As a member of Greek life, I can say that going greek was the best decision I made after coming to Rochester. The social and networking outlets that Greek life offers you are unlike any other group on campus. It has also provided a strong support system throughout my time here. There are many other popular student groups that students enjoy becoming involved with. There is a vast student government structure that allows students to see a more political side of the university. There are also several A Capella groups that are always seen singing around campus.
Greek life is a must for a lot of people. Those who don't choose it manage fine of course, but I would wager more than 50% of sponsored fund raisers, drives and community service are rendered through the Fraternities and Sororities. I wouldn't say an unusually amount of drinking goes on, but other drugs or substances tend to be absent from the majority or parties throughout campus. Comedians, acapella groups, speakers and performance groups are all a blast to go to.
With over 250 student organizations on campus, there is a significant number of groups for students to choose from when wanting to get more involved on campus. Some of the popular clubs on campus include the acapella singing groups, dance groups, class councils, student government, club sports teams, undergraduate major societies, and Greek life. Many students are involved in multiple organizations forcing them to plan time for their studies and activities.
A cappella is huge! midnightramblers.org, jackets.org, urvocalpoint.com, and urafterhours.net. All of performance arts are big, including the two indian dance teams, Louvre contemporary dance, Ballet Performance Group, Rice Crew, IBTL Improv, TOOP theater, D'Motions Hip Hop, and Mariachi Meliora... just to name a few. http://sa.rochester.edu/ccc But there are hundreds of other types of groups too.
Sports teams are as close-knit as sororities. D-day is the biggest tradition of the year, so much so that even though the university tried to do away with it in 2008, the student organizations raised money and volunteer support to make it happen. From ballet to breakdancing to ocapella groups to improv comedy to juggling, students can get involved in pretty much any activity that interests them.
Former President Bill Clinton came this year. I was in front row for the school paper and it was so awesome being so close and hearing him speak. Such a great experience and feel that only here could that have happened.
greek life is big (i'm in a frat), dorms are not party-able, bar parties are big (about 1 a week), there's a bunch of dating drama
There are a ton of student groups on campus, and most people I know are active in at least one. I am a member of the Policy Debate team, which I can safely say is the single best decision I've made in college thus far. Debate is one of the more active and organised groups on campus. We attend tournaments around the country about every other weekend (driving or flying, depending on distance), which is great fun. Nothing beats the school paying for our travel, tournament and hotel expenses to hang out with good friends and compete against rivals from other schools for the weekend. We're open to all levels of activity and experience, whether you're a TOC champion high school debater who wants to go to national tournaments or someone with no debate experience who wants to try out a tournament or two, and the only thing you pay for is food. I cannot possibly recommend this activity enough. If you have never done it, all I can say is this: it's almost certainly nothing like you imagine, anything that interests you can probably become a debate argument (seriously... there was a team from Bard College that would do weird postmodern performances, make jokes about debate and read abstract poetry about Nietzsche and they did pretty damn well) and it is the most intellectually rewarding thing you will ever do. Athletic events are relatively popular as a way to kill a couple hours with friends, but our sports teams are not very good in general. Rochester doesn't recruit many sports players, so we get whatever Rochester students happen to be good at sports, more or less. Guest speakers are fairly common and pretty popular among the more academically oriented students, and there's a theatre on campus that plays movies for about $2 a couple times a week. We also have live theatre, a couple a capella groups, some on-campus bands, etc. The dating scene? Meh, who dates in college? At any rate, I guess the hub for that would be the frat parties, which range from huge and bumping 3+ nights a week when the weather is nice to a virtual ghost town on the worst winter weekends. On an average weekend night, there are probably at least a couple hundred students on the quad, so it's not hard to meet new people. Some people go out every weekend (many starting on Thursday night), while others very rarely go to the quad. If you ask a frat brother, the frats and sororities ARE the social life on campus, but plenty of people get along just fine without them, especially since many students have ample space in off campus dwellings for parties and get-togethers of their own. I met most of my friends either in class or through debate. Most of my friends I met through parties on the quad have long since graduated. Most of my close friends are debaters, partially because I fancy myself an intellectual and so do many debaters, but also because I travel with them regularly and we end up spending a lot of weekends together at debate tournament hotels. We used to have a tradition called Dandelion Day. It was officially just a school celebration, but unofficially it was the day that every student made it their solemn mission to be drunk by 11 am and stay that way all day. The administration pulled the plug on it because of this this past year, but students 'celebrated' anyway.
