As part of the college series – this post is in the works. Come back in a day or so and read all about what you need to do to prepare mentally and physically to join a Fraternity.
*I am a part of the largest national fraternity in the country. (Pi Kappa Alpha)
After I wrote “How to rush a fraternity” I got a bunch of emails asking what’s it like to go through the pledge process of a fraternity. And the truth is, it’s a great experience.
I’ve debated whether or not I want to actually share everything because the pledge process is something pledges should go through on their own. It’s a journey similar to a beta to alpha journey.
Rather than give you all the little details of what happens during the pledge process I will give you the high level of my own experience and the experience of other fraternities that I know of so you have an idea.
There are probably two types of people that will read this post – those that want to join a fraternity but are scared and those that are too scared to join one but want to know what it takes to join. I don’t care which group you’re in but if you’re on the fence about joining a fraternity and have the resources (money) to do it, I don’t think you will regret it.
If you want to join a fraternity or are thinking about it – read this future post I will link to – Reasons why you should join a fraternity in college.
Facts about pledging a fraternity
- There is usually a pledge process that last 8-12 weeks
- Some would consider some of the pledge process hazing (not everyone)
- Alcohol may or may not be involved in a pledge process (depends on the fraternity)
- Pledging usually takes priority over academics (just for the pledge period)
- You are usually not treated as an equal to actives when you’re a pledge
- You will meet a lot of people during pledging
- You will do a lot of stupid things during your pledge process but you’ll laugh about it for the most part
- The pledge process is fun (for the most part)
- When the pledge process is over, you will miss it
- There is a thing called hell week
- When the pledge process is over it’s like winning something really special or achieving something you really wanted
- Pledging is not just about you. It’s about your pledge bros and respecting the fraternity
- I don’t know if I agree with the pledge process (my personal opinion)
What Happens After You Get a Bid
Getting a bid is something to celebrate. After rushing a fraternity you’ve now received a bid to join. The bid usually comes from actives and in the form of a letter or invitation of some sort. Somehow you’ll be surprised when asked to join.
If You Accept Your Bid
The pledge process doesn’t officially begin until you are initiated as a pledge. There is a process in place for a traditional fraternity to have an initiation ceremony. I won’t get into specifics but you’ll get a pledge pin to signify you’re a pledge.
The pledge pin is something you’ll see just about every pledge in a Greek fraternity wearing throughout their pledge process. It means different things to different fraternities but generally it means you’re pledging a fraternity.
It should be worn at all times.
Sometimes people ask what do the greek letters mean? Are they just greek letters? The answer is maybe.
Fraternities usually use the greek letters to mean a phrase or a motto. Just because you know the greek alphabet does not know you will know what the fraternity name means. But it something near and dear many actives and alums hold close to their heart.
Time to Buy a Suit
If you don’t have a suit and you’re planning to pledge a fraternity, you better go buy one. You’ll be wearing a suit just about once a week if not more.
If your fraternity lets you go to the fraternity meetings each week, you’ll most likely have to wear a suit, especially if you’re a pledge.
There will also be semi formals and formals that will require dressing up, as well as sorority exchanges and what not that may require looking better than the average college student.
In addition to the fraternity (or should I say Fraternity) meeting, you’ll have weekly pledge meetings where you and your fellow pledge bros will learn about the fraternity and do other activities together to bond. You’ll have a pledge dad who is an active that pretty much acts as a big brother for all of you and looks out for you guys.
Out of nowhere you’ll be assigned a big bro. It’s like a mentor in the fraternity in a way but usually there is some lineage like you end up being part of a family line within the fraternity that has their own little traditions.
The big bro process is something I won’t really spoil for any one that is going to be pledging a fraternity. But it will be a night you will remember.
But I will say this. Your big bro also watches out for you in some ways. He teaches you the ropes. He’ll be there for you if you need him. And he’ll be the one there for you after hell week with a greek sweater with your nickname on it.
Big sis? Lil Sis??
Some fraternities have also have lil and big sis’. I won’t go into this stuff since it’s pretty much whatever. Honestly. Just some girls that you call lil sis and big sis and buy presents for each other.
