International Students Guide to College Greek Life

You may have come across the terms “Greek life,” “sororities,” or “fraternities” while touring college campuses before, but don’t know exactly what these words signify. Not to worry, we will go over exactly what it means to be a member of a university’s Greek organization, the different types of Greek life, and what the benefits and drawbacks are. So that you can make an informed decision on whether or not to join one.

What is Greek life?

Greek life consists of communities, called fraternities and sororities, that share the same values, such as community service, leadership, or professional development. Commonly, fraternities are a brotherhood for guys while sororities are a sisterhood for girls, but some fraternities can also be co-ed. There are numerous Greek organizations which branch off into different chapters across different college campuses.

Different types of Greek life

There are five types of Greek organizations: social, professional, service, honors, and cultural, which all have varying membership processes and benefits. Social Greek organizations are the ones that you have most likely seen on TV shows and movies, but they’re usually not as wild as portrayed on screen because most fraternities and sororities have actually banned hazing and alcohol consumption. Professional and service fraternities, which are more often than not co-ed, are based on communal interests in career development, such as business, law or medicine, and community service. Honor societies are a little different than Greek life that most people think or know of as they require a minimum GPA to receive an invitation to join and they are commonly based on your school or major. The last type of fraternities and sororities are those of a specific cultural identity or interest, such as Asian or African American. Here is a quick graphic, showing the general differences between each type of Greek organizations:

different types of Greek life organizations

Why is Greek life so big at US colleges?

Although Greek life may seem like a huge part of college life everywhere in the US, this is definitely not the case. There are smaller colleges that do not have a big emphasis on Greek life presence, unlike some larger universities where the majority of the student body is involved with a sorority or fraternity. People often gravitate toward joining a Greek organization for its benefits. Social fraternities and sororities offer social events, aka parties, while professional Greek life will help students develop their skills in the particular field. 

No matter whether Greek life is a large or small part of your college campus, you should never feel pressured or obligated to join one unless you are genuinely interested in the community.

What are the benefits of joining a sorority or fraternity?

Depending on the type of Greek life, the benefits of joining a sorority or fraternity can vary. Some of the pros of joining a Greek organization include invitations to social events, personal growth opportunities, professional development opportunities, networking, and getting to meet and bond with new college peers.

What are the drawbacks of joining a sorority or fraternity?

However, before joining, one must consider the financial and time investment that fraternities and sororities often require. All sororities and fraternities mandate yearly or semester dues that each member has to pay. The fee can range from $100 to $1000 per semester, depending on the organization. Moreover, pledging and member duties can be a huge time commitment but this also varies from chapter to chapter. So, you should converse with current members to get a better understanding of the chapter’s expectations on monetary and time commitment before deciding to rush or pledge.

Why should international students join Greek organizations?

International students should consider joining Greek organizations as a way to meet new people and make friends. It ultimately depends on what you want out of your university experience, but fraternities or sororities may be helpful in fulfilling your college goals. 

How can you join a fraternity or sorority?

In order to join a fraternity or sorority, you have to be a full time student on campus and attend the mandatory number of rush events during rush week. Social fraternities and sororities often host rush week at the same time, which will give you the opportunity to see what the vibes and members of each organization are like. To increase your chances of getting into a Greek organization, you should also chat with as many members as possible to demonstrate your interest in the specific fraternity or sorority.

What is a ‘bid,’ how do you get one, and what happens after you receive one?

A bid is something that you may receive after rush week, inviting you to join a certain fraternity or sorority. After receiving a bid, you have to consider whether or not you would like to join the organization. If you choose to accept the bid, then you will move onto the pledging process.

What is the pledging process like?

The pledging process is different and kept confidential for most Greek organizations, but it usually lasts 8 to 10 weeks and requires a large time commitment.

Can you pledge for two different organizations?

Depending on the type of Greek life, you may be able to join more than one organization; but you should not pledge for more than one organization during the semester as it can become too stressful and deter you from your academic obligations. For example, someone can pledge for a professional fraternity during their first semester and then join a social sorority during their second semester. 

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