The Greek System

Most colleges have fraternity and sorority houses on campus. Collectively, these groups are called the “Greek system,” because each house is named after two or three letters of the Greek alphabet. There are social Greek organizations, as well as those dedicated to a particular profession, such as medicine, law, engineering, or journalism.

A lot of what you’ve heard about fraternities and sororities is true. There are plenty of “Animal House” antics going on. But frats and sororities aren’t just about all-night keggers and random hook-ups. Greek organizations do a lot of community service: they raise money for charities, volunteer in soup kitchens and for other community organizations, and organize food drives on campus. These events are great résumé builders, and employers see participation in Greek organizations as a plus. Among other things, it means that you have some measure of discipline and that you managed to maintain decent grades in college despite your extracurricular commitments.

    Reasons to Go Greek
  • Lower dropout rate than non-Greek students
  • Instant community, which is crucial during your first year
  • Leadership opportunities, which will serve you well later in life
  • Community service that will add credits to your résumé
  • Support structure, which helps students when they are going through hard times
  • Tutoring and academic support
  • Parties, parties, parties!
  • Intramural sports
  • Nice houses with great cooks
  • Networking opportunities after graduation

Of course, there are also reasons not to join a Greek organization. There are dues and fees, which can put quite a dent in your pocketbook. You also may not be the “frat type,” and prefer to go it alone. Believe us, you’ll be able to find friends even if you don’t join a house. While it can be tough to be an independent on a campus that’s mostly Greek, don’t feel obligated to join.

    Important Greek-Life Terms
  • Fraternity, or Frat: Greek organization for men
  • Sorority: Greek organization for women
  • Rush: The recruitment period at the beginning of the semester, when you are asked to join the organization
  • Bid: An invitation to join a frat or sorority
  • Pledge: A new recruit. You’re not yet a full member of the organization, but you’re one step closer to being accepted.
  • Hazing: Initiation rituals designed to create discomfort, pain, or embarrassment. Technically, hazing is illegal, but it is often done anyway.
  • Initiation: The formal ceremony inducting pledges into a frat or sorority
  • Chapter: The larger organization under which certain frats and sororities exist
  • Intramural: Sporting events between Greek organizations organized by the university
  • Panhellenic Council: The governing body for sororities
Greek Parties

Yes, the parties are all they’re cracked up to be. Some of them are legendary. But they can also be dangerous. Campuses that have had trouble with Greek parties in the past have put restrictions on the types of parties they can have, often banning alcohol from the houses, or making parties BYOB (bring your own beer/booze). Alcohol-related deaths, injuries, and sexual assaults are not uncommon at these parties, so it’s no wonder why universities are concerned.

Parties are fun, no doubt. But getting so drunk that you vomit in public or are taken advantage of by someone isn’t the kind of experience you should be looking for. Your only protection against the potential perils of frat parties is to stay sober.

    Things To Know About Frat Parties
  • If you’re female: just smile and walk on in.
  • If you’re male: check to make sure the party is open to outsiders. If not, it doesn’t hurt to begin by making friends with the house members.
  • Guys: bring girls with you. Ladies: bring friends (there’s safety in numbers!).
  • Dress for the party. Don’t show up in a toga if it’s a formal event.
  • Walk in like you belong there.
  • Don’t get drunk. Your boundaries will be blurred and you might do something you’ll regret (or something that will earn you a black eye).
  • Bring something. If your hands are full of drinks or snacks, you’re more likely to be welcomed.
  • Have fun at the party. Make yourself a valued part of the event.
  • Always have a plan of escape, unless you’re ready to go fisticuffs with a whole houseful of drunk frat guys.
  • People who hang out at the frat houses all the time without joining are called frat rats. Don’t go to a lot of their parties or spend the night in the house unless you plan on joining or dating one of the members.

If you don’t want to drink too much, or you’re not sure how you handle alcohol, don’t play drinking games. There are dozens of games geared toward getting drunk that often lead to complete incapacitation of the participants.

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