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How do I evaluate Greek life at schools I’m interested in?

Aug 7, 2018

Greek life. The phrase alone conjures up images of frat bros playing beer pong in dingy dorm rooms and sisters sporting matching shirts and chanting in sync on a picturesque quad of higher learning. Whether these images excite or disturb you, there’s a lot to consider if the school or schools you want to attend offer Greek life. While keeping in mind that most all universities and colleges offer something for nearly everyone, here are some questions you might ask of current students in order to assess if a specific campus culture will be the right fit for you.

What percent of students are involved with Greek life?

This statistic doesn’t tell the whole story, but it does begin to paint a picture of how prevalent Greek life is on a given campus. At some schools, the majority of students rush (the term given to refer to the process by which students join Greek organizations), while at others only a small minority of students are involved in a handful of organizations.

How many different organizations are on campus?

This question is related to the first but gives you a more nuanced perspective on what kind or kinds of student participates. A large number of Greek organizations may indicate that a school’s social scene is dominated by Greek life, but on the flip side, it could mean that there are groups for many different types of students with diverse interests. It is often no more than a myth that the focus of all Greek groups is partying; on the contrary, there are a sizeable number of groups dedicated to community service or career networking.

When does rush take place?

This question is important because it gives you a sense of how much time students have to make friends outside of Greek life before joining their respective organizations. At some schools, rush takes place before the fall semester of freshman year even officially begins, while at other places, rush is delayed until spring semester or even the first semester of one’s sophomore year. Typically, a delayed rush schedule means that students are able to make and maintain friendships through a variety of academic and extracurricular activities, de-emphasizing to some degree the importance of the Greek social network.

Do students live with their Greek organizations?

The answer to this question will give you much-needed perspective on how all-encompassing Greek life is at a certain school. In some instances, students may join Greek organizations but live in dormitories organized according to some other system, such as the residential college method. If this is the case, you can pretty reliably predict that students will be more likely to foster significant friendships outside of Greek life, turning to those groups for an experience that is supplementary rather than the center of all social activity.

What is the average GPA of Greek-affiliated students?

This information is gathered by each organization and is often self-reported, meaning that it’s readily available to the public on the internet. Compare this figure to overall average GPAs for the general student population to get a sense of the Greek community at a particular school. You might be surprised by what you find–some Greek organizations boast higher-than-average GPAs and offer academic support including study groups and mentorship. If instead you find that Greek members have significantly lower GPAs than the average student, this might be a sign that Greek students at a particular institution live up to less-than-stellar stereotypes.

What are the alternatives to Greek life?

Even the most Greek-heavy institutions often offer alternatives to Greek life, including themed housing opportunities, living-learning communities, co-ed living groups, and substance free dormitories. Don’t be afraid to learn more about these by reaching out to current students who have taken advantage of such opportunities. Do they seem well-adjusted and happy socially, or do these students report feeling frustrated and alienated from broader campus life?

All things considered, Greek life may or may not be for you–and that’s okay! If not, that doesn’t mean you need to completely avoid schools where Greek life exists, however. It’s quite possible to have a robust, satisfying social life, coexisting alongside students who choose to participate in Greek organizations. Keep this list of questions in mind in order to help determine whether the fit is right.