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What Happens When You Can’t Go Greek

A sense of community isn't lost by attending a college without fraternities or sororities.

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pchyburrs/Getty Images
pchyburrs/Getty Images

Welcome to our new section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus.) We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

For many college students, membership to a Greek organization is a defining piece of their college experience. The possibility of partaking in the various events that fraternities or sororities put on, such as rush or recruitment and Bid Day, can be a deciding factor during the college decision process. However, many colleges, including Boston College, do not have a Greek system. When I was deciding where to attend college, whether or not the school had a Greek system was not a deciding factor. However, after being at Boston College for just a few months, the lack of Greek life has impacted the culture on campus more than I expected it to.

I was afraid that attending a school without Greek life would lack a sense of community and a sense of communal identity that would otherwise come from being a part of a fraternity or a sorority. I thought that being a part of Greek life would have instantly given me a group that I could associate myself with and would have given me specific Greek-sponsored events to attend. I was afraid that there would be so many people doing so many different things on campus that it would be difficult to create any sort of unity. I was afraid that there was not going to be definite and distinct way to unify everyone on campus.

However, by the first weekend, my fears were gone.

The first weekend of college was also the first home football game of the season against UMass Amherst. I marched down with my roommates from upper campus to lower campus, where the stadium is and where the majority of the tailgates are. Walking down the stairs, I could see the streets flooded with people, students past and present, awaiting the start of the game. Eventually, we weaved our way through the crowds and into the stadium. I kept my eyes down while I walked through the stadium, following the herd of students heading to the student section. I trekked up the final flight of stairs to the stands, and I finally looked up. I saw it. I saw the stands filled with a sea of maroon and gold. I saw the cheerleaders, the marching band, and the mascot all there to support BC. I saw the community that I was looking for.

There are plenty of school-sponsored events besides just the football games that bring the whole campus together without requiring an affiliation to some specific group, like a Greek organization. The campus does not seem so divided as it would at a college with Greek life because there is no distinction between those who partake in Greek life and those who do not. There are also opportunities to join student organizations, like sports teams and singing groups, to create a small community within the overall student community. And the membership to these student organizations seems much less superficial than the membership to a Greek organization because the bond between the members is much more tangible.

Obviously, Greek life is often associated with a wild party scene filled with endless frat parties. I believe that partying, alcohol, and drugs are present on most college campuses, but there is some truth to the stereotype. It definitely depends on the specific Greek organization within the specific college, but, generally, Greek life has an impact on the social scene and an even greater impact at colleges where a significant percentage of the student body partakes in Greek life. Membership to a Greek organization determines your plans for the weekend. At a college without Greek life, the party culture is not dependent on a membership.

I found the lack of Greek life at BC did not correspond to a lack of community, but rather an even stronger sense of community. I could still be a part of something without being a part of a Greek organization. And the image of the stands filled with a sea of maroon and gold fans chanting the school song while cheering on the team is confirmation of this.


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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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