This past week, Wake Forest women (mostly first-year students and sophomores) registered for sorority recruitment, which will take place in January. The Parent Programs office sat down with Annie Carlson Welch, Associate Director of Student Leadership and Organizations, to talk about the women’s sorority recruitment process and answer questions parents might have.
What are key dates for spring 2014 formal sorority recruitment?
Spring recruitment takes place the week prior to spring classes beginning. Here is a list of upcoming dates associated with the process:
Nov 13 Recruitment Applications Due (11:49pm on the Fraternity/Sorority Life website)
Nov 14 Potential New Member Information Session (4:30pm, Brendle – required)
Jan 7 Residence halls open at 9 am for active sorority members ONLY to return to prepare for recruitment
Jan 8 Residence halls open at 9am for women participating in the recruitment process (potential new members)
Jan 8 Information Meeting (6pm, Brendle – required)
Jan 9-12 Formal Recruitment
Jan 13 Bid Distribution
How do women navigate sorority recruitment?
Women are assigned to a group with a Gamma Rho Chi (Recruitment Counselor or GRC). Each GRC is a member of a sorority but has disassociated from her chapter throughout the fall semester and recruitment period to prevent conflicts with her assigned women and her sorority.
The GRC acts as an advisor during the recruitment process, answering her group’s questions and helping them to feel comfortable with the activities. GRCs go through a 3 part training series, meeting with staff members from the Counseling Center and the Mentoring Resource Center as well as with student leaders. Each of these trainings provides the GRCs with better knowledge for the support role they play during and after the recruitment process.
What should students consider before joining a sorority?
Each student should look inward and be very self-aware. Every student should know their preferences and limitations, the things that they value and who they want to surround themselves with. For example, if time management is a struggle for a student, they need to be aware that sorority membership does bring mandatory service and other events – and they should have a plan in place to manage all of their commitments.
What’s your best advice to potential new members?
Have an open mind. We speak with a lot of women each year who are disappointed because their expectations weren’t met at some point during the process. Even if your “favorite” group does not invite you back, stick with the process and go to all of the events that are available to you. We know amazing, remarkable women in every sorority on campus. Each group can offer students sisterhood, service, philanthropy and fellowship – and women can make lifelong friends no matter which organization they choose.
How does the formal sorority recruitment process work at Wake Forest?
Day 1 – Women go to each sorority’s event with their GRC group (8 sororities will host events on Day 1). Every GRC group goes to every sorority event, even if a woman does not think she is interested in a group. At the end of Day 1, sororities choose which women they would like to invite back for Day 2 events. The women select the chapters they are most interested in returning to the next day. This process is called “mutual selection” (please see below for more information).
Day 2 – Women are invited back to a maximum of six sorority events (though less is a possibility). At the end of Day 2, sororities choose which women they would like to invite back for Day 3 events, and the women select the chapters they are most interested in returning to the next day.
Day 3 – Women are invited back to a maximum of four sorority events (though less is a possibility). At the end of Day 3, sororities choose which women they would like to invite back for Day 4 events, and the women select the chapters they are most interested in returning to the next day.
Day 4 – Women are invited back to a maximum of two sorority events (though less is a possibility). Day 4 is also called Preference (or Pref) Night, where the rank their preferred order of the sorority(ies) for which they are still eligible. The sororities also select the women in whom they are most interested.
Day 5 – Bid Day: women are notified if they receive a bid. Chapters host events to welcome their new members. Please note, if a woman does not receive a bid she is contacted prior to the start of this day.
At any time in the recruitment process, women are free to withdraw from recruitment.
What is “mutual selection?”
Mutual selection is what we call the process that occurs at the end of each day of events. While women are choosing which organizations they are most interested in, chapters are doing the same. Think of it like a job interview – while you are trying to decide if this is a place you want to work, the company is also trying to decide if you are the best fit for employment. Unfortunately the company only has so much money to pay its employees, so there are a limited number they are able to take (see next question). All metaphors aside, the system works in favor of the potential new member, taking her interests into account before considering the interests of the chapter. This system is computerized and is dictated by the National Panhellenic Conference.
How many women will sign up for recruitment? How many will each chapter take?
We expect about 400-450 women to sign up for spring recruitment. The number of women each chapter takes depends on the number of women that remain at the end of the recruitment process. Therefore, pledge class sizes vary from year to year. There is no set number before recruitment begins. The recruitment process is largely dictated by the National Panhellenic Conference, which attempts to maintain an even distribution of membership on any given campus. This means that not everyone can join the same one or two chapters and not everyone will receive their #1 choice throughout the process. Again, we encourage women to have an open mind and consider membership in any of our groups.
Do all women going through the process receive bids to join?
Unfortunately no, not all women will receive a bid for membership. There are two reasons this occurs. First, the vast majority of women not receiving bids elect to withdraw from the recruitment process before it is completed. Often this is because they have their heart set on a particular sorority, and if they don’t get invited back to the next event, they choose to not pursue any other groups. Second, there are regrettably a very small number of women who go through the entire process but do not receive a bid on Bid Day. This is typically as a result of a woman not “maximizing her options.” This means that during the process, a woman was unwilling to consider membership in one or more of the sororities that were interested in her.
What about legacies? Are they guaranteed a bid?
No, legacies (potential new members who have family in a sorority) are not guaranteed a bid. Each chapter has its own policies on how they make decisions about legacies. This is dictated by their national organization.
What support mechanisms are in place for women who don’t get invites back or don’t get bids? There’s bound to be disappointment and hurt feelings.
