A few weeks ago, some of my 2021 seniors asked me my thoughts on going through sorority recruitment in college. I’ve touched on my sorority experience in blog posts before — I was an active member for the first three years I was blogging — but now that I’m four years removed from the experience, I want to share my honest thoughts. It’s easy enough to find my letters if you search the archives, but I won’t be naming my chapter in this specific post since I will be sharing my opinions, which are not reflective of the organization as a whole. Though I don’t pay alumna dues, I wish nothing but the best to my organization on a local and national level, and I am so grateful for the experience. At the end of the day, my story wouldn’t be the same without the two chapters I was part of during college, regardless of anything negative that happened.
Why I Joined
My 2021 seniors shocked me — they are going to a D1 school and not obsessed with joining Greek Life. I was in the same boat when I was their age; personally, I had no real aspirations of joining a sorority, and frankly, I didn’t really even know what to expect. I’d seen the movies, but surely those weren’t real. I also met girls going through recruitment who seemed to know everything and who were wearing the “right” clothes. That wasn’t me…
The primary reason I went through recruitment was because my aunt attended the school I was going to freshman year, and she was a member of a sorority and absolutely loved her experience. This made me a legacy, and upon reflection, this definitely had an impact on my recruitment experience. A legacy is a woman who has a mother, aunt, grandmother, or sister who was in that particular sorority. Both my mother and her sister (my aunt) were in sororities at their respective schools, but the school I attended freshman year didn’t have my mother’s sorority.
At my school, a D1 SEC school, there were 15 chapters, and girls going through recruitment had to arrive on campus a whole week early to go through the process. A neighbor back home had recently graduated from my school and was a member of a different chapter than my aunt, and I ended up texting her for advice throughout the process. Truthfully, there really wasn’t a house I hated as I went through the process, and looking back, I probably could’ve fit in any one of them.
What I didn’t know, though, was that every house knew my legacy status, and that coupled with who I was on paper and the first impression I made likely gave me little to no chance of truly getting an authentic recruitment experience. After accepting a bid to my house and becoming a member, my big told me that I was very high up if not number one on their preference of girls after every round.
Sorority recruitment is a mutually selective process: you have to choose a house and they have to choose you too. Let’s say you rank House A, House B, and House C in that order. If House A has you ranked “high” as well, it’s a match; however, if House A lists you last but you list them first, you better hope that you’re higher on House B’s list. Conversely, let’s say House A is the house I’m a legacy to, but I continuously rank them last, they’ll eventually have to knock me off their list despite wanting me to join. There’s always a risk that you’ll want houses that don’t want you, but in my experience, majority of girls do get bids.
All of that to say, I joined because I thought it was what I was supposed to do as a college freshman.
D1 School Bid Day
This day was absolutely a movie. I remember running through Greek Town while music blasted from all of the fraternity and sorority houses. The streets were lined with sorority girls in their matching, colorful outfits and fraternity boys standing on top of whatever they could climb chugging beer. I vividly remember thinking, “What did I get myself into?” I wasn’t a partier in high school, and my intentions in coming to a D1 school were not to party (though that’s exactly what I did). While I don’t believe that is every Greek Life member’s intention, that community fosters an environment where parties are priority. Mentally, I was not in a healthy headspace, so this was a disaster for someone like me desperate for acceptance and a sense of belonging. Little did I know, my pledge class had 100+ girls, and my chapter as a whole had 300+ active members. This is a fraction of the size of the total school population, but truly “belonging” amongst that amount of people is nearly impossible.
To be honest, after bid day, my sorority experience my freshman year is a blur. I remember pomping my butt off for homecoming (if you know, you know), and I remember going to date parties with fraternity boys my older sisters set me up with. I remember getting my big — the first girl I had talked to in my house during recruitment — and I remember my aunt coming in town the weekend of my initiation. I remember being way closer to my two roommates, both members of different houses, than any girl in my pledge class. Perhaps this was because out of 100 girls, I was the only one from my house in my entire dorm. What are the odds?
