Pride in Culture * Brotherhood in Arms * Respect for Life

Frequently Asked Questions: Greek Life

What is a Fraternity

A fraternity is a group of men bound together by friendship, brotherhood, and common goals and aspirations. The members that form the fraternity share their friendship, efforts, and knowledge. Together these members learn and grow and make the fraternity strong. Their common experience builds ties that last a lifetime. This forms a brotherhood among the members, which helps to develop strong and creative leadership that leads to success.

Though there are many different fraternities, they all share common founding principles that are of interest to any college man or woman. Fraternities endeavor to enhance your educational experience by emphasizing intellectual, interpersonal, and social development. The ideals of lifelong friendship, sound education, campus and community service, and social interaction are what fraternity members strive to live by every day.

Why do people join fraternities / sororities?

Social opportunities, philanthropic projects, community service, tradition, career networking, and becoming part of an international organization are all reasons mentioned for becoming part of the Greek community, but the one cited most often by members is the sense of brotherhood/sisterhood. After all, you don't have to join a fraternity or sorority to have a great social life in the University. You don't have to pay dues to a Greek letter organization to volunteer or raise money for a cause. You don't have to belong to the Greek community to acquire the personal development and study skills to succeed at the University. The element of brotherhood/sisterhood is nonetheless a difficult attribute to convey to men and women interested in joining the Greek system. It is a feeling of togetherness, support, and teamwork. It is companionship, personal discovery, challenge, and awareness.

Joining a Greek organization is one way to make your university seem smaller, friendlier, and easier to handle — it gives you a place and people to count on. Fraternities endeavor to enhance your educational experience by emphasizing intellectual, interpersonal, and social development. The ideals of lifelong friendship, sound education, campus and community service, and social interaction are what Greeks strive to live by every day.

What is it like to be involved in a fraternity?

The Greek community is a diverse group of men and women belonging to a variety of different fraternities and sororities on campuses across North America. The first Greek organization was founded in 1776, when students realized a need to discuss current events outside the classroom. Greek societies have since taken on a broader role to develop the moral, mental, and social skills of their members. Each individual fraternity possesses a set of principles that guide the actions of its members.

Many members of Greek chapters are also leaders on campus in a wide range of student organizations and on athletic teams. Fraternities and sororities contribute significant amounts of time working with, and raising funds for, local and national community service organizations and agencies.

Aren't fraternities and sororities just like the ones in the movies and on TV?

The image of Greek life is often defined by individuals without complete or dated information. Fictional accounts from Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, Road Trip, or even Greek as well as the news media tends to focus on, and exaggerate, the social aspect of Greek Life, rather than all the impressive, multi-dimensional benefits of Greek membership.

Further the fraternities and sororities also host hundreds of charity events and other activities entirely without alcohol, and all fraternities and sororities oppose hazing because it has no place in organizations based on mutual respect and shared values.

What do I need to do to join?

There are a few things to consider before joining a sorority or fraternity:

1. Determine your eligibility. Students interested in participating in Greek recruitment must meet eligibility requirements. All interested students must be registered as a full time student and be in good standing with their University. In addition, Greek organizations also have grade point average requirements (most organizations' GPA requirement is between a 2.5 and 3.0.)

2. Ask questions of members. Here are a few questions for you to ask current members of Greek organizations to help you determine which chapter is best for you:

  • Why did you join a Greek Organization?
  • How did you choose this chapter?
  • In which philanthropic and community service projects does your chapter participate?
  • What are the financial obligations of membership?
  • How will Greek life benefit me now and in the future?
  • What is the time commitment involved?
  • How has your life changed as a member of a Greek organization? 

How do I know if I am the fraternity "type"?

There is no fraternity "type". Most of the stereotypes about Greek membership are myths. Each fraternity and sorority, no matter how large or small in number, consists of members who have varied interests and backgrounds.

How do I know which is the best fraternity for me?

Each organization is founded on different beliefs and values. Whether to join a large or small chapter; a newly-formed or old chapter; a chapter geared mainly toward athletics, academics, campus involvement, or a more diverse, well-rounded chapter; is simply a matter of personal preference. Each organization has its own advantages. Selecting a fraternity is like choosing friends — pick the group with which you feel most comfortable.

