Greek Life: To Rush or Not to Rush?

October 26, 2021
By AdmissionSight

Greek Life: To Rush or Not to Rush?

Colleges and universities across the United States have a wide range of extracurricular activities in which students can engage when not in the classroom. Since many students live on campus, these activities are aimed at creating a sense of community. With thousands and, in some cases, tens of thousands of students attending the same school, many of these non-academic activities end up taking on a life of their own. One of the more popular and misunderstood extracurricular activities is Greek life. Many high schoolers wonder “what is rushing in college?”

If you’ve spoken with any fellow classmate about attending college or with students already enrolled at a college, the topic of rushing has probably come up at least once. Here, we’re going to take a closer look at what is rushing in college, what things you should consider when deciding whether or not to join, and some specifics about rushing at Ivy League schools.

What is Greek Life?

Although many high schoolers are familiar with the word Greek life, very few know the reason behind this term. In the present day, fraternities and sororities are specialized organizations designed for undergraduate students to help them succeed academically and socially.

Pins of sorority logo stacked together.

The history of Greek life that’s all the way back to the 1700s. The Phi Beta Kappa society is often regarded as the first Greek organization and a pioneer in Greek life overall. Fast forward to the present day, there are more than 9 million alumni and students belonging to Greek-letter organizations.

The Benefits of Rushing in College and Joining Greek Life

It’s a great way to meet people.

It’s common for freshman students to feel a bit isolated during the first few weeks or months on campus. Although only a small portion of students end up actually joining a fraternity or sorority, many head out to rushing events to meet other first-year students. Whether you plan on joining or not, this is a great way to introduce yourself to new students.

You’ll graduate with an extensive network.

One of the principal advantages of joining a Greek organization is the extensive network of connections you’re immediately ushered into. You’ve most likely heard the importance of networking a million times, but you might not have to take advantage of it until you graduate. Either way, members of fraternities and sororities are well-known for looking after each other during and after college.

Female student wearing a graduation gown.

It’ll improve your job resume.

Looking again to the future, graduating as an experienced member of a highly regarded Greek-letter organization can do wonders for your professional life. Even outside of the networking benefits previously mentioned, having this experience on your resume will pique the interest of many future employers. No matter which fraternity or sorority you attend, people appreciate the commitment it takes to be a member.

What is Rushing in College?: Becoming a Member of a Fraternity or Sorority

Most high schoolers have heard the term rushing before at least once either in movies, music, or from peers. But what is rushing in college exactly? Rushing is a period when students get acquainted with the various Greek organizations on campus.

Specifics vary between each university and college, but this process typically sees freshmen visiting various events at different fraternities and sororities. It’s a time for potential pledgers – people who vy for a spot in a Greek organization – to learn more about each house.

Students huddled together near the stairs.

In general, rush season starts at the beginning of the fall or spring semesters and only lasts for around one week. Throughout this time, fraternities and sororities on campus host various events ranging in formality with open invitations to all on campus.

You can think of rushing like going to a really exciting and fun job fair. All Greek organizations will be “advertising” their unique value propositions to generate interest among visitors. During this time, current members are also determining which students would be a great match.

Every Greek-life organization has unique identifiers that might sway your decision one way or the other. They’re certainly not all the same. Some important differing characteristics to consider when rushing including the organization’s values, philanthropy, religion, and leadership.

When the rushing period ends, members of fraternities and sororities will get together to determine which students would make the best incoming “class” of the chapter. Acceptance into a Greek-life organization comes in the form of a “bid” or invitation.

If you decide to accept this invitation, the process of pledging starts. While rushing focuses on getting familiar with different organizations and narrowing down your options, pledging is a probationary period implemented by fraternities and sororities.

During this time, pledges are taught about more about the organization, it’s roots, values, history, traditions, and more. Many Greek-letter organizations also implement some fun or slightly embarrassing events or tasks to initiate new members.

Finding the Best Fit

When you enter college for the first time, the sheer number of options is kind of overwhelming but in a good way. There are so many different social things to do, including rushing for a fraternity or sorority. But an article about “what is rushing in college?” wouldn’t be complete without a qualifier that Greek life isn’t for everyone.

