Greek Life, Paintball, and Upended Expectations
It's that quaint avenue peering through the Rocky arch—a place seldom touched upon on admissions tours and during information sessions—and a topic so often dodged around such that when I was applying to college, I even found it intimidating. Greek life. To be truthful, it was a starred item on the cons list for Dartmouth when I was choosing where to spend my next four years. It was something that I never thought I would want to be involved in, and even up until the night of rush my sophomore fall (Dartmouth students join Greek houses the beginning of their sophomore year), I wasn't sure I wanted anything to do with it.
I'm not writing this to make the argument that Greek life is right for everyone, nor am I going to even devote time to arguing that it's a net good for the Dartmouth community (though I truly believe that it is). Instead, I'm just going to offer my experience as somebody who wasn't going to rush, and also as someone who finds himself living in a Greek house and serving as one of the new-member recruitment chairs. Evidently, my outlook has changed a little.
Whereas Greek life at Dartmouth can most certainly seem intimidating, and maybe even a deal-breaker for an onlooking prospective student, the inner mechanics of the system at Dartmouth are vastly unique and rooted in a fundamental inclusivity. My best advice is that drawing comparisons to other places is going to do nothing but give a vastly misleading impression; as somebody who was in those same shoes, I can say assuredly that my conception of Greek life on campus was turned upside-down. After I chose to rush, between meeting new people, making connections with alumni, and even doing fun things like playing paintball this weekend with potential new members, my experience has been absolutely nothing like what I thought of the system before committing to Dartmouth. Whereas I made the decision to join a house, many students have had a much different experience; sophomore fall, I was honestly debating whether a big new social group was something I even wanted or needed, and whereas I eventually decided to go through with it, most of my friends chose otherwise.
On that note, a lot of students choose to have nothing to do with Greek life, and with so many other things to get involved with, it's the farthest thing from necessary. It's also not the case in any sense that rushing forms any sort of barrier between people; I lived off-campus this summer with a group of some of my best friends where I was the only affiliated person, and living there was probably the best part about my term.
If there's any message that I'm aiming to get across, it's this: while Greek life is indeed prominent on Dartmouth's campus, it's by no means something to be afraid of as it will almost certainly be much different than any expectations. By nature of its inclusivity, it's not nearly as engrossing as one might be led to think by a first impression, and if my story serves as any testament, hopefully it makes some onlookers a little less uneasy.