Often formed as a commitment to friendship and a strong connection from college life and beyond, sororities are composed of women who share the same goals and aspirations. They come together under one organization where they bond over similar interests, backgrounds, social tastes, and even intelligence levels. Sororities are very common in the United States and Canada, cementing their presence in most colleges and universities. While there are many negative perceptions surrounding sororities, like their penchant for wild parties and big white mansions, there is so much more to sororities than the usual stereotypes.
Sororities emerged amidst the popularity of men-dominated colleges. Female students often felt left out and greatly outnumbered. As a result, women found a way to form their close circle. It was 1882 when sorority came into being, ushered by the founding of Gamma Phi Beta. Later on, sororities defined by their cultural interests started cropping up, with organizations exclusive to Latina women or Asian-American women, to name a few. The umbrella organization for national women’s fraternities and sororities, National Panhellenic Conference, puts the number of women who joined sororities worldwide at 4 million.
Sororities are founded on strong values and principles that members must live up to, whether it is the quest for academic excellence or enshrining honesty, justice, and fairness. Each organization has its own set of policies and rules, often serving as their guide on conducting themselves within the organization and outside. While it can be said that most sororities are formed from the need for intellectual and social companionship, most of them have advocacies with societal implications too.
Advantages of Being in a Sorority
Female students weighing their decision to join a sorority should consider the pros and cons. After all, a sorority is not for everybody. While it has its disadvantages in the form of additional dues and different forms of physical, emotional, and psychological manipulations, being in one can usher in a wealth of opportunities that can make your college life richer.
Here are the salient benefits of joining a sorority:
Forming Lasting Friendships
College life can be difficult and overwhelming. With piling coursework and busy schedules, it could be a real challenge to make new friends. It can be compounded by large student populations, making it even more daunting to meet like-minded people. A sorority provides a small and intimate environment where female students can engage with each other and participate in fun and meaningful activities like homecoming rituals and many other social events that often define a college experience.
Being a college freshman can be unnerving. It is a completely different world from high school. For one, the workload can be notoriously vigorous. Culture shock is inevitable. Thanks to sororities, one can navigate college life’s twists and turns more easily and with confidence. Older sorority members, often termed as big sisters, can lend their insights and advice to incoming students. The usual practice is to pair a new member with an older member. This relationship forms what they call mentorship, where the big sister guides and supports the little sister as she makes her way into her first year at college, making it more fun and less stressful. The constant support can ease up a lot of pressure that most freshmen students experience.
Taking Part in Philanthropy
Many sororities have philanthropic programs that aim to improve their members’ lives and society at large. This often involves fundraisers for a good cause and hours and hours of community service. The activities can be concentrated on a local level, but there are instances when they reach the national or global scale. Philanthropic activities bring a lot of good to society and help members find a sense of purpose.
Building a Solid Professional Network
Perhaps, the biggest advantage of being in a sorority lies in the idea of networking. While it is a given that sorority members will have a richer social life, these events are not just for mingling and partying. The connections they make through sorority events will stay with them throughout college and even beyond. Being in a sorority will give members a chance to build a network of connections that will come in handy when they graduate, especially when considering how strong the sororities’ alumni network can be. Most members are encouraged to build their bridges by taking part in meetings and special events to find their potential employers.
Marching on to Academic Excellence
Most sororities set high standards for their memberships. Many of these organizations impose restrictions in terms of grade point average. Some might require members to reach the minimum GPA before they can be admitted into the organization. Members can be encouraged to maintain a certain level of academic performance too. No wonder many sorority memberships boast of higher average GPAs compared to the overall student body.
Honing Essential Skills
Sororities are not all about partying and gaining popularity. Many of these organizations groom their members to be better students, encouraging them to take on responsibilities and grow into commendable leaders. Most members have a chance to head a committee, lead a project, spearhead an event, and many more leadership roles that can help them develop skills that they can put into good use even after they graduate. They are often looked upon by their peers and serve as worthy role models. Many sorority members successfully built their self-esteem and leadership skills by being proactive in their event and program.
