A Look at Greek Life in 2019
The latest 'College Transitions' column
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To some, fraternity and sorority life is an essential element of the higher education social scene, inseparable from the very concept of college itself. Images of Greek life are ubiquitous in popular culture and immortalized in film in every fashion imaginable — from the iconic frat hijinks in “Animal House,” to middle-aged men reliving their glory days in “Old School,” and even the cartoon protagonists of “Monsters University” eagerly pledging Oozma Kappa. Let’s begin by addressing those whose lives won’t feel complete until they have a set of Greek letters emblazoned on their sweatshirts.
Which Colleges Have the Most Fraternities?
Looking at the sheer volume of frats is one approach, but this method will not fully capture the milieu of a given campus. For example, Ohio State University has 45 frats but only 8% of the total male population joins one. The most meaningful indicator is the percentage of enrolled undergraduates who are Greek-affiliated. After all, if you want a school with a major league fraternity scene, a massive percentage of the student population is likely members. Schools where the majority of men on campus are affiliated with a frat are rare, but there are a handful of notable examples:
Washington and Lee University: 75%
DePauw University: 67%
Wabash College: 64%
Millsaps College: 60%
Sewanee – The University of the South: 56%
Colleges that don’t cross the 50% threshold but still have a notably large Greek presence on campus include some of the Ivy League schools and other academically strong schools such as:
Dartmouth University: 35%
University of Pennsylvania: 30%
College of William and Mary: 28%
Cornell University: 26%
Trinity College: 20%
Which Colleges Have the Most Sororities?
Southern schools dominate the list, as sorority life is deeply ingrained in Southern collegiate culture. Many on this list are also stellar academic institutions. For example:
Washington and Lee University: 75%
Furman University: 61%
Wake Forest University: 59%
Davidson College: 49%
Vanderbilt University: 48%
Tulane University: 46%
Reasons to Consider Joining a Greek Organization
People may “go Greek” for any of number of personal and social reasons, but, as academic research demonstrates, one of the most positive effects are improved retention and graduation rates. One study found that freshmen who join sororities return for sophomore year 93% of the time versus 82% for nonmembers. Another study concluded that men in fraternities are 20% more likely to graduate than their non-Greek peers. Much of this positive impact is attributed to the enhanced sense of belonging and connectedness that combats the loneliness and isolation that grip many first-year college students, too often causing them to drop out.
Negatives About Greek Organizations
At fraternities, hazing and sexual assault have been dominating headlines in recent years. Unfortunately, there are reputable statistics showing that this is more than just noise or a case of “a few bad apples.” In fact, studies have found that fraternity members are three times more likely to commit an act of sexual assault than a nonmember. Alcohol-related hazing deaths, while not high in number (there are a few reported cases each year), have shone the spotlight on the culture of forced alcohol consumption as part of fraternity pledging and the many dangers that follow.
Sororities, being intertwined with fraternities, experience the same issues as those of frats — excessive alcohol consumption is a danger as is increased risk of being the victim of a sexual assault. Additionally, studies have found that sorority membership can have negative consequences for one’s body image, and that serious eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia, are more prevalent within sororities than in the general population.
Of course, most Greek members are not engaged in any conduct of this nature. At its best, fraternity and sorority life is a cherished part of one’s college experience and leads to better academic outcomes, loads of community service opportunities and lifelong friendships.
Dave Bergman, Ed.D., is a co-founder of College Transitions, a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. He is also co-author of “The Enlightened College Applicant: A New Approach to the Search and Admissions Process.” Learn more at collegetransitions.com.