Here’s a cheat sheet to take you all the way through the process of joining a sorority. For more detailed information, see the links at the end of this article.
You may not know much about the sororities at your school and the responsibilities and advantages associated with membership. Do your homework!
1. Go to your school’s Panhellenic website and learn about financial responsibilities, GPA requirements, recruitment details, and more. Much of this information will have a bearing on your decision to commit to recruitment.
2. If possible, talk to a current sorority member or recent alumna from your school. Ask about time commitment, expectations for members as far as participation, and whether the house will be willing to work with you if your schedule includes many classes, work, and/or other obligations. You can also ask about the pros and cons of membership from an insider, although you’re likely to hear far more pros than cons.
3. Talk to your parents about whether this is the right decision for you. Many girls decide that they would like to join a sorority, but decide with their families to wait until sophomore year to see whether their school schedules and grades can withstand the responsibilities of membership.
You’ve decided you want to go through recruitment. Here are the steps you’ll need to take to make the process as successful as possible:
1. Go back to your school’s Panhellenic website to learn when and how you can register for recruitment. Note the date that registration opens on your calendar and register on that date or as soon thereafter as possible. Also, find out what kind of information you’ll be required to provide—this usually consists of a registration form, a social resume, photos, and academic transcripts. There may also information about recommendations and if/how many the Panhellenic council suggests you may need.
2. While you’re on the website, look for information about alumnae Panhellenic associations in your area. If you don’t find anything, Google your hometown alumnae Panhellenic association, and/or check the National Panhellenic Conference website to determine the alumnae group closest to your hometown. Contact the group to see if your local alumnae group provide recommendations to young women going through recruitment, and whether they have any kind of event or forum providing information for local students on their way to college and sorority recruitment. You’ll want to register with this group as early as possible to allow plenty of time for their representatives to provide recommendations for you, if necessary. And be sure to register with them even if you don’t need recommendations—the groups are interested in how many local girls are going through recruitment, and you can help by registering.
3. Go through your social media outlets and clean up your accounts. You’ll want to present yourself in the best possible light because sororities DO look at potential new members’ online presence. Get rid of any photos, posts, or comments that portray you in a less than flattering light.
4. Discreetly ask the women you know (family, church members, teachers, coaches, etc.) if they are sorority alumnae, and if they are, tell them that you are interested in going through recruitment at your school and ask for any help or advice they can provide. They may offer to write a personal letter of recommendation for you! If they do so, be sure to provide them with a copy of the information packet you’ve assembled for registration, and write them a lovely thank-you note in return.
5. Learn which sororities are at your school and look at their websites. You’ll learn a lot about each house—all of which can provide valuable conversational topics when you visit them during recruitment!
6. Study the required/suggested dress code for each stage of recruitment, and go through your wardrobe to pull your outfits together.
7. Find out what you’ll be able to bring with you to the events, and pack your purse accordingly. Some schools prohibit purses and provide potential new members with large, clear ziplock bags to carry their personal belongings, so plan ahead.
Once you’ve arrived on campus, there are a few things to remember that will help you stay focused on making friends and making decisions about where you’d like to belong:
1. Lay out your clothes, accessories, and shoes every night before you go to bed. Make sure that everything is clean, pressed, and ready to put on in the morning.
2. Figure out how long it will take you to get ready in the morning and set your alarm accordingly. Give yourself plenty of time to wake up, shower, do hair and makeup, etc., and build in a little extra time in case you get thrown off schedule for some reason.
3. Get plenty of sleep. This may be difficult in your new dorm, but try to get as much rest as you can. On the other hand, you may be so exhausted from move-in and anticipation of recruitment that you’ll sleep really well, in which case you’ll want to make sure you wake up in time!
4. Be sure to eat! You’re going to need all the energy you can muster to present the best possible you to your potential new sisters, and that means eating healthy meals and snacks. You may be offered light refreshments at the houses you visit, but don’t depend on those for the fuel your body needs to stay refreshed and healthy.
