Sorority Rush: A Parenting Experience Like No Other

Sorority rush (AKA “recruitment”) just ended, and I feel I have endured the worst 10 days of my parenting life. I do not typically make such bold, dramatic statements. This experience has changed me, hopefully temporarily, into a strange and not very fun person to be around. I was in a sorority but did not place extreme importance on my daughter being in a sorority. She wanted to go through a rush, and I expected it to be difficult.

sorority bid day
My daughter’s rush was anguishing for her and for me. (Twenty20 @taymccormack_)

Preparing for sorority rush

My daughter has had experience with anxiety throughout adolescence, but nothing prepared her (or me) for the intensity of rush. Trying to dissect this experience is challenging, and unless you’ve been through rush, this article may not make sense. But if you are going through it with your daughter or have just finished and are experiencing PTSD due to this process, maybe this will resonate. My reactions along the way surprised me, and I confess I am not very proud of some of my thoughts and feelings.

So your daughter wants to rush, and you attempt to help her prepare. You track down women in sororities at her school and are willing to write “recs” (letters of recommendation). You shop with your daughter for clothes and then let her shop more with friends because she wants some outfit options.

Suppose your daughter is enrolling in a big university. In that case, rush will likely start before classes begin, so you load up the car 5-7 days before the majority of the student body and move her into her dorm, rush wardrobe hanging in her closet, shoes lined up neatly. You leave her, go home, read all the articles about dropping off your child at college, and try not to be too sad.

The cuts begin

Rush begins the very next day. You feel anxious because you’ve done this yourself (or maybe not!), but you feel hopeful, excited, and proud of your daughter for being brave enough to go through this process. If she is introverted, she should be highly commended for putting herself out there. Whatever happens, she’ll meet amazing people. She is confident and social, this will be just fine.

Your daughter completes Round 1, and it sounds like a frantic marathon of going from house to house with a group of other girls, having all sorts of quick conversations, like 8 hours of speed dating.

Then Round 2 comes, where the hopeful girls all show up, dressed and ready to receive their schedules, including only those sororities that invited them back. This may be the morning you get the first phone call or text that leaves you reeling.

How could anyone have cut my daughter already? This early? Well, there are still some options on her schedule. You get on Facebook, which you were not going to do, and find other moms looking for answers. Some moms share some pretty painful information, which you appreciate, but you do not share any disappointments publicly because your daughter would kill you if you did. This is her journey.

You do not judge the moms who share because they are looking for support, and you want to unload also. You don’t, but you read responses. Some experienced moms will offer words of encouragement. “Trust the process,” they say. You find this comforting because rules and logistical feats must be followed to “process” 1500 girls through 16 sorority houses.

The rounds continue, each one bringing more cuts. And at some point during rush, “trust the process” becomes your least favorite phrase in English. Your daughter is cut from houses where she had great conversations, and when she calls you crying, you will no longer trust the process. This process has led to that voice in her head “you are not likable enough, you are not cool enough, you are not outgoing enough. YOU. ARE. NOT. ENOUGH.”

Your daughter is not a product on an assembly line, “processed” and plucked off because of a defect. She is still your beautiful, brave, smart, social or introvert, laid-back or peppy, passionate or carefree, athletic or otherwise talented, amazing daughter. So you will say, “SCREW THE PROCESS!!!!”

Ahhh, but you cannot because the show must go on, there are rules to follow, and your brave daughter wants to continue the, uh, process.

You now find yourself on the Facebook parent page several times a day because you are becoming consumed by this, trying to stay hopeful and following others’ stories. You might post an article about rush describing how God has a plan because this article helped you, and maybe it will help another mom. This is the religious equivalent of “trust the process.”

While you believe deeply that God has a plan, you forget that God never has a plan for judgment and rejection or anything that makes your beautiful daughter feel she is “not enough.” This article may explain that quite well, but you realize the message could be missed. You regret posting that stupid article because you’ve lost faith in God’s plan and actually in all humanity at this point.

Your mental health deteriorates further, and you find yourself speaking a new language, phrases like “bottom tier sorority” and “suicide on pref day” will come out of your mouth. These are not phrases you would have used a week ago when you were still a functioning, relatively stable, mature adult.

You may not sleep, cry at every rejection, and find yourself having trouble being happy for other girls’ successes. You may watch Bachelor in Paradise as a distraction and find the rose ceremony “cuts” hits too close to home. You may cry because it is just too real. At this point, you have lost all reasoning.

Bid day finally arrives with sorority rush results

If your daughter makes it to the end, the grand finale, also known as Bid Day, you will not sleep the night before, and you will carry your phone everywhere, waiting for the text. Your daughter may get her top choice. If the process worked for your daughter, you would feel joy on this day (and you probably quit reading this article several paragraphs back). If your daughter has already faced major rejection/cuts, you will have no optimism left.

She may get her second choice but still, try to make the best of it. She may have “suicided” by listing only one sorority from which she would accept a bid. She may get no bid at all, in which case you will get the call VERY early in the morning or the night before because the people in charge have some sliver of common sense to protect the girls who are completely cut at Bid Day.

You may get a text that says, “I got XYZ, I am trying not to cry,” or “My roommate XYZ and I got ABC, trying to cry.” You may feel a grief so deep it should be embarrassing. The part of your brain that controls logic and reasoning and knows that in the scheme of life, this is not THAT important will be silenced by the emotions you are feeling (and the lack of sleep). Because for this moment, the result is EVERYTHING… you have spent days in a vacuum, with years of anxiety-inducing moments all crammed into a week, and your daughter’s mental well-being, and yours, have been through the wringer.

Perhaps even your husband, your very reasonable, emotionally stable husband, will be wandering around with a forlorn look on his face, muttering, “I didn’t know it would be like this.” And you wonder, “now what?!?”

I have no answers yet. It is 3 days after Bid Day, and my daughter did not get her happy ending. And although this is my story, this is HER story to tell, to live, to re-write how she chooses so that I will remain anonymous.

She is keeping her chin up and still determining whether she will stick with the sorority that gave her a bid. Are these her people? Is this worth the time and expense? Does she want to be labeled by Greek letters? In the meantime, she is hanging out with friends who did not go through rush, dropped out of rush, got the second choice, or got the top choice. I am so proud of her!

I could use a little more work and will continue to lean on trusted friends and my faith. I will encourage others to trust their daughters, trust their faith, trust their instincts, but I will never, ever tell anyone to trust the process.

The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.

You May Also Enjoy Reading:

The Pressure to Drink in College (and Beyond) Is Real

This Sorority Girl Was OK With Her Daughter Not Rushing

About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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