Now Onto The Stuff You Really Want to Know
What You Will Learn
Here are the things you’ll be learning as a pledge. You’ll know this stuff inside and out by the time you’re pledge process is complete.
- The first and last name of every active in your fraternity (maybe even alums)
- The history of the fraternity – founding fathers, how the fraternity came about, etc.
- The fraternity pledge
- The greek alphabet
- And most importantly – you will learn how to be a gentleman, a scholar, and an athlete (at least at my fraternity). Nothing more special than learning these things other than being apart of something larger than yourself with some much history and tradition.
Activities You Should Expect To Do
As you pledge a fraternity there will be some mandatory events you will take part in, including:
- Active vs. Pledge football (lots of stuff leading up to this – will not share)
- Exercising of some sort (some fraternities)
- Campus greek traditions – at my school it was reshaping rocks into our greek letters
- Intramural sports – you will have a pledge team
- Lots of late nights doing who knows what 🙂
- Greek fundraisers – which are great – lots of bonding (capture the flag, anchor splash, your fraternities fundraiser)
- Community service events (we cleaned a beach, volunteered to be designated drivers, were security for concerts)
- Exchanges – where you, as a pledge, will be required to serenade sororities
- Parties – you’ll be cleaning up and taking care of people
- Organizing events like pledge parties, sorority exchanges, fundraisers
- Study hours – weekly – you will be studying with your pledge bros (academics are important even while pledging…at least to the point that you need a certain GPA to be initiated)
- Probably more stuff – I just can’t remember (sorry its been 10+ years)
Is There Hazing?
Now I’ll get to a bunch of other stuff in a bit but this is a question I know everyone that is considering joining or pledging a fraternity wants to know.
The answer is maybe?
It really depends what you consider hazing and the chapter/organization you’re joining.
To varying degrees, almost anything you do against your will is hazing in my opinion. There are some really questionable things some fraternities do that I don’t agree with and I’ve been lucky enough to not be apart of that.
Here’s what I can tell you.
Hazing in some fraternities (and sororities) is part of their tradition. People make others do the same thing they did as a rite of passage. It’s stupid when you think about some of this stuff.
Some of the “hazing” is fun and games but other times it becomes a bit too much and you, as an adult need to choose wisely whether or not you want to participate in such activities.
Here are some questionable events that have taken place at the university I went to –
- Binge drinking (shot for shot with actives but actives swap out so pledges drink 2-5-10x as much).
- Being blindfolded and lead on a path you have no idea where you’re going. (this is more of do you trust your brothers type thing and in most cases is just a bonding activity)
- Making a pledge run endlessly and do push ups and sit ups until they beg for mercy and then make them do more.
- Physical activity that can cause bodily harm to a pledge
- Making a pledge run up and down stairs in a parking structure
- Squatting (wtf?)
- Being yelled and be littled. Happens but whatever. Be a man about it? Most of these actives that do the yelling are btches to tell you the truth. Just go with it. They won’t touch you.
- Being a personal assistant to actives. Driving them around. Picking stuff up for them. Kind of a joke but something you just have to know you’ll probably end up doing.
- Having to eat questionable things like hot peppers or other things that no one on their own would eat.
- Being in a dark room that could cause you a lot of anxiety
Most of these things are ok if you and you will survive if you have thick skin. The exercising is whatever. Like you’ll get pushed to your limits and past them but if you can’t do an exercise you can’t do it. F them – that’s what I say.
The drinking stuff and any potential harm to your health or life is questionable. There are some (I’m not going to say mine) fraternities that really think this whole binge drinking thing to the point where pledges throw up and pass out is really for shits and giggles. Not my cup of tea but I also understood that it’s somewhat part of tradition and the process. Just be smart if you find yourself in this position. You can say no.
Things To Keep In Mind
There is some shady stuff that goes on in the pledging process of a fraternity. Some fraternities let some guys pledge that they don’t really like and they will bully them so much that the pledge will de-pledge (quit), which was what the actives intentions were from the beginning.
The other thing to keep in mind is that numbers matter.
