Sororities--Everything You Need to Know: Part 6
So here you are on campus—you’ve moved into your dorm, you’ve met some of the other girls who will joining you in the big recruitment adventure, and you’re starting to get some major butterflies in your stomach about the coming week. This is perfectly normal—just remember that everyone else is feeling it, too. Even the calmest, coolest, most perfectly put-together girls are wondering if they will end up in the sorority they like most—they may not show it, but they’re just as nervous as you are. Making friends and supporting each other through the rounds of recruitment is one of the best ways to alleviate those nerves. Get to know the girls in the rooms around yours—even if they’re not going through recruitment—and organize a group dinner or walk around campus. You can even plan to attend your first official recruitment event together.
The first gathering of Recruitment Week is usually an information meeting (sometimes called a convocation), where you will receive your schedule and last-minute information regarding recruitment, most importantly where to meet the next day to start your rounds. You may be placed in a group with a recruitment counselor (sometimes called a Rho Chi or other Greek name). These women are sorority members who have disaffiliated from their sororities for the duration of recruitment so that they can offer unbiased help and advice, answer questions, and assist you with any emergencies that may arise. Be sure to keep your recruitment counselor’s contact information with you at all times—she’s there to help you.
At this first meeting, you’ll receive a lot of information—and all of it is important! The recruitment team will go over rules, expectations, and schedules with you, and may break everyone up into groups for questions and answers with your counselor. Pay close attention—breaking a rule or not heeding a last-minute schedule or location change could potentially get you removed from recruitment! At the end of this meeting, you’ll receive your personal schedule of events and, if you’re going to be in groups led by your counselor, instructions on where and when to meet up with your group.
The first events of recruitment often involve every PNM and every house on campus, and can be overwhelming in terms of sheer sensory overload. There’s a lot of information to process, but keep in mind that every other PNM is having the same experience—go with the flow, stay positive, and band together as you navigate the events together. You may be greeted as a group for the first round of events, then greeted individually and introduced to several sorority members during the next round. Stay focused on the person you’re matched with, and keep the conversation going two ways—don’t talk about yourself the whole time, although it may seem very easy to do so. Keep a notepad in your purse or ziplock for notes between parties—a few jotted keywords will help you remember names and conversations, later, and will come in handy later when you’re trying to decide which houses were the most comfortable for you.
What if, after attending a round or two of recruitment events, you realize that this is not for you? What if you decide that you are either not ready to join a sorority, or are just not interested in being a part of the Greek community? Congratulations on reaching a mature and self-aware decision in the midst of Recruitment-mania! You’ll need to notify your recruitment counselor or a Panhellenic representative that you are withdrawing from recruitment. You may be asked why—keep your response positive but personal, just in case you decide to give it another go later. Don’t feel bad or allow yourself to feel lonely when it seems that everyone else around you is consumed with recruitment—sorority membership is not for everyone, and there are almost always more non-Greek students on campus than Greek. Take the opportunity to explore other groups and interests—you’ll soon find your people!
Between each round of events, you’ll go back to convocation to list the houses you’ve visited in order of preference. Remember those notes you were taking after each party? This is when those notes will prove invaluable. Review them before you go into your pref convocations—they will help you decide the order in which you want to list the houses you’ve visited. Be honest with yourself—disregard everything but how you personally felt about each house, and whether you felt comfortable and at home with the girls you met there. Preffing houses based on perceived popularity, image, or reputation can be a huge mistake and could result in missing out on the perfect house for you.
At the same time you are filling out your pref cards, the houses will be listing the PNMs in order of preference as well. Once all the lists are submitted, Panhellenic will match up the preference lists and notify the houses of the results. The houses will then issue their invitations to the next round of events. Now comes the hard part. If the invitations that you receive are all from the houses at the top of your list, then you are very, very lucky. It is far more likely, though, that you’ll have a mix of invites from the top, middle, and bottom of your list, in which case you’ll probably have to make a major adjustment in your expectations. It may help to remember that over time, sorority members become very good at judging who will fit in well with the membership of the group—most of whom you have not had the opportunity to meet. You may have been matched up with greeters who had more in common with you than anyone else in the sorority, but they’ll know whether you’d be a good fit with the group as a whole, and they may have done you a huge favor by dropping you from their invitation list. Other houses may have a significant number of legacies going through recruitment—so many that they must necessarily limit the number of non-legacies they can invite. And sometimes it’s just the process that gets in the way—a group that you ranked high ranked you lower, and a group you ranked lower ranked you higher, and you got eliminated from both lists as a result. This is called cross-cutting, and it happens.
There is the unhappy possibility that at some point in the process, you may be notified by your recruitment counselor or by a Panhellenic representative that you have not received any invitations to the next round of events, thereby ending your formal recruitment experience. This is painful and difficult to deal with, especially when everyone else is continuing on without you, but it doesn’t mean that you won’t end up in a sorority. Your recruitment counselor and/or a Panhellenic representative can talk to you about continuous open bidding (COB), a process by which sororities augment their pledge class after recruitment ends, in the event that they do not reach the quota set by Panhellenic. There may be other opportunities as well to join a sorority, so don’t lose heart. Stay positive and keep smiling—it’s not the end of the world.