During recruitment, the fraternities you visit should be informing you of the benefits of their particular organization. As you attend the various Rush events, it is important that you ask the questions that are important to you: costs, activities, scholarship, philanthropy, etc. If a group talks more about the other groups than itself, be aggressive and ask about that group. But, perhaps most important, make the decision on your own. Even though your roommate, best friend, or the group you attend Rush events with has decided on a particular fraternity, you do not have to. Your friends should always be your friends, the choice of fraternity is completely yours. It is a decision you will have made for a lifetime.

What's a fraternity initiation like? Why is it so significant for members?

Initiation into a Greek letter organization is by a secret ceremony where a new or associate member, becomes a fully initiated, life-member of the organization. During this ceremony you will learn the deeper meanings of the fraternity and the reasons why they exist. Each initiation is the same, and because of this, the ceremony becomes the binding force that interlocks each member to the whole body. The secrecy involved with the initiation process teaches respect and trust. There are no offensive or hazing practices involved in a fraternal initiation.

How much time does fraternity membership require?

Like most other worthwhile extra-curricular activities, how much you get out of your Greek membership is related to how much you put in. On average, expect to contribute two to four hours per week for meetings and mandatory activities. Optional activities such as holding an office, attending social events, playing on an intramural sports team, or helping out with various projects will of course take additional time. Some organizations require more time than others. Be sure to ask questions regarding time commitments during recruitment.

Whether it is planning a party, a community service project, or regular weekly meetings, fraternity members have learned to manage their time wisely with other commitments like homework, relationships, and jobs. Commuting students specifically gain a home-away-from-home that enables them to be a part of campus life. Through Greek involvement, you will meet diverse friends and be linked to an international network of more than 4.5 million members providing continual contact and activities wherever they go in life. Perhaps this is also why so many Greek members have succeeded in their lives.

What do Greek members actually do?

Greeks participate in many activities on campus and in the community. For many students, the Greek social life helps to make attending the university a more fulfilling experience. Greek organizations provide a calendar of social activities including formals, homecoming, mixers, athletic activities, retreats, informal get-togethers, and other special events. In addition to social activities fraternity and sorority members are the leaders in many campus clubs and groups and are especially active in the student government.

Finally, community service is an important aspect of fraternity life. Every Greek organization has an official charity to raise funds and awareness for. It is safe to say that no other segment of the student population has dedicated more time and resources, or has raised more money for charity than the members of our Greek community.

Is there a lot of alcohol and substance abuse associated with fraternities?

The social aspect of Greek life is one of the many reasons that students get involved in fraternities and sororities; however, alcohol and substance abuse is not tolerated. Most organizations have mandatory educational sessions on the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse, and precautions are taken at events to ensure a safe environment.

Will Greek membership affect my grades?

Academic achievement is a priority for all Greek organizations. Many organizations enforce grade point average requirements and offer study sessions, tutoring, and other programs to assist members to achieve their potential. Since the Greek chapters are composed of men or women from different years, with many different majors, and diverse interests, you can always find some senior members who have already completed the courses you are taking and therefore can offer advice on content and testing.

Students who take advantage of the academic opportunities available and properly balance their time between academic and extra-curricular pursuits will find that Greek membership will enhance their academic performance. Several studies have consistently found that fraternity and sorority members tend to be significantly more likely to graduate from their program and report more satisfaction with their university experience than for unaffiliated students.

What sort of leadership opportunities does Greek life provide?

Fraternities exemplify democracy in action. They are families, communities, and some are legal corporations with annual operating budgets of over $50,000. Many members live and learn to work within this environment. Officers within each chapter are elected to manage the day-to-day operations of the organization. These officers are assisted by members serving on committees and by alumni who act as advisors. Additionally, many organizations have regional and international leadership conferences where students learn a variety of leadership skills. Finally, members also can serve on a variety of university and Greek Council governance, judicial, and other Greek life sub-committees. Fraternities and sororities provide a solid foundation in leadership training that prepares students for the demands and responsibilities needed for the future.

What sort of alumni connections can I make?

The role of the alumni as advisors or International Greek officers and consultants is substantial. Lifetime friendships expand beyond individual chapters to include all members of the national and international Greek life community. Alumni organizations help students network for potential employment opportunities after graduation, and keep in touch through newsletters, correspondence, meetings, and special alumni events.