Developing Values and Character
It is equally important for sorority members to build and develop their character. Their conduct, be it in the social or academic skills, is governed by the values that their sorority lives by. This means they are often encouraged and molded into better versions of themselves. This is important in preserving the reputation and pride of a sorority. They are held to a higher standard, which pushes them to be the best that they can be.
Here are the country’s leading sororities that are best known for their contributions to their colleges and universities, and the society:
- Delta Sigma Theta
- Kappa Alpha Theta
- Alpha Kappa Alpha
- Alpha Chi Omega
- Alpha Delta Pi
- Phi Mu
- Alpha Omicron Pi
- Zeta Tau Alpha
- Kappa Kappa Gamma
- Delta Delta Delta
- Gamma Phi Beta
- Alpha Phi
- Sigma Sigma Sigma
- Delta Gamma
- Delta Zeta
Delta Sigma Theta
Founded in 1913, the Delta Sigma Theta sorority made its first history at Howard University. It was formed by 22 women, inspired by their desire to promote academic excellence and lend help to those who need it. They are historic, and not only because they have more than a century of storied past under their belt. The Delta Sigma Theta members marked their place in history in March 1913 when they joined the Women’s Suffrage March in Washington, D.C.
The organization comprises college women committed to constructive development and advancing the Black community’s welfare. Their commitment to public service is commendable. They are known for providing assistance and support to the needy in society through their established programs catering to various local communities in the country and worldwide. Their programs are shaped by the organization’s Five-Point Programmatic Thrust emphasizing “economic development, educational development, international awareness and involvement, physical and mental health, and political awareness and involvement.” They also have a strong culture of academic excellence and leadership roles. They pride themselves on being movers and shakers, holding political offices, heading businesses, and spreading their influence in various fields, from law and medicine to education.
The sorority was incorporated in 1930, making it a private non-profit organization that aims to assist and support underserved society members. More than 200,000 African-African women have joined Delta Sigma Theta since its founding. They also partner with charitable and corporate institutions to advance the community service integral to empowering communities in the US and beyond.
Some of the most notable Delta Sigma Theta members include Osceola Macarthy Adams, Tina Allen, Sadie T. M. Alexander, Ph.D., Brigadier General Hazel Johnson-Brown, Ph.D., Frankie M. Freeman, Myrlie Evers-Williams, Patricia Roberts Harris, Alexis Herman, and Darlene Clark Hine, Ph.D., and many more.
Kappa Alpha Theta
Kappa Alpha Theta prides itself as an organization, unlike any other. Established in 1870, Kappa Alpha Theta made history at Indiana Asbury College (now DePauw University). The first Greek-letter fraternity for women in the college, formed when the university student body was predominantly male. When the college opened its doors to women in 1867, the female students were met with disapproval, but true to form, they persevered and held their own, eventually earning respect from male students.
Their struggles, however, were compounded by their exclusion from clubs and societies. It was not until Bettie Locke entered the scene that female students in the college ceased their lonely existence. Bettie, encouraged by her father, sought to create an organization that offers friendship and support for women. With the help of three other women, Bettie launched the first meeting of Kappa Alpha Theta on January 27, 1870. The sorority grew beyond the boundaries of the school, with chapters spreading as far as Canada.
The organization maintained its crusade to fight for inclusion in an environment often rife with hostility to women. It is still the same founding principle that the present sorority lives up to in the present, striving to provide an inclusive space for members and offer them lifelong opportunities integral for their intellectual and personal development. Since the organization wants to influence good use, they cultivate a philanthropy culture to provide positive change to their immediate community and beyond. They focus on three areas: service, fundraising, and advocacy. They organize hands-on volunteer programs, raise funds and in-kind donations for causes close to their hearts, and advocate for awareness and education. In line with this, they established the Kappa Alpha Theta Foundation and the National CASA/GAL Association for Children. Their philanthropic efforts underline their commitment to education, leadership, growth, and welfare.
Kappa Alpha Theta has some of the most notable alumni, including Karen Koning Abu Zayd, Eva Bertrand Adams, Mary Miller Arnold, Elizabeth Preston Anderson, Emily Jean Spencer Ashbrook, Alice Stowell Austin, and many others.
