Sorority Recruitment Advice

Today’s Daily Deac offers some advice for parents/families of women who will be participating in the Panhellenic recruitment process (what we called “rush” when I was in school), which begins in January. Wanted to share this now so you have the opportunity to talk to your daughters over the Winter Break if you choose.

Before I begin, let me make my annual disclaimer: I am truly neutral about Greek life, so this is not an attempt to persuade anyone that they should do it, nor do I want to dissuade anyone who is interested. The fact is that Greek life is one of the things I get the most questions about, so I share this info in hope that it will be helpful. And over the years, having witnessed a lot of recruitments, I know there will be students who might make choices and not understand the consequences, and my goal is to save our ladies angst if I can help it. I don’t work in sorority and fraternity life, so I will also make the disclaimer that these opinions are mine, not Wake’s.

First let’s talk process. Here are some basics about how recruitment plays out:

The Potential New Members, or PNMs are assigned into groups. Each group visits every single sorority party on the first day (January 8th). We have all PNMs meet all of our chapters so they can have exposure to all groups. After the first day, the mutual selection process begins: all PNMs will rank the chapters based on who they would like to get to know better, and the chapters also rank the PNMs based on who they are most interested in.

On days 2-4 (Jan. 9-11), PNMs will be invited back to 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 sorority she was interested in. Sometimes PNMs are “fully released,” which means they are not invited back to any of the groups (this is typically a very small group – last year it was maybe 2%). 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. On Preference Night, women can rank up to 2 chapters that they are still being considered for (though it is possible they will only have one active option). Bids (or notifications they are not placed) will go out on January 12th at 3:30 pm.

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

example of what recruitment bids look like

I stink at math, so I need to use round numbers. Assume there are 400 PNMs. We have eight sororities. Each sorority will have a new member (pledge) class of approximately the same size; the recruitment process is built to place as many women as possible. But that does not mean every woman can join her top-choice chapter. 

As long as I have been at Wake, there has been an informal ranking of which sorority is the most desirable, and which are less so (though the most/lease popular can change from year to year). And most of our young women are high achieving students who throughout high school had come out on top in terms of leadership positions, club membership, etc. So many of them enter recruitment expecting that things will go their way (since they always have in the past). The reality is that we might have 400 girls who would love to be a member of the same one or two sororities, and that math doesn’t work.

If you have 400 girls vying for 100 spots, not every woman will get her first choice, or maybe even her second choice. 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. Not being invited back to a desired sorority never feels good. 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, please encourage her to pause before deciding to withdraw. Withdrawal can be a hasty decision she might later regret. 

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. I am convinced that every single sorority has a wide range of sisters. They are not monolithic. There will be studious ladies and party ladies and people on both sides of the political aisle and from various states or religious practices, etc. in every single group. So in my mind it is a myth to think that you can only find sisterhood in certain groups. And like the Harry Potter sorting hat, ladies seem to land in the chapters they are well suited for if they will just trust the process. 

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 women were unsure of what it would be like to join the new group, when the older groups seemed cooler. 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!



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