I'm going to start applying to graduate schools (Masters and PhD) for Economics in a few months primarily in the US, but also to a few schools in Canada, Australia and the UK. During my time as an undergraduate I joined a fraternity, and was relatively active in sorority on campus. I was wondering what effect my involvement will have on my chance of being accepted into the more competitive programs. I was also wondering in what ways should I display that information on my application/CV/resume?

While in a fraternity, I served as treasurer for the Inter-Fraternity Council (the governing body for fraternities on-campus) for two years. I was treasurer of my own chapter for a year, as well as president of my chapter for a semester--I stepped down after the first semester to run for CFO of the Associated Students (election still on-going). My chapter has always been very friendly with the campus and has never gotten into any trouble; however, I fear the extra scrutiny brought on sorority may hurt me. My fraternity also has chapters at many of the schools I am planning on applying to, so I fear that that may also hurt my chances--either because the admission committee associates me with a rowdy chapter or because they might see it as a potential conflict of interest if I were to grade or TA for the department.

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    A reference to "Greek Life" meaning fraternity/sorority stuff might be viewed as peculiar or silly, insofar as few people outside the fraternity/sorority world would refer to it that way. E.g., Greek people (from Greece, say), would not? :) Feb 10, 2016 at 12:28
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    The question seems to have been edited to remove the phrase "Greek life". Bear in mind that, outside the USA, the word Greek only meens "of, from or pertaining to the country Greece". If you mention "Greek" anything, anyone outside the USA will assume you're talking about the country and, while they're probably aware from Hollywood that fraternities and sororities are named with sequences of Greek letters, they will not associate the word "Greek" with those things. Feb 10, 2016 at 19:18
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    @DavidRicherby: The way it's edited, though, makes me wonder: Is "I joined a fraternity, and was relatively active in sorority" really accurate? I thought fraternities are for males and sororities are for females (or at least that is what the ethymology of the words suggests); can one participate in both? Feb 10, 2016 at 19:25
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    @O.R.Mapper I agree that it would be helpful if the asker could clarify that point. I guess it doesn't matter too much to the question, though, since I don't think it makes any real difference whether the organization or organizations were all-male, all-female, mixed-sex or anything else. Feb 10, 2016 at 20:03
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    @O.R.Mapper Sororities are generally female-only but "fraternity" is the word used for both male-only and mixed-gender organizations of that type. Feb 10, 2016 at 21:29

5 Answers 5


Non-academic activities do not count in any way towards graduate school applications unless they were successful or notable to a heroic degree. E.g. if you sold cupcakes as an undergraduate and made some money doing it -- or were popular at your church / club / frat's socials by doing it -- no one cares. If you sold your cupcake company for a million dollars, we'll care a bit: that's an exceptional level of competence and gumption, enough to reasonably expect that some of it will transfer over to whatever you put your mind to. Essentially, unless you're getting national media attention for your extracurricular activity, don't bother.

(Note: @jakebeal says "non-research-related". I think "non-academic" is more accurate: teaching / tutoring / TAing in your field is highly relevant. Being an active member in an economics club which, say, brings econ faculty to speak on campus is relevant, though not a game-changer. Also: please remember not to use "science" as a synecdoche for academia!)

Participation in "Greek organizations" is totally orthogonal -- I mean, has zero correlation; I MEAN: is completely irrelevant, either positively or negatively -- to graduate admissions. To be honest, I find the suggestion that it could be viewed negatively quite far-fetched: there is no "conflict of interest" here, any more than a Jewish or African-American or Republican student has a conflict of interest in their dealings with other Jewish or African-American or Republican students. An otherwise capable graduate student should be assumed to be capable of reasonable, professional behavior until evidence to the contrary comes up.

There is no reason to list this on any academic CV. As I said in a comment, the only real negative I see is that by putting something on a CV which is completely irrelevant, you show an ignorance of what academics think is important which makes you look less clueful about what graduate school is really about. It does so in such a mild way that I think almost any faculty member doing admissions would take it as a point of honor not to be influenced by this, but still: anyone who has read this question is now more clueful and knows to leave such things off an academic CV.

P.S.: Hold on:

I fear that that may also hurt my chances--either because the admission committee associates me with a rowdy chapter

So you think that the graduate faculty in the economics department will see your affiliation with, say, Alpha Omicron Pi and say "Well, some fraternities are fine, but not that one -- they're trouble!" Are you writing this question from the inside of an eighties movie? In the real world in 2016, the majority of faculty live far away from campus and have precisely zero dealings with Greek life including whatever incidents may occur on campus, and in many departments, at least a substantial minority of faculty were educated outside of the US and are thus completely unable to tell one Greek organization from another. As one data point: I live walking distance from campus and was educated in an American university with some amount of Greek life. Thus I happen to know that "AOPi" is a sorority rather than a fraternity. I would expect less than half of my colleagues to know that with any confidence. The local chapter of AoPi is two blocks from where I've lived for many years. What can I tell you about them as a group? Nothing. Don't care. Not my business.

