For many collegiettes, the social Greek system is an awesome way to meet your college BFFs. But when Alaine Perconti, a collegiette from Miami University (Ohio), went through her school’s sorority rush process, she didn’t find her niche.
“I didn't feel that the social Greek system would be a great fit for me,” she says. “I was looking for an organization where I could learn more about my field of study and build strong relationships and have fun.”
Instead of giving up on Greek organizations, Alaine eventually found her place—as well as lasting friendships and networking opportunities—as a brother of the fraternity Delta Sigma Pi.
Yep, you read that correctly! Delta Sigma Pi is a co-ed professional business fraternity (hence “brother”). The fraternity organizes service events, social events such as a spring formal, and fundraisers—just like a social sorority, but all of its members are business majors.
There are professional Greek organizations for people interested in all sorts of fields, from psychology to music to chemical engineering. If you’re looking to join an organization that will allow you to bond with fellow students with whom you share a common interest, but you want something more than just a club, a professional fraternity or sorority might be a good fit for you. Read on to learn more about these groups!
What they do
Each professional Greek organization is different, but often their members participate in a mix of social events, philanthropy projects, and fundraisers, just like social sororities. The main difference between social sororities and professional Greek organizations is that professional fraternities and sororities have events relating to the interest that brings them together, whether it’s scholarship, law, or pharmacy.
“Our professional events are the focal point of our activities,” Alaine says. “We have resume and interviewing workshops, networking events with company recruiters, corporate speakers at chapter, and each fall we take a trip to a Midwestern city… and do office visits with a variety of companies.”
Samantha Hawkins, a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, is a sister of Tau Beta Sigma, an honorary co-ed band sorority. Most of her sorority’s activities involve service to the bands on campus, like setting up chairs before rehearsals and giving out popsicles at marching band camp, but they also promote music in the community. “In the spring of 2012, we hosted Women in Music, a lecture from a female music professor on campus, and Scouting for Music, where a number of Girl Scout troops came and learned about music around the world,” she says.
Lesley Siu, a recent grad of American University and a brother of co-ed business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi, says her organization hosts a lot of events to help its members break into the business world. “We host a range of professional events for members and the AU community,” she says. “These include information sessions, networking events and industry panels.”
But not everything the professional organizations do is related to their area of interest; most of them have social events like formals and mixers, just like social sororities. Many of them even have similar traditions to social sororities, like having bigs and littles.
“I wanted to join an organization with long-term benefits and was drawn to Alpha Kappa Psi's balance between professional and social aspects,” Lesley says. “I have made some of my best friends through this organization—everyone is driven to succeed, which inspires me to reach my professional goals.”
How to join
Not sure which professional fraternities are at your school? Start by checking out the website for the Professional Fraternity Association, which is like the National Panhellenic Conference, but for professional fraternities. The association’s website has a list of all of the fraternities it’s in charge of. From there, you can click on each individual fraternity and see if they have a chapter at your school.
Most professional fraternities have a rush or recruitment week, just like social sororities. However, what recruitment is like varies among the different organizations; some are more laidback, while others are more formal and could even include applications and interviews.
“We start with a few information nights where we give a short presentation about our fraternity and what to expect from membership,” Alaine says of her business fraternity.
“Those interested recruits then come out for three consecutive ‘meet the chapter’ nights where all the brothers have short conversations with recruits to try to learn more about them and where the recruits can learn more about the fraternity. We also interview each recruit in a more formal setting to learn about their professional and academic background and career aspirations.”
Lesley’s business fraternity has a mix of casual and professional events during their rush week. “The purpose of the events is for potential candidates to meet brothers and learn about the organization,” she says. “By the end of the week, rushees turn in applications and sign up for interviews. We interview candidates and then inform them if they are selected to continue in the process.”
Professional fraternities also have different requirements than social sororities. Some will require you to have a certain GPA, have a certain major, or have taken certain classes.
“The requirements were pretty standard: good academic standing, at least one semester in band, and a desire to serve the bands,” Sam says of TBS.
Typically, you can be in a social sorority as well as a professional Greek organization, but the restrictions vary among organizations.
