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How to join Greek life at U of T

Your guide to the world of sororities and fraternities
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Pi Beta Phi sorority house in downtown Toronto. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY
Pi Beta Phi sorority house in downtown Toronto. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

So you’ve seen the cult-classic films, viral recruitment videos, and the sorority candids all over Instagram. What’s next? 

U of T has had an extensive history with Greek letter organizations since its early commission in the late 1870s. Notable Canadian figures, including Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, and former Chief of Staff Jodi White were all involved in Greek life at the university.

To this day, organizations can be found thriving and operating within campus. Home to seven sororities and 11 fraternities, U of T Greek life has become a pathway that first- and second-year students can take when exploring university involvement. 

Members cite benefits such as a vast social network, strong academics, leadership opportunities, and lifelong tradition. However, joining an organization is much more than writing your name in a sign-up sheet and attending an information session. 

When you choose to dedicate yourself to Greek life by going through recruitment, you make an important decision that determines your college experience in Greek life. Where do you see yourself at home? 

Signing your name on the dotted line

It is important to keep in mind that the processes of joining a sorority or fraternity are very different. They operate under the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPC) and the Interfraternity Council (IFC), respectively, which are umbrella organizations that consist of several North American sororities and fraternities.

Sororities require potential new members (PNMs) to fill out an online form consisting of contact information, academic history, extracurriculars, and internal references. This is different from joining a fraternity, where requirements involve individuals selecting and directly contacting a chapter’s rush chair for more information about becoming a brother. 

The reason for the NPC requesting PNMs to fill out a form is for the chapters to become acquainted with interested new members and to ensure that a sorority is a right fit for them, and, of course, inform them of any important news during recruitment weekend. Organizations have grade requirements and highly encourage campus involvement and leadership to ensure that members are getting the most out of their university experience. 

Doing your homework 

Before diving into full-on recruitment mode, do a little research on each of the houses’ history, values, alumni, and philanthropy. These factors make a Greek letter organization unique, as no two houses share the same origin story. 

By familiarizing yourself with a house’s backstory you are able to develop a feel for the organization’s values and traditions. 

Encouraging a spirit of philanthropy and continuing to support a specific cause are often a central aspects of Greek letter organizations. Each organization, when established in its early years, chose to champion a charitable cause, whether it be literacy initiatives, hunger relief, or health issues, so it’s important that you pick a house which supports a cause you care about. 

Showing up

Literally just show up. Keep track of important dates that individual fraternities have in their rush calendar or that NPC has on their website. Recruitment typically occurs during the second weekend of September after a hectic orientation week and the first few days of class. 

Recruitment weekend requires PNMs to visit and learn about each house and rank them, based on preference. Throughout the weekend, the list narrows down to your top two choices until you decide where you want to call home.

Creating meaningful impressions 

You’ll meet many fascinating members and have to eventually come to a decision, but keep in mind that people will remember you most for being your kind, genuine self. Create meaningful impressions with people you will potentially call your ‘brothers’ or ‘sisters.’ These are the individuals you will create lasting memories with beyond your university years and beyond the Greek letters. 

Disclosure: Ann Marie Elpa is the Vice-President Academics at the Beta Tau chapter of Alpha Omicron Pi at the University of Toronto.