Every fraternity wants to be the best house on campus. This usually means having the best people but also the most people. So sometimes the quality of the house goes down when it becomes about the numbers.
Don’t have so much fun pledging that you forget to study. There is a minimum gpa requirement to be active and to be initiated into a fraternity. If you don’t meet it, say bye-bye to the fraternity and you may even be put on academic probation.
Realize that joining a fraternity isn’t free. There are chapter dues (fees) and expenses associated with partying, going to exchanges and what not. Make sure you can afford this if you do it.
Testing and Interrogation
There will be periods where you will be asked questions to see if you have been studying up on the fraternity or learning what is asked of you to learn. If you don’t know these things – expect to be punished in some manner.
There will be periods of intense interrogation with people in your face yelling at you like a stress test while also having someone grill you with questions. This can be straight yelling or you can be doing crazy exercises like you’re going to collapse and be asked to answer questions.
Don’t try to learn everything at once. But make sure you study. You’re required to know these things in order to be initiated.
The Infamous Hell Week
If you’ve made it to the end of the pledge process you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel. But its not over. There’s usually a hell week (that may or may not actually be a week) that will require almost all of your time.
What happens in Hell Week varies based on the fraternity you are a part of. Usually there are traditions and activities that take place that have been passed down from class to class. I can list some of the things you should prepare yourself for but honestly I don’t know everything but if you want to mentally prepare here’s what you can expect.
Just a note – by the time you get to hell week there’s really no way you won’t get initiated. This is just a process you have to go through and once you’re done with it, you’ll be done with it forever. So just get through it. At the end of hell week is glory.
- Expect to sleep very little – hell week is meant to push you to past your mental and physical limits
- You’re going to feel like a b*tch (beta, peon, just a piece of sh*t) – but don’t take it personal. This is the last time the actives will have to f*ck with you and they’ve all gone through this so they just think it’s a right of passage
- Lots of late night activities – for some reason hell week involves a lot of activities in the middle of the night. Probably because in the dark there’s more mystery and a sense of unknown like “what the f*ck are we doing in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere?”
- Actives are trying to scare you – you should go into hell week knowing that you’re suppose to fear whether you will survive or not. If you come in with the expectation that they’re going to want to scare you, then you won’t really fear much.
- Lots of physical activity – more push ups, running, sit ups, squats, holding heavy things…all to get you mentally and physically tired. But just try your best. Lots of people will continuously tell you to do stupid sh*t like this but just do it. It will end soon. Pain is temporary, right?
- Just when you think its over – it probably isn’t. So expect the unexpected and plan for the worse. You’ll probably lose track of time.
As soon as it begins, it ends. And one day you’ll miss it. As hard as it may be to believe, you will miss hell week as you see other pledge classes go through it. There’s a bond you build with your pledge class because you went through something so terrible together and survived that no one will understand except you guys. You will have those memories for life. Try your hardest to enjoy this journey.
All that hard work, all that pain, all those late nights all end and begin with initiation. Your real fraternity initiation is nothing like your pledge initiation. You won’t know what to expect – as you shouldn’t. And I am not going to ruin this for anyone. It is something that select individuals will ever experience and a cherished tradition of fraternities.
All I can say is it’s quite an experience and the things you will learn about your fraternity after initiation are pretty amazing.
- What your Greek letters mean
All the hard work has led you to this point and now you are a part of a brotherhood of men that you will have a bond with forever. Whether or not you realize that is up to you. And how you take advantage of this new found network is something you must figure out.
But congratulations if you become an active member of a fraternity you chose to pledge.
Last Words of Advice
The pledge process is not just about you. It is about your pledge class. Watch out for one another and help each other. Your success is dependent on everyone.
The pledge process, although long and sometimes stressful, is meant to achieve two things: 1) Help you learn about the fraternity and the traditions so you are proud to become a member and 2) To help you bond with your fellow pledge bros and future fraternity brothers.
It is the pledge process that makes people proud to be a member of their fraternity. If it was easy, everyone would sign up like it was a club.
- What happens if you decide to de-pledge from a Fraternity
- Is joining a Fraternity worth it (my own experience)
- Will I get more girls if I join a Fraternity?