Transferring Schools — And Sorority Chapters
Once you’re initiated to a sorority, it’s for life. You can’t join House A at one school and House B at another. Sororities are national organizations — some international, like mine, with chapters in Canada — so if you transfer schools for whatever reason during your undergraduate years, you can also transfer chapters if the school also has a chapter of that sorority. Hindsight is 20/20, and I previously blogged about why being a member of my sorority was everything when I transferred schools (see that post here). Transferring schools was never something I thought would be part of my story, but my 100 sisters at my alma mater, a D2 school, made the process so much less scary. Unfortunately, though, they had certain expectations for me because I was coming from a D1 chapter, and I think in the long run, my lack of living up to those expectations soured my experience with the chapter.
Having never gone through recruitment as a PNM (potential new member) at my new school, my chapter still made me a star recruiter. I love people, so this was easy enough, but ironically I was as new to the school and this chapter of the sorority as any girl I’d be paired to talk to during our parties. Like my big before me, one of my future littles was a PNM I’d talked to. She was in my wedding, but I’m sad to say that our relationship has faded as our college years become farther and farther behind us. Another sister with whom my relationship faded even quicker was the girl who was co-community advisers on a dorm floor with my future husband. She welcomed me with open arms, even letting me stay in her extra bed during our summer meeting and recruitment, and without her facilitation and stamp of approval, I may not have even given my husband-to-be the time of day (read Our Love Story).
The biggest what if I still think about when it comes to my sorority experience is what if I had gone to the school I transferred to from the beginning? I would have been a legacy to two houses — both of which I think have a good reputation on campus – and I don’t know which one I would’ve liked better. Actually, the school I transferred to was where my mom went, so that adds another layer to the situation. And, frankly, what if I liked neither of those particular chapters at this school and did my own thing? I’ll never know what could’ve been, so I rest in the fact that God had my story play out exactly the way He intended it to.
This was the thing I loved the most about my sorority experience. After one semester learning the ropes, I was voted the New Member Educator. I thrived in this role, at this point in my life knowing I wanted to be a teacher, and God really started to build in me a heart for you, my audience, high school and college girls. I worked tirelessly revamping the curriculum for our new member program, something I would later take with me as an example of my work in my first and only teacher job interview. I was so proud of what I’d built, but I remember “sisters” making fun of me and telling me some of my tactics were for “students” and not appropriate for a sorority new member educator program. While that sucked, I can now see that’s just confirmation from God that today I am where I’m supposed to be teaching high school freshmen.
After New Member Educator, I was voted Vice President of Risk Management. I contemplated running for president — I was president of my class in high school, so that sort of gave me a big head… but God put me in check with that REALLY quick when I wasn’t even considered for the lower position I ran for on my floor in my freshman year dorm. The girl who was president ended up being my roommate junior year (I also lived in our house’s wing in the sorority dorm when I was New Member Educator), but this was a toxic pairing. Ultimately, I became burnt out on “policing” the chapter members’ social media — underage drinking and inappropriate posts a HUGE issue — and I quit in the middle of my term, which was the only time in my life I’ve ever not seen a commitment through to completion. The first semester of my senior year, I actually took an associate status so I could keep my affiliation to the chapter but protect myself from all of the toxicity I felt being an active member.
While I didn’t have the best experience in leadership positions in my local chapter, I LOVED the national leadership opportunities I received — FREE of charge — because I was a member of my sorority. I got to travel to a new chapter’s first recruitment, help them recruit, and meet the international sorority president. I got to go to a special summer program and hone in my leadership skills with sisters from all over the country and Canada. I was even selected to interview to be a traveling leadership consultant for our sorority. That would’ve been amazing, but I botched my interview that weekend because I knew I wanted to come back home and teach at my high school. I’ve never once regretted my decision or thought about the what ifs, but it’s very neat that my husband’s cousin joined the same sorority at another school and is starting her journey as a traveling consultant now. Ultimately, I got to meet and learn from so many amazing women around the country that I would have never met otherwise.
