Dear Pledge – Candidate – New Guy


I hope this letter finds you well. At this point, your rush week should be a distant memory. Hopefully you signed a bid at your dream house and are starting to get settled in. By the way, did you have a good time at Pref Night? How nifty was it to have a party thrown in your honor even if one of the older brothers had to find a date for you at the last second. Don’t worry though; by spring formal you should be more acquainted with the fairer sex on campus and thus, capable of securing your own date.

At any rate, as you read this letter through blurry eyes, I just wanted to talk to you for a spell about the upcoming weeks. You see young sire, you are entering into the exciting time called the pledge period. Now I understand if that term sounds foreign to you as I am aware that many forward thinking fraternities now refer to this period as “candidacy”. However, make no mistake; despite the terminology, its all the same concept. Your goal is to prove to the elder members that you are worthy to become a full brother and carry on the tradition of the chapter through initiation.

So  lets get the ugliness out of the way early. You have probably heard a good deal about the dreaded “H word”. There is a reason that many houses have gotten away from using the term “pledge”all together; because it is usually associated with the practice of hazing. And while hazing today is far less severe than it was in say your father’s day, there are still a few knucklehead chapters who insist on sustaining these barbaric rituals. You may be asking yourself, “Why do guys subject themselves to this type of embarrassment and ridicule?”In many cases, people let their desire to initiate blind them from commonsense. Don’t let this be you my friend! If asked to do anything you’re not comfortable with or that may cause you harm, walk! No organization is worth losing a limb or worse, your life. Well, maybe the Illuminati, but the hooded figure in the corner just said that the Illuminati doesn’t even exist, so…..

How about we switch gears and talk about what you SHOULD be doing during this period. For me, my pledge period was similar to the College 101 class the university forced me to take. It was a crash introduction course to the chapter and the fraternity as a whole. It is your pledge/candidate/new member educator’s job to teach you the crucial points of the fraternity. These lessons include, but are not limited, to the fraternity motto, history, key members, Greek alphabet, songs, chants and symbols. Your learning initiatives also need to extend to learning about your future brothers as well. Take the time to learn their names, majors, dreams, aspirations and favorite fraternity moments as you’re bound to hear a bounty of epic tellings. Here’s a tip; just as you do in your normal courses, be sure to take notes as there will be quizzes and probably a final right before initiation.

I think I’ll end this particular letter here as I don’t want to ruin this fun time for you. I’ll leave you with the words that were told to be by my pledge master, Mad Dog, all those years ago:

“The main thing to remember here, is that its all about fun. You could be the best pledge in the world by knowing your history, knowing all the brothers and winning the pledge class president position. You could date a girl in each sorority. Hell, you can even literally bleed the colors of the fraternity. But  if you didn’t have fun…was any of it worth it?”


YOUR esteemed alumnus, JW.

 P.S. Don’t get caught not wearing your pledge pin!

Go Greek or Go Home


The attire called for business professional so imagine my surprise when I walked up in a smart navy dress and black blazer only to find a sea of girls in homecoming style dresses bearing it all. Along with the cleavage show came a strong downpour of rain which would ironically foreshadow what came next. The girls made a canopy of coach umbrellas to safeguard their hair and waited for their Rho Gammas to break the news.

When it was my turn, my Rho Gamma congratulated me on being invited back to the final party of the sorority I was most suited for. I took my card and strode away confidently. As some girls squealed in delight, others silently shed tears as their group leader did their best to comfort them. That’s the thing about sororities: they’re elite societies of women who pick and choose new members based on their own subjective judge of the hopeful applicant’s character and appearance.

Try as they might, not everyone gets in. It doesn’t matter if you have the highest GPA, a history of mission trips and service organizations under your belt or the most money in your back account. Recruitment is like speed dating; both parties have to like each other enough to form a long lasting relationship. You dress up, put on a string of pearls, spritz some Chanel #5 and give it your all. They want to know where you’re from, what your hobbies are, the plans you have for the future as they mentally rate your qualifications.

Let me give you the low down on the different categories of chapter houses. On one side are the traditional, not a hair out of place girls who push indecency under the rug. Let’s call them the Charlotte Yorks of the world. Across the street, you’ve got the polar opposite. These girls lounge around in their PJ’s eating ice cream and don’t mind getting a little dirt under their finger nails. These are the girls whose parents named them Alexandra and Kathryn only so they would shorten it to Alex or Kat. Next door to them are the ultra-feminist girls who believe in leadership and academic excellence or the Hilary Clintons. Catty-cornered to them live the southern belle sisters who know how to kick up their heels and have a good time.  These are the Daisy Mae Dixons. Whichever sisterhood they joined, they did so to befriend girls with a similar mind set as their own.

