After every summer vacation, holiday break… hell, even sometimes just after coming home from class, I could always count on one thing: pulling up into the lot and thinking “she’s beautiful” when I looked up at the house. Now maybe to the naked eye, she wasn’t exactly a site to behold. She was a little run down and covered in battle scars. And, like every other fraternity house, the inside was much worse. You had the lingering smell of black mold and stale beer, the mismatched couches collected over the years from generous parents, and walls that had to provide virtually no structural stability — after all, stressed out 18-year-old pledges can only patch holes so well when they’re doing it multiple times every weekend with limited amounts of putty and spackle. You might start out never walking barefoot over the eternally sticky floors because God knows what mystery fluid Flounder drinks that causes him to throw up in the same spot every weekend, but after a couple months you won’t even think about it. It was dank, it was dirty… but it was ours. Your house becomes your fortress in the kingdom that is college. And if you never live in it? You’ll regret it.
Even if it’s just for one year, living in the house is supremely worth it. The crew you have in the house with you will change your life. It usually ends up being your closest friends, a few other tight-knit groups, a couple kids who sell drugs, a couple kids who give drugs out for free, the funny fat kid, the guy with an undefeated liver, the psycho, some of the in-betweeners, and of course the guy that everyone hates (let me know the key roles that I left out). In the beginning it might feel like a weird hodge podge of your brothers, but by the time you move out you won’t be able to imagine the experience without them.
Living in the house, you’ll always have something to do and guys to do it with. Late night Cookout runs, gym partners, and someone to pick you up when you send out that Saturday morning SOS text from a girl’s apartment will become commonplace. There are so many guys there that someone is inevitably down to help you whenever you need it. It will blow your mind the day your car doesn’t start when you find out that the guy who’s always on acid can take apart your engine and put it back together with a blindfold on. And I promise you that when you’re at your lowest low and you get a phone call about a sick family member that you were praying would never come, or you hear about the tragic car crash that your best friend from back home was in, those guys in the house will drop everything to raise you back up. You will be surrounded by your best friends, whether you even knew their full name when you moved in together or not.
A big problem that a lot of guys run into is their parents’ ideas about the frat house lifestyle. The truth of the matter is they’re pretty much spot-on. You will party, you will be up to no good, and you won’t focus on school. What they’re wrong about, though, is you failing out of college because of it. It’s incredibly rare for that to happen. You might not match your dorm life GPA, but you’ll be surrounded by enough guys with their heads on straight to keep you in line if you start going off course. You will completely embrace the work hard/play hard lifestyle. You’ll probably redline your brain and body every week by pulling all-nighters for tests and then going out the next night, but that is exactly what college is for. This is your opportunity to soak up as much as you can, and that weird grind you deal with when you’re finishing up a paper to pull a B in a class but also making sure it’s done by 9 p.m. so you can make it for $2 pitchers is facilitated by the chaos of the house.
It turns you into a clutch player. I’m talking ice in your veins, three pointer at the buzzer, walk-off home run in the ninth. And if you want to enjoy yourself, that’s the grind you have to embrace. And you will, because you’re a winner. Now of course don’t explain it to your parents this way when they object to you moving in. Lie, plead, beg… do anything that you have to. Stress the fact that Steve is pre-med and he insists on implementing a 10 p.m. quiet hours policy even if Steve is actually technically a part-time student this semester. Tell them about that one congressman alumni that lived in the house in ’81, but leave out the end of his Wikipedia page where he was repeatedly arrested for his cocaine dependency. Keep talking about it, and don’t let it go. Wear them down. Do what you have to do. Get it done, and get your ass in the house.
Some of you will be moving into the house for the first time when you head back to school next semester, some of you might have just moved out. To that first group: welcome to the big leagues. You made the right choice. To the second group: I know that feeling, and it’s a tough pill to swallow. Just remember that the house is still yours to hang out in, and always will be.
Back to those of you about to move in: be prepared for the wildest, weirdest time of your life. When you walk away, I have no doubt that you will do so with the craziest stories possible, and all small talk in the real world will be ruined for you because it won’t be able to hold a candle to the conversations you had while living in the fraternity house.
It’s very trendy right now for the media to call for the abolition of fraternities; to end it all. And maybe one day that will happen. But for now we’re still here, so take advantage of it and live in that magnificent palace. Living in the house was the strangest, wildest, most beautiful part of college. I became tight with guys that I thought I could never live with, and I owe every guy in that house the world for making my life infinitely better. Man, I miss living with those guys. And if you live in the fraternity house, you’ll be lucky enough to have that feeling one day too. Do the right thing and live in the house, boys. You’ll love it..