What is a Sorority? Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Greek Life

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Turn off Scream Queens. Step away from the Greek re-runs. Please, please tune out Neighbors 2. If you want to learn about sorority life before you hit campus for recruitment, turn your attention here. Many sources will lead you astray into the life of a GDI, but this guide from actual sorority girls will get you in your own Greek letters ASAP. From recruitment to Big and Little Week, to fraternity men and philanthropies, CM brings you the master guide to sorority life.

3 Things to Remember Before Recruitment:

1. Don’t worry if your top house doesn’t pick you.

You walk into a house and suddenly feel home. Couches conform to your Lily-Pulitzer-clad butt and you leave wanting to tattoo their letters right on your forehead. Unfortunately, sometimes your favorite house kicks you to the curb faster than you can walk out yourself. “Sometimes you’ll think everything is going perfect with a chapter, but they just won’t be into you,” University of Iowa Delta Zeta member Katie Schumaker said. “It’s normal and happens to everyone. Don’t stress out just because you don’t get called back to a house. It’s honestly probably nothing you did, it just happens.”

Chapters look for women that fit the sisterhood with hundreds of criteria and moving parts that they’ve known for years, and you’ve only just gotten a taste of. “If you don’t get the sorority that was your top choice, give the one that picked you a chance,” University of Iowa Delta Zeta member Felicity Watson said. “Remember that it is better to go with a sorority that picked you as their first choice, than rush again and have a sorority pick you as their second choice.”

2. Don’t get caught up in image.

Choosing your house based on superficial details puts you in a house like the one Hansel and Gretel found: Pretty and tempting on the outside, but full of witches. “Don’t go cyber stalking and learning the reputation of each house on campus before/during recruitment,” University of Iowa Delta Zeta member Cassie Buchholz said. “It’ll degrade your experience, put an expectation in your head and will most likely make you unhappy and causes drama and competition.”

Don’t worry about your appearance too much either. Looking presentable to chapters shows them you take recruitment seriously, but don’t drop out just because someone wore this season’s Michael Kors wedges and you wore last season’s. “Don’t stress about what you are going to wear that much; it ultimately doesn’t matter and honestly (having recruited girls) I don’t pay that much attention and can’t recall their outfits at the end of the day,” University of Iowa junior Delta Zeta member Jamie Bakeris said.

3. Don’t try to be someone you’re not.

“Sorority woman” is not a brand of personality that can be picked up in a store at the mall across from Lush. “I commonly get people who are shocked that I am a part of the Greek life because I don’t fit the cookie cutter mold,” University of Iowa freshman Delta Zeta member Bridget Carroll said. “People in my computer science and math classes are stunned when they find out that I am a sorority member.” Hiding parts of your personality or interests that you don’t believe fit into Greek life might get you into what you think is “the right house,” but it won’t get you into the right house for you.

Bonus: Don’t forget an umbrella.

“The weather is unpredictable, be prepared for anything.” – Stephanie Liptak, University of Iowa, Delta Zeta, University of Iowa

“Bring an umbrella. I swear it rains every year during recruitment.” – Amy Luong, Delta Zeta, University of Iowa

“Bring an umbrella because odds are, it will rain one day or night, it always does, so be prepared!” – Gaby Fernandez, sophomore, Delta Zeta, University of Iowa

Q & A

1. What is your least favorite part of recruitment?

“The long days and lack of sleep. Last year, we had 12 rounds in one day; it ended up being about an 18-hour day of recruitment by the time we had set up and cleaned up at night. At the end of the day, half of us had lost our voices and could barely talk, and then we had to get up at 6 a.m. the next morning to do more recruiting.” – Jamie Bakeris, Delta Zeta, University of Iowa

