Despite the mental image you may have retained from watching "Animal House" when you were much too young, colleges comprise of many Greek letter organizations that go beyond the social scene.
Many Greek organizations fall under various other categories and often have no kegs and toga parties at all, like organizations based on academics, community service, or faith.
The majority of Greek life organizations throughout colleges across the country primarily fall into the social side of college life. Although community service and professional slant may be an aspect of these, more often than not there is no direct cause supported. The organization revolves around the idea of building character and growth on a personal level.
Social fraternities and sororities almost always separate by gender, and involve a rigorous rush and pledging selection process to get in. The largest fraternity in the country is Sigma Alpha Epsilon with 304,000 members, and the largest sorority with 300,000 members is Chi Omega.
A handful of fraternities and sororities in the U.S. fall under the service category, often emphasizing community service and contributions. These fraternities and sororities often are co-ed and don’t discriminate participation based on gender.
Just because there aren’t as many unique service organizations as social organizations doesn’t mean there aren’t as many involved. For example Alpha Phi Omega is the largest fraternity in the country with over 400,000 members and specializes in local and community projects like blood drives, fundraising, and tutoring.
Another type of organization focused on a unique cause, a professional fraternity or sorority usually aligns with a certain career path or major, such as business, law, medicine, or music. The community created by professional fraternities often involves coursework and discussion of a single profession, as well as a sharing of career goals and passions.
Alpha Kappa Psi is the largest professional Greek life organization in the country, with 278,000 members and a focus on business.
Greek letter honor societies focus on award-based recognition that aligns with a particular field or major. This type of Greek society least fits the fraternity or sorority stereotypes. These societies cover a large spectrum of majors and professions, such as agriculture, engineering, business, communications, education, and music.
Although honors-based Greek letter organizations seem similar to professional fraternities or sororities based on their academic focus, they differ significantly in that they don’t require a pledging process and they focus on past achievements and almost immediate induction.
Similar to social organizations, religious and ethnic fraternities and sororities identify based upon faiths and culture. Created because of the exclusionary practices of other social societies in the 19th and 20th centuries, many have since removed their exclusive nature and accept all faiths, although they still attract pledges who identify with specific religions and races. For example, Zeta Beta Tau —despite being founded as a Jewish fraternity — dropped all faith restrictions in the mid-1900s as other general social societies became more accepting.