Alpha Kappa Alpha
Nine college students had a vision in 1908 of forming a sorority that promotes unity and friendship among college women. It all started at Howard University. Alpha Kappa Alpha became one of the most impactful organizations globally from its humble beginnings, amassing nearly 300,000 members since its founding. They are bound by their commitment to friendship, sisterhood, service, and leadership in both the local and international arena. While the growth is transcendental, it has remained focused on two key areas – maintaining lifelong personal development for its members and making them the forefront of effective advocacy and social change. They aim to advance equality for all citizens of the world.
Alpha Kappa Alpha considers sisterly relations as one of their organization’s pillars. This is the component that encourages socialization among members so they can build genuine bonds and connectedness. They want their relationships to be rooted in love, affinity, respect, and trust. They also put their efforts into the community’s service by engaging in impactful service that transforms lives and leaves long-lasting positive change. Most of their programs and initiatives enhance the social, economic, and educational well-being of local, national, and international communities. They are committed to sustainable service by launching five programs in the period between 2018 and 2022. This includes HCBU for Life: A Call to Action, Women’s Healthcare and Wellness, Building Your Economic Legacy, The Arts, and Global Impact. The organization partnered with local communities and national organizations to help solve problems and provide programs that empower society and abroad.
The sorority is composed of women from diverse backgrounds, exemplified by their stellar contributions in various fields. Some of their most famous members include Maya Angelou, Alicia Keys, Catherine Hughes, Toni Morrison, Ella Fitzgerald, Rosa Parks, Loretta Devine, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Wanda Sykes, and many others.
Alpha Chi Omega
Chi Omega traces back its beginnings at DePauw University in Indiana on October 15, 1885. It was a time when women barely entered college. Encouraged by Professor James Hamilton Howe, the dean of the School of Music, seven amazing female students started their own women’s society. The sorority was recognized as the 10th women’s fraternity in the US and the first to come out of a music school. It was an organization committed to advancing the intellectual, social, and moral culture of its members.
The women of Alpha Chi Omega are talented and genuine, bound by their powerful, transformative, and everlasting connection. They live up to their shared values of wisdom, devotion, and achievement. Members of this sorority are empowered to take on issues and challenges that will help shape them into real, strong women who can fulfill their greatest potentials. While they have unique goals and interests, they share the same values. It is a sorority that allows members to learn more about themselves and make their way into the better version of who they can be. In turn, their fellow members will lend them a strong support system, acting as their confidantes and closest friends.
The organization provides programs and activities that have lasting impacts on their immediate community and society at large. Members are given ample opportunities to make new connections, grown and network after they graduate, and develop lifelong friendships that they will cherish. The sorority also made efforts to advance diversity and inclusivity through training and education, peer-facilitated programs, and many more.
Some of the most prestigious members of Alpha Chi Omega include Condoleeza Rice, Laura Innes, Meredith Monroe, Agnes Eckhardt Nixon, Carol Reihme Duvall, Eleanor Neil Coppola, and Linda Cavanaugh Clark, among many others.
Alpha Delta Pi
Alpha Delta Pi is notably the first secret women society in the world. Established in 1851 at Wesleyan Female College, the sorority forged women’s paths in the fraternity system. Through the vision and leadership of Eugenia Tucker Fitzgerald, it aimed to create a place that drives women’s personal development and improvement. Along with her five closest friends, they started the women’s society that became one of the most prestigious organizations, growing into 161 active chapters spread across college campuses in the United States and Canada.
The organization seeks ways to provide a positive impact on their campus and communities. Their philanthropic spirit is highlighted by their efforts to contribute to charitable organizations, with $1,164,900 in contributions for the 2019-2020 academic year alone. They have a longstanding relationship with Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) since 1979. To date, they have contributed around $16 million to the foundation. Every year, the organization also gives approximately 150 competitive academic scholarships, amounting to $200,000.