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    @PeteL.Clark I suspect he means things like volunteering for treasurer and the like. Though in honesty, I agree with this answer - I'd ignore membership in the Greek system entirely, and not particularly care one way or the other. And no, the willingness to take on voluntary functions wouldn't come into consideration. My lab doesn't need a treasurer, it needs a potential scientist.
    – Fomite
    Feb 10, 2016 at 12:47
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    I think I saw that eighties movie: fraternity members dressing up as women, calling themselves Alpha Omicron Pi, and sticking it to the grumpy economics professor through a complicated series of zany antics.
    – user37208
    Feb 10, 2016 at 13:48
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    @O.R.Mapper: I see. No, US graduate programs do not (in my experience) look for "well-roundedness" in their applicants. Lazy and inactive sound like universal negatives, but we wouldn't infer this (or lack of it) from a list of non-academic activities. If these sorts of considerations play a role in graduate admissions in your department or university, I'd be interested to hear about it. Feb 10, 2016 at 18:13
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    I dunno... I'm not faculty so I can't speak from that position like other commenters here, but I would think that if you have stellar research and top marks during undergrad while also holding some time-consuming leadership role in some club/team/Greek org, then it would directly testify to your ability to manage your time productively--a key aspect of a productive researcher. Obviously it's not paramount, but I can only see it having a neutral to positive distinguishing impact.
    – marcman
    Feb 10, 2016 at 20:46
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    @marcman: As a graduate admitter, I assume that everyone is doing something outside of the confines of their work/studies...and what they are doing is their business. Even if what they are doing is watching television, playing video games or hanging out with their friends: OK. Having stellar research and top marks itself testifies to one's ability to manage one's time productively, among other positive traits: most grad school applicants realize these are valuable but few have them. Conversely, if you have top marks, test scores and stellar research: sold! You'll get into top programs. Feb 10, 2016 at 23:06

In general, your non-research-related activities as an undergraduate will simply be irrelevant to your application to graduate school. In all likelihood, nobody reading your application would care any more (positively or negatively) that you were in a fraternity than if you were in a drama club, on the swim team, or had a job in the library.

As such, unless it is somehow directly relevant to your graduate application, I would advise simply leaving it off of your C.V. along with all of the other non-scientific parts of your personal history.

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    If there was a chapter of the applicants fraternity on my campus I'd be concerned that they might get dragged into the organizations activities. In that sense, it could be a negative. Feb 10, 2016 at 4:10
  • @BrianBorchers If they made a big deal about their greek roots, sure. Most people move on with their lives after they graduate, though, at least enough so that I think it would be no more worrisome than any other hobby.
    – jakebeal
    Feb 10, 2016 at 4:23
  • A job at the library? That's much better than institutionalized beer pong, I'll see that pretty positively in comparison to the other items on your list
    – Cape Code
    Feb 10, 2016 at 8:34
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    @CapeCode Interestingly, I would see the opposite, having done library work myself: shelving and checking out books is less intellectually stimulating than it may appear.
    – jakebeal
    Feb 10, 2016 at 12:17

During my time as an undergrad I joined a fraternity, and was relatively active in Greek Life on campus.

To my knowledge there are no fraternities in Greek universities, only political groups. I guess you mean you were in one of those?

Nevertheless, this has nothing to do with your applications. You should leave it out of your CV and frankly, no one is going to care.

If, however you want to promote your organizational skills you could add an abstract comment about being president and treasurer in various groups throughout your academic life and clarify only if asked, although I highly doubt it.

Being in a fraternity will not help you or harm you in you in any way as your goal should be promoting your scientific skills, not your non-academic activities.

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    Fraternities and sororities are called "Greek" organizations because their names are typically composed of Greek letters. That's what was meant by "Greek Life", not the OP attended a university in Greece.
    – ff524
    Feb 10, 2016 at 6:06
  • Oh, I had no idea. Thank you for the information.
    – Aventinus
    Feb 10, 2016 at 10:17
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    Well, referring to fraternity or sorority stuff as "Greek Life" is rather silly, at best, in the larger scheme of things. Feb 10, 2016 at 12:27

so I fear that that may also hurt my chances--either because the admission committee associates me with a rowdy chapter...

I would not be concerned about being seen as rowdy. Every university, including your current one, will ask for your transcripts and your public file, and likely run a background check. If you have a good GPA, and do not have any disciplinary actions against you do not worry about being seen in a bad light.

...or because they might see it as a potential conflict of interest if I were to grade or TA for the department.

If universities couldn't hire frat/sorority members as TAs, then there would be far fewer TAs. As a TA your expected to grad and assist impartially. You cannot favor a specific group of students for reasons besides their academic performance, but you probably already knew that.

While in a fraternity, I served as treasurer for the Inter-Fraternity Council (the governing body for fraternities on-campus) for two years. I was treasurer of my own chapter for a year, as well as president of my chapter for a semester

I would put your greek affiliation on your resume/CV, then right below it, list all the leadership positions you've held, either within the greek house, or with the university (its ok if they are related to greek life).

While simply being a member of a frat/sorority likely won't help you get into grad school, leadership positions in these organizations will.


No one is going to admit you to a PhD program because of what fraternity you were in, but it's unlikely to hurt you to include a line on your CV mentioning you were a member of ABC House.


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