2. Which stereotype offends you the most?

“The biggest stereotype that I face as a sorority girl is that I’m stupid. I make comments all of the time about the things that I’m learning in class or a book that I just read in my free time and people seem to be utterly shocked that I’m smart enough to retain the information that I’m reading. People in the outside world see us as girls that only ever party and sleep with boys so obviously we have no time to study and actually go to school an education. I study with my sorority sisters all the time for test and quizzes and I even ask older girls who have already taken the classes for advice.” – Gaby Fernandez, Delta Zeta, University of Iowa

3. How do you feel sorority life has prepared you for life after college?

“I am on the financial committee and feel that this is preparing me for the real world because I’m working with companies for fundraising and handling finances of the chapter, which is more real life than a class.” – McKenna Miller, Alpha Phi, Drake University

4. How would you describe the relationship between fraternity men and sorority women?

“There is a good relationship with social events and philanthropy because the frats help with sorority events and vice versa.” – Emily Kawano, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Creighton University

5. What has been your experience living in the sorority house?

“People from my home town think that we [sorority girls] all live in a house and run around in our underwear and have pillow fights and act like lesbians but little do they know only one sorority has an official house here.” – Katie Duggan, Delta Zeta, Creighton University

6. Has sorority life ever failed to meet your expectations in any way?

“When joining I was told that there are members with all types of majors. Upon looking more at the majors, there weren’t as many with STEM fields. While yes there are some, it is the vast minority. Its hard to compete with other GPAs and spending time outside of studying with people who have different majors.” – Bridget Carroll, Delta Zeta, University of Iowa

7. What kind of time commitment comes with being in a sorority?

“The work that goes into being in a sorority is dependent on how much effort and time a sorority woman chooses to put into it. It is a very common saying that a woman will get out of her sorority what she chooses to put into it. Those who want a bigger time commitment or more work will attempt to gain a position but those who are content with minimal commitment can also join a sorority without worrying about the commitment.” – Payton Glick, Delta Zeta, University of Iowa

8. What work does being in a sorority entail?

“There are some mandatory events like weekly chapter meetings and initiation, but most things are optional. We have some really fun events but personally I don’t always go to all of them especially if I have a busy week at school. If you have a position there is a little more work that goes in to that but not all position are super time consuming and positions are totally optional. Overall it is what you make it, you can be super involved and go to a lot of events or you can go to only a few events.” – Becca Houchins, Delta Zeta, University of Iowa

9. From new member period, to being recently initiated, to being in the sorority for many semesters, what changes?

“I think as you become an older member you gain a better understanding of what the sorority truly is. When you first enter, [you] feel as if your sorority could do no wrong and I absolutely loved it, but as you get older you start to see all the flaws in the system.” – Charlotte Hayes, Gamma Phi Beta, Virginia Tech

10. Why is secrecy necessary to being a sorority?

“Having secrets and rituals is part of the fun and makes you feel more connected to your specific chapter. All the secrets have been passed down and stayed secrets for over a hundred years in some chapters and that tradition is a big part of feeling close to your chapter. People who try to expose secrets of Greek life or assume every secret has to do with hazing just miss the point.” – Emma Scintu, Delta Zeta, University of Iowa

11. How easy or difficult is it to make friends and stay friends with people in other sororities or who aren’t in sororities?

“It is easy to become friends with someone in a different house. Yet, in some cases girls get petty with the ‘tier’ that they are on and compare with other houses, in my case my first friend I made in college dumped me as a friend shortly after recruitment because in her eyes, I was in ‘too low’ of a house.” – Stephanie Liptak, Delta Zeta, University of Iowa

12. Are rivalries between chapters real?

“While I personally wouldn’t say that they’re called ‘rivalries’ between chapters, there is definitely a level of strong competition between chapters for some unknown reason. Its annoying and I don’t like it, because you are where you are for a reason and a woman is in her house because she is the best fit and representation of that sorority and its values. Most stem from recruitment (I think of seeing what houses can recruitment the best girls—which is dumb, because everyone is the best girl in their own mind and that just becomes judgmental), but also a lot with events, reputations and relations with other fraternities.” – Cassie Buchholz, Delta Zeta, University of Iowa

