Fraternities and sororities are members-only social institutions that dominate the social scene on many US college campuses.
Because these social organizations are almost exclusive to the US and rarely found in other countries, international students studying in the US for the first time may find the concept of fraternities and sororities completely foreign.
So what are they? Should you join one? Use this guide to clarify the confusion about fraternities and sororities and help you decide if they are right for you.
What are Fraternities and Sororities?
Fraternities and sororities are social organizations usually for US undergraduate students. As a body of organizations, fraternities and sororities are part of what is commonly referred to as the “Greek System” in the US.
Fraternities and sororities are almost always single-sex organizations, with fraternities for males and sororities for females. They are largely social. Members make friends within the organization, throw parties, do community service activities as a group, and more.
Some fraternities and sororities even have their own Greek house on campus, where members meet, party and sometimes even live.
Party Houses vs. Community Service Organizations
Some foreign students may have fallen prey to the “Animal House” cliché, believing that fraternities and sororities are just a means of partying for most university students.
While it is true that fraternities and sororities are largely social institutions, the Greek System is also a big proponent of community service. Many fraternities and sororities undertake local service projects, such as tutoring children in the community or raising awareness for charitable causes.
The ratio of party-vs-community-service certainly varies from one fraternity or sorority to the next, so it’s a good idea to research specific organizations you may be interested in and find out how active their charity work is – vs. their party work!
How to Join Fraternities and Sororities
Every year, many new undergraduates on college campuses across the US decide to join fraternities or sororities. The Greek System is initiation-only, so students must introduce themselves to the organization they wish to join, and then the fraternity or sorority decides whether the student will be admitted.
Typically, the Greek System on a college campus will hold a “rush” period, during which fraternities and sororities hold meet-and-greet events, ranging from casual get-togethers to large drinking parties. These events allow potential members to become familiar with the Greek System and allow current sorority and fraternity members to get to know potential fellow members.
At the end of the rush period, fraternities and sororities decide on which “rush-ees” they would like to admit as new members. These students are then inducted into the organization.
Hazing at Fraternities and Sororities
In addition to meet-and-greet events, some fraternities and sororities hold initiation events during rush which require rush-ees to complete challenges proving their dedication to the Greek System. These rituals can be silly and embarrassing things, like wearing a dorky costume to class or not showering for one week.
However, there have been cases where “hazing,” as these initiation events are called, gets out of control. Binge drinking challenges are the most prominent. There have been cases where rush-ees have become seriously ill and even died from over-drinking in hazing events.
Although US schools have cracked down on dangerous hazing practices, many fraternities continue these traditions. If you choose to rush and are faced with an initiation challenge that you are simply not comfortable with, don’t do it. Always put your own well-being first.
So… Should You Join a Fraternity or Sorority?
Only you can decide!
Fraternities and sororities make up a large part of student life at some US college campuses, but their presence is small at others. Either way, fraternities and sororities can be a great way to make friends on campus, but you should never feel pressured to join one.