Sorority Recruitment

Yesterday I was at a meeting to talk about sorority recruitment and the process our young lady Deacs will go through in early January.  Parents and guardians of girls going through recruitment should have received an email on Tuesday from Annie Carlson Welch, who oversees that process (information here: 2014 Sorority Recruitment Parent Letter).  If your daughter will be involved in recruitment, please do read Annie’s letter.

I also wanted to add a little bit about the process.

The first day of recruitment, the rushees (called Potential New Members) are assigned into groups and are given a Greek advisor (a Gamma Rho Chi or GRC).  The GRC takes her group to visit every single sorority party (whether the PNMs are interested in that sorority or not).   Then after the first day, each girl ranks her sororities in priority order from those she loves most to those she merely likes.  At the same time, the sororities do the same, so it is a narrowing down process on both sides.

Sororities issue invitations to the next day’s function to any PNMs they are still interested in getting to know better.  Which means that each day of recruitment, girls are invited back to successively fewer parties (and they may have to choose between all their invitation options), until at the end they have just up to two choices (in a perfect world if all goes well).   Along the way, some students drop out of the recruitment process, and some go all the way through but aren’t successfully matched.

While your daughters are home for the holidays, talk to them about the process of recruitment if they are going to go through it.  Particularly talk to them about the idea that they would be wise to manage their expectations – both about where they think they might end up (we all think we will get our first choice and are stunned when we do not!) and their expectations about the sororities’ personalities and reputations.

A million years ago when I was a student here, there were a couple of groups perceived to be the “best” or “most elite” or “coolest” or [insert your adjective here], and girls wanted to get into those Highly Desired groups.  Just as it was in my day, there are currently some groups that the PNMs are all dying to get into, but the laws of economics say that you can’t invite all the girls back to one or two groups, and make two or three giant SuperSororities, leaving the remaining groups to slimmer pickings.

An illustration:  for argument’s sake, say there are 400 girls going through recruitment and 8 sororities.  The pledge class size will end up all being about equal – say it will be 40 girls (accounting for some who drop out of the process).  If on Day 1 of recruitment, all 400 girls wanted to be in A or B sorority, that would be 400 girls vying for 80 spots.  Those are not favorable odds.  So it is to your daughters’ advantage to consider membership BEYOND just their dream group.

Every year there are girls who are not invited back to the sorority(ies) they wanted to be invited back to, and there are inevitably girls who drop out of the process, thinking “If I can’t be a [insert name here], I don’t want to be anything at all.”  Talk to your daughters now about reconsidering that position.  What I always tell my advisees (and any parents who ask me), is to stick with the process and see it through.  All the sororities will have some girls they’ll love, and some they don’t have as much in common with.  But they will all have Greek letters, and t-shirts, and fun and fellowship and opportunities for leadership and growth.  And if the women will look beyond what they perceive to be the Most Desirable Group, and not worry about perceived reputation or coolness or whatever, they might well find they are among a fantastic, amazing group of girls.

Sometimes there are girls who are hesitant to accept a bid to a newer, less established sorority – but I always challenge my advisees to look at this as an opportunity to help grow that group, provide leadership, and build it for the next generation of students.  I talked to a young woman last year who had a bid from just such a group and she didn’t want to take it because she was afraid of being in the new group.  I told her she should think long and hard about it – she is going to find fun and philanthropy and sisterhood in this group even if it is newer.  She ended up taking the bid and telling me later she was so glad I had urged her to reconsider her initial reaction of declining.  So in the event that your daughter does not get asked back to X but gets asked back to Y sorority, urge her to give Y a try.

One of the tough parts about the recruitment process is that it happens before classes start and the full student body arrives back on campus.  In some ways this is a positive, because there are no distractions.  But in the event that your daughter does not have a happy recruitment experience – whether she elects to drop out, or is not successfully placed – it can also be a stressor.  And this is where the excellent campus administrators and staff come in.  There are going to be a plethora of activities for young women who do not continue with recruitment – everything from movies to yoga to tv or movie viewing parties, to activities off campus to things in the residence halls.  We have a group called “Mary’s Posse” (named after an administrator here who started the group) who have volunteered to reach out in a mentoring and friendship capacity to anyone who has had an unhappy outcome.  We offer to talk to young women one-on-one, take them for coffee or a walk or a chat or a good cry.  We listen, and we care.  Please urge your daughters to consider opting in to some of these activities if they choose not to see recruitment through to the end.

Parents, part of what you can do during the recruitment process is urge your daughters to keep things in perspective!  Urge them to be open to choices and alternatives, to be mindful of other girls on their hall who might not be having as positive an experience and to offer support, and to ask for help if they need it.   You can also help by letting your daughters sort through this process on their own!  Try not to add any pressure about where she wants to join.  You might be a legacy but your daughter may not want to be in that group (or that group may release her – legacy status is not a guarantee of a bid!)

A common refrain you’ll hear from us to let your daughters have the opportunity to build resilience when they encounter a setback.  If recruitment has a bad outcome, you might want to rush here to help her or fly her home, but before you do that, think about whether that is really the best course of action.  One way you can help your daughter grow into a young adult is to let her navigate problems on her own.  And by letting her feel her way through a situation – even when it is painful – she will be growing critical skills of self-care, self-advocacy, and independence.  So NOW is the time to have some of those types of conversations with your daughters – talk about how they might seek resources and assistance on campus if they don’t finish recruitment successfully.  Help her build some ideas and a plan.  Let her rescue herself, instead of you rescuing her 🙂

We’ll talk more about recruitment closer to the time, but please think about having some of these tempering-expectations conversations now.  Good luck to any of your girls who will be embarking on this process!

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