Skip to main content

When you tell your British friends you are planning on attending an American university, you'll find at least one of them will look at you with pity and mutter something disparaging about fraternities.

SorietyThese "Greek" societies have been much parodied in Hollywood movies, most famously the iconic Animal House, and remain among the most notorious features of US universities, at least in the minds of Brits.

These social groups (often named after random Greek letters – Sigma Alpha Epsilon and so on) are particularly dominant in Southern and state universities, but exist across the United States, known as fraternities (for boys) and sororities (for girls). The latter are often somewhat more civilised than the fraternities. 

On many campuses, they form an integral part of the social life, offering the students privately owned buildings where it is possible to party (and drink) in relative peace.

PartyThey also offer accommodation for their members - frequently seen as a welcome alternative to the university dorms.

Although some of them remain secretive and exclusive, many universities have insisted that any Greek house on campus open its doors to all students.

For whatever reason, fraternities and sororities have become much more integrated into college life than they used to be, from extensive open-door party weekends to community work events. Many are certainly more a part of general campus life than the mysterious secret societies that still thrive at Yale or UVA.

Scandals do, however, continue to hang over these Greek institutions. Accusations of sexual assault, drunken casualties and ‘hazing’ (that has on rare but tragic occasions gone horribly wrong and resulted in a fatality) - which takes place during rush and initiation seasons when the frats are recruiting more members - are rife.

Widely associated with but not exclusive to fraternities, it’s common knowledge that sexual assault is far more likely to happen at college than in other environments. The most shocking statistic is that apparently 25% of women will be assaulted before they graduate.

It’s not clear whether this is a bigger problem at US colleges than at UK universities (perhaps due to fraternity culture, or different attitudes towards women, or possibly even the higher drinking age) but it makes sense to at least be aware of the dangers. On a more positive note, there is all sorts of work going on to combat these problems, much of it student-driven. 

Greek soriety houseAs far as you are concerned, most of the schools mentioned in this guide are not dominated by Greek institutions (although the majority have active chapters on campus), and nowadays most students find their social life extends in other directions. However, if you are bent on being the next member of Iota Gamma, it pays to do your research before signing away your life. After all, you don't want to become the next John Belushi. 

by

by

Related articles


  • The typical European university

    The prototypical University of Europe exists as a collection of old, pretty buildings sprinkled through the historic centre of your average, fairy-tale European town, indistinguishable from all the other buildings around them but for a discreet plaque by the door.

  • Exchange students and integration

    Europe is the land of exchange. It seems like every student in the world who wants to take a year or term out to study abroad descends on Europe with high hopes of self-discovery and Broadening of Horizons. Within the continent itself, the ERASMUS program generates thousands of criss-crossing exchangers every semester.

  • Six things you need to know about uni in Europe

    If you want to escape our Island, why look further than across the channel?

  • The Bologna Process explained

    You'll see mention of the Bologna Process cropping up in a number of our European uni write-ups; it matters to you for all kinds of reasons if you want to study in one of the 47 countries that have now signed up to it. Simon Sweeney's explanation of this fairly complicated new educational development is the clearest and most succinct we've seen.

  • Uni in Germany

    Germany’s educational reputation is perhaps the best in the world after the US and UK. The snag is that all international students must pass stringent German language tests to study at most good universities in Germany. This has lead to the bizarre contradiction that the country is among the most popular destinations for exchange students, but one of the least popular for full degree-taking students.


Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews, data and catchment:

Comprehensive catchment maps for English state schools inc. year of entry.
 School exam results by subject and performance GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 Which schools pupils come from and go onto.
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of more than 1,100+ schools.
 Overall school performance by GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 School data comparison by A/B weighted, relative success and popularity.
 Compare schools by qualities and results.
 Independent tutor company reviews.

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark
 

The Good Schools Guide subscription

 GSG Blog >    In the news >

Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

Transgender policy now needed in every school


3rd editions of Good Schools Guide - London North and South now available, all entries fully revised with 2016 results. Buy now...