Freshman File #3 // Is Sorority Life Right for You?

Freshman Files is a summer-long series in which I’ll discuss the things I wish I’d known exactly a year ago when I was an incoming freshman.  Whether you’re starting college at the end of the summer or are looking for some tips on how to organize or want to know how to pick out good shoes for a party, this series is for you.

Today I’m talking about something that has quickly become a central part of my college experience: sorority life.

I knew from a very young age that I wanted to join a sorority.  My mom is in a sorority and regaled me with stories of how wonderful her life in a sorority was: the women she met, the things she experienced, the opportunities she gained because of her sisters.  When I started looking for universities and was asked whether or not I wanted to go Greek, the answer came naturally.  I wanted to partake in the same sense of tradition and find the same bond that my mom found years before.

Greek Life became a make-or-break factor for me because I knew what I didn’t want from my sorority experience.  I didn’t want my sorority to dominate my social life and I didn’t want to be labeled as a stereotypical sorority girl.  I wanted an environment with a strong, positive Greek presence, but also wanted the participate in activities outside of my sorority house, which is why Elon is the perfect social environment for me.  Lots of girl rush and pledge sororities, but life exists beyond the Greek houses.

After rushing in January, I joined the Iota Psi chapter of Alpha Chi Omega and literally could not be happier.  My sisters are fantastic and the things we’ve worked together to accomplish, like raising money for our philanthropy (domestic violence awareness), amaze me every day.  I got paired with an amazing big sister and have grown so close to my new member class.  There was an Alpha Chi sister in every class I took, so I gained some pretty amazing study buddies too.

I found a sisterhood that I’m proud to be a part of, but I also realize that life in a sorority isn’t right for everyone.  So how do you know is sorority life is right for you?  To start to answer that question, I’m going to talk about my experience with my sorority before, during, and after recruitment.

While what I’m about to share is my experience, it’s not the same for every person at every school.  If you’re interested in recruitment, determine out how Greek Life works at your individual institution.

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The time before recruitment works differently at each school.  I’ve heard of universities allowing recruitment to happen before classes start, in the middle of the first semester, after the first semester, and after the first two semesters.  Each time frame has its positives and benefits: basically, the earlier you recruit, the more time you have with your sorority, but the later you recruit, the more time PNMs (potential new members) have to be unaffiliated and pursuing opportunities beyond a Greek organization.

At Elon, the earliest I could rush was after my first semester, so I spent my first semester unaffiliated and figuring myself out.  I explored non-Greek organizations, got involved in a student-run dance company, joined clubs, and poured myself into my schoolwork.  I am and was grateful for this time because it gave me the opportunity to establish myself on campus and figure out how I wanted to exist at school without using a sorority as a crutch.

The one downside to later recruitment is the possibility of dirty rushing.  Dirty rushing is when current sisters try to convince PNMs to pledge their sorority without considering all the other sororities they could join.  Sisters do this because they want the “best” people in their sorority and will dirty rush by promising bids and guaranteeing PNMs that they’ll get picked.  Dirty rushing sucks because it sends the message that you, the PNM, have no say in what sorority you choose, and that is so false.

What’s confusing about dirty rushing is you don’t always know if you’re being dirty rushed.  There’s a fine line between a classmate who just happens to be affiliated asking you to lunch, and a classmate asking you to lunch with the intention of convincing you to join her sorority.  In these situations, go with your gut.  If the other person is only talking about her sorority and changes the subject to talk about Greek life, that’s a red flag.  If she’s asking questions about you and is only talking about her sorority if it comes up naturally, you’re probably fine.

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Recruitment is the process of meeting all the sororities and slowing narrowing down your top few organizations.  During this process, the sororities tell you what they’re all about while you tell each sorority what you’re all about.  In its simplest form, recruitment is speed dating.

Recruitment happens differently at every school.  Like I mentioned earlier, recruitment can take place any time of year, but the process itself varies.  I’ve heard of recruitment lasting anywhere from three days to a week or longer, so definitely do some research and figure out how recruitment happens at your specific university.

At Elon, my recruitment was four days long.  The first day, we visited all nine sororities then pared down to six and two.  The last day, we found out whether or not we received a bid and if we did, “ran home” to our sorority.

The night before the first round, I was a nervous wreck.  Six of the ten women in my apartment were rushing and we ran around like madwomen, debating which outfit would work with these shoes and whether or not hauling our giant winter coats (it was January after all) across campus all day was worth the warmth.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: recruitment was exhausting.  The days were long and stressful.  My feet never hurt as much as they did after the round of nine because we stood and talked for at least thirty minutes at each chapter.  I consumed a record amount of cough drops and drank an unsettling amount of herbal tea.  Girls left and right chugged Emergen-C to ward off colds because nothing promotes a healthy immune system like a hundred anxious women in a small space for eight hours a day.

