10 Colleges with Great Greek Life
If your perception of college Greek life reads like an "Animal House" script, you may be underestimating the importance and value of a subculture that, for many students, is as important to the college experience as attending classes. Don't buy it? According to a 2012 USA Today article, 85 percent of Fortune 500 executives hail from Greek organizations, and all but three U.S. presidents since 1825 belonged to a fraternity. Greek alums include the likes of senators, astronauts, and professional football players, and studies suggest that Greek graduation rates are about 20 percent higher than their non-pledged peers. Of course, each campus has its own Greek rules and systems, and each chapter has its own priorities, membership requirements, and culture. The following schools, listed in alphabetical order, are just a few of those that participate in and help define Greek culture in the United States.
10 campuses that let you get your Greek on
- Lyon College: At Lyon College, being a part of Greek life is virtually a rite of passage. U.S. News & World Report notes that in 2011, 92 percent of male and 90 percent of female undergrads joined a Greek organization at this school. Five national organizations are represented at Lyon -- three fraternities and two sororities. Lyon reports that its Panhellenic and Fraternal councils are unique from most other colleges because the school maintains a "closed" bidding system, which means students must have at least one semester -- and at least 12 credits -- under their belts before they can join.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT may be known for its academic prowess, but for its students, Greek life can be just as important to the student experience as classroom achievement. In 2011, a whopping 46 percent of MIT undergraduate men and 29 percent of women were active in Greek life, according to U.S. News & World Report, and the school hosts a total of 27 fraternities, six sororities, and six living groups. Membership has its benefits, too. According to Interfraternity Council President Andrew Dorne, MIT Greeks often conduct cutting-edge research, earn impressive GPAs, get an opportunity to network with talented people, and are elected to the highest leadership roles in student government and other campus organizations (including varsity sports).
- Spelman College: This Atlanta college is the nation's oldest historically black university for women. What better way to celebrate the school's rich tradition and history than to join one of its six sororities? Just be prepared to keep your nose in your books: According to Spelman, Greeks must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA to remain members and must establish this academic record before pledging by completing at least 30 credit hours. U.S. News & World Report notes that 10 percent of Spelman's undergraduate population participated in sororities in 2011.
- Transylvania University: Greek life has been an important part of the Transylvania University student experience since 1888, and today, over half of its student body has joined up. TU says that this Greek system's commitment to social and intellectual development is why The Princeton Review ranked it first among colleges with "A Major Frat or Sorority Scene" in 2011. TU is home to eight total Greek organizations, including one of the oldest fraternities in the country: Pi Kappa Alpha.
- Union College: In 2010, Union College was named one of the 10 Most Engaging Greek Life Schools in the nation by Parents & Colleges for meeting the requirement of having a "vibrant Greek life that supports diversity and community service, provides a thriving and responsible social scene, and is highly regarded on campus and off." In 2011, 39 percent of undergraduate men and 32 percent of women had joined a Greek organization, according to U.S. News & World Report. Five chapters are members of the Multicultural Greek Council, which strives to foster community awareness through educational, cultural, service, and economic ventures.
- University of Alabama: You don't have to be a Bama alum to know that its students take school pride seriously, and the school's Greek life system is an extension of that Rammer Jammer community. The school's Greek system was first launched in 1847 and has expanded dramatically since. As of 2013, 56 fraternities and sororities served over 7,000 UA students, which is nearly 28 percent of its total undergraduate population. UA's Greek organizations play a role in preserving the "history and folklore of the Capstone" while supporting the university at large.
- University of California, Irvine: The University of California, Irvine is home to a huge, vibrant Greek community. As of 2012, 2,201 UCI students -- about 11 percent of the school's total population -- had joined one of nearly 50 organizations, several of which have a multicultural emphasis. One of the school's longest standing social traditions is Greek Week, which brings sororities and fraternities together for a little competition, unity, and fun.
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- University of Nevada, Reno: There is no shortage of Greek options at the University of Nevada, Reno, which is home to 12 fraternities and nine sororities. Some groups, such as the Asian-interest fraternity Lambda Psi Rho, strengthen community within a particular cultural group. Others, such as the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, founded in 1870, promote service and education. All, however, strive to improve academic achievement and build community, and each year, in the All Greek Ball Awards, the school acknowledges chapters and members that excel in various categories. Key awards include the Academic Excellence Award, Excellence in Community Service Award, the Nevada Pride Award, and the Unity Award, among others.
- University of the Pacific: This Northern California school's Greek community is a critical part of student life, which boasts 13 Greek chapters -- seven sororities and six fraternities. Many chapters are part of the Multicultural Greek Council, including Delta Sigma Theta, Gamma Alpha Omega, Omega Delta Phi, Rho Delta Chi, and Xi Chi Sigma. Together, notes UOP, these chapters represent one of the most diverse student social groups on campus. All chapters, multicultural or otherwise, emphasize academic achievement, leadership development, community service, and friendship.
- Wake Forest University: Greek community is a big deal at Wake Forest University, drawing in about 42 percent of undergraduate women and 35 percent of undergraduate men in 2011. WFU is home to more than 25 fraternities and sororities. Multicultural councils include the National Pan-Hellenic Council, which comprises five African American sororities and fraternities.
Going Greek, even online
Want to experience the potential perks of Greek life first hand? If you are researching potential colleges, and a solid Greek scene is important to you, consider that when thinking of questions to ask an academic adviser. If you are already enrolled in a program, know that most campuses have one or two weeks a year -- often called "Greek Week" or "Rush Week" -- in which new pledges can woo (and be wooed by) sororities or fraternities. Students attending online colleges may not have an opportunity to join campus-based organizations, but they may still be able to participate in web-based Greek chapters, such as the Theta Omega Gamma fraternity.
“10 Colleges With the Most Students in Sororities,” usnews.com, 11 December 2012, Kelsey Sheehy. http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2012/12/11/10-colleges-with-the-most-students-in-sororities
“10 Colleges With the Most Students in Fraternities,” usnews.com, 4 December 2012, Menachem Wecker. http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2012/12/04/10-colleges-with-the-most-students-in-fraternities
“Examining the benefits of Greek Life,” usatodayeducate.com, 8 May 2012, Nicole Grass. http://www.usatodayeducate.com/staging/index.php/campuslife/examining-the-benefits-of-greek-life