The biggest sororities have hundreds of chapters across the U.S. and abroad and the oldest have been around since the 1850s. There is wide variety, culturally, from one sorority to another. Some are more popular in the northeast and others in the southern states; some sororities are more focused on philanthropy or academics and others on social activities.
It’s hard to generalize about a sorority’s reputation nation-wide; there are many differences from campus to campus. While some have strong national cultures across all chapters, there are bound to be differences from one university or college to another.
As for how I arrived at these decisions, I was exposed to a bunch of sororities my sophomore year in college, and learned a bit through “osmosis.”
The following are among the largest national sororities that are members of the National Panhellenic Conference, an umbrella organization comprising 26 member groups. These are the commonly-held opinions them to give an idea of each sorority’s culture, values, and image.
The tier has everything to do with how picky it can be about members. A “top” tier sorority can basically pick just who they want among pledges, while a “low” tier sorority takes the left-overs.
“Chi O’s,” as members are sometimes called, like to cultivate a “good girl” image. The national organization stresses “Christian ideals.” Chapters are generally considered to be well-organized.
Among the negative sentiments expressed about Chi Omega members are that they can be a bit isolated (maybe even exclusionary) and that they limit themselves to their own philanthropic and social activities over cooperation with other Greek letter organizations. Many have noted that while Chi O’s are sweet and classy, they are not necessarily known as the most physically attractive women (but not the ugliest, either; many have said they are “plain Janes”).
Some say the sorority is full of girls who were rejected at top-tier sororities but are still solidly mid-tier. The sorority touts its diversity, but some say the standards are so loose that there’s very little tying all Chi-O’s together in terms of personality, looks, campus activity, or academic performance.
The consensus, if there is one, is that Chi Omega is respected but not necessarily exalted among sororities.
Delta Zeta (DZ) girls are generally considered approachable and easy to talk to. This description may be related to two stereotypes about them: 1) they’re not generally the most beautiful women on campus; or 2) they’re “easy.” This reputation has, unfortunately, led most other sororities on some campuses to consider them lower-tier. They have a reputation for accepting those who were rejected by top-tier sororities and that they are a backup option for many.
However, DZ women are also known for their strong sisterhood and mutual support. Fraternity members consider DZ girls a lot of fun. DZ members take pride in their deep involvement in campus Greek life. Because of this, only the nastiest sorority girls will outwardly dislike a DZ girl. Think of them as the Betty Suarez, or even the Amanda Tanen, of sororities (for you Ugly Betty fans).
Alpha Phi girls are generally thought of as partiers who like to drink and have a good time. Their academic reputation is good, but they also have a reputation for avoiding tough majors in favor of less-demanding subjects that don’t conflict with their social lives. “Classy” and “involved” are not words typically used to describe Alpha Phi girls, but “fun” and “popular” are.
Alpha Phi is considered by many to be an upper mid-tier sorority. Because Alpha Phi girls are perceived to be confident, you will find some quirky and offbeat members among them and plenty who don’t care what other sororities think. They are considered to be laid-back and are probably the least likely among major sororities to worry about their reputation.
Delta Gamma (DGs) is considered a mid-tier sorority almost everywhere across the country. The reputation of DG is that they are classy, supportive of each other, focused on “girl-power,” and heavily involved in campus activities. DGs tend to enjoy a level of respect among other sororities and fraternities.
The words you’ll often hear about DGs are “nice,” “social butterflies,” and “good girls.” Their “good girl” reputation means they typically don’t tolerate mean girl cattiness. Girls who pledge with DG are usually very happy when they are accepted into the fold.
Delta Delta Delta (“Tri-Delts”) have a national reputation that was lampooned in a 1980s episode of Saturday Night Live (“Delta Delta Delta, can I helpya helpya helpya?”). Some consider them to be the quintessential sorority, in both a good and a bad way. Depending upon the campus, Tri-Delts are either considered lower-end top-tier, or higher-end mid-tier. The fact that many Tri-Delts consider themselves top-tier might explain some of the resentment they get from other sororities.
DDDs tend to be heavily invested in philanthropy, and would prefer to be labeled “classy” over “fun to party with,” although they do not want to be considered boring. They take sisterhood seriously and try not to get caught up in drama, which might lead to the sentiment that they’re aloof and snobbish.
Zeta Tau Alpha tends to be far more popular in the South than elsewhere in the country. The reputation of Zetas ranges depending on who you talk to, but “party girls” is a fairly common descriptor; the less charitable have compared Zetas to the cast of the Jersey Shore. Possibly because of this, other Greek organizations have highly polarized opinions about Zetas. Many other sororities say they are “hot in a fake way,” with heavy use of makeup and a bit of a princess complex.
Although Zetas are often committed to philanthropy and successful fundraisers, they have a reputation for only accepting white girls. This stereotype is, of course, hotly disputed by the Zetas themselves.
Kappa Kappa Gamma (“Kappas”) are known for being rich girls. Their reputation varies from campus to campus but they are universally considered top-tier. Maybe because of the money they tend to bring with them, their houses tend to be one of the nicest on campus. However, many consider Kappas materialistic. Members have a reputation for hunting down other trust-fund kids to marry—something that they probably don’t have much difficulty doing, since they are also considered cute or pretty by most.
You also hear Kappas described as popular, and sometimes (but not always) smart and classy. They have a reputation for behaving like daddy’s little princess but their top-tier reputation is intact across the country.
Alpha Chi Omega (“AXO” or “A Chi O”) is mid-tier sorority with a widely varying reputation. AXO girls are generally not considered terribly hot or popular but they are respected as classy and involved in campus life. In spite of their relatively low profile, AXOs are considered down-to-earth and real. They don’t tend to be as social as other sororities and can sometimes seem invisible compared to more visible sororities.
Pi Beta Phi girls (“Pi Phis”) are considered by most to be top-tier but also have a reputation as fake and superficial. They are not considered nice—but not outright nasty either. Many consider them to be obsessed with their looks and say they have a reputation for body image issues. This stereotype may, however, be sour grapes on the part of other sororities with inferiority complexes.
With consistently high marks for physical attractiveness, sociability, and popularity, Pi Phis certainly earn the envy of other sororities and the interest of fraternities. What they tend to lack—in philanthropy— doesn’t seem to concern them too much.
Kappa Delta (“KD”) is considered an up-and-coming sorority, one that has risen to the top-tier in terms of reputation in recent decades. This reputation is by no means uniform, which may be due to the diversity of girls who pledge KD. Unlike some other top-tier sororities, Kappa Delta members do not have the reputation for being all clones or princesses, but they do all tend to be popular and social. Just about everyone knows at least one KD they really like and one KD they really hate.
One consistent observation is that KDs are obsessed with popularity. This may be due to the fact that the sorority has recently fought its way to the top tier and has a reputation to maintain . This may not be a fair assessment, though, and might simply be the sentiment of those who have seen—and resent—KD’s rise in rankings.
- A general image is dangerously close to a stereotype. Take the things you hear with a grain of salt and research your specific chapter. Ask past and current members, and even people who rushed but did not join for whatever reason, about their opinion of a sorority.
- Attend a recruitment orientation session.
- Participate in recruitment activities. These are where you’ll learn the mission and values of each sorority, and you’ll pick up whether what a sorority says is in line with what is really going on.
- If you pledge a sorority and then think it isn’t for you, make a decision about joining before the initiation process. There is normally a 6-8 week new member period when you can assess whether you want to make a commitment. If before initiation you decide that you are not ready, you can break your pledge from the organization. If you would like to participate in recruitment again, you can during the next primary recruitment period.