Like social sororities, professional Greek organizations usually have an extensive pledging process to bring new members together and help them learn more about the fraternity or sorority and its mission. Cara Chiaramonte, a collegiette from the University of Florida, said pledging national honor fraternity Phi Sigma Pi was “certainly stressful at times because the initiate semester is far busier than any other semester, but it's really all about getting to know the brothers. It's a time where you learn about the brotherhood and the brothers get to know you by going to the meetings and events.”
Samantha says pledging her band sorority was “an experience, to say the least. The other five girls who pledged with me and I were tested on lots of information about the national, district, and university levels of our sorority, and at the end of our membership process, we presented the information in front of our peers. We also had to plan a service project and a fundraiser as a pledge class.”
But even though there was a lot of work involved in pledging, Samantha said she enjoyed it because it helped her bond with her pledge class. “Planning the presentation brought the six of us incredibly close together,” she says.
Although the threat of hazing during the pledge process can scare some collegiettes off of the Greek system, Cara says that wasn’t the case for her in Phi Sig. “There is absolutely no hazing. We don't even utter that word—not even as a joke,” she says. “And I think that says a lot about our character.”
Why join one?
So, is a professional fraternity right for you? The experience may be similar to a social sorority at your school, but there are some benefits to joining a professional Greek organization that a social sorority can’t give you, such as:
Sharing a common bond with your brothers/sisters.
Making friends in a social sorority can seem intimidating when at first it seems like all you have in common is the fact that you’re in the same sorority. But with a professional fraternity, you’ll already have a mutual interest that can help you bond with the other members. “The primary advantage of being in (Tau Beta Sigma) is that everyone starts out with a common purpose,” Samantha says. “No matter what year you are, where you're from, or what instrument you play, you all want to serve something you love.”
Another obvious pro to joining an organization where everyone loves the same thing that you love? Networking opportunities! If you join a professional Greek organization that relates to your future career path, your current brothers or sisters as well as alumni could a huge help to you after graduation. “As a senior, I now see a lot of the long-term benefits of Delta Sigma Pi,” Alaine says. “When I was looking for jobs, I was able to reach out to many of my brothers for interviewing advice and to learn more about their experiences in certain roles or with different companies. As I prepare to move to a new city next year, I'm comforted knowing that I will have a great support system of brothers who are all making a big transition with me.”
Joining a professional fraternity could also help you further your career while you’re still in school. “I love that my fraternity has taught me to go outside my comfort zone, to take chances and to not shy away from ambitious goals,” Alaine says. “Without my brothers, I never would have been motivated to start my own Her Campus chapter or have been prepared for two great marketing internships that helped me acquire my full-time job.”
Since professional Greek organizations are so specific in their focuses, they tend to have fewer members than the social sororities on campus. Although some collegiettes might prefer joining a larger organization to a smaller one, you can’t deny that having a smaller group makes it easier to meet people and really become close with them. “There are only 70-80 brothers in our chapter, and that means we are able to know everyone,” Cara says.
Avoiding the social sorority stigmas
Being in a professional Greek organization offers a different experience than social sororities. “College students are often labeled by their Greek affiliations, and I don't feel like I am labeled by my membership in AKPsi,” Lesley says. “Dues are also much lower than social sororities, too!”
Too often collegiettes hear about the drama and catfights that can come along with being in a sorority full of girls. But many members of professional Greek organization feel like they get all the benefits of being in a social sorority… without all that cattiness. “I like that Phi Sig is co-ed. With girls there is way too much drama,” Cara said. “I can't say there isn't drama among the members of my organization sometimes, but at the end of the day, we're brothers.”
There also could be a significant difference between the cost of a professional Greek organization and a social sorority. “We don't have a house, so dues are significantly lower than your average fraternity/sorority,” Cara says.
Overall, members of professional Greek organizations say what they love most about their group is a sense of family they get from bonding with people who share the same interests and passions. And what better way to make friends at college than to hang out with people who love the same things you do?
"I joined Phi Sig because I wanted to find that home-away-from-home feeling. At a big school like UF it can be hard to find that niche, that friend group.” Cara says. “It's easy to earn leadership positions and serve the community as a part of Phi Sig, and you get to do it while having fun with your friends."