Fraternities and Sororities: How Did It All Start?

American comedy films about university life love fraternities and sororities. They exaggerate hazing rituals and excessive partying that goes on in frat houses. Movies like Legally Blonde, 22 Jump Street, and Neighbours cemented the image of rowdy and drunk frat members in pop culture.

In reality, these secret societies have been around almost as long as American colleges. They had many world-famous celebrities in their ranks. These include Brad Pitt, Michael Jordan, and Paul Rudd. Despite the current public perception, fraternities and sororities didn’t start this way. So what are they, and what’s their origin?

Early Days of Fraternities

First American fraternities were influenced by Freemasonry societies of the late 18th century. Back then, students couldn’t access professional dissertation writers and relied on self-education. The first organization, called Phi Beta Kappa, originates from the College of William and Mary. It was established a year before the US declared its independence.

It became the successor of two secret student societies that date back to the 1750s. In the 19th century, they spread to many institutions. They include Union College, Princeton University, Miami University, and Harvard. In those times, fraternities were a combination of secret orders, dining clubs, and literary societies.

University administrators frowned on this practice and threatened members with expulsion. That’s why many fraternities operated outside the campus grounds. In 1878, the work started on Alpha Delta Phi’s chapter at Cornell University. This is believed to be the first structure built by the institutions’ secret student societies.

Sororities Enter the Scene

For almost a century, men were the only ones with secret student organizations. This changed in 1851 with the creation of the Alpha Delta Pi society. But they wouldn’t be known as sororities until 23 years later. That’s when the Gamma Phi Beta was established at Syracuse University. Such organizations weren’t just exclusive clubs for students.

They played a major role in the women’s rights and equality movements. These were the first women being able to organize despite the odds stacked against them. Sororities helped challenge the unequal legal status and presumptions about women. There’s hardly a modern dissertation writer who doesn’t recognize their impact.

Women’s secret societies were also under attack from the university administration. In the current era, Gamma Phi Beta is an international college sorority. It has over 24,600 members in 137 active collegiate chapters.


Despite the modern portrayal, these societies didn’t exist for excessive alcohol consumption. While this problem was and is common, it wasn’t the main reason for forming these organizations. They were places where people could freely have debates, discussions, and social activities.

Some studies suggest that being a part of a modern secret society increases the chance of people graduating from college by 20%. These organizations want to improve the academic and leadership qualities of their members. George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, and Franklin Roosevelt are just some of the known fraternity members.

Many college organizations even run their philanthropic and scholarship programs. This way, they give back to the local community and help fellow peers.

How to Get Into One

While there was an almost a century gap between these organizations, their method of accepting new members stayed the same. In both cases, it’s a two-part process of probation and vetting called rushing and pledging. To become an accepted member of the society, one has to:

  • Attend various social events;
  • Go through formal interviews;
  • Do their best to impress current members.

Applicants go through several steps to becoming full members. These are called the pledge and new member periods. During the first period, students are referred to as rushees. People who accept bids to specific organizations are called pledges or new members.

The latter period lasts from a week to several months. Now, students can’t hold office but are allowed to take part in all activities. Fresh members who pass a second vote go through a formal and mostly secret initiation. Sometimes this involves a hazing ritual that advances them to full membership.

Perks of Joining

Aside from being a part of an exclusive club, joining a fraternity or sorority brings many things to the table. First, if you get in, your siblings or descendants have a higher chance of being invited and accepted. They will enjoy the same perks as you, which will make their time in college more fun and fruitful.

It’s like getting to use a dissertation writing service for free because your dad did. Second, one gets to see people from various affluent families. This opens opportunities for friendship with high-ranking members of society. With the right approach, people can create connections, making their job search much easier.

Third, members of fraternities and sororities often live together in large houses. Most of the time, they are owned by the organization. Some of the frat houses are located in the same neighborhood known as Greek Row. This saves money on finding and renting living spaces. It also promotes community education and cooperation.

21st-Century Changes

The basic structure and mission of these organizations remained the same. But they went through several changes. Nowadays, fraternities and sororities are more lenient towards candidates from different backgrounds. This is a great contrast to the predominantly white and Christian applicants in the past.

The rise of the Internet damaged some of the original pursuits of these organizations. Plenty of academic research paper resources and learning platforms made co-education almost obsolete. There’s no incentive to work in a study group when everything can be found by entering “write my dissertation” in the search bar.

Another rising issue stems from the sheer number of students in modern colleges. Before, higher education was reserved for a select group of people. Most did trading jobs or worked in factories. Nowadays, there’s simply not enough housing to accommodate everyone. This means less chance of being accepted and living in frat houses.

Final Thoughts

Fraternities and sororities played an important part in the early years of American universities. But modernity has all but eradicated some of the reasons for their creation. College degrees are more available than ever, and women have the rights they dreamed about a century ago (although there is certainly room for improvement). Plus, there are even more education opportunities thanks to online platforms.

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