13. What is your best memory since joining a sorority?

“My favorite memory was our new member retreat. It was fall of 2014, we got to trash the house, and we trashed it. As I was tp’ing a tree, the cops rolled by and I just started acting like I was so shocked our house got trashed.” – Amy Luong, Delta Zeta, University of Iowa

14. How do you balance academics, professional opportunities and extracurriculars with sorority life?

“Lots and lots of beer, Taco Bell runs, crying and laughter.”– Caitlyn Kinley, Delta Zeta, University of Iowa

Top 5 Benefits of Joining a Sorority

1. Finding your family

Leaving behind mom and dad sounds amazing at first, but after a while you’ll be crying for a new fam. Sorority life comes with over 100 new sisters for everything you need. “It sounds cheesy, but I wanted the true bonds of sisterhood. My mother was in a sorority and I can see how greatly it impacted her life in a positive manner. To this day, she still talks to girls from her house. Every now and then we run into on of the girls while we are out, and they are both so excited to see each other. I saw this inseparable bond that my mom created with these women, and that is something that I craved for myself,” Bakeris said.

2. Branching out

Greek life doesn’t end at your own chapter. Your chapter will open up new doors all over campus. “I joined a sorority to branch out from the people I knew in high school since a lot of them went to the same university. I thought it would be a great way to make new friends not only in my chapter but also in other chapters on campus,” Kinley said. You won’t only make friends with your new sisters, but also fraternity men, other sorority women, your sisters’ friends and members of your sisters’ clubs.

3. Challenging yourself

Sororities will challenge more than your ability to incorporate your Greek letters into every outfit. “I never saw myself as a sorority girl before but I decided that I might as well just try it out and I ended up loving it. Normally being in a room filled with 100 plus girls would give me anxiety and make me uncomfortable…but when it’s with my sisters I just feel at home,” Fernandez said. Get out of your GDI bubble and push yourself.

4. Opportunities to better your community

Begging poor college kids for money works better as a sorority woman working for charitable cause like Autism Speaks or breast cancer research instead of asking your friend for another dollar to cover your beer. “I joined a sorority because I knew it would be an easier way in college to make friends, meet people in general, give back through philanthropies and enhance my college experience with people I get to call sisters,” Buchholz said. Whether you participate in your own chapter’s philanthropy or complete your chapter’s required service hours, your participation makes a huge difference in your community.

5. Opportunities for after college

Prepare an eyeroll now: Sorority life is not four years; it’s for life. “I recently met with a DZ alum who was initiated in 1953 and she said the skills she learned from DZ set her up for success in the future and really help her when it came time to organize events for her career,” Houchins said. Even beyond your college partying days and nights spent studying in tiny sorority house rooms, you can count on a secret handshake before your big boardroom meeting.

Why I Joined a Sorority:

“I wasn’t really sure if Greek was for me, but my boyfriend rushed a fraternity the semester before I came to Iowa and I saw how many friends he made and how it made him feel like a part of something bigger, and I wanted that, too.” – Gabrielle Perruzzi, Delta Zeta, University of Iowa

“I wanted a family-style support group to be able to depend on in college when I was going out on my own for the first time without the presence of my biological family.” – Dani Gliksman, Delta Zeta, University of Iowa

“At first I honestly wasn’t sure if I even wanted to join a sorority. Being from out of state and having no one from my school coming here, I decided that rushing couldn’t hurt since I could always drop if it wasn’t for me, and if anything sororities would help me make friends. Instead, I ended up finding an amazing group of girls that I knew I wanted to be a part of.” –Katie Schumaker, Delta Zeta, University of Iowa

“I decided to join a sorority because I knew that having a reliable support system was something that I needed most at the time. However, I have realized that my sorority has provided much more than just that.” – Giana Basile, Pi Beta Phi, Creighton University

“I went through recruitment because my mother was adamant about me getting out there and talking to people. I agreed, because I saw the positive experiences from people that were close to m.e being in Greek life. I wasn’t sure I was going to find a sorority that had people like me. I saw in the final round how deeply members cared about being in a sorority that they were moved to tears because of the experiences they had. I didn’t want to regret not joining because of being seen as the stereotype of the ‘sorority girl.’” – Bridget Carroll, Delta Zeta, University of Iowa.

