Sorority Recruitment: Nine Things No One Talks About

Sorority recruitment is the vibe right now, as potential new members (PNMs) are trudging up and down hot streets in full hair and makeup, trying their best to avoid blisters, sweat stains, and inappropriate conversation topics.

If you have a college student going through a sorority rush, you know how stressful it can be, even if it hasn’t even begun. Thanks to TikTok, YouTube, and even documentaries like Bama Rush, students, and families have thoughts about sororities, and many people share some misgivings about them due to cultural stereotypes that are sometimes warranted and often not. 

Sorority life can be portrayed in an unrealistically positive light

Sorority life is usually portrayed as an enviable time full of friends, parties, leadership opportunities, and philanthropy. Incoming college students may believe joining a sorority will enhance their college years.

And for many people, that’s true. I certainly have a lot of great memories from my sorority days in college. Still, I also know that some aspects of recruitment and sorority life aren’t positive or welcoming for those who participate. 

There are some things that sororities tend to gloss over and avoid discussing regarding recruitment and membership.

Credit: Bama Rush | Official Trailer | Max

Nine things to consider about sorority life

1. The recruitment process sucks

Plain and simple, the multiple recruitment days are long, with early start times and crowded conditions. It’s usually hot or pouring rain, requiring a ton of walking on many campuses. It’s mind-numbingly repetitive, and PNMs must try to stay upbeat, talkative, and friendly throughout, even if they are exhausted, annoyed, and not thrilled to answer the same question for the 45th time.

2. And that old adage of “Trust the process” is kind of BS

The line that everyone hears going through recruitment is, “Trust the process!” This is particularly directed at the PNMs who are completely surprised or saddened when they are let go from one of the sororities they loved visiting.

The process is complicated and, like everything else, is neither perfect nor fair. It can also be super emotional on both sides, so a better adage might be, “The process is imperfect, like all of us, and can be heartbreaking. Make the best of whatever situation you find yourself in.” (Not a snappy saying, but more accurate and helpful.)

3. There can be a lot of pre-judgment involved

Everyone involved in the recruitment process is human, and we all have conscious or unconscious biases. A PNM may feel a certain way about a house just by looking at their social media accounts or hearing about the members from someone they know who attends that school. Similarly, a sorority member may look at a PNM’s resume and immediately think they are not a right fit for that house. This can result in awkward conversations, and there’s rarely time for deep interactions during the first few days. Some decisions must be made in haste and shouldn’t be taken personally. (Much easier said than done.)

4. Beware of buying into the hype

Spend any amount of time around college-aged young women, and you’re bound to hear (sometimes overly dramatic) expressions of affection: “I’m obsessed with you!”, “Your outfit is so stunning!”, “You are the cutest thing ever!” When a PNM is showered with lovely comments, they can mistakenly think they are getting an invite back for the next day. And when that doesn’t happen, it can confuse the PNM, hurt, and devastate. Again, don’t take it personally.

5. There are still some old-school “rules” in play, sadly

Sororities have come a long way; I’m happy to say that many national chapters have adopted new rules and guidelines prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion. That being said, some houses and/or some members on some campuses still may rank and select PNMs based on looks, family money, or connections with members already in the house. These situations are out of the control of many PNMs and can also lead to hurt feelings and a feeling that the process is unfair.

6. “Success” depends on who you talk to during the first few days

A PNM may only have the opportunity to talk to 2 or 3 people at some houses during the first round of recruitment. It’s often noisy and chaotic, and each house has different methods for ranking and voting on who gets cut and who gets invited back. As with any organization, certain members hold more sway over others, which can affect voting. Again, it’s a ‘luck of the draw’ situation for many girls during the first rounds.

7 There are hidden expenses around every corner

It’s usually easy to find out the primary costs for sorority membership before a PNM decides to go through recruitment: house fees, dining fees, and an estimated price for social events during the academic year. But there are also unique traditions at every chapter, and everything seems to be an add-on cost, like gifts for big and little sisters, costumes and outfits for parties and formals, and required outfits for each additional year of recruitment.

8. A new member won’t like everyone in their sorority

Yes, sororities love advertising the many benefits of sisterhood, the opportunities to make lifelong friends (which is true), the bonding, the ability to fundraise for great causes, and never feeling left out on a big campus. These are all wonderful benefits, but a new member will not love every sister or feel connected to everyone else in their chapter. There will be friction and drama between some of the members. ALWAYS.

9. It’s OK to drop out if you’re really not feeling it

There’s a lot of pressure to complete recruitment, no matter what, and to commit to becoming an active member for the rest of college. If a PNM or pledge doesn’t feel like their decision was a good match, it is OK to drop out. Many colleges have continuous open bidding after formal recruitment or a PNM can go through the process again the following year. And, of course, there are always a variety of campus organizations to join where you can find great friends without having to pay so much money.

In some ways, sorority recruitment is like college admissions

An applicant to a selective college and a young woman going through recruitment can look “perfect” on paper — they may have outstanding grades, an impressive array of extracurricular activities, and be a nice kid. All of which may not mean a thing regarding getting accepted. 

And these types of rejections hurt the most when there’s nothing to explain why you don’t get accepted, other than there just weren’t enough spots for everyone qualified. The decision to join a sorority is personal, and Greek life is not for everyone.

No matter how your college student’s recruitment experience ends up, validate their feelings and assure them that a sorority membership does not determine their worth.

More Great Reading:

Sorority Rush: A Parenting Experience Like No Other

About Marybeth Bock

Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing - as long as iced coffee is involved. You can find her work on numerous websites and in two books. Find her on Facebook and Instagram

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