What Sorority Women Wish You Knew

[Author’s note: Please read this with an open mind. This article is an effort to reach out to you, the community, and help you understand what makes our Greek organizations so special to us. This is just one author’s response to the unfortunate amount of hate toward Greek organizations.]

Two years ago, when I was in my sophomore year, I found myself having misgivings about Cal Poly. It wasn’t home for me, like it was for so many others. I had doubts about my major and felt as though I had no place in the community. I even came close to beginning the process to transfer to another school. Then, I made a decision that would change my life for the better. I did something I had thought I would never do: I joined a sorority.

I never thought of myself as a “sorority girl;” I didn’t think it was something that I wanted or needed to be. I admit that I had the same judgments about Greek life as most people do who aren’t in sororities or fraternities: they party, they’re stuck up and they don’t care about anyone but themselves. We get it – non-Greeks are getting tired of Greek life. I have to tell you, though, that being in a sorority is about so much more than what you might think it is.

Does everyone in a sorority party? Absolutely not. Just because you’re in a sorority does not mean you have to drink, and it does not mean that you have to throw away any personal values in order to “fit in.” Maybe you just hate alcohol and crowded basements with tons of people. That’s your choice. With a sorority of 150 or 200 women, finding someone who engages in activities that you like isn’t difficult. Have I partied? Sure. But that doesn’t set me apart from those not in Greek life who party. Like you, I keep my grades up, hang out with my non-Greek friends, and eat way too much. I am no different, except that I wear the letters of an organization that I love.

A sorority is supposed to be something in your life that guides you to become a better version of yourself. That is why I’ve been using the phrase “sorority women” instead of sorority girl. Being in a sorority has helped me grow up and take responsibility in my life, and to think about my sisters and my community instead of just myself. Through my sorority, I have been motivated to achieve my goals, stay in college, change my major and overall, change from a girl to a woman.

One phrase I hear often about sororities is that we “pay for our friends.” Maybe to you it looks this way, but we’re actually using that money to hold fun activities we would never be able to do otherwise, or put on philanthropy events where all the money we raise goes toward an organization we are proud to support. That money is also crucial to continuing our respective organizations. Just like any club on campus, we need funds in order to survive.

In my experience, many women join sororities not for the boys and the partying, but for the philanthropy. This was my personal reason for joining. Did you know that sororities (and fraternities!) raise thousands of dollars per year for their respective philanthropies? That we consistently engage in community service and volunteering projects? I have found that this want, this need to give back stems from feelings of appreciation toward our respective organizations, which give us so much. From them, we gain sisters, wonderful memories, and valuable leadership opportunities. My college experience has been so positively influenced by my sorority that I feel absolute joy that I have the ability to not only give back now, but will have the tools and motivation to give back in the future.

In an effort to include more opinions than just my own, I did an anonymous survey that I invited anyone in a sorority to take, and the results were what I expected. Of the 41 responses I got, 82 percent thought that non-Greeks viewed Greeks in a pretty negative way. Two of the questions I asked were “What are some of the worst things you've heard said about your sorority?” and “What are some of the worst things you've heard people say about sororities in general?” The top responses were girls being called “fake,” “sluts,” “all the same,” “ugly,” “stuck up.” What an outsider sees as “all the same” are actually different organizations that focus on different things, and being in a certain one is all about preference. You may not connect with the type of philanthropy one sorority does, while another one doesn’t quite match up with your values.

In addition, sororities are made up of girls from all walks of life. To quote one of the anonymous people from my survey, “We have ASI members, Polyreps, club athletes, academic advisers, girls from every major, friends, leaders, and everything in between just in one sorority, so how can we be defined by one word?” I couldn’t have put it better myself. Every woman, in every sorority, has a different situation and story, but we have chosen to come together to form something that is about sisterhood. As another anonymous sorority member wrote about sisterhood, it is what every one of us cares about, “…first and foremost. This may be difficult for people to understand, looking from the outside, but every girl I know who is in a sorority values the friendship of the other girls as the number one thing. Sure we like to party together, but we also study together, share secrets, help each other, and make each other feel loved. My sisters are my best friends, and that's something that no ones outside opinion can every take away.”

My last question in the survey asked, “What is one thing (or more!) that you wish people knew about sororities?”

Basically, the message sorority women want people to hear is this: We are groups of women who are really no different than anyone else. We have found something in college that makes us happy, and gives us a home and a family that we will not only cherish for four years, but for life. We are not stupid: we are all required to meet the all-sorority average, and many organizations are high above that. Many of us defy the “sorority” stereotype by being charitable and down to earth; we have standards that we hold ourselves to so we can become better women. Do not judge an entire group of women based on the actions of one or a few. And if we seem “obsessed” with our sorority, it is because we cherish the bonds we have made with our sisters and are proud of the work we have put in so that our sorority can grow in positive directions.

Sororities are not for everyone, and there will always be people who are against the idea. But after hearing these words, I ask you to reconsider your opinions. Try to look past the stereotype and the negative connotation for the word sorority, and look at us as your fellow students. Get to know the girl in your class who always wears her letters, because she might become someone whose friendship you are truly grateful to have.