The Midnight Ramblers are GODS! (If one of the Ramblers reads this, I'm interested. Call me). Anywho, they are a fantastic all male a capella group. I know that sounds really lame, but they are so often better than the artists that actually sing the songs that they sing that it's incredible. Plus, they are so cute. They got second place (I think) for best college a capella group in the nation a couple of years ago. Also, the Banghra team (Indian dance team) is incredible. You will learn to love Bollywood music if you don't already. I'm involved with Undergraduate English Council and Undergraduate Medieval Society. They are really awesome and fun organizations. I'm really involved in both, but I guess I'll talk about Medieval Society. Basically we're a bunch of people who really like medieval history, literature, mythology, and even modern medievalism (Yeah Monty Python! Yeah Men in Tights!). Anywho, we get professors at the school and out of the school (starting next year) to talk to us about their Medieval research. We just had a grad student talk about medievalism in modern video gaming. It was awesome. Students here usually leave their doors open. It depends on the person obviously, but some halls have open door policies where it's pretty much agreed (unofficially) that if you're in, you're door is at least cracked open for easy friend visiting access. Athletic events are not so big here, but we have kick ass male and female basketball teams here that everyone gets really psyched about. Guest speakers are likewise awesome. We had Colin Powell at the beginning of the school year and had Bill Nye the science guy just recently. We can get some really cheap theater tickets through the school. Dating is easy here for both sexes. My roommate got a boyfriend during orientation and has kept him ever since. My longterm (from home but who is also here) boyfriend and I had a breakup a couple months ago, and ever since I've been hit on like crazy. I'm not interested right now, but it's really cool for me (an average looking person) to have so many people interested (and all really nice guys, too). My closest friends are from my hall/classes, but mostly we bond over food. That's how friends are made for life, bonding over food. Fraternities and sororities her exist, have a following, feel the closeness, etc., but they are not the little cliquey thingies that you see in bad Lifetime movies. They're tight, but they're not the sole determinant of a fun time at college. Most people aren't in frats and sororities, but that doesn't mean that we can hang out with the people who are. Drinking is totally not necessary to have fun on this campus (I don't personally), but if that's your scene, there are enough people who do. It's not a party school in that the partiers don't disturb the non-partiers, but for the party-girls/party-boys there are plenty enough of them that you won't be disappointed. PS It's completely possible to go to a frat party and not require a social lubricant by the by. I don't have a problem with the people who drink, but I just wanted to let you guys know that partying anywhere can be done without drinking (self-tested experiment).
The vast majority of my close friends lived on my freshman hall. Actually they lived on the floor above me, which I basically adopted as my own. I think a lot of people remain friends with their freshman neighbors, although you also make friends in classes and activities and at parties. Freshman year the frat quad is the place to be Thursday-Saturday nights. That being said, I think I have been to the frat quad less than 10 times in 3 years. There are plenty of things to do and people to hang out with if you're not into the drunken party scene. You just have to look a little harder. After freshman year people tend to have suite-parties more and it gets a little weird to go to the frat quad all the time if you're not friends with the brothers. The school has $2 movies playing in an auditorium Friday and Saturday nights throughout the year which are sometimes really popular. There are usually a couple big concerts each year, and often you can find people singing and playing guitar in the coffee shops on weekend nights. I think the biggest off-campus activity for a lot of people is restaurants, although there are a lot of bar-parties as well, where groups rent out a bar on a weeknight and they run shuttle buses. Generally though, we tend to stay on campus. In the fall Meliora weekend is alumni weekend, homecoming weekend, and parents weekend all in one. There are tons of performances and speakers and activities and it's a little overwhelming but pretty cool. There's also Yellowjacket weekend which is one of the first weekends in the fall, right at the end of orientation, and there are carnival rides and games and fried dough and they give out free school spirit t-shirts which are very popular. In spring there's the infamous D-Day (D stands for either dandelion or drunk, depending on who you talk to). There used to be carnival rides and a concert and stuff, but the school is really cracking down so there are no rides anymore, and there are rumors of getting rid of it all together. The main focus of the day for most students is drinking, starting from early in the morning and going all day long. The school getting rid of things is not going to cut down on the drinking, although it does make it less fun for those of us who are not.