They have established the Alpha Delta Pi Foundation, which allows them to provide immediate help to members who are in crisis. They also offer scholarships and training for their collegiate and alumnae sisters, with funding for fighting hazing and sexual assault. Some of their programs include the Grand Convention and Volunteer Academy. The funds that the foundation raised are essential resources for the organization’s valuable activities, including leadership, education, or philanthropy.
Some of their most accomplished members include Connie jo Moak, Lucille Crouch Stewart, Gertrude Davenport, Vickie Floyd Keltner, Joan Sutton Knox, Geraldine Browder Tennant, Leslie Rutledge, Melanie Radlick Sabelhouse, and many others.
Founded at Wesleyan College in Georgia in 1852, Phi Mu is the second oldest sorority. It was originally established as a society and literary club. They aim to provide support to female students for personal and academic development. Bound by a solid sisterly bond, members of the organization made it their mission to serve others while encouraging each other to achieve their fullest potential.
As the sorority is a “second home,” members find lifelong friends and sisters who enrich their college lives. New members support their sisters in navigating the often daunting life of a college student, soldiering on despite the challenges and aiming for their personal best. They live by the values of love, honor, and truth. Since they emphasize their commitment to serve, the organization has made its mark in many philanthropic endeavors. In their earliest days, they supported a health mobile that brought health care to women and children in rural areas. They also have a partnership with Children’s Miracle Network, where they lend a hand to those in need. They hold the distinction of establishing the first National Philanthropy Day.
At present, Phi Mu has a total of 137 active collegiate chapters. It has grown its members to 180,000 since its foundation. It also boasts several notable alumni in their ranks, including Evett Simons, Gayle, S. Barron, Dana Ivey, Mary Ellen Webber, Pat Mitchell, and Kimberly Schlapman, among many others.
Alpha Omicron Pi
Founded in 1897, Alpha Omicron Pi marked their history at Barnard College in New York City. It was formed by four women friends who organized the sorority on January 2, 1897. The organization soon expanded to other colleges, growing into 139 chapters and initiating over 169,000 members after more than 120 years of its existence.
Its members are encouraged to exemplify the spirit of fraternity and friendship. They must also aim to support the colleges and universities’ best interests where they have established chapters. They are guided by their four principles: character, dignity, scholarship, and loyalty. While at the core of the organization are friendship and strong bonds, they also commit to diversity, equality, and inclusion. In line with this, they have established initiatives like Focus Groups, where members can share their experiences and opinions on diversity and inclusion. They also launched the DEI Culture Survey, which creates and administers a survey to give feedback on organizational culture.
Service to humanity is one of the organization’s founding principles. Alpha Omicron Pi’s advocacy centers on arthritis. They have been in partnership with the Arthritis Foundation since 1967, donating significant funds for arthritis research, conference, camps, and more. Aside from this partnership, the organization also runs promotional campaigns on arthritis awareness. Their other philanthropies include Sisters for Soldiers, a project that supports servicemen and women abroad.
Notable members of the Alpha Omicron Pi include Margaret Bourke-White, Aneta Corsaut, Parvati Shallow, Natalie White, Angie Goff, Mary Dawson, and Wendy Chamberlain, among many others.
Zeta Tau Alpha
Established in October 1898 at Virginia State Female Normal School, now Longwood University, Zeta Tau Alpha boasts more than 270,000 initiated members spread across 173 chapters. It was formed to help each member develop and reach their fullest potential, to foster close sisterly bonds among women worldwide. Their founding principles revolve around intensifying friendships, promoting happiness, and building nobler womanhood. It was founded by nine young women who sought to formalize their friendship by establishing the organization.
In this sorority, members can find a built-in support system that will easily navigate college life. They are given ample opportunities to grow as individuals through leadership roles, service, and mentorship. Until today, the members live up to their founders’ ideals, fostering friendship, achievement, leadership development, service to community, philanthropy, and of course, personal growth. But the friendship and bond they form are not confined to their days in college. Even after graduation, members can still form new friendships, network, and serve their communities through the active alumni program.
As for their philanthropic goals, the organization has launched the Zeta Tau Alpha Foundation. It is the instrument that allows the sorority to raise funds for their advocacies and causes, including scholarships, educational and leadership development programs, breast cancer education, and awareness, and many more. They have also partnered with Bright Pink, the NFL, and the American Cancer Society.
