Understanding Fraternities and Sororities

If you’ve watched any of the typical college movies, (like Animal House or Old School) you’ve probably seen or heard at least some mention of fraternities or sororities. Because these organizations don’t exist at the high school level, it’s likely that you don’t really understand what they are.


First, it’s important to realize that not all fraternities and sororities are centers of debauchery and hazing. While these things do happen, they are not the main focus of most Greek societies.

These organizations exist for many reasons; some are service-oriented, some are interest-based, and others are set up for students belonging to specific ethnicities.

What is a fraternity or a sorority?

Fraternities and sororities are, at their core, social organizations. They exist to get students together to form friendships and join a tight-knit community.

Many of these organizations have requirements for membership. For example, a service-oriented sorority may require that, to maintain membership, a student has to complete a certain number of volunteer service hours each semester.

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An interest-based fraternity may require that each member participates in a certain activity, such as an intramural sport. By bringing together people with common interests or goals, Greek societies help to form strong social circles among students.


Some fraternities and sororities have houses in which the members of the group live.

Small groups can all fit into one large house; larger groups may only allow seniors or members in high standing to occupy the house. This provides another opportunity for remaining in close contact with other members.

Even if a group doesn’t have a house, they may have a “chapter house” in which they meet for group meals, meetings, or society parties.

How to Join

Joining a fraternity or sorority is called “pledging” or “rushing” (many groups are changing the name of this process due to the negative connotations that have become associated with these terms).

Potential society members usually spend a week or more with the current members, getting to know the organization and its history, or engaging in public service.

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Once the pledge period is over, the members of the society will extend invitations to join the fraternity or sorority to the applicants that they feel will be the best fit.

Greek culture

Many Greek societies behave in very different ways than have been traditionally thought of.

A large number of fraternities and sororities are honor societies, which gather monthly or semi-monthly for discussions, guest speakers, or other similar events.

Gaining entrance into organizations like this is usually completed by filling out an application form or interviewing with the head of the chapter.


Whether or not you choose to join a fraternity or a sorority, it’s good to understand what they are, what they do and know their uniqueness.

While they’ve received a very bad rap over the past several decades, the vast majority of them are very well-run and help to form very strong bonds between students.

Explore the options on your campus and see if there’s a Greek society that fits what you’re interested in.

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