5. Be sure to drink lots of water! This is especially important if you are going to be walking around a lot in August/September, when temperatures may be reaching their annual highs. Dehydration is a real possibility if you’re not drinking enough water—nobody wants to have to withdraw from recruitment because of heat stroke! Again, don’t rely on the house refreshments to quench your thirst—if your collegiate Panhellenic council doesn’t provide water bottles during the first rounds of recruitment, check to see if a small bottle in your ziplock would be allowed.
6. Relax! Easier said than done, probably, but try to take it easy and rest up when you’re not attending parties and convocations. Especially as recruitment progresses, the tension level will rise as the number of parties each round decreases—working out, listening to music, and watching movies in the dorm with your new friends are great ways to kick back and take your mind off recruitment for a little while.
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The first rounds of parties are the shortest, with the most attendees; later parties will be longer, with more chances to delve a little deeper into what makes a particular house right for you. As overwhelming and hectic as these rounds may seem, it is essential that you make your best first impressions now. Here are a few tips for making a positive impression at each house you visit:
1. Do your best to remember names—at the very least, memorize the name of the girl who greets you and leads you into the house. When the party is over and you have free access to the notebook you have in your purse or ziplock, write down the name of the house, your hostess’ name, the names of any other girls you remember meeting, and anything you remember in particular about your conversations with them. During the next round, you can review these notes just before you arrive at the house and impress everyone with your sharp memory and obvious interest in their house!
2. Keep the conversation upbeat and positive—and never complain about anything! EVERYONE is hot/getting rained on/nervous/sweaty/hungry/wearing uncomfortable shoes/having the worst hair day of her life—the way you cope with the discomforts and hassles of recruitment is a huge part of the impression you make on the sorority members. Forget it all as you walk up to the house, and let the girls inside know that there is nowhere you’d rather be than with them at that moment.
3. You’ll be asked a lot of questions about yourself, based largely upon the resume you submitted with your information packet, as well as questions about your dorm, what you’ve been doing since you moved in as far as entertainment, etc. Don’t take these questions as an opportunity to talk all about yourself—answer in a detailed sentence or two, then flip the question back to your hostess and let her tell you a little about herself. Remember: Everyone likes to talk about herself, and by keeping the conversation going both ways, you’ll be remembered as the girl they really enjoyed getting to know.
4. Try to ask questions that require more than a yes/no answer—and if, by chance, you are paired with an active who isn’t as conversationally agile as the rest, have some questions in mind to move the conversation along. You can ask about the sorority house—“It’s beautiful! I see a lot of crescent moons (or violets, or arrows)—what is their significance to the sorority?”—or about other, non-sorority activities—“What other activities are your members involved in besides the sorority?”—or about the sorority’s charity of choice—“How does this chapter get involved with your chosen philanthropy?” Pay close attention to the answers you get, and jot what you remember in your notebook when the event is over. Showing interest in the sorority’s symbols, campus involvement, and charity is a great way to convey enthusiasm.
5. Don’t be offended if/when you are handed off to another active member—the girls are trying to meet as many PNMs as possible, and the more actives you meet, the more opportunities you have to make yourself stand out from the crowd. It’s actually a good sign when you’re introduced to two or three actives at an event, so use the introductions to make new friends and leave a good impression with all you meet.
6. Treat everyone at every house the same—as if this is the one house on campus that you are most interested in. Walk into every house with confidence, interest, and enthusiasm—even if you’re fairly certain that this house is not where you belong. You always want to be in a position of having as many houses as possible invite you back, so that you will have the greatest number of choices when it’s time to make decisions—so don’t burn any bridges by showing disinterest anywhere.
