To outsiders, the sorority world can seem pretty confusing. What’s the difference between an exchange and a mixer? What exactly are you throwing when you “throw what you know”—a ball? A punch? A gauntlet? How do the sorority families work, and how many “relatives” do you end up with, anyway?
To set the record straight, we talked to anonymous collegiettes in different chapters around the nation. Here are the secrets sorority sisters wish you knew—and now you will!
1. Not every sorority girl drinks
Over and over again, sorority women told us the same thing: No, not every member drinks.
“There’s definitely a range,” says Nikki*, who goes to San Diego State University. “Some girls go out every weekend, while others are always sober.”
Sara*, a sorority member at Texas A&M University, says, “Most do for sure. But there’s a good handful of girls who don’t drink at our events because they’re council members and they could lose their positions for that.”
The sisters we talked to who don’t drink say they’ve never been pressured or made to feel uncomfortable for their choices.
“At our chapter meetings, the board actually asks us not to drink,” says Elizabeth* from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. “And if someone’s noticeably drunk at an event, like falling down or being sloppy, we have people to take them away to go lie down.”
2. And technically, no sorority events should have alcohol
Technically, none of the sorority events should involve drinking. Chapter-hosted events must be alcohol-free, alcohol isn’t allowed in sorority houses and chapter funds can’t be used to buy alcohol.
“Because of these policies, there aren’t any ‘alcohol-related’ events, but semi-formal and formal have bars with a very strict 21-year-olds-and-over policy,” explains Chloe*, who attends the University of California, Davis.
Chloe says her sorority sisters typically pregame heavily for exchanges, which are planned events organized between two Greek organizations (most commonly a sorority and a fraternity). But if you’d rather sip Perrier than Patrón, your ability to have fun won’t suffer. Nikki, who says she usually does drink, tells us about the time she went sober to an exchange.
“We just danced a lot and had a great time,” she says. “I didn’t miss the drinking aspect of it.”
Sisterhood events are definitely meant to be attended sober. These are fun get-togethers meant to help chapters bond and could be anything from visiting an amusement park or having a movie night to crafting or going camping.
“I actually enjoy the sisterhood events more than the other ones,” says Claire*, a collegiette at the College of William & Mary. “One of the main reasons I joined a sorority in the first place was to make friends and do unique, cool activities.”
3. There’s a lot more to sororities than partying
Which brings us to our next secret of sorority sisters: They hate that people think all they do is party.
“Yes, we have our fun, but we work extremely hard, too,” Nikki says.
Most sororities require their members to achieve a minimum GPA, and if a woman wants to hold a position on her chapter’s board, she needs to hit an even higher GPA.
“My sorority sisters and I get together all the time just to study,” Elizabeth says. “It’s annoying how we’re automatically written off as ditzy or not serious just because we’re in a sorority. I care more about school and my grades than a ton of the non-Greek people I know.”
4. They don’t want to hang out solely with other Greeks
About those non-Greeks: Many collegiettes told us their friends wrongly assumed that after the girls joined a sorority, they wouldn’t want to hang out as much with their “independent” friends.
“The number one myth that really grinds my gears is that people in Greek life only want to hang out with people in Greek life!” says Dakota*, a student at the University at Rhode Island. “Yeah, we have socials/mixers and Greek-only events, but there is so much more than that. There’s football games and basketball games, pep rallies, school traditions, homecoming, bars! While Greek life does take some time out of our schedules, there is still plenty of room for those who are not involved in Greek life.”
In fact, some sorority members even said they prefer having a bulk of their friends be uninvolved with Greek life, explaining it was “refreshing” to be able to get out of the Greek bubble for a little.
“As much as I love my sisters, it can be really nice to talk to people who aren’t in that world,” Sara says. “I like keeping my circle as diverse as possible.”
The majority of collegiettes probably wouldn’t want all their friends to come from the same major, dorm, sports team or club, so why would sorority girls want to automatically exclude the rest of the campus from their potential friend pool?
5. But it is easier to “date Greek”
Our anonymous sources totally understand why sorority girls like dating other people in the Greek community.
“Since frat guys understand the time commitment and investment you put into Greek life, I feel like it’s not as difficult to try balancing a relationship with one of them as opposed to, say, a guy that has no idea how Greek life works,” Chloe says.
Meeting another frat guy or sorority girl is pretty effortless as well, thanks to events like mixers, exchanges, semi-formals and formals. In addition, unlike trying to incorporate your girlfriend you met in chemistry into your friend group, a girl in Greek life will probably have lots of friends in common with you.
Sorority women say the downside of dating Greek is the lack of privacy.
“People tend to know what’s going on with your relationship, how serious it’s getting, that kind of stuff,” says Lauren*, a collegiette from the University of North Dakota. “It’s a small world, so it’s not hard for the details to get out.”
6. Greek life is expensive
“Yeah… it’s pretty expensive,” Elizabeth says. “I actually have two part-time jobs to cover it all.”
Yes, there are membership dues, pledging and initiation fees, philanthropy-related costs and extra event costs, but there are also miscellaneous things like formal outfits, gifts for your little and fines if you miss enough meetings or mandatory events. For the sorority women who choose to live in their chapter’s house, the price tag gets even bigger.
Don’t assume this means all the girls in Greek life are rich or using their parents’ money to cover the costs. Several of our anonymous sources have jobs, and others say they made sacrifices in different areas to afford being in a sorority, like not studying abroad.
“The women in my chapter are at all different socioeconomic levels,” Anna* says. “We have girls who are on full scholarship and we have girls with trust funds. Just like in regular life, it really runs the gamut.”
Sorority life isn’t that mystifying after all—but it is radically different than many people think. Before we go, we’d like to solve your last lingering questions. So here you go:
- What’s the difference between a mixer and an exchange? There isn’t one! This fraternity-sorority party is often called a social as well.
- What exactly are you throwing when you “throw what you know?” You’re using your sorority hand signs. Each sorority has a unique one.
- How do sorority families work? You have a big and a little. When your little gets a little, you become a “grandbig”—like a grandparent. If you have two littles, they’re twins. The family trees can get super complex, but those are the basics.
We hope that clears things up, non-Greek collegiettes!
*Names have been changed.