On the Eve of Sorority Recruitment

Winter break is wrapping up for the young lady Deacs who will be involved in the sorority recruitment process, which starts with activities most of the day of January 9th.  For the sorority sisters returning, the next days will be a flurry of preparing for their recruitment events – making signs, learning skits, working out logistics – and for the Potential New Members (PNMs), it is an exciting, anxious, and sometimes drama-filled time.

Every year at this time, the Daily Deac offers some suggestions to families whose daughters are getting ready to go through sorority recruitment, in hopes that it will help inform you about the process.  If you have not read the excellent description of the recruitment process from our Greek Life office, that’s the first place to start.  It is a very good description of how the process works.

As someone who has seen her own advisees, daughters of close friends, and even my own niece go through this process, I can tell you that this can be a very exciting and nervy time for young women.  For some, they sail through the process and get all their top choices and they are happy as can be.  For those young women and their families, not much advice is needed other than to say relax and enjoy recruitment!  For others, it can be a more trying time.  So here is my very unofficial, observer’s take on the process and some tips about how to make the most of it.

Recruitment can be a shock.  For most of the young ladies at Wake Forest, they have always succeeded in everything they have done – academically, socially, etc.  Their first disappointment can be a big shock.  By its very nature, recruitment is a process where some people get invites back to sororities the next day and others do not.  For young women who have always been high achieving and at the top of their high school social pyramid, it can be a big shock when they don’t get invited back to the sorority of choice.

It’s natural for your daughter to be hurt or disappointed if she doesn’t get an invite back to the sorority of choice, but it is important to remind her that this is not a personal thing, it isn’t that ‘they don’t like her.’  Each group has to make choices about the girls that they think best fit their organization, and each group is required to winnow down their PNM list each day.  Which leads me to…

Manage expectations.  Probably the toughest thing I see every year is that there are a few sororities that popular opinion of the day considers to be the “best” or “most popular” ones – and those can change from year to year – and girls get their heart set on being invited to join one of those top three.  We all know that not everyone can get into the perceived top group; if they could, we would have one or two giant sororities on campus and nothing else.

Here is the best analogy I have (Note: these are not official numbers, I am making this up for example’s sake).  Say there are 400 girls going through recruitment for spots in the 8 Panhellenic sororities.  Pledge class size is pretty much equal in number across all groups.  There will be a little melt in the process where some girls drop out of recruitment, but say for example each sorority can take a pledge class of 30-40 people.  So for the perceived ‘top three’ sororities, of there will only be 90-120 of the 400 girls who will get spots in those sororities.

Most of our young women (and often their families) can’t imagine they won’t be in that 90-120, but the economics of the process are such that not everyone gets in their top choice.  So help your daughter manage her expectations and remind her before the process starts that the odds of getting into the top three perceived most popular are low.  Which leads me to the next point…

Not everyone gets their first choice, and that’s OK!!  This is a hard point for young ladies to keep in mind – particularly if they did not get an invite back to their top choice.  Encourage your daughter to stay open minded and continue going to every sorority she gets invited back to – because EVERY group is going to have great women, and no matter which group she joins she will get a tshirt with sorority letters, and will find sisterhood, and fellowship, and fun.  Every organization has some great things to offer, so if your daughter is willing to get to know that group – and let go of whatever preconceived notions she had about which one she wanted to join – I believe 100% that she can find friends and fun in whichever group she chooses.

See recruitment through until the end.  There are always young women who drop out of recruitment on Day 2 because they did not like the choices they had remaining to them (or they had their heart set on only one sorority and did not get invited back).  Many of the women who drop out early are missing an opportunity to find sisterhood in another group – and some regret that hasty decision.   If they had continued to go to all groups they are invited back to, they might have found terrific friends in other sororities.  So urge your daughters to stay involved in recruitment if they think sorority life is right for them – they may discover that Sorority X (that they had not ever considered) might be their best fit!

Greek life is not for everyone/not being Greek does not equal an unsuccessful social life!  Some young women go through the process and decide they are not interested in sorority life, and that is fine.  While some of our women believe that “you have to be Greek to have a social life,” there are more independent girls than Greek ones.  If your daughter decides this is not for her, affirm her decision.  If your daughter does not get successfully placed at the end of the process, encourage her to get involved in other areas of campus life.  The RA and GRC (Greek Recruitment Counselor) can help be a source of support, along with the Counseling Center.

If you hear drama, don’t panic, families!  Because recruitment is ALL that is going on between January 9-11 and the rest of the students have not come back (and classes aren’t active), recruitment can take on gargantuan importance in the lives of our young women.  If your daughter drops out (or is not invited back), this might feel like The Biggest And Most Terrible Thing Ever.  You might hear tears, anger, talk of wanting to transfer.  These are all 18 and 19 year old girls and there can be a lot of dramatic emotions.  She may want to come home, or have you come see her.

But before you hop in the car or buy a plane ticket, know that there are multiple avenues of support on campus if your daughter needs them.  From the GRC and RA, to Counseling Center staff, there are a lot of options to help young women process the situation.  We also have a group of administrators who serve as mentors in the process to girls who have had disappointing outcomes; these women will reach out to your daughters and offer them an ear, a cup of coffee, a shoulder to cry on, and/or a chance to get off campus for a bit – and can provide some perspective that this is not the end of the world.

As tempting as it may be to come to campus if your daughter is hurting, there is a good (if painful) learning moment here.  In our lives, we are all going to have to deal with upsets – if not recruitment, it could be not getting the job/grad school program you want, or having a major falling out with a close friend, etc.  As a friend in the Counseling Center often says, we need to ‘sit with discomfort’ sometimes.  Dealing with those emotions and processing them will help us be better able to handle disappointments in the future – and know we can come out on the other side.  Of course, if you think the situation is serious, come.  But listen and support your daughter first and see how she does.

And while group activities and an enjoyable social life are part of college, they are not the main reason for college.  First and foremost is the academic mission – and help your students keep that in perspective as they go through recruitment (or as they get involved with any other group or activity).

We wish you and your daughters a smooth ride during the recruitment process.  And if you (or she) need support and don’t know where to begin, please email us at parents@nullwfu.edu and we can help direct you to the best resources for your particular need.

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