As nervous and tired as I was, I actually enjoyed recruitment.  Learning about each sorority and their respective philanthropies and sisterhoods taught me about myself and what I find important.  Elon’s recruitment is values-based, meaning that PNMs are encouraged to pick sororities that value the same traits and ideas as they do and vice versa.  This lead to intriguing conversations about me and what I believe.

Throughout recruitment, I was fixated on the possibility of not getting a bid.  I was in love with one sorority and couldn’t get over the fact that they had to choose me three separate times before I’d be offered a bid.  But here’s the thing:  recruitment is a matchmaking process of determining not which sorority is better than others, but which sorority is right for you.  If you belong in a sorority, they need to love you as much as you love them.  Trust and enjoy the process.

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Like everything about recruitment, bids work differently at each university.  At Elon, the PNM chooses the sororities they want in order and then the sorority chooses the PNMs they want.  If you’re a sorority’s first choice and they’re your first choice, then they give you a bid.  If both the sororities you rank offer you a bid, you get the sorority you ranked highest.  If your first sorority doesn’t offer you a bid but your second one does, you get a bid from your second sorority.  Whew, that was confusing.

The night before bid day, my Pi Chi (recruitment counselor) told me that if I didn’t get a bid, I’d get a phone call or visit from them by 10:30.  So when 10:30 came and passed, meaning I’d gotten a bid, I was more than ecstatic.  I’d visited two sororities the day before and knew I’d gotten a bid from one, but I had a feeling in my gut that told me which sorority I’d received a bid from.

Getting a bid is a rollercoaster of emotions.  I loved Alpha Chi Omega and was more than happy to accept my bid, but getting a bid isn’t always a joyful process.  Getting a second choice or not getting a bid at all is a serious possibility, so my best advice is this: don’t place your entire worth in a bid.  If a sorority is right for you, they’ll see it as much as you do.  Keep an open mind and trust that what happened, happened for a reason.

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New member period is the time between bid day and initiation when you intend to join your sorority, but haven’t officially sealed the deal yet.  This period varies in length; my new member period was six weeks long.  During this time, I and other members of my pledge class learned about the history of Alpha Chi, our membership standards, and fine print of what it means to be a sister.

The most exciting part of the new member period is getting a big sister.  Through this process, new members are paired with an older sister, typically a sophomore or junior, who acts as a friend and mentor.  Big-little pairing was one of my most anticipated moments, in addition to the week of gifting that precedes meeting your big sister.

A few days before I met my big, she started leaving little gifts in my room, like food from my favorite restaurant near campus and hand-me-down Alpha Chi gear.  At big-little reveal, I finally met my big and could not be happier.  She’s the sweetest person and inspires me to be a better leader, sister, and friend every day.

Another fun aspect of big-little pairings is families.  Because my big has a big and so on, we form little families based on our bigs and littles.  I’m in the chicken nugget fam, which I think is incredibly appropriate.  As I’ve grown closer to my big, I’ve also gotten to know the rest of my family and joined this little pocket of lovely little nugs.  And the family doesn’t stop with me: next year I’ll take a little and will get to bring more sisters into our family.

On a more serious note, one major concern I had about this period was hazing.  We’ve all seen horror stories of what can happen to new members before they’re initiated and I too was afraid of hazing before going through recruitment.  However, universities around the country are cracking down on hazing because it can be incredibly embarrassing and often life-threatening.  Elon is one such university: we have a no-tolerance policy.  My chapter had a bit of a motto when it came to hazing: if you wouldn’t do it to a sister, don’t do it to a new member.  It’s as simple as that.

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After I was officially initiated, I could finally participate in some rituals that only sisters can experience, but other than that not much changed.  Because the older sisters put a huge emphasis on treating us like sisters from bid day forward, I feel like my time with Alpha Chi has been one continuous sense of sisterhood.

If you’re considering joining a sorority, know yourself and keep an open mind.  Identify what you want to gain from this experience, whether it’s social networking opportunities or the chance to form some great friendships, and be willing to give sorority life a try.  Sororities aren’t for everyone, and if not, explore other opportunities to get involved on-campus.  If you think you might like being in a sorority, I strongly encourage you to give it a try.  I found a sisterhood I’m proud of, and you might too.

You can check out my sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, on Instagram on Tumblr.

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8 thoughts on “Freshman File #3 // Is Sorority Life Right for You?

  1. I loved how you described sorority life in such great detail. I wish I would’ve read this before last year when I just went through recruitment out of pure curiosity. I’m glad you found your home! I know how amazing it feels to be surrounded by people who want to help you grow.