Which Colleges Have the Best Greek Life?
One of the more polarizing facets of the college experience is the presence of Greek life on campus; it all depends on who you are speaking with. To some, fraternity and sorority life is an essential element of the higher education social scene, inseparable from the very concept of college itself. Images of Greek life are ubiquitous in popular culture and immortalized in film in every fashion imaginable—from the iconic frat hijinks in Animal House, to middle-aged men reliving their glory days in Old School, and even the cartoon protagonists of Monsters University eagerly pledging Oozma Kappa. Of course, for every person chomping at the bit to get to rush week, there are plenty who’d prefer to steer clear of Greek organizations altogether. Our hope is that this blog post will be useful to each camp by providing information on both schools with the BEST Greek life and school with NO Greek Life. Let’s begin by addressing those whose lives won’t feel complete until they have a set of Greek letters emblazoned on their sweatshirt.
Which colleges have the most fraternities?
Looking at the sheer volume of frats is one approach, but this method will not fully capture the milieu of a given campus. For example, Penn State University has 45 fraternities, one of the highest numbers in the country. However, the percentage of Nittany Lions who pledge fraternities is 17%, sizable, but much lower than many other Pennsylvania institutions. This effect is even more pronounced at a school like Ohio State, which has 35 frats but only 7% of the total male population joins.
Perhaps a more meaningful indicator is the percentage of enrolled undergraduates who are Greek-affiliated. After all, if you want a school with a major league fraternity scene, a massive percentage of the student population are likely members. Schools where the majority of men on campus are affiliated with a frat are rare, but there are a handful of notable examples.
- Washington & Lee: 79%
- DePauw: 66%
- Florida A&M: 62%
- Wabash: 61%
- Sewanee: The University of the South: 61%
Colleges that don’t cross the 50% threshold but still have a notably large Greek presence on campus include some of the Ivies and other academically strong schools such as:
- Dartmouth: 29%
- Trinity College: 29%
- Vanderbilt: 27%
- Lehigh: 25%
- Northwestern: 23%
Which colleges have the most sororities?
Southern schools dominate the list as sorority life is deeply ingrained in southern collegiate culture. Many on this list are also stellar academic institutions. For example:
- Washington & Lee: 72%
- Furman: 58%
- Wake Forest: 57%
- Davidson: 49%
- Vanderbilt: 43%
Northeastern schools fitting this description include:
- Syracuse: 44%
- Union: 37%
- Lehigh: 34%
- Colgate: 32%
- University of Pennsylvania: 28%
Which colleges have no fraternities or sororities?
Sometimes Greek bans can be religious in nature, other times it’s a vibe/culture-setter, and in some cases—it’s because of recent incidents, often tragic or shameful, that made headlines. Swarthmore College is one such school that disbanded its only fraternities after a slew of misogynistic and homophobic documents emerged publicly.
On the religious end, Jesuit schools are often Greek-free. Examples include Fordham, Holy Cross, and Boston College. Some notable non-religiously affiliated colleges that have a complete absence of Greek organizations include top New England liberal arts institutions like Colby, Amherst, Middlebury, Bowdoin, and Bates. As Bates emphasizes, their school “is recognized for its inclusive social character: There are no fraternities or sororities, and student organizations are open to all.” Rice University and Williams College both forgo participation in the Greek life in favor of an Oxford/Cambridge/Yale-style residential college system.
Reasons to join a Greek organization
People may “go Greek” for any of number of personal and social reasons, but, as academic research demonstrates, one of the most positive effects are improved retention and graduation rates. One study found that freshman who join sororities return for sophomore year 93% of the time versus 82% for non-members. Another study concluded that men in fraternities are 20% more likely to graduate than their non-Greek peers. Much of this positive impact is attributed to the enhanced sense of belong and connectedness that combats the loneliness and isolation that grip many first year college students, too often causing them to drop out.
Negatives about Greek organizations
At fraternities, hazing and sexual assault have been dominating headlines in recent years. Unfortunately, there are reputable statistics showing that this is more than just noise or a case of “a few bad apples.” In fact, studies have found that fraternity members are three times more likely to commit an act of sexual assault than a non-member. Alcohol-related hazing deaths, while not high in number (there are a few reported cases each year), have shone the spotlight on the culture of forced alcohol consumption as part of fraternity pledging and the many dangers that follow.
Sororities, being intertwined with fraternities, experience the same issues as those of frats—excessive alcohol consumption is a danger as is increased risk of being the victim of a sexual assault. Additionally, studies have found that sorority membership can have negative consequences for one’s body image and serious eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia are more prevalent within sororities than in the general population.
Of course, most Greek members are not engaged in any conduct of this nature. At its best, fraternity and sorority life is a cherished part of one’s college experience and leads to better academic outcomes, loads of community service opportunities, and lifelong friendships.
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).