It’s perfectly fine to join a few orientation events at Greek letter organizations to see if it even piques your interest. If not, no problem! You’ll have no trouble finding something on campus to do in your free time. Even if you do end up falling in love with Greek life, it’s important to search around for the best option for you.

There’s not a good chance that the first fraternity or sorority you choose will end up being a perfect choice. There aren’t any rules against looking around, talking with different houses, and getting a feel for the Greek life on your campus overall.

Make sure you’re picking an organization for the right reasons. In the same way, you shouldn’t pick a college solely based on its reputation, you shouldn’t join a fraternity or sorority solely because of its name. While the exact factors you base your decision on are completely up to you, some potential considerations include:

  • Other students pledging at the same time
  • The current students in the house
  • The overall atmosphere of the organization
  • How much time you’re expected to commit
  • The location and cleanliness of the house

These more practical and impactful characteristics will influence your everyday life if you decide to join. Keeping these considerations in mind can simplify the process of narrowing down possibilities.

What Defines a Sorority or Fraternity?

The question “what is rushing in college?” is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning more about Greek life.  Although Greek letter organizations vary in many ways, there are some overarching elements behind most fraternities and sororities. While these factors are by no means required for an organization to be considered Greek, you’ll find them relatively prominent among groups claiming to be part of this college culture. Generally, there are five elements that can be said to be indicative of Greek life:

Secrecy

There’s an element of secrecy among members of sororities and fraternities. It’s precisely this cloak of mystery that intrigues so many students into finding out what it’s all about. Some of this opaqueness is deliberate to maintain a strong sense of community and camaraderie while other parts are just a result of the exclusivity of these organizations. But don’t worry! If you’re really eager to learn about Greek life and even some specific fraternities or sororities, there’s more than enough information online.

Single-Sex Membership

Ever since Greek letter organizations first starting arising in the late 1700s and early 1800s, they’ve been single-sex based. In other words, the organizations are divided by sex with female students joining sororities and male students joining fraternities. In recent years, there have been moves across the country to make Greek life organizations more inclusive.

Rushing and Pledging

In order to become a member of a fraternity or sorority, you’ll most likely have to undergo a vetting process. Generally, this probationary period is known as rushing or pledging. It’s important to note that rushing doesn’t guarantee you a spot in a Greek life organization.

While rules vary between each fraternity or sorority, many require their participants to “complete” the rushing period where various obstacles are set up to dwindle the number of people pledging.

Residential Property

If you’ve ever attended a college visit – which you should! Dash- you’ve undoubtedly noticed houses on campus or just outside of campus adorned with massive Greek letters. As you’ve probably been able to gather from movies and pop culture in general, these homes or sororities and fraternities.

Another key aspect of Greek-letter organizations is the ownership and residence of residential properties around the University. This is where the vast majority of members reside when attending school.

Identification Symbols

Greek life, as the name suggests, is closely linked with Greek letters. You’ll see this on the facades of many sorority and fraternity houses and buildings. But that’s not where the iconography stops.

Many Greek organizations fully embrace their letters as a symbol of their group and will use these identifiers on clothing, banners, advertisements, and much more. This symbolism can also extend to hand signs, colors, and hand signs among other things.

Interesting Greek Life Statistics

  • There are over 123 Greek-life organizations with more than 9 million members overall (including alumni).
  • More than 750,000 undergraduate students are members of 12,000 chapters on over 800 campuses in North America.
  • 43 of the country’s 50 largest corporations are headed by alumni of fraternities.
  • 85% of executives for Fortune 500 companies belong to fraternities.
  • 63% of all presidential Cabinet members since 1900 were part of Greek life.
  • More than 70% of students who join a sorority or fraternity graduate from college while only 50% of non-Greek students graduate.
  • 40 out of 47 U.S. Supreme Court Justices have been fraternity alumni since 1910.
  • The vast majority of all Senators and Congressmen are Greek.
  • Nearly every U.S. President and Vice President has been alumni of Greek life since 1825.
  • On average, less than 2% of a college student’s overall college expenses go towards Greek dues.
  • The 1st female Senator was part of Greek life.
  • The 1st female Astronaut was part of Greek life.
  • All Apollo 11 astronauts were part of Greek life.
  • Across the country, Greek organizations raise a total of $7 million every year.
  • Alumni of Greek organizations donate around 75% of funds collected by universities.
  • The nationwide Greek system consists of the largest network of US volunteers with 10 million hours of donated service time every year.
  • Around 85% of student leaders on more than 730 campuses across the US are part of the Greek community.

