In a list of the 17 fraternities with top Wall Street alumni, Business Insider named 17 social, and no professional, frats. All the same, rising senior Ben Chon, who will be the president of Alpha Kappa Psi (AKPsi) at UC Berkeley for the Fall 2014 semester, said that joining a professional business fraternity was the best decision he could have made.
“It might have been like that because of what I was looking for, but I feel like it has just helped me so much,” Chon said.
Though he acknowledges that joining a business frat might not be as perfect an experience for everyone, he maintains that there are career benefits and attributes much of his professional success to his membership. After joining the fraternity in the second semester of his freshman year, Chon landed his first internship at Merrill Lynch and believes this success, and his later success landing internships at Centaur Partners, Cisco, and Deloitte,are partly due to older members helping him revise his resume.
According to the Professional Fraternity Association, over 2 million students have been initiated into professional business fraternities and sororities. In the business fraternity AKPsi alone, there are over 240,000 members worldwide.
According to its website, AKPsi is the oldest and largest business fraternity in the U.S. The others, Delta Sigma Pi, Phi Gamma Nu, and Phi Chi Theta, are younger but still range from 90 to 110 years old. There are also specialized business frats like Gamma lota Sigma, which focuses on insurance, risk management, and actuarial sciences, and Pi Sigma Epsilon, which emphasizes marketing and sales. All of them, however, tout high ideals and education in business, association with like-minded peers, and networking opportunities among their benefits.
The educational aspect of UC Berkeley’s AKPsi begins during Rush Week. According to Chon, rushing the UC Berkeley chapter is a process not unlike interviewing for a company. Along with their applications, potential members attend two events during the week, one casual and one formal, to meet other members and socialize. After that, there’s a professional interview where rushees are asked business questions and a group interview where hopefuls are given business case simulations.
Though most students who join the fraternity are studying and pursuing business, Chon said that there is no requirement to be a business major and that there are actually a number of science and engineering majors in the frat, among others.
“We really look at the application holistically. We look at their social fit, we look at GPAs, work that they’re doing, and also the interviews,” Chon said.
In terms of maintaining high standards and ideals in business, he said that the UC Berkeley chapter helps the newest class of members develop their professional and social skills. Around 10 to 15 workshops are held during the pledging process each semester, and between mock interviews and case simulations, the pledges are brought up to speed.
This kind of mentorship between older and newer members is characteristic of the peer relationships within professional frats. Chon emphasized that the social aspect of the frat is important from the moment you apply and onward.
“We really really emphasize the social aspect of the fraternity, because although we are a business fraternity, we look for people who can fit in with our culture and know how to have fun. It shouldn’t all be about work,” Chon said.
He recounted that already this summer some members have gone on trips together, attending a festival in San Francisco, rafting, and going to Six Flags. In fact, Chon’s favorite frat memory is away from the university on a trip that 15 members took around Asia.
“I think that trip was one of the best memories I’ve had, since I went with friends that I hadn’t made so long ago, and we just became closer and made a lot of fun memories together,” Chon said.
These relationships aren’t all forged on recreational travel, however. Chon described how the people he met in AKPsi, especially the class that he joined the fraternity with, became the friends who stood by him during bad times.
“I had a really bad fever one weekend, and I went to the ER. When I came back, for four days straight I didn’t have to get out of my room to get food. My class, the members who I joined the fraternity with, they sent me breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day. It’s just things like that. We bond a lot throughout the pledging process. I’m also living with five other fraternity members this year. We never really get sick of each other, we have fun together. I’m pretty sure they’re the people I’m going to invite to my wedding,” Chon said.
On top of the socializing and friendships, professional fraternity peers also share career interests. According to Chon, the UC Berkeley chapter has a career mentorship program where older members are paired with younger members with similar goals. For example, if a younger member is interested in accounting or banking, then they’ll be paired with someone who has received an offer from an accounting or banking firm. Throughout the semester, older members can answer questions and help younger members with their resumes.
Career aid within the frat doesn’t end with peers either. Though each business fraternity, and even different chapters within AKPsi, might organize itself differently, they all promote alumni networks as their major asset. At the UC Berkeley’s AKPsi, the vice president of alumni is in charge of maintaining relations and managing a database of alumni emails and contact information.
Chon mentioned several specific ways that alumni help out. Some return to hold workshops on their particular industries, while others may hold motivational talks like “How To
Find Your Passion.” Less formally, members can also reach out to alumni directly, asking for advice on landing jobs in certain fields.
“I’ve done this multiple times where I ask for an email. I email them, and they’re more than happy to meet up with me or have a phone call with me just because I’m in AKPsi,” Chon said.
Though he maintained that alumni are rarely able to hire fraternity members directly, as they are not the sole decision makers, they are able to provide tips and advice, and all a member has to do is reach out.
The benefits of the frat span a wide range from educational, to social, to professional, and Chon maintains that it is the best group he could have joined to further his interests.
“It just fit so perfectly,” Chon said.