In popular culture, frats have an unfortunate reputation for being drunken, boorish, and sexist—but the truth is that many top fraternities provide deeply meaningful experiences and close relationships that resonate for a lifetime. A 2014 Gallup survey found that men who join fraternities are not only happier than their non-Greek counterparts, but are also less stressed about money, physically healthier, more engaged in the workplace, and more fulfilled in their social relationships. And with alumni reportedly including 18 US Presidents, 85 percent of Supreme Court justices since 1910, 76 percent of Senators, and 85 percent of Fortune 500 Executives, men who pledge are in top company, too.
Picking the “best” fraternity is nearly impossible, so instead we’ve run the numbers to find out how popular men’s fraternities within the North-American Interfraternity Conference stack up.
Most Celebrity Alums: Alpha Phi Alpha
The country’s first African-American intercollegiate Greek-lettered fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha was founded in 1906 at Cornell University and—in addition to a prestigious program of academic excellence and political and social leadership—boasts some serious star-wattage. Famous Alpha Phi Alpha members include Martin Luther King, Jr., NAACP Founder W. E. B. Du Bois, Frederick Douglass, Lionel Ritchie, Walt Frazier, Jesse Owens, Justice Thurgood Marshall, ESPN Sportscaster Stuart Scott, and Academy Award winning Moonlight director Barry Jenkins. Since its founding, more than 200,000 men have been initiated, with 706 chapters throughout the world and 850,000+ community service hours performed.
Best Leadership Program: Pi Kappa Alpha
Founded in 1868 at University of Virginia, the Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity counts 220 chapters and colonies across North America, over 285,000 members and approximately 16,000 undergraduates. PIKE University—the fraternity’s leadership training program with nine annual events across the country—sees over 3,300 attendees while the PIKE Foundation awards over $223,000 in scholarships and grants yearly for the events. Pike men pride themselves on “integrity, intellect, and high moral character,” with famous members including Tim McGraw, Scott Van Pelt, Bobby Bowden, Jim Parsons, Karl Rove, Seth Rogen, and Eric Stonestreet.
Most Undergraduate Chapters: Tau Kappa Epsilon
With 246 active chapters and colonies in North America, Tau Kappa Epsilonhas more undergraduate chapters than any other fraternity. Founded in 1899 at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois, the fraternity counts more than 278,000 initiated members. Formed for men of personal worth and character (it purports to build “Better Men for a Better World”), TKE has raised nearly $2.5 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital since 2009.
Biggest: Sigma Alpha Epsilon
With more than 336,000 lifetime members, Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the largest fraternity in the country. Founded in 1856 at the University of Alabama, SAE has approximately 13,500 undergraduate/collegiate members, and counts alumni such as Troy Aikman, Nick Lachey, William Faulkner, Beau Bridges, and President William McKinley. A pledgeless fraternity, SAE runs a cornerstone program called the True Gentleman Experience, developing members personally and professionally with separate focuses each year (including loyalty, friendship, and honor).
Best Vision for the Future: Sigma Phi Epsilon
Not only does Sigma Phi Epsilon’s Balanced Man Program provide undergraduate men with valuable structure, support and guidance; it also removes pledging from the fraternity altogether, meaning that all members—freshmen and seniors alike—are treated as equals. Founded in 1901 at Richmond College (now the University of Richmond), the fraternity currently has 221 chapters, 14,000 members, and more than 325,000 lifetime members.
Oldest: The Kappa Alpha Society
The nation’s oldest traditional Greek letter social fraternity, The Kappa Alpha Society was founded in 1825 at Union College in Schenectady, New York. (Phi Beta Kappa Society was founded in 1776, but isn’t a member of the North-American Interfraternity Conference.) Today, there are only nine active chapters in the US and Canada, including at Cornell, McGill, and the University of Pennsylvania.
Most Philanthropic: Sigma Chi
Founded 1855 at Miami University in Ohio, Sigma Chi has a strong link with the Huntsman Cancer Institute, where the sixth floor is officially known as The Sigma Chi International Fraternity Sixth Floor. To date, the fraternity has raised more than $3 million for the cancer charity—with more than $1 million donated in 2014-2015 alone—and they’ve pledged to raise $10 million by the end of 2022 (thought to be the largest charitable pledge to a single recipient in Greek history).
Most Devoted to Public Service: Lambda Sigma Upsilon
One of the nation’s largest Latino fraternities, Lambda Sigma Upsilon was started at Rutgers University in 1979. Giving back is paramount for the brothers of Lambda Sigma Upsilon, with several HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention initiatives and partnerships aiming to help cure and create a vaccine for HIV/AIDS, including the Live Safe Campaign and H.Y.P.E. Program.
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