On April 15, 2016, I was initiated into the Gamma Zeta Chapter of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority at Texas A&M University-Commerce. It was one of the most amazing experiences I could have ever dreamed about going through. Something unique about my initiation process into a sorority, however, is that I entered the sisterhood as a graduate student seeking my master’s degree. Joining a Greek chapter of a sorority or fraternity, post-undergraduate, can have its benefits, though it does come with the struggle. This blog will go into detail about joining a Greek organization, specifically a Panhellenic sorority, during graduate school and how to make the most out of the opportunity.
Graduate v Undergraduate Process
For some students, rushing a sorority, or even a fraternity, can be a stressful process. It can be overwhelming if the school’s Greek Life is large, if the student is introverted, or the opportunity to go Greek gets overshadowed by other factors such as finances or employment. Two of these were my circumstance; I was introverted with a dash of self-consciousness. Plus, I worked two jobs that would not allow me the time to commit.
Students who chose not to go through Greek recruitment in his or her undergrad can look to a different process known as the alumnae initiate program. The alumnae initiate programs allow for students or non-students who meet the standards of membership to join and commit to the lifelong journey. The one part that I loved and appreciated about this process was that it felt stress free, and allowed some flexibility. I did not feel overwhelmed. This process looks different for all organizations, which leads me to next important part of going Greek as a graduate student… Research.
Research, Research, Research
While the university Fraternity and Sorority office is a great first resource for getting involved in a Greek organization, it can only do so much such as helping you to identify what is available to join and establishing a connection with the staff member. The next step is to take the list of available organizations and research. This option cannot be stressed enough. Research, research, research, and research some more. Not all organizations offer an alum process, fraternity or sorority, so find out what kind of alum initiation process they have. Does it require an application? A letter of recommendation? An essay? Find out and start thinking about how to get the letter of recommendation. One piece that helped me through my process in Gamma Phi Beta, was that I knew friends who went through recruitment at another school in the same organization. When researching, look at the organization’s mission and philanthropy. It is important to see if the said organization is going to align with your personal values and beliefs.
As a graduate student, there can be limited chances to get to know the organizations because formal recruitment is typically for undergraduates. Upon doing research, make contact with members of the sorority to ask about the alumnae initiation process, if alumnae are involved with the collegiate chapter anyway, and ask them about their experience with the chapter. It is reasonable to explain your desires and ask them what they love about being in his or her chapter. The best piece of advice I can give to anyone seeking recruitment, as a graduate student, is to do your research and be thorough with research. As a graduate student, you are essentially picking your Greek chapter. The contact you receive from members and the research can tell you a lot in an instant.
Do not join a Greek letter organization just for the letters and the ability to say “I am a member of ______ Sorority or Fraternity.” As stated above, the alum status looks different than the collegiate status. It is always best to make sure the organization chosen is connected to the campus you currently attend. The next step is to be persistent in making sure you meet the requirements and pay dues. The final step, after initiation, is to figure out how to make the letters mean something. Getting involved and being an active alumna member has been the toughest challenge since my initiation. I felt like I was playing email tag a lot of the time to get involved but I have found some ways:
- Advisor status and role
- If you are in a position to serve in an advisory board capacity for your school chapter, figure out how, and take the necessary training.
- If you work on campus, there is the opportunity to connect with other Greek campus partners, especially within the Higher Education/Student Affairs field. This field alone gives you access to other ways through NASPA and ACPA to support and be present.
- Help the collegiate chapter
- Even if you are not at the level to be an advisor, the collegiates probably always need help, and it can be rewarding to give back to the collegiate chapter, even if you were not an active collegian.
- Local Alumnae chapter involvement
- Depending on the organization, there are alumnae chapters throughout various cities and states. This is the best way to connect with other alumna and find out volunteer opportunities.
- National and Regional level involvement
- This stage of involvement is one that can allow members to do more for the sorority and make connections across the United States.
Jumping into an organization that has a lot of guidelines to follow and learn can be intimidating. Trying to be active and involved as an alum initiate can feel like a daunting process that gets you nowhere but the run around on emails. It can also give you the feeling that you are being left out of what the collegiate members are doing. However, when you push through, remain persistent, keep an open mind, and above all, be positive about the experience, doors will open with your organization. Even as a graduate alumna initiate, you are a part of something that is bigger than yourself. Being a member of a sorority or fraternity can enhance your personal and professional network. There is room to grow in any organization, even if you graduated from the collegiate chapter and transitioned to alum status.