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Chapter 8: Learning About The Greek System


Fraternities and sororities are prevalent organizations on most campuses. Each house is named after three Greek letters, and this gives the collective group of fraternities and sororities the name “Greek system.” The Greek system can enrich your life in numerous ways during and after college, but it is not suitable for everyone. If you are new to college experience, understanding the Greek system can help you to determine if you want to become a part of it.

Reasons to Go Greek

If you are on the fence about going Greek, you may be wondering what you can expect from the experience. Joining a fraternity or sorority can be a very enriching and beneficial experience in many ways. These are some of the leading reasons to go Greek:

  • A Housing Option. Greek houses are located very close to campus, so they provide you with a convenient place to live.
  • Academic Support and Tutoring. Your Greek brothers or sisters may assist you with tutoring and general academic advice.
  • Professional Network: When you are in the Greek system, you can enjoy benefits for a lifetime. Your fellow Greek brothers or sisters may assist you with the job search and many other professional needs.
  • Community Service Opportunities. Many Greek houses regularly raise money for charities or volunteer in different ways. These community service activities can be incorporated into your resume to assist with your job search process.
  • Learning Opportunities. Your fellow brothers or sisters can help you to learn in structured ways, but they also may be available for informal learning sessions. They could even challenge you to take chances that you may not otherwise feel confident to take.
  • A Close Community. Your Greek brothers and sisters will be supportive and like-minded. Their support during and after school can help you feel more grounded.
  • Social Life. A big part of the college experience is the social experience. As a part of the Greek system, you may be invited to many parties, be able to participate in sporting events and more.
  • Friendships for Lifetime. You may become so close with your Greek brothers or sisters that you continue to stay in close contact with them after you graduate.

Just as there are benefits associated with joining the Greek system, there are also cons. One of the most significant drawbacks relates to the cost, as joining a fraternity or sorority can be quite expensive. Also, members are often stereotyped negatively by peers and faculty because of their involvement in the Greek system.

Important Greek Life Terms

The Greek experience is likely new to you, and you will be exposed to many terms that you may not otherwise be knowledgeable about. These are some of the more important Greek-life terms that you should know about:

  • Greek: Describes all sororities and fraternities.
  • Fraternity: May also be shortened to frat, describes a Greek organization with male members.
  • Sorority: Describes a Greek organization with female members.
  • Brother: A fellow fraternity member.
  • Sister: A fellow sorority member.
  • Rush: A period in the initial weeks of a semester when you may be asked to join a specific sorority or fraternity.
  • Bid: Your official invitation to join a Greek organization.
  • Pledge: A recruit to a fraternity or sorority who has not yet been formally inducted with official membership.
  • Hazing: An illegal act that describes initiation rituals, which may be embarrassing or even painful.
  • Initiation: The formal induction ceremony when you become an official member.
  • Chapter: The larger organization that links your specific house to other similar houses at different campuses.
  • Intramural: Greek sporting events authorized by the college.
  • Panhellenic Council: A governing organization for sororities.
  • Alumni: College graduates who previously were active fraternity or sorority members
  • A Big Brother or Sister: An elder member who sponsors, advises and guides new members as they become familiar with the fraternity or sorority.
  • Legacy: Close kin of sorority or fraternity alumni.

Joining a Sorority

Before you join a sorority, you need to know what to expect at every stage of the experience.

Engaging in Sorority Recruitment (Sorority Rush)

Rush usually takes place over at least one week. During this week, special events will be held by sororities on campus. These events give you the chance to meet different sorority members and to learn more about the organization. During this process, you may find that you click better with some sororities than with others.

While it is commonly believed that rush week is simply a week of parties, this is not the case. Rush also consists of conversations with members, songs, skits and more. Some of the events that are common throughout the week include:

  1. Open Houses. The initial phase in rush when you may learn more about the sororities that you are most interested in and talk to their members.
  2. House Tours. A progressive step up from open houses, this round gives you a chance to see how sorority members live in each house.
  3. Philanthropy Round. This round often includes learning more about the personality of each chapter and its members.
  4. Preference Round. The most serious round includes you learning more about particular chapter’s values and traditions. In the end, it’s up to you to decide which sorority you prefer by listing two or three sororities in order of where you’d most like to pledge.

You should always plan to dress appropriately for each event. Remember that you are trying to make a good impression on the sorority sisters. Some events are seemingly casual, such as an open house. However, these meet-and-greet events may be suitable for wearing an appropriate dress so that you make a great first impression. At progressive events, you should spend an equivalent amount of time preparing your appearance.

While it may seem like rush is a time to essentially be interviewed by sorority members, it is also a time for you to learn about the different sororities. Speaking with numerous sisters at each event can help you to determine your preference. These are some of the questions to ask as you speak with different sorority members:

  • What are the benefits of membership?
  • What do you look for in a new member?
  • What are some of the leadership opportunities available?
  • What is the length of the pledging period, and how much time will the process take out of my days?
  • What is the membership fee?
  • What are the housing rules and requirements?

Many sorority sisters will come together to discuss rushees and to determine if they would be a good match for the house’s culture and values. After a shortened list of rushes has been created, the voting process occurs. Some sororities have an open voting process, and others vote confidentially.

Pledging a Sorority

You officially become a pledge or a new memer when you accept a sorority’s bid. As a new member, you may receive significant education about the sorority. You may also be required to spend a certain amount of time studying, attending regular meetings and more. Some sororities require pledges to pass an entrance exam before becoming full members. During this period of time, you may be paired with a Big Sister who will serve as your mentor, and you may become her Little Sister. Keep in mind that you may be required to maintain a minimum GPA in order to retain membership in the organization.

Living in the Sorority House

When you become an active member, you may be invited or even required to live in the sorority house. This is a primary aspect of Greek life, and it becomes the center of your Greek life experience. Everything from mentoring and socializing to sharing meals and partying happens in the house. There are pros and cons associated with life in a sorority house.

  • Living with some of your best friends
  • Being close to campus and having a house where you can study, eat and more all in one location
  • The ability to borrow your sisters’ clothes
  • The ability to wear letter shirts and custom jewelry, such as Big Sis/Little Sis pieces, sorority bracelets, necklaces and more
  • Dining and cleaning benefits
  • The ability to regularly join different events and participate in fun activities
  • The bond of sisterhood
  • A lack of privacy and quiet because all sorority sisters are unofficial house residents and are always coming into your room or passing through hallways nearby
  • The noise and distractions associated with so many women living together in a small space
  • The need to share a bathroom with many other women
  • The frustrating stereotypes about sorority sisters

Many new college students are eager to join the Greek system and have already made up their mind to do so before they even arrive on campus. If you are on the fence, it makes sense to participate in rush so that you can learn more about the experience and the possible benefits for you. In the next chapter, we’ll take a look at various digital tools that can make your college life easier.