What is Greek life?
Many incoming freshmen enter college wondering what the Greek System is and are perplexed by its role in campus life. Most American universities have student organizations called fraternities (for men) and sororities (for women), which are dedicated to fostering strong social bonds among their members, promoting community service, and enriching students’ overall undergraduate experience. Collectively, these student groups are called the Greek System because each house is named after two or three letters of the Greek alphabet, such as Kappa Kappa Gamma, or Alpha Delta – the latter being my very own fraternity. Often these are shortened to nicknames. For example, as an Alpha Delta, I’m referred to as an AD, while Delta Delta Delta’s are called Tri-Delts.
When people find out I was part of a fraternity, a large percentage of them often ask the following questions: “Do you have to be Greek to be part of a fraternity?”; “Did you party every night?”; “Have you seen Animal House?”; “Is it like that?”
First, I want to make it very clear that you DO NOT have to be of Greek descent to be part of the Greek System. Again, fraternities and sororities are collectively referred to as Greek houses because they are named after Greek letters. That being said, it is very hard to describe the Greek system under a single umbrella. Greek life varies from campus to campus and even from house to house. There are social Greek organizations, as well as those dedicated to a particular field of study or profession, such as business, medicine, law, engineering, or journalism. The United States’ most prestigious Honor Society, Phi Beta Kappa, is almost as old at the country itself and is also its first collegiate Greek-letter fraternity. In order to be considered for membership, students must graduate in the top 10% of their class.
Many of the stereotypes you associate with fraternities and sororities are partially true. Big parties are thrown by fraternities, sporting events get loud and rowdy, and plenty of “Animal House” antics do take place. However, fraternities and sororities are much more than just a social space and a party scene. Greek houses are leading student organizations in terms of leadership, community service, philanthropy, and school spirit. Nationally, the average GPA of fraternity and sorority members is higher than that of non-Greeks. Greek organizations are highly involved in leadership initiatives across campus, as well as sports teams, charity fundraisers, soup kitchens, food drives, and other community-oriented events. These activities are great resume builders, and participation in Greek organizations can be seen as a measure of discipline that shows you can manage academic excellence and extracurricular commitments simultaneously.
Furthermore, being part of the Greek system provides some unique benefits. It creates an instant sense of community, which is crucial during your time in college. Your fellow fraternity and sorority members become your “brothers” and “sisters,” and soon develop into your support structure. Greek houses are also well known for creating leadership roles, networking opportunities, and academic support systems. Moreover, although it is not required, it is highly encouraged for the members to live together in their respective houses.
That being said, there are also reasons not to join a Greek organization. The Greek system is not for everyone and if you don’t feel comfortable in a fraternity or sorority, it is okay. The Greek system requires dues and fees, which can be a financial burden for many. You may also not be the “frat type,” and prefer to make your own way through college and that, too, is okay. You don’t have to join a house to make new friends. While it can be tough to be an independent, especially if your university is heavily Greek, don’t feel obligated to join. Stick to your values and stay true to yourself.
Your Greek Dictionary:
1. Fraternity (Frat): Greek organization for men
2. Sorority: Greek organization for women
3. Co-ed House: Gender neutral Greek organization
4. Rush: The recruitment process when you “apply” to join the Greek house
5. Rushee: An individual who is in the process of seeking a bid
6. Bid: An invitation to become a member of the Greek house
7. Pledge: A new recruit – not yet a full member
8. Initiation: The formal process to celebrate the induction of pledges into a Greek house
9. Panhellenic Council: The governing body of sororities
10. Legacy: A rushee who is related to a member of the Greek house
Dari Seo is an Educational Consultant at Hale Education Group. He was Marshal of his Class and a member of the Alpha Delta fraternity at Dartmouth College.