You may be familiar with fraternities and sororities because you have a friend or relative who’s a member. Or maybe you’ve seen movies featuring “frat parties” or read about fraternities or sororities in the news. Between word-of-mouth from your friends and perceptions from the media, it can be difficult to make an informed decision about whether or not you’re interested in Greek life. Whichever way you’re leaning, it’s important to have a balanced perspective and know some of the basics.
What is a fraternity or sorority? At the most basic level, fraternities and sororities are social organizations of students bound by certain traditions and rituals. Fraternities and sororities are usually single sex, close-knit communities that often call themselves brotherhoods and sisterhoods. Greek organizations vary in terms of tradition, character, and focus. For example, many (if not most) focus on social activities and throw frequent parties, while others might focus more on service, academics, or leadership. No matter the emphasis, all fraternities and sororities follow the same four principles: the Four Pillars of Greek Life.
What are the Four Pillars? The Four Pillars of Greek Life are Scholarship, Service, Leadership, and Friendship. Fraternities and sororities organize and participate in activities and events to further these principles. For example, members may have to maintain a minimum GPA (at many colleges, the average GPA for fraternities and sororities is actually higher than that of the overall student body). Members participate in community service projects together, and develop friendships through group outings, parties, mentoring programs, and other social events. For leadership, many members are involved in fraternity or sorority governance, and other leadership opportunities are available, as well.
What types of fraternities and sororities are there? The most common Greek organizations are single sex social groups with no particular focus beyond socializing and having fun. However, there are many other types of Greek organizations, as well. Some fraternities are co-ed, meaning that men and women can be members. Others have a religious or cultural emphasis where most, if not all, members are from a particular religious or cultural background. There are also fraternities and sororities organized around themes such as community service, academics, or professions such as business and law.
Do I have to live in a frat house or sorority house? Whether or not it’s a requirement to live in fraternity or sorority housing varies across organizations and campuses. Some campuses don’t allow Greek organizations to have houses at all. Greek housing arrangements can be completely open where students can choose to live wherever they want, and with friends from outside the organization. On the other end of the spectrum, some sororities and fraternities have strict housing requirements where members must live in the Greek house. It’s important to check the housing policies for each organization you’re interested in.
Beyond the benefit of having a close-knit community in college and easy access to social activities, there are other benefits to Greek life, such as a national network of alumni who are usually happy to help younger members find jobs or internships. However, the structure of Greek life, and sometimes the strict traditions and active social life associated with it, don’t appeal to everyone. Whether or not to participate in Greek life is up to you, but it’s important to know the basics so you can make an informed decision.