Setting the Record Straight: What People Get Wrong about Greek Life.

Hollywood has painted a vivid and lively image of Greek life on college campuses. Although some students may wish for these cinematic depictions to correlate with real life, there are some major distinctions between what you see in movies and what actually happens on college campuses. Let’s take a look at some common misconceptions about what it’s like to join a fraternity or sorority in college.

Misconception #1: It’s non-stop partying.

First and foremost, Greek life is not a nonstop party. You can thank movies like Old School and Animal House for contributing that image to what is actually a refined and highly regarded part of college life.

Besides, most colleges crack down hard on fraternity or sorority houses that are breaking school policies with partying or other unruly behavior. When you arrive at a Greek house, you’ll see just how tame and formal things really are.

Unidentified people toasting different cocktails.

Misconception #2: Everyone joins a fraternity or sorority.

Another common misconception is that nearly everyone in college joins Greek life and that everyone who doesn’t will feel left out and have trouble making friends. This pervasive myth can make students who wouldn’t otherwise join Greek life feel forced to partake just to meet people.

Although it’s definitely a fantastic way to introduce yourself to other students, Greek life isn’t the end all be all when it comes to socializing. In fact, only around 10% of college students rush. That means 90% are off doing something else. So, no matter which direction you take, you’ll have no trouble meeting new people.

Misconception #3: Rushing is crazy.

There have been horrific stories coming out of fraternities and sororities in all parts of the country with regard to the pledging practices used by some Greek-letter organizations. The issues range from embarrassing to criminal in nature.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all Greek organizations operate the same. Many fraternities and sororities have very tame and measured rushing standards that are more like bonding activities for fellow pledgers.
Still, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep an eye out for issues because you should! Don’t participate in hazing activities that make you feel uncomfortable and make sure to report any inappropriate behavior to relevant authorities.

Misconception #4: Greek people keep to themselves.

While there are no doubt elements of secrecy and privacy to Greek life – which we’ll cover more later – that doesn’t mean that participants keep to themselves. In fact, Greek organizations are known for being incredibly sociable with many sororities and fraternities hosting events together with open invitations to all students on campus.

It’s a very welcoming atmosphere at many of these events and get-togethers. Whether you end up joining Greek life or not, you’ll still engage with a lot of students on campus who are part of either a sorority or fraternity. a

Misconception #5: Academics are ignored.

Another popular misconception about Greek life is that it has nothing to do with academics. Again, Hollywood and pop culture at large is partially to blame for this stereotype. In reality, many fraternities and sororities place a large emphasis on grades, with some even requiring members to maintain a certain grade point average.

Female student studying in a room.

You’ll see many Greek organizations holding study groups and other academic-oriented events. Although these groups are social in nature, that doesn’t mean academics aren’t considered important or valuable. In fact, many statistics seem to suggest that students in these groups perform better academically.

Get Into the School of Your Choice

It’s exciting to begin thinking about Greek life and other activities you can join in college. Before that can happen, however, you need to earn a spot in the school of your choice. That’s where a college entrance expert can help.

AdmissionSight is a leading admission professional with over a decade of experience helping high schoolers just like you better understand the college application process, optimize their applications, and secure a spot in the school of their choice.

In fact, we have an impressive track record of success with 75% of all students we work with getting accepted into Ivy League or top 10 universities. How do we do it? Well, we offer a wide range of services aimed at helping high schoolers perfect all aspects of their college application.

After all, one of the best ways to get into the school of your dreams is to have a holistic application that demonstrates your skills, strengths, and goals as accurately and as positively as possible.

Whether you need help choosing your high school courses, picking the best extracurricular activities, nailing your college essays, or anything in between, we’ve got you covered. Sound like a good match? Feel free to contact us to learn more about what is rushing in college or our services and how we can help you get into the school of your choice. We look forward to hearing from you!

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