frat house
frat house

Everything You Need To Know About Greek Life In College

Thinking about rushing this year? Read this before you do.

Deciding to join Greek life in college is a huge decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Aside from the time and financial commitment, you have to actually find the right house to join. And what kind of stuff will you have to do during rush week, anyway?

That’s exactly why we’ve crafted this handy guide for everything you’ll need to know about Greek life in college. From fraternities to sororities, and all the chaos of rush week, we’re here to help you navigate it every step of the way.

What is Greek Life?

If you’re wondering what Greek life actually is, it’s defined as a social organization focused on developing leadership skills, philanthropy, and community service. In the process, you’ll (hopefully!) make lifelong bonds with like-minded students.

These social groups are divided into fraternities for men and sororities for women. The Greek Life office on your college campus will oversee any of the activities or events each house has throughout the year.

Participation in Greek life varies widely by campus. Some smaller schools might not even have any kind of fraternities or sororities on campus. Other, larger state schools can have participation as high as 75% of students. Take this into consideration when deciding if you want to be involved with Greek life during your college career.

Greek Life Meaning

Greek life simply refers to all of the fraternities and sororities on your specific college campus. Being involved with Greek Life means you chose to rush (and eventually joined) a fraternity or sorority.

Don’t feel like you have to make the decision right away, either. Some chapters of various fraternities or sororities do allow sophomores to join. Just be sure to check with your local chapter on their specific guidelines.

Sorority Meaning

At its base level, a sorority is a women’s student organization formed mainly for social reasons with a name consisting of Greek letters. But joining a sorority goes much deeper than that.

The sorority itself is formed around common goals or ideas, ideally bonding its members to “sisterhood” in the process. Once you’ve joined the sorority, there is a lifelong bond established between you and its members.

Tuning into a smaller community of people on campus can be helpful when you’re first starting out in college. This is your chance to socialize and give back, all while making lifelong memories.

What is a Sorority House?

The sorority house itself is a large home that acts as a communal living space for all members of the sorority. It also serves as a venue for social events, fundraisers, and chapter meetings.

During your second or sophomore year as a member of your sorority, you are required to live in the house. Juniors and seniors aren’t required to live in the house but are expected to. The only reason a member would not live in the house is if the house is at capacity.

Sorority Hazing

Hazing in both sororities and fraternities used to be the standard for new pledges. However, in recent years thanks in part to more people speaking out, hazing has quickly fallen out of fashion. The act of hazing is illegal in 44 states, and many colleges and universities have severe consequences if any Greek houses participate.

Unfortunately, incidents of hazing do still occur. According to a recent study, 73% of pledges experienced some kind of hazing. The most common types of hazing are:

  • Drinking games (53%)
  • Singing or chanting in a public place (31%)
  • Drinking large amounts of alcohol to the point of getting sick or passing out (26%)
  • Being awakened at night by other members (19%)
  • Being yelled, screamed, or cursed at by other members (18%)

Other, more severe instances of hazing occur, with some students having severe mental health issues post-hazing or even dying from their injuries.

If you’re pressured into being hazed during your time as a pledge, report it to your Greek Life office on campus or local authorities immediately.

What is a Fraternity?

A fraternity is a group of like-minded men coming together in order to further the social, academic, and professional interests of its members. Similar to sororities, the fraternities form a lifelong bond of “brotherhood.”

The smaller, tight knit community is a great way to be involved on campus, participate in social events, and engage in philanthropy and charitable work. Many fraternities also have a specific sorority they partner with on campus to throw combined events.

Fraternity Meaning

The literal definition of a fraternity is simply a group of people associated with or formally organized for a common pursuit or interest. Of course, joining a fraternity during college has another added layer to this meaning.

Once a member of the fraternity, you’re committed to a lifelong brotherhood. Participating in a fraternity gives you a link to other likeminded members on campus, along with a stronger sense of community and purpose.

What is Rush Week?

Rush week (or recruitment week) is arguably the biggest and most important time for all the fraternities and sororities on campus. The most common time for rush week to occur is early fall, likely in September.

During this time, the Greek houses host events to give new students a chance to meet their members. Students will tour all the houses on campus, allowing both new recruits and current members to see who is a good fit for their respective fraternity or sorority.

While fraternities host more relaxed events, sororities will usually have more formal receptions for new recruits. In both instances, the Greek houses and recruits narrow their preferences once they’ve met with all the prospects.

Once rush week is over, bid day is the next big event. This is when recruits see which houses “bid” on them to join. If you’re happy with your bid, you are officially a fraternity or sorority member!

Sorority Rush

As we said earlier, rushing a sorority is much different than rushing a fraternity. The events tend to be more scheduled and formal, so the recruitment process is more rigorous. Different events and themes are given to new recruits to follow for each stage of recruitment.

Sorority rushing is usually broken up into four rounds: open house, house tours, skit/philanthropy, and preference.

The open house is the least formal of all the rounds. You’ll have a chance to get to know all of the sororities on campus. House tours allow you to see the houses of the sororities you’re most interested in since you’ve likely made a few cuts at this point. For round three, some houses will have you do a silly skit with other sisters, while some will involve you in some kind of philanthropy work. Finally, the preference round is the most serious and formal, which is where you’ll interview with your favorite houses.

Sorority Recommendation Letter

You are allowed to submit a sorority recommendation letter during rush week. This is when a sorority alumnus sends in a letter to the house you’re hoping to get into. Essentially, it’s an endorsement that you would be a good candidate for a certain sorority.

You essentially need recommendations to get into a sorority, even if you’re a legacy (i.e. your mom or other family member was once a member). Start reaching out early to the women who know you best to get a strong recommendation. You’ll stand out much more as a pledge that way.

Dress for Sorority Rush

It’s common for new pledges to wear dresses during rush week, especially to tie into any events the houses are having.

Hundreds of places carry the exact type of dresses you’ll need, and Student Beans happens to partner with tons of them! Click here to snag a discount on all the dresses you’ll need for rush week.

Sorority Paddles

Sorority paddles are decorative keepsakes from your chapter to represent a bond of sisterhood. It’s common for new pledges to decorate a paddle in a ceremony to represent their initiation into the sorority.

Some pledges keep their own paddles, while others give their decorated paddle to their “big sister” within the house. For most, the paddles represent Greek pride and are rooted in tradition.

Fraternity Paddles

Similar to sorority paddles, fraternity paddles are symbols of brotherhood. While the men’s paddles aren’t ads decorated as women’s, they still hold a major symbolic value to the house members.

Again, the paddle may be given to a “big brother” or kept for oneself, depending on house tradition. However, in some fraternities, the paddle is still used as a hazing ritual.

As you get ready for rush week, remember to open your expectations up to find the perfect house to join. We know you’ll have a great time, and we wish you luck in the beginning of your Greek life journey!

Nervous about starting college? Click here for the best advice for college freshmen.