7. On the other hand, don’t push yourself on your hostess or the other members. There is nothing less attractive than the girl whose desperation to join a sorority is evident from the moment she walks into the house—she’s hyper, loud, and jabbering away about herself. Conversely, don’t walk in with an attitude of superiority and expect the sorority to fawn all over you. Recruitment is a mutual selection process, and everyone needs to put her best foot forward—cheerful confidence with humility is a good attitude to adopt.
8. WARNING—this next one is a little strange (especially after advising you to drink plenty of water) and may seem like too much info, but it’s important. Unless it is a dire physical emergency, never, ever ask to go to the bathroom in a sorority house during a recruitment event—this is the universal signal among sororities that you are not interested in this particular house. If you are feeling ill or are having the kind of emergency that requires a bathroom, you should notify your recruitment counselor, an alumna representative, or a Panhellenic representative immediately, and if necessary, she can intercede for you. If there is any chance that you may require feminine hygiene products at any point during Recruitment Week, plan ahead for that possibility, whether that means wearing or carrying them, just in case. Take every opportunity between events to use whatever facilities are available so that you can avoid any discomfort during your house visits.
9. Keep smiling! Things can and will go wrong during recruitment, and again, how you handle unexpected incidents and miscommunications can have a very positive impact on those around you. Think about it—would a sorority rather invite back the girl who laughed and shrugged it off when her dress was accidentally splashed with punch, or the girl who got angry and sulked when her heel broke during an event? Always keep in mind that you are going through recruitment, and don’t let anything stand in the way of meeting girls and making a good impression.
After each round of parties, you’ll go back to convocation to rank the houses you visited in order of preference. Here are some things to think about when filling out those preference cards:
1. Ignore the opinions others have of each sorority. Most of the time, these images are not widely held, and they are never wholly indicative of the individuals who make up the group. What is most important is how you feel about the girls you met at that house, and whether they are people you would be proud to call sisters.
2. Think about how much you have in common with the girls. If you are a dedicated student, you’ll want to join a group that places academic achievement at the top of their priority list, not one that wants you to join so you can single-handedly boost the chapter GPA. If you work in addition to going to school, your sorority should be helpful in accommodating your work schedule, not summarily fining you for missing events.
3. If you are a legacy, and your legacy sorority has invited you to every recruitment event, you will probably be near the top of their bid list. Think hard about whether this is truly the group where you belong, or whether you would honestly be happier at another house. Too many legacies have taken their “sure thing” bid over a bid from a sorority where they felt far more comfortable, only to regret their decision later. Don’t let pressure or possible disappointment from family or friends sway your resolve to be true to yourself.
4. Get down to basics. Where were you happiest? Which girls made you feel most at home? Which girls reminded you of your best friend? Where did you feel accepted, understood, and appreciated? That place should be at the top of your pref list.
A few “what if”s…
1. What if you decide that recruitment isn’t for you? This happens to girls during all stages of recruitment, so don’t feel pressured or weird for wanting to walk away. Talk to your recruitment counselor (if you have one), or a Panhellenic representative about withdrawing from recruitment. You will not be alone.
2. What if, after a round of recruitment events, you are contacted by Panhellenic with the news that you have not been invited back to the next round of events? Ouch. This can be heartbreaking news, but don’t let it keep you down for long. Panhellenic will inform you about other options for joining a sorority after formal recruitment is over, or about trying again next year. In the meantime, you are not alone—there are other girls in your dorm who are either in the same situation as you, or who chose for one reason or another not to go through recruitment at all. Seek them out and create your own events while the others are attending recruitment events.
3. What if you’ve gone all the way through recruitment, listed your preferences, and return to learn that you have not received a bid from any of the sororities you listed? See 2. above—and keep in mind that the process is not perfect, and sometimes wonderful young women are shut out of the process by computer algorithms, cross-cutting, and human error. Hold your head high, investigate informal recruitment and continuous open bidding, and focus on new friends, new studies, and new adventures.
With these tips, chances are good that you will end up in a sorority full of sisters with whom you fit in very well, and who will inspire, encourage, and help you to achieve your dreams—go for it!