When you decide you’d like to rush a fraternity or sorority, you might feel slightly overwhelmed, overloaded with unanswered questions, anxious, excited—or any combination of these feelings. When I decided to rush as a sophomore I knew absolutely nothing about the process. I made do with asking sorority women I knew on campus, but unfortunately they couldn’t tell me much, due to strict silence rules during our school’s two-week process (strict silence means that there must be minimal communication between sorority women and the students rushing).
Of course, this usually pertains to just sorority recruitment. Fraternity recruitment can be much more relaxed in a sense—the male students will attend various rush events on campus, hosted by the chapters, and are eligible to receive multiple bids. On my campus female students could only receive one bid from one house at a time during formal recruitment, but that’s not to say that it varies by school.
I speak mostly of sorority recruitment in the remainder of this post because I went through it myself—not just formal, but also informal. It is very common for girls to drop out of formal recruitment; I decided to drop out at the very end of it, rather than sign a bid card. I didn’t feel quite ready to commit to joining a sorority, although going to each house gave me a slightly better idea of what each chapter was about.
The Difference Between Formal and Information Recruitment
When you go through formal recruitment, you go to every house, or as many as you can (depending on your school size) on the first day. Gradually, you are asked back to fewer houses via a ranking system (undisclosed to those rushing). However, those rushing are also allowed to rank the houses they have attended. If, for example, a student decides to drop a house, and the house also decides to rank her lower, then it is more likely that she will not return to that house. In this way it is a “mutual” decision. The ranking system is said to work so that when you get down to two or less houses, you have been well matched to those chapters.
Informal recruitment occurs in the fall at my school, and this is when you attend rush events at one house in particular, and can receive a bid from the chapter later on. This is ultimately how I ended up joining my sorority. I was matched to them at the end of formal recruitment, but after deciding to drop out instead, many girls from the chapter still made efforts to get to know me, even though recruitment was over. When I made the decision to join, I was unable to be in the current pledge class because initiation had already passed, so I instead joined the following fall via informal recruitment, as a junior.
Other Things to Consider When Going Through Either Type of Recruitment
Recruitment Counselors: These “Greek neutral” sorority women are there to help you each day of rush, give you advise, calm any nerves, and walk you through the entire process. During rush you are not allowed to know which sorority they are in (hence being neutral). They are trained to be strict and enforce the rules of recruitment, but it is also important to remember that they are there for you.
Previous Friendship Circles: Let’s face it. Friendships can grow apart for a variety of reasons, which can include joining different sororities. However, this is not always the case. Don’t let the fear of becoming distant from your non-Greek friends, or friends in other sororities, prevent you from joining a chapter that you could love just as much. Something I was told during recruitment multiple times has held strong: you can be as involved or uninvolved as you want. Aside from attending mandatory chapter meetings (which are also excusable for academic reasons) and recruitment events, you are fairly free to attend the events you would like to. If you want to divide your time between your chapter and your outside friends, you are more than likely able to do so.
Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover: While going through rush is a great way to get a better idea of what each chapter is about, there are still many things to be discovered. I found that going through informal recruitment gave me a better opportunity to get to know the girls in my sorority, and that there was a lot I missed when going through formal rush. That is not to say that informal is preferable over the other; this just means that you should always keep an open mind and resist assuming that, out of the few girls you talk to, their qualities represent those of the entire chapter—good or bad.
Remember all the resources you have available to you – recruitment counselors, affiliated friends, etc. – and have faith that if you do join a sorority or fraternity, you are joining one that you can feel comfortable in. That is the most important element when it comes down to joining: when it feels like you could be around these brothers or sisters, be yourself, and not feel pressured all the time to change anything about who you are, you will have a pretty good idea of whether or not you have found the right place.
Check out “Rush to the Finish Part 3: Making the ‘Mutual’ Decision” for more information on what happens if you decide to sign a bid card, accept a bid, and begin the new member process.
– Jamie Schlansky