It’s all Greek to Me!

While many people know today as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, or a day to relax because Ohio State is closed, to nearly 1,000 women who have been participating in sorority recruitment, it’s also known as Bid Day. The day women receive an invitation, known as a bid, into a sorority.

While I’m a proud sorority woman and advisor to one of our chapters on campus, I realize that Greek life can seem a little mysterious to those outside the community. I also realize we see many more jokes about the Greek community than real information, so I’m here to bust some stereotypes, shed some light on what can seem like secretive and elite groups, and share lessons in Greek Life 101.

Lesson One: What are Greek organizations?

Some of the oldest Greek letter organizations began as secret societies where members discussed and debated philosophy, politics, and current events. Over time, these societies became more social in nature and by the late 1800s, several groups were founded as Greek letter fraternities and sororities. Many of the organizations share similar founding goals around brotherhood/sisterhood, leadership, service, and academics.

Where it gets confusing at a place like Ohio State is that there are some Greek letter organizations on campus that are not part of the social Greek community. There are academic honoraries, co-ed service groups, and major specific clubs at Ohio State that have Greek letters. The best way to confirm which ones are social fraternities and sororities is to look at the chapter list on the Fraternity and Sorority Life webpage.

At Ohio State, over 4,000 students (approximately 10% of the undergraduate student body) are members of a Greek organization. In total, there are over 65 organizations governed by four councils: Interfraternity Council, Multicultural Greek Council, National Pan-Hellenic Council, and the Panhellenic Association.

Lesson Two: What do those letters mean, anyway?

One of my college friends referred to my chapter as “A – backwards 7 – triangle”  because he could never quite remember the Greek letters. And before I joined a sorority, I never knew any of the letters or how to pronounce them. In case you aren’t of Greek heritage or haven’t yet completed that study abroad trip to Athens, please see the handy guide below for the Greek alphabet.

Lesson Three: Don’t believe the hype

We all know there are stereotypes about fraternity and sorority life. In fact, these stereotypes have entered our vernacular when we call something a “total frat move” or reference crouching women in pictures as doing the “sorority squat”. You’ve also probably heard other things about the Greek community like:

  • The organizations only care about partying
  • All chapters engage in hazing
  • Members are buying their friends
  • The men are fratty douche bags and the women are sluts

While there may be some individuals who reinforce these stereotypes of Greek life, I have interacted with many more individuals who are student leaders on this campus, who deeply value the founding ideas of their organization, and who are building valuable interpersonal skills and experience to use in the real world.

Lesson Four: Know your facts

I credit my experience in a Greek organization for helping me grow and develop during my college years and for giving me a competitive edge when I started my first job search.

But beyond my personal experience, there are many others who have documented the benefits of Greek life on our own campus:

  • For the past 33 academic terms, the all-Greek GPA has exceeded the all-undergraduate student GPA on our campus. This fall (autumn 2013), the average GPA for Greek students was a 3.24 while the average for all students was a 3.09.
  • In the past year, Greek students have completed over 50,000 hours of community service and raised over $500,000 for charitable organizations.
  • Graduation rates for Greek students are 20 percentage points higher than non-Greek students.
  • Since 1825, a majority of our U.S. presidents have been members of a fraternity. (Herbert Hoover: how did you get elected?)
  • 85% of Fortune 500 executives were a part of the Greek community.


While membership in the Greek community can sometimes be misunderstood or colored by stereotype and misconception, I hope Greek Life 101 has answered a few basic questions. To find out more, talk with the great staff members in the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. If you’ve decided Greek life isn’t for you, that’s okay. Maybe you now understand just a little more about those other students walking around in matching jackets (although to be fair, some of them may just be playing Humans vs. Zombies). And to our first-year students who have decided to go Greek, congratulations on starting a transformative, lifelong experience!