Sorority Recruitment is about to begin

Today’s Daily Deac offers some advice for parents of female students who will be participating in the Panhellenic recruitment process (formerly called “rush”), which begins this week.

Here is my annual disclaimer: I have no dog in the fight about sororities. I neither want to glorify nor vilify Greek life. Truly, I am Switzerland on this issue and am not trying to push an agenda. But because recruitment begins this week (and I get a lot of questions), I always run a Daily Deac about the process of sorority recruitment and setting realistic expectations, with the qualifier that these opinions are mine, not Wake Forest’s.

To start off, here are some basics about how recruitment unfolds:

The Potential New Members, or PNMs (formerly referred to as “rushees”) are assigned into groups.  Each group visits every single sorority party on the first day. This assures that all PNMs have the opportunity to meet all of our chapters, and all chapters get to meet everyone participating in recruitment. After the first day, the mutual selection process begins.  The PNMs will have the opportunity to rank the chapters based on who they would like to get to know better, and the chapters are able to do the same with PNMs.

Each successive day, PNMs will attend fewer parties as they and the chapters continue to submit their preferences and narrow down their options. During any given round, a PNM may find herself released by an organization that she hoped to continue with. Sometimes PNMs are “fully released,” which means they are not invited back to any of the groups. While the goal of sorority recruitment is to place as many PNMs as possible, it is not a guarantee that a woman will receive a bid to join a chapter.

When I talk to female students about the process, I do it by story and with a visual.

sororities will all take equal numbers of recruits


For this example, let’s assume there are 400 PNMs.  We have eight sororities. Each sorority will have a new member class of approximately the same size, determined by the number of women participating in recruitment. The number of women that participate in recruitment does not affect how likely a woman is to receive a bid to join a chapter; the system is built to place as many women as possible. But that does not mean every woman can join her top-choice chapter.

Historically, there has always been a couple of the sororities that everyone seems to want to get into (the ‘most popular’ can change from year to year).  But the end result is that we might have 400 girls who would love to be a member of one or two sororities’ 50-woman new member class.

If you have 400 girls vying for 100 spots, that means that not every woman can get her first choice.  So it is not uncommon on Day 2 or 3 of recruitment to have women who are not invited back to the sorority(ies) they wanted to be invited back to.

Because our students tend to be such high-achievers throughout their lives, this might be the first time something hasn’t worked out in their favor. Not being invited back to a desired sorority can be an unpleasant shock. Sometimes, when their feelings are hurt, PNMs withdraw from the whole sorority recruitment process, thinking “If I can’t be a [insert sorority name here], I don’t want to be anything at all,” assuming (wrongly, in my opinion) that they can only be happy in certain sororities and not others.  If your Deac finds herself in this situation, I hope she will pause before deciding to withdraw.  Withdrawal can be a hasty decision the woman might late regret.

So here is some advice for PNMs (and their parents/family members):

I always urge PNMs to stick with the process and see it through. Don’t drop out if you don’t get invited back to your first or second choice of group. Every single sorority offers sisterhood, fun, fellowship, philanthropy, date functions, and more. Each sorority will have a wide range of women with different experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, etc.

Sometimes there are women who don’t want to accept a bid to a newer or less established sorority – they want to join a chapter with a more established presence on campus. When I was a student, a new sorority came to campus, and there was much consternation among the other existing sisterhoods about the addition of this new group. Several of my freshmen hallmates decided to join that group and build it from the ground up – and it is now a strong, successful chapter. But it took some women getting in on the ground floor, so to speak, to help make it so.

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. An upperclassman Deac mom wrote our office a few years ago to tell us her daughter had just been named to an important position within her sorority, and mom wanted to share this bit of very sage advice:

“After [my daughter’s] rocky rush experience, she found the absolute right sorority for her.  I know you will get calls and emails about recruitment from anxious parents come January – I was one of them.  But, I wanted to pass along this information in hopes that it might bring some reassurance to another freshman mom and daughter to participate fully in the process and the outcome will be as it should – even if it feels otherwise in January.”

Parting thoughts:

If your daughter is going to go through recruitment, encourage her to see the process through. Trust the process and the outcome, and don’t get caught up in preconceived notions of where she should be.

Encourage your daughter to consider all chapters, not just the ones she is already familiar with. Your daughter may know a couple of members from a chapter through her classes or other student organizations. But slight familiarity with a single chapter does not mean that chapter is the best place for her.  Remind her to keep an open mind as she gets to know everyone.

Not everyone gets their first choice. During recruitment, urge your daughters to be mindful of other women on their hall who might not be having as positive an experience, and to offer support. And if your daughter has a hard time during the recruitment period, encourage her to seek support from one of the many resources available to her (her Greek Recruitment Counselor or GRC, her RA, the Counseling Center, etc.)

Good luck to any of your young women who will be embarking on this process!


— by Betsy Chapman ’92, MA ’94

Categories: greek life