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“We Want An Experience” – Tips for Fraternity New Member Education

by Matt Farrell

“We can’t just have this be a history class.”

We’ve all heard a variation of that phrase. It can be a gateway to new member processes gone wrong, but we must admit it’s a valid concern. Especially with scrutiny on the new member period that has intensified recently. Campuses and headquarters are tightening their grip on what students can and can’t do, starting with helping them standardize the process. The positive is putting some structure in place, since some chapters have gone decades without having to report an official plan to anyone.

But there’s still a major problem: students are tired of class. That’s where their time and money was already going before they joined. For fraternity men in particular, the unknown is more enticing than the tried & true. Scrutiny drives mutiny. And as new member programs feel more and more like another class, it’s encouraging students to come up with their own alternatives.

How can we stop it?

We probably can’t, and that’s ok. Some of my personal favorite new member programs are ones that recognize this urge and allow students to customize their experience to break out of the classroom. Some key tips for fraternity leaders to consider when creating their own new member experience:

Outside the classroom doesn’t mean winging it. Regardless of how successful a chapter is, every member is likely on board with the idea that the new member process is a critical component. If that’s the case, why should any event be brainstormed on the fly? Use your offseason to create ideas and discuss with your stakeholders. One of the biggest issues with the new member process on a national level is the lack of available content ideas created by students. At Phired Up, we have created an anonymous anonymous event list to help (the submission form is at the end of this post).

Huddle up. Much of the “history class” frustration stems from one person lecturing. This puts additional pressure on your new member educator, and even when they do their job well it keeps the new members from connecting with each other. The experience vs. class debate is less about the setting, and more about how members are opening up with each other. If your new members aren’t feeling the brotherhood first, why should they care about any dates, facts, or names?

Involve your new members in the process. We’ve all heard countless active members refer to their first few weeks of the fraternity as “the best thing I never want to do again.” While they may smile fondly, it’s the big reason so many stop showing up after initiation. Why should we be surprised when we look back at that quote? The goal of any strong new member experience is to keep the motivation strong beyond that semester. By allowing the new members to have a say in what aspects of the fraternity are most important to them, the experience can focus on their needs. Rather than ask what they want in their first semester, find out what they want over the rest of their college experience and beyond. This will make it easier to connect them to the plans you already have in place, and keep them motivated after.

Listen to everything. Many new member events gone wrong stem from members of the chapter feeling like their ideas aren’t heard, and taking matters into their own hands. As long as the new members are on board, the event will happen regardless of approval or risk. It’s important to forge a culture in your chapter where every event idea is seriously considered, and ones that feel purposeless/unsafe are reformed rather than rejected.

We’re listening to everything, too. Whether you’re a student, advisor or alumni please take a few moments to add your favorite events to this anonymous form. We want to do whatever we can to help students across the country create the new member experience they want.


If you haven’t already, check out this video!