Each woman’s Gamma Rho Chi (GRC) is there to help support her during the process. The GRC meets with her group daily to answer and questions or concerns and can also meet on a one-on-one basis. When there is a woman who is very upset about the process, the GRC will reach out to her and, if helpful, incorporate her RA to offer support as well. There are activities planned in the evening for any woman who withdrew or was released from the recruitment process.
Additionally, we have several support mechanisms on campus, including the Counseling Center, the Chaplain’s Office and Campus Life. We also have a wonderful group of role models that includes female staff and faculty members who reach out to every woman who is unsatisfied with her experience, oftentimes becoming great mentors and resources for our students.
If a woman refuses a bid from a sorority, can she join a different sorority? I heard fall recruitment is a lot easier. Is that an option?
If a woman is offered a bid during spring formal recruitment and declines it, she is ineligible to join a different sorority for one calendar year (meaning she has to wait until the next spring recruitment). Similarly, if a woman is offered a bid, accepts the bid and then decides to leave the sorority before she initiates, she has to wait a calendar year. If a woman initiates into a sorority, she is bound to that organization for a lifetime, regardless of discontinuing her membership.
If a woman withdraws from the recruitment process before signing a preference card, she is welcome to go through fall recruitment. We do not recommend women withdraw from spring recruitment to give fall recruitment a chance. During fall term, only some chapters are eligible to take additional members so fewer women receive bids.
I also heard there are changes in fall recruitment. What does that mean?
Changes in Fall Sorority Recruitment
At a recent meeting of the Panhellenic Council, the member sororities voted in favor of shifting fall recruitment into a system called Continuous Open Bidding. Below is a brief explanation of this process. You may also find the Old Gold & Black’s coverage helpful.
To explain COB, it is important to first understand what the term “total” means. Total is the maximum size a sorority can be. This number is voted among the sororities annually with one total existing for the spring and another for the fall. These differing numbers take into account the graduating senior members and smaller membership numbers in the fall. Total is typically set as the average membership size of the Panhellenic sororities. Chapters with membership sizes below total can then offer bids until they fill their available spots. It is possible for a chapter to exceed total. This can occur during spring recruitment when chapters try to take the maximum quota of new members. Quota is a number based on the potential new members remaining in the process on the final day of recruitment. Taking the full quota of new members can cause a chapter to go above total, but this is the only exception to the definition of total.
COB is therefore the process of offering bids when there are open membership spots. This process has been in place at the conclusion of spring recruitment, but was not previously used in the fall. Previously, all chapters participated in fall recruitment, taking new member classes ranging from 2-9 members on average. The placement rate for fall recruitment was historically low – averaging 50% over 5 years, meaning that only half of the women interested in joining a sorority received a bid on bid day. While the COB process will limit chapter involvement to those with available membership spots, a greater emphasis will be placed on chapters filling these spots. It may seem that COB is limiting, but a closer examination shows that it provides all of the same benefits of the previous fall informal process. Fall COB will still provide opportunities for sophomores and transfer students to explore membership in a truly informal process – participating chapters will host events throughout the start of fall semester at varying times rather than a week’s worth of structured events. COB will also be free to those who are interested in joining and be far less costly for participating chapters. Of the colleges and universities across the country who have sororities, most utilize the COB process so this vote allows the sororities at Wake Forest to “catch up” to other campuses.
Is sorority membership required to have a full social life on campus?
We hear some women say it is, but we do not believe that to be true. There are over 150 student organizations and many, many places that students can belong to find their niche. There are many students with active social lives who are not fraternity and sorority members.
How long is the pledge period?
Six weeks – it begins on bid day and sorority initiation is to be six weeks later.
Parents often ask about hazing – does it happen, and what does the University do about it?
The University has a strict policy against hazing, which is outlined in the Student Handbook. Hazing has occurred on most college campuses at some time. At Wake Forest, if an organization is found responsible for hazing its new members, they are held accountable as an organization. There is also a hazing hotline at 336-758-HAZE (4293) for members of the Wake Forest community who wish to report anonymously any student behavior which may be of a hazing nature. If parents encounter behavior they think could be hazing, they are encouraged to report specifics to the Dean of Student’s office at 336.758.5226 or deanstud. Parents and students can request (and will be given) anonymity, but the University does need some specifics (name of organization, activity the student faced, etc.) to be able to investigate a charge of hazing.
How much does it cost to be in a sorority?
Average new member dues are $615, with subsequent semesters at an average of $335. The costs cover national chapter dues, housing fees and sorority activities.
What are some of the benefits of sorority membership in your opinion?
The most significant benefit is that a sorority can shape the lives of its members through its founding principles and beliefs. By encouraging positive interactions among members, sisters can influence one another to lead healthy, productive lives that empower one another as leaders and women. On a more basic level, benefits include making friends and having a group to which the women feel they belong; it gives fellowship and camaraderie. Fraternities and sororities also teach valuable skills like networking and being comfortable meeting new people, which is a plus for most people’s professional lives. There are opportunities to take on leadership roles, which will teach students how to accomplish major tasks and mobilize a large group toward a common goal. Each sorority has a service or philanthropic component to, so the women are giving back to the local or national community as well. Of course, students are at Wake to get a degree first and foremost and membership in a fraternity or sorority can enhance a student’s ability to succeed by providing mentorship from older members and members within a student’s major.
Where can parents go for more information?
The Fraternity/Sorority Life page of the Wake Forest web site has more information. You can also contact Annie Carlson Welch, Associate Director of Student Leadership and Organizations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.