What You Didn’t Know About Greek Life Post-Undergrad

Written by Elise Vocke

To the average college student, the term “sorority” evokes images of gaggles of girls all dressed in white with matching straightened hair, holding up letters from an unfamiliar language.  However, most people don’t realize that being in a sorority means so much more than just crush events and big-little gift tables: it helps to create amazing connections, provides many resources that extend past graduation and helps to support alumnae sisters. Thinking about joining a sorority? It may surprise you to know that many benefits of being part of the Greek community exist past graduation. 

Your sisters will become your family

No matter where you travel to, you can always find a sister there. “If I wanted to visit any city in the world from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago…I could because I know a sister in that city I could stay with. That was definitely surprising to me,” said Stephanie Fotouhi, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan and sister of Kappa Alpha Theta.

A sorority sisterhood doesn’t just last for your undergrad career; it exists for a lifetime. Sarah Kahal, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan and member of Alpha Chi Omega, agrees. Kahal currently lives with one of her sisters in Washington D.C. and maintains almost daily contact with 17 others. “I never expected that I would be so close with so many of my sisters. We text every day,” Kahal said.

Having a close-knit group of sisters doubles as an empowering and welcome constant during your messy 20-something years. “[My] friend sent edible cookie dough to my door the other day because she knew I had just broken up with my boyfriend. It’s a small example but stuff like that reminds you that you have friendships that will last way after college is over,” said Kate MacPhail, graduate of the University of Michigan and former president of Zeta Tau Alpha.

Networking opportunities become ample

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We all know that the job market can get competitive after graduation. Use your sisterhood and resources to your advantage. “People only look at the social aspect of Greek Life but the networking opportunities and connections with the sorority really hit you. It’s so useful,” said Fotouhi. “For example, I have a really good friend who didn’t like her position at a company and another sister reached out and helped her get an interview to switch companies.” Many sororities also offer events where they bring in professionals from different fields to address the sisters and give them career advice or opportunities, which can lead to internships or jobs in the future. 

You gain skills for life

Lifelong skills come hand-in-hand with lifelong sisterhood. “One of the biggest things I learned from being Vice President of my sorority (and just being in my sorority in general) was how to work with and communicate with different types of people,” said Abby Dalton, former vice president of Zeta Tau Alpha at the University of Michigan. “Not everyone deals with or handles things the same way, and this has definitely helped me work with different types of people at my job as well.”

What skills might you gain? “Being in a sorority helped improve my communication, interpersonal and organizational skills,” said Makenna Kozeny, a close friend of Dalton. Kozeny recently graduated from the University of Michigan as well and was also very involved in Zeta Tau Alpha during her time at Michigan.   

Even celebrities use the sisterhood bonds they establish in college post-graduation. Take Condoleezza Rice, who was in Chi Omega while studying at the University of Denver, for example. Even though she went the political route, she continues the musical passions she explored while at Chi Omega today. She even performed with musicians such as Yo-Yo-Ma. At the end of the day, you decide if you want to go through recruitment or not, but sororities undeniably provide networking opportunities, long-lasting friendships, support and skills that’ll carry on for the rest of your life.

*Updated on December 1, 2017 to include “What You Didn’t Know About Greek Life Post-Undergrad” by Elise Vocke

Marin is a pizza snob from Chicago (deep dish only) who loves writing, baking, and wasting the day away watching videos of baby animals. She is a Journalism major at the University of Iowa and she hopes to be the editor of a magazine one day.


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