Getting Started with the Basics

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What are fraternities and sororities?

Fraternities and sororities are social organizations created with the intent of bringing likeminded people together for one or more purposes. The first fraternity was founded in 1776 at the College of William & Mary. From there, women’s fraternities (often referred to as sororities) were created. In the early 1900’s, Black Greek Letter Organizations or BGLOs were founded. A few decades later, we began to see the emergence of cultural fraternal organizations founded with an Asian, Latino/a, Multicultural, Native American and South Asian emphasis.

Much like the development of fraternities and sororities nation-wide, these organizations have made Illinois home for almost 150 years. To learn more about our history, check out the History of Fraternities & Sororities at Illinois.

Fraternal organizations engage in activities which include academic, professional, and personal development, philanthropies to raise money for nonprofit organizations, community service, and social development. Quite similar to a general student organization, there are two aspects that make fraternal organizations unique—they are values-based, and your membership is for life!


Fraternities and sororities are values-based meaning their origination or purpose for existing is grounded in its founding values. These values are espoused throughout an organization’s programs and initiatives. While many organizations openly share their English translated values, many of the same organizations express their values through an acronym of Greek or Latin letters.

Membership for Life

Upon initiation into a fraternity or sorority, you become a member for life. The intent with lifetime membership is to emphasis the importance of joining something bigger than yourself while also enjoying the privileges afforded by such organizations. Due to the historic aspects and vast memberships, your network of members can provide countless connections throughout the country and world as many fraternity men and sorority women have become successful in their line of work.

Where do I start?

Joining a fraternity or sorority can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have as an undergraduate. Your association into a membership of likeminded people with similar interests can flourish into lifelong friendships. Historically, students who are connected throughout their college years tend to graduate at higher rates and have an overall greater student life experience.

At an institution, such as Illinois, which has been home to fraternities and sororities for almost 150 years and has consistently hosted more organizations than any other campus in the country, searching for the right fit can seem a bit daunting. Our organizations offer a variety of options for any student who is interested in joining. From organizations which have a general social focus or a service-social focus to those affiliated with an academic major, culture or religion, we believe the best way to navigate the community is to begin by narrowing your options.


Many of our fraternal organizations are affiliated with academics, culture and religious institutions. However, these organizations are not exclusively for those who identify with these particular affiliations.

To learn about affiliations, see the information below:


Academically affiliated fraternities and sororities were founded with a commitment to advance the educational nature of students within a specific major or course of studies. These areas of academics include agriculture, architecture, engineering, engineering technology, science, technical science, and technology. Students interested in seeking membership into an organization with an academic affiliation should consult with the chapter in case membership is limited to those within particular majors.


With more than 30 culturally affiliated organizations, our chapters provide a number of options for those interested in the intersection of culture and fraternal organizations. Our cultural organizations are affiliated with African American/Black, Asian, Latino/a, Multicultural, and South Asian cultures. While these organizations place a major emphasis on their respective culture, their membership is not exclusive to a specific culture. Membership is open to any student who is interested in joining.


A few fraternities and sororities were initially founded with religious affiliations. There affiliations include the following religious institutions: Catholic, Jewish, and Lutheran. Similar to culturally affiliated organizations, these organizations do not exclusively recruit or initiate students affiliated with these religious institutions. Membership is open to any student who is interested in joining.

For a listing of our current organizations, check out the listing of our fraternities and sororities. Our interactive lists provide you with the ability to sort through organizations based on their academic, cultural or religious affiliation.

When can I join, and what are some of the requirements?

Year in School

Eligibility to join a fraternity or sorority is dependent on the individual organization. Many organizations allow first-semester freshmen to join, while some organizations require students to have completed a particular number of credit hours (typically equivalent to the status of a second-semester freshman or sophomore).

Scholastic Achievement

While all fraternal organizations place an emphasis on academic success, many have particular requirements regarding a minimum grade point average which must be attained prior to joining. These minimum requirements may be based on previous semester, cumulative or even high school GPAs.

Community Service

Many of the culturally-based organizations, especially those which place an emphasis on service may have an expectation for prospective members to have been engaged in a form of community service.

Finding the Right Organization for You

As a young adult, selecting which organization you would like to join as a lifelong member can seem overwhelming. However, through intentional interactions, finding the right fit is simply a matter of knowing what feels right. Each student’s journey into a fraternity or sorority is different and rightly so. With many options to select from with different letters, colors, mascots and mottos, the best decision to join can be found in finding a group of people who you know will be a great fit for you. "People join people," is the saying we encourage students to keep in mind when pursuing a fraternal organization for membership.