When most people think about the typical college campuses in the United States, they may envision fraternities and sororities. Known as Greek life, fraternities and sororities are primarily social organizations but offer much more than social life.
Fraternities and sororities also represent other important aspects of college life:
- Community Service
If you’re a high school student or you’re heading to college soon, you might be wondering: What is Greek life?
Read on to find out what Greek life is and what to consider when joining a fraternity or sorority.
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What Is Greek Life?
Fraternities and sororities, known as “Greek life,” are an essential part of many college campuses. Greek life are value-based college and university organizations that began nearly 250 years ago!
Each Greek letter organization at a college is part of a national organization. Each national organization has multiple chapters at universities across the country. Additionally, every fraternity and sorority has its own guidelines and traditions that each chapter is expected to follow.
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Why do Sororities and Fraternities use Greek Letters?
The reason that fraternities and sororities use Greek letters dates back to the first academic fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa in 1776. This was a time when the study of ancient Greek was common in higher education. The idea of using Greek letters gained popularity because it created a sense of elitism and secrecy, even as the study of Greek dwindled.
In addition to displaying and wearing Greek letters, fraternities and sororities often have specific membership criteria and secret rituals.
Fraternities and sororities are primarily available to undergraduate students. However, some chapters allow graduate students to join. Joining a fraternity or sorority is a lifelong membership that offers opportunities to participate in leadership activities long after graduation
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What are Greek Councils?
Greek life organizations are governed and supported by larger national organizations such as the North American Interfraternity Council (IFC). The national organizations unite different fraternities on the same college campus. The purpose of uniting different fraternities is to foster a more inclusive Greek community. This unity ensures it remains a beneficial aspect of college life to all its members.
Similarly, the National Panhellenic Council supports women in sororities across the country. This national organization aims to unite sorority sisters through the goals of improving their communities and upholding high academic standards. The National Panhellenic council includes 26 sororities at 670 campuses across the United States.
The National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) is another organization that helps fraternities and sororities unite both on and across campuses. The NPHC advances equality for black men and women in Greek life through:
The nine largest black Greek organizations belong to the NPHC.
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Reasons to Join Greek Life
Greek life organizations can date back decades, offering a rich legacy to those who join. While people often associate fraternities and sororities with social life and partying, there’s much more to it than that. Plus, many organizations have strict rules on drinking, and some prohibit the consumption of alcohol in chapter houses.
So how can Greek life help with academics?
For one, some sororities and fraternities require a certain GPA in order to maintain good standing. This means a student wouldn’t be able to participate in social activities without keeping good grades.
Sororities and fraternities also connect you to fellow students with different academic strengths. This networking can provide a supportive study network when you need homework help.
Greek life also offers access to vast alumni networks, which are known to help with job connections after graduation. Membership in a Greek organization can serve as a resume booster too.
These student organizations usually require volunteering and service projects, so joining one will allow you to be involved in your community. It also shows you have social and leadership skills that are valued in a professional setting.
Greek life is a great way to establish friendships early in your college experience. Greek organizations draw students from a variety of backgrounds, home towns, and majors. This diversity can be an opportunity to connect with and learn about students who are different from you.
Additionally, fraternity and sorority chapters often host seasonal fundraisers and formal events. These chapter events offer additional opportunities to expand your network and mingle with other students on campus.
Sororities vs. Fraternities
Sorority life fosters a sisterhood in which members support one another in all types of ways:
Each sorority is designed to promote friendship and leadership. Additionally, each specific organization has its own ideals sisters are expected to hold.
Similarly, college fraternities unite men in pursuit of career and social goals. Fraternity men are part of a brotherhood, and brothers are expected to look out for one another and further each other’s interests.
Sorority members and fraternity members bond over secret initiations and often remain friends for life.
Get Involved in Greek Life
Joining the Greek community at your college can greatly enrich your college experience. However, before you join, it’s important to consider why you seek membership in a Greek letter organization and what role that organization plays in campus life overall.
Prospective members should consider these three important factors before committing to a fraternity or sorority:
- Commitment requirements
- Type of community
All fraternities and sororities have some kind of rush process for prospective Greek life members. This experience includes multiple events where students can learn more about each organization and decide which ones are their top choice. Meanwhile, current members of each Greek organization evaluate each potential member to see if they’d be a good fit.
Once a college student is offered a bid to join, they undergo a pledging process. This process includes learning about the history of the organization and attending certain events. This can be an intensive and time-consuming process, so it’s important to plan for it so you don’t neglect your academics.
Sororities and fraternities cost money to join. These costs include membership dues, which tend to be around $400 per semester but can vary. Living in a sorority or a fraternity house also costs money, and some prices include in-house meal plans. Other sororities or fraternities may charge an initial enrollment fee for new members.
Hidden costs also exist. For example, participating in recruitment as a new or participating Greek like member may require you to purchase formal or themed outfits. Brothers and sisters are also required to represent the organization with:
- Lettered clothing
- Other apparel
It goes without saying that the price of these items can add up.
Kinds of Greek Life
Lastly, consider if there’s a certain type of Greek organization you’d like to join. For example, you may be interested in joining an organization primarily for:
- Latinx communities
- Asian communities
Other fraternities and sororities unite students based on common interests or areas of study, such as:
Additionally, certain fraternities and sororities are primarily focused on academics and less on social life. These institutions are known as honor societies, and they require a high GPA both before joining and throughout college.
Understanding Greek Life Before You Join
Greek life has been an important part of college campuses for centuries and will continue to be.
Many people who join Greek life look back on their experiences fondly. From lasting friendships to leadership skill-building and career advancement, joining a Greek letter organization offers many lifelong benefits. Still, these organizations cost money and require a significant time commitment.
It’s important to have clear intentions for joining so you know what to look for before you sign up.
For more information on choosing the right college for you and maximizing your college experience, visit College Rank for rankings on campuses, majors, and more.