The Side Of Sorority Life You Don’t Always Hear About

Movies like Neighbors 2, Legally Blonde, and House Bunny often make sorority girls look like heavy partying, big drinking, slackers, however, there's so much more to what Greek Life is all about.
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Movies and the media have often made Greek Life look like a bunch of dumb blondes chanting or a bunch of jock-like boys drinking beer. It’s a lot more than that. The rest of the world doesn't always see what Greek Life has to offer. 

From House Bunny to Legally Blonde, from Animal House to Neighbors, there’s plenty of interesting examples that portray the sisters and brothers of Greek Life as huge partiers who don't ever seem to go to class. In fact, very few of those portrayals are accurate. 

What is a Sorority?

A sorority is typically a group of college women who identify with the same Greek letters. It's basically a big club but with recruitment, dances, and deep historic background. It's looked at as a society of women who typically join for social purposes. Many colleges and universities in the US have Greek life as a huge source of social interactions. 

There are many different types of sororities

One of the first things to understand about Greek Life is the types of sororities there are. Typically, most schools have three main types- national sororities, local sororities, and multicultural sororities.

1. National Sororities

National sororities tend to be much bigger. These would be the ones with huge houses on bigger college campuses. They have to obey and follow a national set of guidelines and are overseen by a national headquarters. The national headquarters for all the national sororities is called the National Panhellenic Conference, or NPC. All activities, recruitment, and money are overseen by the united conference.  Some examples of these are Phi Sigma Sigma, Chi Omega, and Alpha Phi.

2. Local Sororities

These are sororities unique to the university it exists in. They’re typically smaller and make their own rules. Often, there will be more than one on the same campus and they follow similar rules, such as similar traditions or recruitment during the same week.

3. Multicultural Sororities

Finally, there are multicultural sororities. These are sororities that celebrate specific cultures. Often, traditions and leadership are based around ethnic identities and historical significance.  Many campuses have Black, Puerto Rican, or Asian sororities. These often exist on other campuses nationwide, although not always. Some of these include Alpha Kappa Alpha, Chi Upsilon Sigma, and Delta Phi Omega.

Some college campuses also have sororities or women's fraternities dedicated to a specific interest, such as a common major, religious backgrounds, or extracurriculars. There's even been an uprising in recent years in Greek organizations that are not gender-based, so there could be a men and women's fraternity. 

Joining a sorority is just signing up

Typically, joining a sorority isn't just writing your name on paper and you're just part of the gang. Most have a recruitment process. In order to join a sorority, you need to go through two types of recruitment, formal and informal

1. Formal Recruitment

National sororities have to do formal recruitment once a year. Some schools do it in the fall and others in the spring. This starts by signing up online and then showing up on the first night. This process can last anywhere from three days to a week, completely dependant on how many sororities are on a single campus.

You will spend time speaking to every single sorority on a one-on-one basis with a sister. You then rank the sororities from most to least favorite. The sisters also do the same with you, ranking on whether they want you or not. By the end of the week, you can receive a bid from only one sorority. A bid is basically an invitation to join the sisters of so and so sorority.  

You then get to "run home" on bid day, which is a giant party when you get to meet your potential new sisters (potential because you can reject or accept your bid).

2. Informal Recruitment

Informal recruitment is a lot more laid back. Informal recruitment is often held after formal recruitment to get numbers up for NPC sororities and is held yearly (or semesterly, depending on numbers and budgets) for local sororities. Over the course of a week or two, sororities will post a list of events they plan to hold.

Potential new members (called this as the word "pledge" is phased out) can come to the events and get to know the sisters on a deeper, more personal level. The sisters then get to know you can decide whether they want you to join. After a week or two is over, they can offer you a bid. 

Different colleges can also do different variations as to how they run things. Colleges have different rules and guidelines Greek Life must follow. Once you get a bid you'll typically go through an education process. This is done to ensure you know your sorority's history, beliefs, philanthropy, and the roles different sisters play to keep the place running. 

In the time between bid day and initiation, you typically cannot call yourself a sister. You're a new member. Initiation happens at the end of the education process. Initiation processes are secret and unique to every sorority. 

Greek life is infamous for hazing as well. Hazing is illegal in most states, up to the possibility of jail time. If it happens, it'll be during your education process. This is looked at as a way of showing your organization that you really want this. It's a brainwashing technique used to get you to follow what the older members tell you to do and speaking out is looked at as almost treason. 

