What Is a Sorority?
Sororities are values-based social organizations that were originally founded to provide women a space to gather and share common interests, often in times when women were excluded from other campus organizations. Today’s sororities are built on a foundation of friendship that provides a unique community of support. By encouraging civic engagement and providing academic support, sororities are a proven launch pad for leaders. Members, through their shared experience, enjoy a sense of belonging, empowerment, and personal development.
At MIT, sororities are organizations composed of women-identifying and gender-nonconforming members. They are supportive: members turn to one another if they’re having a bad day, if they need homework help, or if they need life advice. They are empowering: members appreciate the opportunities granted to them via sorority networking. They support the community: each chapter has at least one cause that they support through education and fundraising. They are fun: members enjoy the different retreats, formals, athletic competitions, and talent shows their communities put on.
What Is a Chapter?
A sorority chapter is a group from a specific sorority at a specific school. Each national sorority has individual chapters of their organization at different colleges and universities. You can find MIT's chapters here.
What Is Panhel?
Panhel, short for the Panhellenic Association, is the name of the largest women's+ community at MIT. Our members share commitments to philanthropy, sisterhood, and scholarship. Panhel is a supportive community, composed of 7 different sororities all united under the values of sisterhood, scholarship, service, leadership, integrity, and growth.
What Are the Benefits of Sorority?
Our members join for the sisterhood, the leadership, the service, the scholarship, the shared community, and the shared values. Here’s a list of just some of the things you can expect to gain through sorority membership:
1. Sisterhood: A safe and supportive space away from home
A huge portion of membership is the sense of belonging and friendships gained.
This is what encourages many individuals to join a sorority. For many students, college is their first experience being away from the support system they have known. Finding a supportive space on a new campus can be difficult. Sororities offer them this safe and supportive space and introduce you to lifelong friends who empower you and encourage you to be yourself.
2. Leadership: How to communicate effectively and work on a team
Leadership is a huge portion of sorority membership in developing skills that employers will want to see in collegiate graduates. Members learn how to communicate effectively with others and handle conflict resolution. They also learn how to work on a team and manage their time wisely. These are just a few of the marketable skills members gain throughout their sorority experience.
3. Service: Opportunities to get involved in philanthropy and community service
Participating as active citizens to improve their communities is a value sorority members possess. Organizations work to instill the understanding that good citizenship is important to care for others. Improving the community and volunteering teaches individuals of all ages compassion and understanding.
4. Scholarship: Academic accountability, support, and mentorship
Collegiate sorority members are still developing who they are in the world.
Having a group of supportive people keep you accountable is huge. This accountability includes a wide range of things in a young person's life, including academics. Organizations have a chapter member who is specifically charged with motivating members academically.
What Is Philanthropy?
Philanthropy refers to charitable fundraising conducted by the Panhellenic community. Each chapter champions a few causes and plans events throughout the year to fundraise and educate people on the topic. These philanthropic causes are very important to our members, so be sure to ask about them during recruitment! Last year, the community collectively raised over $30k.
Are There Leadership Opportunities?
Absolutely! Each chapter has a different leadership structure, but all of them offer different leadership positions within your first year of joining. These can range from minimal time commitments to more engaging time commitments. Leadership opportunities range from anything such as leading a diversity and inclusion committee to planning the chapter’s fall retreat.
Here is what one of our members had to say about their leadership position:
"My leadership position allowed me to develop new skills by giving me a chance to try something I hadn’t before. And when I failed, I did so in a supportive environment that empowered me to become a better leader."
Will Sorority Help Me After College?
At the most fundamental level, sororities support your personal growth and empower you to be the best version of yourself. These experiences will benefit you for your entire life. Additionally, you become a member of one of the largest women’s+ communities at MIT and in the world. You can network with alumni from your chapter, from other MIT sororities, from your national sorority, and from Greek Life as a whole. This means that there are millions of individuals with whom you can utilize this common connection to gain job and mentorship opportunities. Moreover, being part of a sorority in college can help you with time management and leadership skills (and you can put your leadership positions on your resume!).
How Much Do Sororities Cost?
When you join a sorority, there is a financial obligation that comes along with membership. This financial commitment is often referred to as "dues." The cost of dues will look different for each chapter and varies from semester to semester. These dues go toward chapter expenses and activities such as social events, fundraising events, and sisterhood activities. They also cover fees to the inter/national organization to ensure they can provide educational and helpful resources to chapters.
Recruitment is the perfect place to have your questions answered. Ask about what your financial responsibility would be. You can also ask about financial assistance a sorority provides. Currently, the MIT Panhellenic Association provides scholarships on a semester basis. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more information on financial obligations.
What Is Housing Like?
There is no one-size-fits-all description of “sorority housing.” Six of the seven sororities on MIT’s campus have a chapter facility. Each house at MIT offers different facility options, whether it be a brownstone on the Boston side of the Charles River or a house on dorm row. Chapters have different policies that may require members to live in the chapter facility for a certain period of time during their membership. These specific guidelines will be laid out during recruitment, so be sure to ask the people you meet about their chapter’s facility!
Are Sorority Stereotypes True?
The short answer to this question is absolutely not! You might have an idea of what sororities are like from the media: news headlines, movies, TV, you name it. At MIT, sororities pride themselves on being a supportive group of innovative individuals, accepting and celebrating you for being yourself. Sororities are a support system, a networking and career opportunity, a celebration of the shared women’s+ experience at MIT, and so much more. Our members are athletes, researchers, artists, performers, scholars, philanthropists, ROTC members, EMTs, and more! Each chapter is home to a wide range of students and celebrates that diversity.
What About Hazing and Alcohol?
Every sorority at MIT expects its members to obey all local, state, and federal laws and to abide by the organization’s policies, guidelines, and standards. Each group allocates resources for alcohol and substance abuse education. The illegal use of alcohol and controlled substances is not tolerated by any of MIT’s sororities, and alcohol is not allowed in any of the chapter houses. Hazing is against the law, and all inter/national organizations have policies prohibiting hazing in all forms.
MIT sororities provide extensive guidelines for hosting social events, and chapters are expected to provide a safe environment for their members. If an incident occurs where policies are violated, the organization intervenes with disciplinary measures and further education to achieve a heightened level of safety at events.
Will I Have Time for a Sorority?
Absolutely! Most of our members are involved in some combination of research, athletics, performance groups, ROTC, activism, clubs, or other community groups on campus. Additionally, many of our members cite the academic support system of their chapter as a key factor to their academic success. Our community GPA is a 4.6 (on a 5.0 scale), while the campus average is a 4.2.
Here is what one of our members said about balancing academics and sorority:
"Everyone in my chapter is super supportive, and that extends to academics. No matter what time of day it is, I can send a message out to our whole chapter group chat, and somebody is willing to help me with homework or with studying for a test. This was especially helpful when I was a first-year."