From my pledge class of 100 girls, I grew close with one person from across the state at the end of my time at the D1 school (go figure). I visited her city and stayed with her and her family for a few days that summer, and we kept in touch through the rest of college. She was a photographer, and she actually ended up taking my and my husband’s engagement photos. She even came to our wedding, but that was the last time I saw her and we haven’t kept in touch since.
Today, I have one forever friend that technically you could say I have because of my sorority. She’s actually my blogging bestie: Maggie! She was Vice President of Membership Recruitment during the same time I was New Member Educator, and we were THRIVING, until everyone in our chapter got to mess around and do whatever they wanted while we did the work and took the brunt of any criticism and consequence when things went wrong. Knowing I would be able to get alumni status a semester early when I student taught senior year, I decided to tough out being an active member, but Maggie dropped. We still consider ourselves sisters, but our letters don’t mean anything; it’s our experience in the same major and love for writing that has truly created our bond.
I love Maggie’s story because she got what she could out of sorority life for a season and let it go on her terms. There is NO shame in dropping a chapter to pursue other things or just because it is no longer serving you. Same goes with paying alumna dues; I think my aunt pays them and my mom doesn’t. No amount of money is going to change the memories you made during your sorority experience, no matter how long or short it was.
My second little, who was also in my wedding, joined the chapter only after she and I met in the Baptist Student Union. For us, it was being sisters in Christ that brought us together and remained the foundation of our friendship. Unfortunately, she and I have grown apart as well because she’s living her best life getting all of the degrees and teaching in Memphis, Tennessee, but once again, it’s other interests like our faith and teaching that truly brought us together.
Again, I reiterate that the women I met as a result of being in Greek Life and in my sorority in particular were amazing and I’m sure still are, but they were only meant to be in my life for a season, and THAT IS OKAY. All sororities preach “best friends forever” and while that may be true for some people, it doesn’t have to be everyone’s story and it doesn’t invalidate or discredit any of the sweet memories you might have during your time in a sorority.
Should you go through recruitment?
The following is my advice according to your mindset. If you’re thinking yes to most of the statements, I think doing recruitment would be a great idea for you. If you’re thinking no to some of the statements, I’d advise you to check your heart and ask God want He wants for your life as you start college. Another type of organization I absolutely loved and that played an integral part in my story during college was campus ministries. Frankly, if you’re thinking a mix of yes and no statements, you’re in good company (and being honest with yourself). My goal in this post is to challenge you to think about things I had NO idea about when I blindly decided to go though recruitment.
Yes — If you want to meet new people, sorority recruitment is for you. If you want to become a better leader, sorority recruitment is for you. If you want to challenge yourself, sorority recruitment is for you. If you want to travel, sorority recruitment is for you. If you want to expand your network, sorority recruitment is for you. If you want to keep yourself accountable, sorority recruitment is for you. If you want unique scholarship opportunities, sorority recruitment is for you.
No — If you want to party, sorority recruitment isn’t for you. If you want to have all of the cute t-shirts, sorority recruitment isn’t for you. If you want to be in the “in” crowd, sorority recruitment isn’t for you. If you want to live in a sorority house, sorority recruitment isn’t for you. If you want to meet cute boys, sorority recruitment isn’t for you (I met my husband IN CLASS! True story!!!). If you want to find your future bridesmaids, sorority recruitment isn’t for you.
Ultimately, I can’t tell you to join a sorority because again, it’s a mutual selection process. You might want to be in Greek Life SO BAD, but God may not have that in your story. You might also be someone like Maggie who joins only for a couple of years rather than the full four years. You might be someone who doesn’t go through recruitment freshman year but instead decides to wait until informal recruitment or your sophomore year like my second little did. You might be someone like my aunt who still keeps in touch with sisters to this day. You might be like me or my mom and cherish the memories but go nearly every day without even thinking about your time in a sorority. Maybe you’re like my 2021 seniors and want to do recruitment but not accept a bid, and that’s okay too.
My biggest advice taken straight from sorority recruitment itself is trust the process. If you’re doing recruitment, sure, trust that process, but I mean trust the process of life and remember Who is in control.