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Fraternity and Sorority Recruitment

This week’s message for first year families is about rush and recruitment.  You can read two perspectives on Greek life – one is from Intern E. (’12), a young alumna, and the other is an administrator’s perspective.

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The decision to go through fraternity/sorority rush and recruitment can be difficult.  Students must weigh the pros and cons of making a commitment to Greek life, and parents must consider the impact that the organization may have on their child’s studies and character, as well as the potential monetary cost.  My freshman year, I decided to go through sorority recruitment.  My experience was nothing but positive.

Unique to Wake Forest, rush and recruitment initially takes place during the second semester of freshman year.  This provides students with the opportunity to both observe members of the Greek community before becoming a member, and to be conscious of their friends’ preferences in particular Greek organizations.  Therefore, a student has more time to decide what is right for him or her.  It is important to encourage your student to look to surround themselves with members who share their same ideals, but to remind them to keep an open mind.  Each organization will provide opportunities for friendship, networking, and campus involvement.

I believe that my decision to join a sorority provided me with social activities and opportunities to give back that I would not have accessed apart from the Greek community.   When I joined a sorority, I immediately found myself surrounded by new and old friends.  Although a small group of my friends were fortunate enough to pledge together, I made numerous new friends that I may not have met otherwise.   I later lived abroad with a friend I did not know before recruitment.  I became more comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people, and for a year I lived on my sorority hall with thirty of my newest, closest, friends.

Shortly after becoming a member of a sorority I was given an entrance into volunteering and service that I had trouble finding beforehand.  I always knew that I wanted to give back to the Wake Forest community, but it was hard for me to sign up to do anything alone.  With friends from my sorority, I participated in a golf tournament that raised $3,000 for a national charity, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF).  I began tutoring at a local Title 1 Elementary School, and I participated in a campus-wide charity event called Wake-n-Shake, which raises money for the Brian Piccolo Cancer Foundation.   I found that I now had an expansive group of friends who wanted to make a difference as well.

A huge concern for parents regarding sororities is the effect Greek life may have on classroom performance.  After joining a sorority, my friends and I did not deviate from our previous study patterns.  In fact, the sorority that I joined encouraged good grades through new member study hall sessions and a sorority wide GPA requirement to participate in social events.  In addition, there was a committee of officers who help monitored the actions of the newest members. My experience strengthened my time management skills and required me to prioritize, even when it meant missing out on an exciting social event.

Greek life may not be the right thing for everyone, but in my experience I grew as an individual and strengthened my ties to Wake Forest since joining a sorority.  My experience had only been positive, and I found lifelong friends.  Each Greek organization at Wake Forest has unique resources that can provide him or her with rewarding new experiences.

If your son or daughter does decide to go through rush or recruitment, that’s great.  If not, there are tons of clubs, activities, and intramurals to help them find their niche.  Most importantly, every Wake Forest student should get involved and find his or her place on campus, whether it be Greek or otherwise.

Written by Intern E. (’12)

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Additional thoughts on recruitment from the Parent Programs Office

As an academic adviser, I have the opportunity to interact with first year students who are contemplating Greek life.  I have seen some great benefits in my students who go through sorority (or fraternity) recruitment.  One of the best outcomes is that students learn to walk into a room of people they might not know and introduce themselves and start conversations.  While we call it “rush” or “recruitment” now, it is really what the adult world calls “networking” – a skill that will serve your students well throughout their professional lives.

Greek life can provide students with a ‘niche’ or a sense of belonging on campus, which is also a very positive thing.  I have also seen some students who did not successfully balance Greek life with their studies.  I urge all my students who are going through recruitment to be extra vigilant about time management and their classes – in this instance, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

One of the difficulties of the recruitment process (particularly on the women’s side), in my opinion, is that sometimes girls get hung up on the notion that they have to be in [INSERT SORORITY NAME HERE] sorority, or else they won’t be popular/socially accepted/cool/etc.   When young women enter recruitment with their heart set on only one or two sororities, the chances are great that they could be disappointed; clearly, not everyone can be invited back to whichever sorority is perceived to be the most popular of the day.

Another related difficulty is that most of our female students have always been extremely successful socially in high school and involved in any group they wanted to be in, and it never occurs to them that this trend will not continue in college.  So if they are not invited back to a sorority they thought they wanted, it can be a huge unhappy surprise and a hit to the self esteem.

In some ways, sorority recruitment can be viewed as an issue of supply and demand.  Here is an illustration (and warning – this is a vast oversimplification, but is meant to show you the general idea):

There are 10 sororities on campus.  Let’s say 2 or 3 of them are regarded as “The Most Popular” and the ones your daughter wants to be in.

Say there are 300 girls going through recruitment.

The National Panhellenic Conference does not allow those perceived 3 most popular sororities to invite 100 girls each to their chapters (and have the other 7 get no new sisters).  Instead, each chapter will get to invite a pledge class that is essentially equal in size.

So that will mean those 10 sororities get 30 new sisters each – not 100.

Originally 300 girls would have liked to be in A, B, or C sororities.  But only 90 of the 300 will get in those 3.  The other 210 will have other opportunities.

Again, that is an oversimplification (there will be some students who withdraw from sorority recruitment, and a few who do not successfully match to any sorority).  We offer that example up so parents and families can help manage expectations of their daughters and help them be realistic.

Because of the assumption or hope that many girls have about being invited back to their Sorority of Choice, if they don’t get that invite. girls drop out of the process – whereas if they’d stayed in, they might have found another lovely group of women to be a part of if they’d just given it the chance.  I tell my female students that if they want to be Greek, keep their options open and see recruitment all the way through.  Every single sorority will provide opportunities for fun, fellowship, service, sisterhood, parties, and more – so I urge my girls not to fall into the ‘popularity trap’ and believe they can only have a satisfying Greek life in one or two sororities.

I have seen women get angry that they were not invited back to their top choices and they decide to drop the sorority recruitment process altogether – only to regret that hasty decision later.  Had those same women been willing to continue the process, they might have been placed in a sorority with great sisters – if they had only given it a chance.

Parents, you can help.  Here are some thoughts:

- If your daughter wants to go Greek, try to encourage her to be open minded.

- Remind your daughter that every group has its benefits.

- Resist the urge to editorialize based on your own sorority experience in college or let her feel the weight of your expectations that she be in X group as a legacy.  Affirm her choices.

- Encourage her to be persistent and discover the joys and strengths of whatever group she might find herself in.

- If she does not get an invite back to her top choice, urge her to remain in the game.  She does not want to make a rash decision out of hurt and anger and find herself out of the sorority process altogether.

And a final note for parents whose children aren’t interested in Greek life or who choose to withdraw from the recruitment process- it’s OK!  There are so many opportunities for engagement on campus – from intramural and club sports, to Student Union, to Campus Ministries, to clubs and special interest groups.  Your student does not have to be Greek to have a wonderful social life on campus.  As I tell my academic advisees, it is a lot easier to spot Greek students because they have letters on their shirts, specific days when they wear them, etc. – but there are more independent students on campus than Greek ones.  They are just harder to recognize because there is no ‘Independent’ shirt.

I encourage my advisees to get involved in other organizations on campus NOW to find their niche.  It’s important to find that niche right now – because having a social group or network now means that your students will have a place in January where they feel they belong, in addition to whatever friends on their halls, in other student organizations, or in a fraternity/sorority should they choose one.

Women’s recruitment information is published on the Fraternity and Sorority Life website.  Parents, be mindful that recruitment for women begins on January 7, 2015, before the start of classes, so be aware of that as you and your student discuss travel plans for returning to campus after Winter Break.