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While many television shows and movies about the American college experience attempt to portray Greek life in a glamorous, exciting and superficial manner, the truth is that Greek life is more than the party scene portrayed on screen.*
In addition to social activities, fraternities and sororities often sponsor philanthropic activities benefiting local charities and give members an opportunity to develop organisational and social skills. Some schools even have co-ed fraternities focused solely around community service. Members of the so-called Greek organisations (after their Greek-letter names) pay annual membership fees and often have the option to live in designated housing on or near campus. Each Greek organisation will have its own distinct character, values and activities. Many are national organisations with hundreds of years of history and tradition behind them.
Most students join a fraternity or sorority in their freshman or sophomore year so that they have most of their collegiate career to spend in his or her organisation. If you are studying in the US for only one year, you can still rush (see below), but it may be less likely that your pledge is accepted.
“Rushing” refers to the process of pledging to join a particular fraternity or sorority. This process usually lasts about a week and is typically held in the evening after most classes have finished for the day. Here are steps to Greek rushing:
• Meet and Greets: Through a series of activities and mixers (i.e. cocktail parties), you meet members of each fraternity or sorority and learn about the organisation’s activities and aims. This is your time to see which group you might fit in with.
• Choices: At the end of this process, you select and rank the organisations for which you would like to pledge. Likewise, each of the organisations choose the applicants it would most like to offer a bid to.
• A Match!: If you are on the list of one of your top choices, you can then decide to pledge to that group.
Fraternities and sororities have requirements that each member must meet. For example, you must maintain a certain grade point average to be eligible to attend Greek events, and service to the organisation, campus and community. To be a part of Greek life does require a significant amount of time for events, leadership positions and fundraisers.
However, this can be a fun way to meet people and get involved on campus and in the local community.
Members of a fraternity (male) or sorority (female) can live in the fraternity/sorority house only if they are a member of the Greek system. The house is a hub for activities and events related to the organisation.
• Active: A person who has been initiated into a Greek organisation.
• Bid: An invitation to join a fraternity or sorority.
• Dues: Money paid to a sorority or fraternity to cover expenses, such as socials, leadership programmes and member recruitment.
• Initiation: Ceremony during which new members take their vows for full membership into the chapter.
• Philanthropy: Community service.
• Pledge: Name given to new members after an initiation programme but before they become full members.
• Rush: Membership recruitment. Offers a time for potential members to ask questions and get to know other members.
• Swap/Mixer: A theme party between a sorority and a fraternity.
* That said, some fraternities and sororities will have a reputation for excessive partying or even hazing their members (which is a violation of most US campus policies). We encourage UK students to tread carefully if considering joining these organisations or attending their events, bearing in mind the laws on alcohol in the US.