penn State, as at most colleges and universities in the U.S., are considered private, independent, social entities that freely associate and determine their own membership. Individual chapters elect officers to manage the day-to-day operations of the organization. These officers are assisted by alumni chosen by the chapters, who act as advisers. In cases where there are fraternity houses, those dwellings are located off campus and are generally privately owned by the fraternity’s alumni board or other third-party landlord. Each chapter also is responsible to its Inter/national organization, which offers support, advice, and direction through paid professional staff and regional volunteers. The professional staff in Penn State’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life serve as advisers to the four governing councils and serve as the primary contacts with the University for the fraternity and sorority community.
- 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
- Is hazing a part of the fraternity and sorority culture at Penn State?
Hazing, which is against Pennsylvania Law, should not be a part of joining any organization, and Penn State has a zero-tolerance policy regarding hazing that involves alcohol or serious physical abuse. If hazing of this nature is found to have occurred, it will result in immediate revocation of the organization’s University recognition. Individuals may face disciplinary action for their involvement in hazing activities. 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, and 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 confidentially report the hazing incident online.
- What is the financial obligation?
There is a financial commitment associated with a joining a fraternity or sorority. The fees go toward the Inter/Nationals chapter operating expenses and social functions. Financial obligations differ among individual chapters. New members can expect to pay higher dues their first semester than in subsequent semesters. 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. The University has also instituted a semesterly membership fee for all individual members. This fee, which is $90 for Interfraternity & Panhellenic Council members and $30 for Multicultural Greek & National Pan-Hellenic Council members, supports increased safety initiatives and resources as well as educational activities.
- What are the social aspects of fraternity and sorority membership?
The fraternity and sorority community at Penn State is making serious efforts to create 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 by the University and the council.
- 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 student.
- 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 student choose the group that he or she feels the most comfortable joining.
- Talk to your student about dangerous behaviors that come with alcohol misuse. Reiterate that underage drinking is illegal and a violation of the Student Code of Conduct. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, half of all sexual assaults in the United States involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, the victim, or both. Penn State is committed to fostering an environment free from sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct. Resources can be found at http://titleix.psu.edu/.
- Alcohol misuse can lead to poor academic performance and lower grades.
- Have frank conversations with your son or daughter about activities that may occur in a group situation, such as hazing, that make them uncomfortable or put them or others at risk. There are many avenues for reporting misconduct at Penn State. Be sure to discuss the importance of bystander intervention with your student.
- Talk to your student 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 student'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.