With fall sorority rush season in full swing as many students’ semesters begin and Bama Rush all over our FYPs, it may be wise to brush up on the basics of Greek life before pledging for your chosen organization. One of the most important things to understand about Greek organizations is their tiers. The Greek tier system is like an unofficial ranking of specific sorority houses based on certain attributes the sorority may contribute, such as philanthropic or social involvement. So, what is considered a top-tier sorority? The middle tier? Or perhaps a lower tier — and how will this affect your sorority experience? You might want to add this to your list of things to know before you rush.
So, here’s a major spoiler alert: There technically isn’t a ranking of university sororities! The ranking and tier list of specific sororities is typically based on people’s popular opinions. Each university has its own method of ranking certain houses; sometimes based on house status, the philanthropic and academically-driven nature of sorority houses, or unfortunately on a superficial standard.
On the superficial level, top-tier sororities have members who are considered conventionally beautiful, wealthy, and socially active on campus. A survey conducted by Northwestern under the Institute of Policy Research evaluated participants’ critiques and statements addressing their time in Greek life. According to the findings of the study, “In this tier system, fraternities and sororities are rated according to members’ attractiveness, partying and lifestyle, and wealth. According to participants, fraternity men have greater influence over the tiers and social hierarchy on campuses because they decide who gets invited to parties.”
Additionally, being a member of a top-tier Sorority may influence the experience you’ll have during your time in Greek life. E! News emphasized this sentiment further in an examining the ins and outs of Bama Rush by a comment from a current sorority member. Rian, a Sigma Kappa member, explained how the tier system works like a hierarchy among sororities and how it can affect your time as a member. Being a member of a top-tier sorority can also provide other perks such as networking or involvement in social gatherings.
In a TikTok, user @runninhighheels broke down the top-tier houses at the University of Alabama that are considered Old Row (the oldest fraternities on campus) and how they relate to the newer sorority houses and their status.
While the negative opinions of the tier system may appear overwhelming, keep in mind that not all sororities operate in this way, and that top-tier sororities are often such because of their outstanding contributions to the community and society as a whole. For example, Kappa Alpha Theta, renowned as the first Greek Letter fraternity for women, is one of the more well-known Greek organizations. The sorority, like most Greek life organizations, concentrates on philanthropic activities and events, specifically in service, fundraising, and advocacy. Kappa Alpha Theta also founded the Kappa Alpha Theta Foundation and the National CASA/GAL Association for Children.
Alpha Kappa Alpha and Delta Sigma Theta are two other sororities that have historically been recognized for their commitment to racial justice. Alpha Kappa Alpha was the first historically African American intercollegiate sorority. The organization takes pride in launching programs that improve the social, economic, and educational well-being of others, such as A Call to Action, Women’s Healthcare and Wellness, Building Your Economic Legacy, The Arts, and Global Impact. Delta Sigma Theta was the first sorority to offer employment counseling and professional development to Black women.
Also, just because a sorority is regarded as top-tier at your institution does not necessarily imply that it is the top sorority for you (bad pun, I know). The tier system can sometimes inspire more prospective pledges to join a certain sorority, resulting in fewer applicants for other sororities in the middle or lower tiers. The most important thing to do when rushing is to research and explore your options. You want to join a sorority that is compatible with your morals and values and that you will love for the next four years. At the end of the day, what is considered a top-tier sorority is entirely dependent on how you view the house.