The most important thing to remember at this point is not to take any lack of invitations personally. The preference process varies from school to school, and depending on how many PNMs are vying for how many houses, it can get really complicated to match up preferences so that everyone has the maximum opportunities to select the place that’s right for them. It usually works pretty well, though, so try to put any disappointment you may have aside and focus on learning more about the sororities who have expressed interest in learning more about you.
As recruitment week goes on, the parties are fewer, longer, and more about the sorority and what it means to its members. There will be stories, songs, skits, and more serious conversation with members about how special their sisterhood is. The last round of parties will be full of sincere emotion and sentiment, which may make it difficult to make a decision about which sorority is where you belong. Focus on the girls and how they make you feel—do you feel comfortable and at home? Or do you feel admiration and aspiration to be like these girls—because you don’t feel like them right now? Maybe you feel a combination of these things and a whole lot of other emotions to boot. And now it’s time to make the final decision…
Before you go into your preference convocation, try to review your notes on the houses and the girls, including your thoughts on the final round of parties. You may be surrounded by other PNMs who are discussing choices—tune them out. You are about to make a deeply personal choice that nobody else should influence or comment upon. What’s right for you may or may not be what’s right for the other girls around you—but it’s your decision to make, without any outside pressure or influence.
If you truly believe that you could be equally happy at all of your choices, that’s great—but you must list your choices in order of preference, so you need to figure out your favorite. Think about the sorority’s values and the general spirit you felt when you visited the house—this may help you decide the order in which you list your choices. Of course, it’s easier if one group stands out above the rest as your favorite—but be prepared for the possibility that that group may not have listed you high enough to end up on their top list. The best scenarios involve having more than one group to choose from, and listing them all on your pref list.
But what if that hasn’t happened? What if you were only invited back to one house and that’s the only choice you have? What if it’s not your dream house? What if you just don’t know whether it’s the right place for you? Go ahead and list it first. Sometimes the house you’re not quite sure about turns out to be perfect for you—give them a chance and see how it goes.
The most dangerous thing you can do is to go in with two or three possibilities, and only list one. This is called “single-preffing” or “going suicide”—because if you are not high enough on that one sorority’s list to make their quota, you’re out completely. If you do not list a second and/or third choice, you’ll have no backup in the event that your first choice does not offer you a bid. Your Panhellenic may not even offer you the choice of single-preffing—you may have to list all your choices, even if you are certain that you would not be happy at most of them.
Here’s a little secret about sororities that may help you in this seemingly agonizing process: Essentially, they’re all the same. The rituals and traditions are different, but the values, standards, and goals of each sorority are virtually identical—and once you’re out of college and become an alumna, the labels, reps, and image of your collegiate chapter will fade into obscurity as you meet members of your sorority from other chapters at other schools. Base your decision on the girls you like and fit in with the most, and hope that they feel the same way about you.
And when you’re done, go back to your dorm, change into something comfortable, and relax. You’ve done all you can do, and it’s out of your hands now. Get together with your friends, go out to dinner or order pizza delivery, and congratulate each other on getting through recruitment—and be sure to get a good night’s sleep. You’ll need all your energy for the anticipation and excitement of Bid Day.
Sometimes PNMs don’t make it to the last convocation. At many schools, a recruitment counselor or Panhellenic representative will contact PNMs by phone or in person before convocation to tell them that they have not received a bid to join a sorority. This is heartbreaking news—and it’s likely that someone you have gotten to know will experience this. Be kind and understanding, but don’t pry—give her some space and make sure that she is included in all your dorm get-togethers and dinners. Who knows—she may decide to register for COB or go through recruitment next year--and join YOUR sorority!
If it happens to you, don’t despair. You may feel very lonely for the next several hours while everyone goes out to their new houses—but look around the dorm for other girls in your situation, and make your own party. Also, talk to your recruitment counselor about options—you may still be able to join under COB or informal recruitment.
You’ve arrived at the final convocation. Be prepared for what may happen, and keep an open mind. Whether your bid comes from your first, second, or third choice, give yourself a moment to process the news—and then forget everything else that’s happened. You’ve been invited to join a sorority full of girls who are waiting to welcome you as their new sister—and it’s time to go meet them!
The next few hours will be a whirlwind of bid day activities—you’ll meet the rest of your new sisters (some of which you may already know from your dorm or high school), and get to know the actives. Events vary from school to school, but bid day is always fun. Remember to be yourself, have a great time, and get to know your sisters—you’re starting out on a wonderful new journey with lots of friends and support—congratulations!
- Sororities--Everything You Need to Know: Part 1
Joining a sorority is a uniquely American experience. Learn what sororities are all about in this six-part series.
- Sororities--Everything You Need to Know: Part 2
Part 2 of a six-part series on sorority recruitment and membership focuses on the pros and cons of joining a sorority
- Sororities--Everything You Need to Know: Part 3
Part 3 of a six-part series continues the discussion of points to consider when thinking about sorority recruitment
- Sororities--Everything You Need to Know: Part 4
Part 4 in a series outlines the steps to take when preparing for sorority recruitment registration
- Sororities--Everything You Need to Know: Part 5
In Part 5 of a series, we look at ways to organize and prepare for sorority recruitment week
- The Sorority Recruitment Cheat Sheet--Top Tips for Sorority Success
Here’s a cheat sheet to take you all the way through the process of joining a sorority.