Hazing can include being forced to drink outrageous amounts of alcohol, doing dangerous activities, being forced to humiliate yourself, and even as far as kidnapping and drugging.

If you're being hazed or know someone who is, there's a national hotline you can call. The number is 1-888-668-4293 

There's money involved in running a sorority that not many people realize

Some people may know that sororities pay dues, but many don't actually realize how much it costs. Depending on the size, status (the type of sorority), the campus, and a couple of other factors, you could pay quite a handsome fee. Although it may seem like a lot, it usually goes back to you and what your sorority does. Most sororities have a formal dance, which is essentially prom but usually with a bar.

Typically, the entire cost is covered in your dues. Dues also go to allowing your sorority to have other fun events, such as going to an escape room or having a movie night with food. Some sororities have a huge fee to pay strictly just to a national headquarters or a big fee that you pay the university to keep your chapter active. Some sororities also have fines for not following rules or skipping mandatory events. 

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Philanthropy is a huge part of sorority life

It’s kind of the unsung hero of the purpose of Greek Life but all sororities and fraternities exist to raise money for a specific charity or philanthropic cause. They often have ideals rooted in the cause of their philanthropy. Lots of budget funds are put into fundraisers. These are often campus-wide events, giving the community a way to get involved in Greek Life without having to join an organization. Some sell food, others host game nights, but it's meant to be a fun way to raise money.

For example, Phi Sigma Sigma raises money for the Kids in Need Foundation, which helps prepare kids for school readiness. Money is often raised to purchase school supplies. 

Sororities require a huge time commitment

If you know nothing of Greek Life, you’d have no idea how time-consuming it really is. Most sororities have meetings every week, called chapter meetings. They can range anywhere from fifteen minutes to a couple of hours. Many campuses also have mandatory Greek Life library hours where you have to study in the library for so many hours a week.

There’s also a process you go through when becoming initiated as a member that’s several weeks long and usually has classes to educate you on the history, morals, and philanthropy of sororities. Then there are mandatory events, such as fundraisers, bonding events, or recruitment. Many people join having no idea how time-consuming it really can be. 

Academics actually really matter to get in a sorority

Nearly every college will have an eligibility GPA to even be considered for Greek Life recruitment. The stereotype that sisters and brothers of Greek Life are lazy and stupid is so far from the truth. Not only do sorority members typically have a higher GPA, but they also are more likely to graduate than their non-Greek counterparts. Many sororities will also put sisters on academic probation until they get their grades up. The statistics of people in high ranker jobs who were Greek were in college is fascinating.

For example, all but two US Presidents since the early nineteenth century were in fraternities. The first female senator and female astronaut were both in sororities. Carrie Underwood is a popular example of a celebrity who was in a sorority in college. Being a member of Greek Life does not in any way make you dumber. 

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Sisterhood is a real thing, but not always

If you plan to join a sorority, chances are you wanted to make friends in doing so. While of course, you’re going to make some friends, going in with the mindset that everyone is friends is not the case. It's a common saying that joining Greek Life is like paying for friends. In a way, it’s true. You do pay to meet new people, but you are in no way obligated to be friends with everyone. Being kind to one another is the best way to avoid any sort of conflict but it doesn't mean you have to have sleepovers with every sister. There will be friendships that last a lifetime but that could be said with any college club. 

Getting involved and getting informed in the best to know what choices to make

A large part of sorority life revolves around being informed. Many girls are very proud of their sorority and want other girls to join. Often, they'll informally recruit at parties, sporting events, and other campus events by showing up in their letters (a term used to identify the Greek letters that are unique to their sorority) and telling everyone how much they love it. You can also check the social media of the sorority. Watch for updates, events, and other sessions to educate yourself on sorority life. You can see how they post about their girls, how they react to campus events, and the size of their organization. 

When it comes to learning about sorority life and how it all works, don't be afraid to ask questions. when you start thinking about recruitment (the time of year when students have the opportunity to join Greek Life), ask around before you jump in headfirst. If you hear bad rumors about a sorority, ask why. If you hear they cost too much as if it's true. If you don't follow the beliefs of their philanthropy, ask if it's really for you. In the end, it's 100% up to you whether or not Greek Life is your thing. 

Greek Life is an excellent place to find yourself while in college. While you may find yourself questioning if it's worth it, at the very least it gives you something to do. It’s definitely not for everyone, but for some, it’s everything. And if you don't end up liking it, you can always leave.

Courtney is a junior at Montclair State University and is from a small town in Pennsylvania. She loves fashion, reading, art, and history.

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