The intention is not to make people feel subservient, but this is the nature of sorority life. You either sell your soul for a monogrammed tote bag or you end up watching from the sidelines. Many sisters will tell you that they are not the “typical sorority girl”, that they are different and that they do not fall into the stereotypical Elle Woods category, but if the lavaliere fits honey – wear it with pride.  No I’m totally joking.

This article is not meant to disparage sorority members in any way. In fact, there were many young women who I met throughout recruitment that I have the utmost respect for. My Rho Gamma in particular was a gem. When I decided to decline going any further in the recruitment process, my first thought was – I hope I don’t let her down because she is someone that I have grown to look up to over the past few days. Many of the girls I met were extraordinarily passionate about their philanthropies and encouraging me to find a service project I was equally enthused with. I truly think the world of them for that. Others offered me advice on teachers and classes as well as surprised the hell out of me with the difficult majors they chose for themselves. They took the time to spend a couple of hours being my mentor and temporary “Big Sis”. I would really like to continue to build a friendship with these girls despite my non-Greek status. I am happy to say that I have no regrets about rushing and that it truly was a positive experience.

So as the baby Hilarys, Charlottes, Sporty Spices, and Daisies run out to greet their jubilant new sisters in their crisply pressed white dresses, I hope they remember that a few letters of the alphabet do not define them, that they are no better than their peers and that true sisters are selfless.

What a Rush!

As the days of summer continue to melt away, another fall semester is on the horizon. In a few short weeks college campuses around the country, which have been ghost towns for the past two and a half months, will be bustling with life. And for many freshmen males, this will be the beginning of their fraternal journey to enduring brotherhood and networking as rush usually takes place within the first month of the semester. As you set forth on your excursion, here are a few things to keep in mind:

fraternity 1

Do your research: During rush, fraternity guys turn into car salesmen.One phrase you’ll hear numerous times is, “We’re the absolute best on campus at….” And you can fill that blank with pretty much anything; academics, intramurals, crocheting. If you do your homework however, you can better prepare yourself for the week. General information including philanthropies and history can usually be found on national fraternity websites. Upperclassmen that have been around campus for a year or so can also be a respectable resource as they know the reputations of the various groups and can probably tell you a story or two. Also, the parties and social events that are thrown prior to rush are a great way to observe the group in its natural habitat. I remember being so disappointed in a house I once was excited about when I attended their rush party and the guys in the chapter were not friendly and just downright creepy when it came to interacting with the female party guests. Although I still didn’t know which house I would join, I knew it wouldn’t be that one.

joey with frat bros

Would I REALLY hang out with these guys?: Your fraternity brothers are the guys you’re going to spend the most time with during your tenure as an undergrad. You’ll do all types of things together from falling out of your boat at canoe regatta to camping trips you’ll find yourself horribly unprepared for. Some of these guys may even wind up standing next to you in your wedding one day. Therefore, it is crucial to make sure you are surrounding yourself with guys you actually enjoy being around. Mute the prestige of the fraternity, the awesome parties, the suburb networking and your father and older brothers urging you to “continue the family tradition” and ask yourself one simple question: “If we weren’t in the same fraternity, would I REALLY hang out with these guys?”  Like putting together a puzzle, rush is all about finding the perfect fit.

Fraternity Rush

There is no shame in waiting: Although fall rush is typically the main event, there is also a spring recruitment period as well. And while some people are ready to dive into Greek life immediately, some need a little more time to get acclimated to college life. There is no shame in getting your feet on the ground and waiting until the spring (or even a later year) to join. You may actually be doing a fraternity a favor by waiting as spring rush numbers tend to be low anyway.

rush is over

If it’s not for you, it’s not for you: Websites like TFM usually find humor in shaming non-Greeks. Although I could write a nine part column on all of the benefits of going Greek. The truth is, it’s not for everyone. There are students that never set foot in a fraternity house and they do just as well academically and socially as the chapter president. One of my best friends aren’t Greek and we’ve enjoyed 5 years of marriage just fine.