A Guide to Joining a Sorority
Dec 29, 2005
The Bottom Line Greek life, though not for everyone, can be an exciting and memorable addition to college life.
I'm going to focus on sororities in this opinion, because I don't feel I can accurately reflect fraternity life.
What makes you qualified to write this?
I have an interesting perspective on this topic because I have been on both sides of Greek life. When I was a freshman at Marshall University in Huntington WV, I joined a sorority (I'm not giving the name because this is a general Greek life opinion, but if you're dying to know you can ask) within a few weeks of beginning my freshman year. The fall of my junior year, I became an alumna of the sorority after transferring to West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV because they did not have a chapter of mine on their campus.
Why did you decide to rush (which I should mention is officially called "recruitment" because rush has a negative conotation)?
I'd be lying if I said it wasn't because I was curious because of things I saw on TV. I was. I immediately signed up for "formal recruitment" to see the 5 sororities that the campus had to offer. I was also encouraged my cousin, who was hardcore about sorority, though not a "typical" sorority girl. I ended up joining her organization, not because of her, but because I felt it was truly the best on campus for me.
Aren't sororities only for party girls?
No. Many people in sororities do party, yes. Some party more than the average person. I was not a big partier when I was in, and there were plenty of girls like me. A lot of people join sororities for the experience of sisterhood and the other events that go with that, not just parties. I've known plenty of studious girls who were in sororities.
How does the whole recruitment thing work?
I'm going to tell you how it works at Marshall (or how it worked when I was there, and I understand that it's basically the same). You are given a "recruitment counselor" (a sorority member who keeps her affiliation secret) and you are in a group of maybe 7-10 other girls. In these groups, you'll have some discussions about which groups you like the best for you and why after you visit the houses. When I did it, there were three days of "parties." The first was the most casual so that potential new members could learn about the sororities and the sisters by visiting every sorority, the second was a day to learn about the sorority's philanthropy and do a related project, and the last was the most formal with dressy apparel and one-on-one conversations with a girl. Girls narrow your choices daily (or get narrowed by the sororities on the basis of grades or other reasons). At the end of everything, you put your number one choice down. If they pick you too, you go there. You may also put down a second choice so that if your first doesn't pick you, the second one might. I only put down one, because there was only one sorority I wanted to go to and I didn't want to join one just to be in one. The sororities distribute bid cards to the potential new members they like, not knowing whether those girls mutually picked them or not. We picked up out bid cards the next in the student union, met in a group later that evening, and were taken home by the recruitment counselors from our individual sororities for a very large and warm welcome.
If you don't like the idea of formal recruitment, see if your campus has open recruitment parties. For these, you just choose the sorority you want to visit (a good option if you have friends in a particular one), and you typically have to go three times to be "voted" on. These "parties" are much more casual and relaxed, and probably the better way to get to know the girls.
If you're in doubt about whether or not to go through recruitment, then wait. Most sororities will not care if you're a sophomore or even a junior when you join. Mine happily let in seniors. The only reason sororities don't want you to be too close to graduation when you join is that they obviously want to keep you around and have you participate for a while.
Good Greek organizations are some of the best run student organizations I have ever seen, hands down, and I am a member of several other types of campus organizations. Mine had numerous offices, so many that almost everyone held one, but that helped keep things running smoothly. Everyone had her own place and part in things.
How do I know which sorority is right for me?
Well, it's a personal decision and no one can tell you which one is best for you. One way to look at it is that with any luck, you will probably be a member of this group of girls for the rest of your college life, and a member of the organization for the rest of your life. Can you see yourself possibly living in a house with these girls (as many sororities require it)? Can you see yourself walking around them on your worst day, when you're sick and haven't combed your hair or put on any makeup? Do you think your personalities and attitudes are going to mesh well together? Becoming a "pledge" (now called "new member") is the only way you will really find out, but those are some things to consider.
Is it expensive?
well, in a word, yes. Dues vary from chapter to chapter and from organization to organization. There is a large initiation fee when you first join to cover the cost of your badge, lifetime subscription to the national magazine, etc. After that, there are dues each semester. I believe mine were around $300/semester, and mine was one of the average ones, some were cheaper and some were more expensive. For exact costs, the best thing to do is ask the chapter, or contact your university to see if they have those costs on file. Usually during recruitment, these costs will be shared with you. You should also consider the cost of optional things, like formals, informals, t-shirts, etc. I'd like to mention that not all girls were rich and supported by rich parents. Many girls worked a job or even two to pay their dues, so sororities are not only a snooty rich girl thing.
Is it time consuming?
Yes, but not so much that you have no time for anything else. You will have to manage your time well to be successful. There's still plenty of time for studying and school and for other organizations, but you should plan on spending a few hours a week at sorority related events/meetings/service projects. Every national sorority has some cause or philanthropy they are united with, so expect to do a lot of community service toward that cause.
What should I know about my first weeks in a sorority?
Have realistic expectations and give it time. Don't expect to know and love everyone instantly or to feel immediately at home. Realize that you are coming into a house of many girls (on my campus sororities averaged about 30-40, but some southern schools have hundreds!) who don't know you any more than you know them. Most will make time and effort to get to know you. Some will not. You'll like some of them, love others, not care for some, and possibly really dislike some. That's okay. It's like anything else. Most chapters will have special events, like sleepovers, to get the new and old members mixed together.
You will have "classes" leading up to your initiation that will teach you about the sorority's history, founder's, colors, etc.
You should also know that you will not be hazed, and if you are, you need to contact your headquarters. All national sororities have strict regulations that prevent hazing.
What goes on at initiation?
Well, I can't tell you specifically. ;) Initiation is a ceremony in which you will learn the secrets behind the symbols of your sorority, which are usually steeped in Greek mythology. You will not be naked and have your fat circled or any other dumb stuff that people like to say happens. You will have a very special understanding of what your sorority is all about.
What about living in the house?
The good news is that if you want to or are required to live in the house, it's typically affordable. It cost less for me to live in the house my second year (we had meals there because we had a cook, some have meal plans on campus) than it did for me to live in the dorm my first year. If you're given a choice on whether or not to live in the house, make it carefully. On the one hand, it can be dramatic (in a house of 30 or so girls, someone always has a crisis, lol) and distracting (harder to study), but it's a way to bond together. Girls who live out of the house will feel more left out and will miss out on the random fun (like raiding a frat house at 2 AM). If you've joined and can't decide whether to move in or not, spend some nights at the house to see what it's like. Most girls would be glad to let you camp out in their room or even in their beds to see what it's like.
How do you feel now that you're not in sorority anymore?
I have mixed feelings. Being on the other side of it at my new university, I can see why people have misconceptions about it. It's nice to have some free time to devote to other causes or just personal use. It's nice to have some more privacy rather than sharing a room with 4 other girls... But I miss being able to walk down the hall and know that someone is always there to talk to and hang out with.
Knowing what I know about it, and knowing that I would end up leaving after two years, I would still join. I still talk to many of my sisters on a weekly basis, and I see them when I come home for breaks. They are still a very special part of my life, and I wouldn't change the experience that I had for anything.
Sorry this is so long! :) I hope that it has helped someone understand Greek life, or even make a decision about it.