What is the normal size of a chapter?

There has been constant growth in fraternities and sororities in the past few years. The sizes of chapters vary from one to another and from university to university. In smaller schools a chapter may have 25 to 30 members while at large universities the membership may be close to 150.

What is hazing and is it permitted?

Hazing is defined as any action taken which produces bodily harm or danger, mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment, fright, or ridicule. All national fraternal organizations and institutions of higher education have banned hazing. Greek Councils rigorously enforce hazing policies, and organizations that violate them are subject to immediate suspension of campus and Greek Council recognition and privileges. The Rituals of Greek organizations have nothing to do with hazing; they are not scary, shameful, or degrading. Although it is the most important part of membership, it is nothing more than symbols, heraldry, and common ideals. If you suspect that hazing is happening in a Greek fraternity, contact Greek Affairs.

What is the recruitment process and how do I join?

"Recruitment" is a period when fraternities and sororities on campus organize a new member recruitment period. It is a time for students to ask questions of members, define financial obligations, time commitments, and membership requirements. Recruitment is year-round, but the formal recruitment period is at the beginning of the fall academic term.

Recruitment is a two-way process when fraternities and sororities are looking at you, and you are looking at fraternities and sororities. You are deciding which organization most interests you, which has the members you relate to the most, and where you feel the most comfortable. At the same time, members of the chapter are meeting you and others going through recruitment. Chapters are looking at individuals who can contribute to their membership in terms of grades, activities, talents, and interests. It isn't a hard process and once you're involved, you'll find you like it.

What is the new member process?

Most organizations require their members to complete a probationary period, usually called "pledgeship" or "new member education" prior to initiation for the purpose of orientation and member development. During this time you'll learn the history, traditions and operating procedures of the organization and participate in activities to get to know the members better. Organizations use various terms to refer to their pre-initiates, including "pledge," "new member," "associate member," and "candidate." The duration of the new member period varies from group to group but is no more than approximately two months. Some organizations require new members to achieve a certain grade point average during their "pledge" semester in order to qualify to be initiated.

Is there a cost to join a Fraternity?

Given the benefits provided, Greek membership is a bargain. However, students should consider the costs in planning their personal budgets. Dues vary from chapter to chapter because of size, insurance and tax assessments, national fee structures, etc.. Most chapters also offer a variety of payment plan options. Students also should be aware that there may be one-time costs established by the international headquarters (if applicable) for initiation and pledging during the first semester of membership. It is best to contact the individual chapters to determine the actual cost of membership.

The cost of membership dues has earned Greek life the reputation of being elitist, or "for the affluent only." In reality, stereotype of the spoiled rich kid simply isn't true. The demographics of Greek membership are similar to that of other university students. Many members hold a part-time job, collect student loans, and pay their dues by installments. Membership dues are paid only during university years, although membership lasts a lifetime!

How much does it cost to live in a fraternity house?

Living arrangements differ from chapter to chapter according to the number of residents and the facility. The Residence fees for house accommodations are competitive and usually below the university's housing fees for a single occupancy room. Since you might be required to live in the house of the chapter you join, be sure to ask about living expenses.

Do all fraternities have chapter houses?

No, the houses are either managed/owned by an Alumni corporation or an independent landlord.

Do I have to live in the chapter house if I join?

It depends on the fraternity and sorority, but many fraternities and sororities require chapter officers to live in their chapter house during their term of office. Living in a Greek house offers a "home away from home," furthers academic and social growth and development, and provides much of the comfort and support of a family environment.

Why are fraternity and sororities referred to as "Greek" organizations?

Sororities and fraternities are commonly known as Greek organizations and their members as "Greeks" because a majority of them use Greek letters to distinguish themselves. It is not a reflection of the ancestry of the individual members. Greek letters where chosen during the 1800s for a variety of reasons including: a tribute to the first true democracies in the Western World; the fact that many of the organizations used Greek (and sometimes Latin) words for their secret and public mottoes, officers etc; and because many of the organizations grew from literary societies that were dedicated to the discussion of classical literature as was popular among the educated classes of the time. This term is further solidified today by the use of Greek architectural elements including pediments and columns commonly adorning fraternity and sorority houses.