Some of the most notable personalities who belong to the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority include Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, Betty Nguyen, Betty Buckley, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Geralyn Lucas, Phyllis Georgie, and many more.
Kappa Kappa Gamma
The history of Kappa Kappa Gamma is long and rich. It all started when six exceptional women came together in 1870 at Monmouth College to assert their aim of empowering women and recognizing their potential to impact the world. The founders, lovers of learning and literature, put academics and leadership at the core of their foundation. They advance women’s capability to inspire and impact the world around them.
For more than 145 years, the members have been learning from each other. Their shared values center around sisterhood, leadership, personal development, and many more. Members are encouraged to develop and grow academically and socially. They are taught to be great leaders in their own right, instilling positive change at every stage of their college experience and beyond. Their commitment to making a difference is evidenced by philanthropic endeavors, starting from their campus and local communities to their hometowns and the rest of the globe. They provide leadership and social entrepreneurship aimed at communities where they live. One of their long-time partners, Reading is Fundamental, allows them to help underserved kids discover books and reading joy. The Kappa Kappa Gamma Foundation is established to help its members in need through scholarships or emergency grants in times of crisis.
The sorority has produced some of the most notable personalities, including Ashley Judd, Kate Spade, Mariska Hargitay, Meghan Markle, Sophia Bush, and many others.
Delta Delta Delta
Also known as Tri Delta, Delta Delta Delta started at Boston University in 1888 at the initiative of Sarah Ida Shaw and Eleanor Dorcas Pond. They sought to address the need for an organization that focuses on women’s inner self and character instead of outside appearance. It has been in existence for 132 years, but the values set out from its founding live on.
The organization is a celebration of women from different backgrounds and with different experiences. Through Delta Delta Delta, they enjoy the common bond they share that is centered on their ideals of truth, self-sacrifice, and friendship. These serve as their foundation for a meaningful and lasting friendship that goes beyond their college graduation. The sorority offers a wealth of opportunities to its members. For one, members will develop and hone their leadership skills by participating in various educational programming. This lets them grow as empowered leaders who make a difference. The organization also encourages its members to broaden their moral and intellectual lives by providing scholarship funds and support to pursue academic achievement. Delta Delta Delta is also big on philanthropy, raising funds for children’s cancer charities and hospitals. It maintains a longstanding partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and has raised more than $75 million since 1999.
When it comes to notable alumni, Delta Delta Delta boasts dozens of women who made and are making lasting impacts in their respective fields. This includes Farrah Fawcett, Joan Didion, Natalia Livingston, Elizabeth Dole, Meryl Davis, Mary Crosby, Jodi Benson, and many more.
Gamma Phi Beta
Gamma Phi Beta was formed at the initiative of four good friends at Syracuse University on November 11, 1874. They aim to put a stop to gender alienation on their campus. They founded Gamma Phi Beta, providing a place for collegiate women to get together in a welcoming and supportive environment. They hold the distinction of coining the name “sorority.” With more than 145 years of storied past, the organization has initiated 224,000 members and counted.
This sorority aims to build confident women of character. They foster a spirit of sisterhood and a commitment to making a difference in the world. While they promote intellectual and spiritual growth among its members, their important goal is also to serve humanity. They live by their four core values – love, labor, learning, and loyalty. Members of the organization are encouraged to volunteer, devoting their time, energy, and experience to organizing programs and policies that advance their sorority’s future. By volunteering, members will be able to develop personally and professionally, build valuable connections and networks.
Their advocacy lies in providing resources and experiences to hone spiritual, mental, and social resilience in girls. They want women to advance their own lives and leave positive impacts on the lives of others. One of their philanthropy events is called Moonball. This is where they host tournaments involving kickball, volleyball, or basketball. It serves as an opportunity for members to serve as mentors and leaders.
Notable alumni that belong to Gamma Phi Beta include Cloris Leachman, Laurel Clark, Elizabeth Pitcairn, Carol Ryrie Brink, Marguerite Higgins, Alex Flanagan, and Lane Carlson, among many others.
