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The Advantages & Disadvantages of Fraternities

by Van Thompson, studioD

Stories about hazing, underage drinking and even rape in fraternity houses are commonplace, and they might dissuade you from joining one. But fraternities also offer strong benefits, both to their members and to the larger college community. Before joining, potential members should carefully consider the reputation and mission of the fraternity. If you do join, you can help make sure these negative situations don't happen. College administrators, parents and students can all help maintain a healthy fraternity culture by reporting and investigating violations and questionable practices.

Drinking and Parties

Many fraternities have regular parties with lots of alcohol. This can pose a serious risk of underage drinking, and it can increase the likelihood of crimes such as date rape. For fraternity brothers who are old enough to drink, however, drinking at the fraternity house can be safer than drinking at a bar and then attempting to drive home. These parties also have some advantages -- they help students meet people and develop social skills. For shy students, the parties associated with fraternity life can be a way to come out of their shell.

Pledging and Friendship

The pledging process is the when potential members decide if they want to become full members. Fraternity members often test pledges or require them to perform favors. The stressful pledging process can help pledges get to know one another, establishing close bonds of friendship. But pledging can also have a dark side. Hazing is a problem in some fraternities, and some students have even died during hazing rituals. Students who join the fraternity and who do not endure hazing, however, may develop lifelong bonds with their fraternity brothers. Fraternities can provide networking opportunities, and some fraternities hold regular reunions.


Dorm living requires students to live in close quarters, often with someone they don't know and may not like. At many fraternities, however, members can opt to live in the fraternity house with a group of people they know well and like. This is a strong incentive for many students to join a fraternity, but because some fraternity houses are located off-campus, campus administrators may not be able to enforce housing rules among students living in a fraternity house.

Academic Life

Many fraternities have an explicit commitment to helping their members achieve good grades, and they may have mandatory study halls or opportunities for students who excel to tutor students who are struggling. However, fraternities sometimes become involved in cheating by keeping old papers or old tests for members to use. The partying often associated with fraternity life can make it difficult for students to get good grades if they're not strongly motivated to get up and go to class.

Community Involvement

Most fraternities require that members participate in some variety of community service, often with a specific charity that the fraternity supports. This gives members an opportunity to give back to their community and to get to know community leaders. Fraternity-sponsored school events give fraternity members a chance to meet non-members and to give back to their school.

About the Author

Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.

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