Alpha Phi has been in existence for almost 150 years. It was founded in 1872 by ten female students at Syracuse University who set up the organization after getting denied admission to men’s fraternities. The members are honed to be empowered, supporting one another towards a common goal. To date, the sorority has initiated more than 250,000 members who gave their commitment to lifelong friendship, leadership, academic excellence, personal growth, and community service.
True to its innovative spirit, the organization has developed effective and empowering programs that actively support their members in growth, education, health, and well-being. It includes the Alcohol Skills Training Program, StepUp, GreekLifeEDU, and many others. They have set up the Alpha Phi Foundation, which grants more than 70 merit and need-based scholarships every year. Their other advocacies include contributions to women’s heart health initiatives, providing $1.2 million every year. They have also rendered 235,000 hours of community service annually. They strive to make a difference through initiatives like blood donation drives and immersion trips.
Notable alumni among their ranks include Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Amanda Nguyen, Andrea Wong, Kimberly Kelleher, Stacia Hookom, Sally McCall Grant, Mary Carr Boyd, Ruth Himmelman Wright, and many more.
Sigma Sigma Sigma
Eight women came together on April 20, 1898, at State Female Normal School, now known as Longwood University, to establish a sisterhood rooted in the bond of friendship. They are part of the Farmville Four, a group of Greek-letter sororities established at the school between 1898 to 1901. The organization prides itself on being strong, resilient, and adaptable.
Members are encouraged to explore the best version of themselves and build friendships based on mutual respect. They emphasize the need for personal growth and leadership development by offering members valuable experiences. This includes programs that empower them as women, from impacting campus to initiating positive change in their local communities and beyond. The organization has a strong focus on philanthropy and service. They have a national partnership with the March of Dimes, aiming to serve children in need. There are also a lot of opportunities for members to participate in leadership programs and engagement.
Some of their most notable alumni include Carrie Underwood, Billie Letts, Lauren Lee, Calli Cox, Lauren Holt, and many others.
Lewis School for Girls
Founded in 1873, Delta Gamma made their mark at the Lewis School for Girls at the instigation of three young girls, Anna Boyd, Mary Comfort, and Eva Webb. They wanted to create a safe and empowering community for women on college campuses through a culture of belonging and commitment to fulfill their purpose. It has since grown into one of the largest international women’s organizations, amassing more than 250,000 members across 150 collegiate chapters and 200 alumnae groups.
Since then, the organization has brought together women from different backgrounds but who share the same interests and goals. They overcome their differences, break down the barriers, embrace a more open perspective, and build meaningful connections. They established the Delta Gamma Foundation as a way to ensure the future of the sisterhood. They focus on three areas of support for their members – Individual Member Support, Programming, and Sight Service.
As any sorority goes, the organization has its fair share of notable alumni. It includes Patricia Heaton, Cynthia Chvatal, Cheryl Crawford, Joan Lunden, Susan Spencer, Betsy Fischer Martin, Lizz Winstead, and Terry Murphy others.
In 1902, six women gathered to create their social sorority. It was one inspired by a vision of lifetime sisterhood in the male-dominated campus of Miami University. It has since grown into the organization known today, boasting a total of 260,000 initiated members.
Bound by true and lasting friendship, Delta Zeta members encourage each other to pursue learning, embrace social responsibility, and promote values-based living. They wanted to leave a positive impact on people’s lives through their actions. They live by the core principles of friendship, belonging, community, generosity, and curiosity. They use their potential and influence by offering their service to the community they are in and beyond. For one, the sorority has raised funds and helped spread awareness through Heart for Hearing and Speech. They also struck a partnership with the Starkey Hearing Foundation in 2015, raising $5 million over the next five years. Another beneficiary of their philanthropic endeavor is the American Society for Deaf Children, with which they have partnered within 2020.
Some of the most renowned members of Delta Zeta include Joy Behar, Princess Martha of Sweden, Edith Head, Maurine Neuberger, Nanette Fabray, and Ivy Baker Priest, among many others.