How Sorority Recruitment Works

The Dark Side Of Sorority Recruitment

When sororities look for new members, they're looking for themselves.


When my roommate first mentioned that she would be rushing sororities this semester, I didn't think much of it. It seemed fitting that she would want to join a sorority. And from what I knew about UMD and Greek Life, rushing wouldn't be some huge deal for her, or anything that would lead her away from the norm.

But I was wrong.

The "formal recruitment" process, the University of Maryland Panhellenic Association's term for "rushing," is a strict two-weekend ordeal that divides about 1,000 girls into 36 groups and thrusts them full-steam into sorority world. In the first round, each group visits sixteen sorority houses, and paired with one to three sisters from each, proceeds to have a twenty-minute conversation on a pre-outlined list of topics: where you're from, where you live on campus, what's your major, so on and so forth.

Maybe because of time constraints, and maybe because of the sheer number of girls who rush, these dull conversations are deemed good enough for the sorority to judge whether or not some girls should be dropped -- barred from ever visiting their house again. Meanwhile, the potential new members (PNM's) do the same: as they are being cast off by their (sometimes favorite) picks, they too are choosing which sororities they don't want to associate with.

In a practical sense, this add/drop system works. But joining a sorority can be a lifetime commitment. It will shape more than just your social life. It's characterized as one of the biggest decisions you'll ever make in college. Which leads me to the question: how can a group of sorority girls make such powerful decisions about the fate of their sorority (and likewise the fates of the girls who rush) based on twenty minutes of small talk?

At a large university like UMD, it seems that we meet new people everyday. We pair up with them on class assignments, we run into them in our dorms, we're introduced by mutual friends at a party. For all the people we meet, all our meetings are brief, they are transient in nature and chock-full of small talk. When it's all said and done, we do a run-through in our minds, and we use those traits that stick out to us most: their physical appearance, their disposition, and most importantly, those things we have in common, to decide whether we think we'll get along with them. The deeper stuff comes later.

Is it wrong to assume that sororities use an identical process when choosing which girls to keep and which ones to drop? Just as we take these superficial gestures and compile a mental pro-con list to determine if we want to pursue a friendship, so too do sorority girls when deciding which PNM's are fit to become lifelong members of their organization. The result: a recruitment group of girls indistinguishable from one another, even more indistinguishable from those already belonging to the sorority. And I don't mean that they are alike in their philanthropic values or their academic interests: I mean in looks and social standing.

My observations were confirmed by my roommate and other friends who had rushed. The sororities they admired most (it seems the most superficiality exists within top-tier sororities) had not felt the same way about them. They remembered having great conversations with members, but nonetheless, they were dropped -- something they attributed to their appearance. And looking at those few girls that were invited back -- just looking at them -- it was hard to argue.

One friend was a member of the lucky few invited back to a top sorority for the next round of recruitment. When she revisited the house, she made a shocking realization -- she was the only brunette that remained in a sea of bleach-blondes.

I'll state the obvious: certain sororities are discriminatory towards anyone who doesn't fit their clear-cut definition of a "sorority girl." They choose to alienate potential members because of their failure to be something they're not. It's unfair and biased, and for a panhellenic association that prides itself in the fact that there is "no one type of Panhellenic sorority woman," it's downright hypocritical.

But there's something else too. To those girls who are members of the sororities I'm talking about: is it really a meaningful experience when surrounded by people who are carbon-cutouts of yourself? I was under the impression that we left our hometowns to meet new people, to learn from those that are different from us. It was too draining being in our high school cliques, where we were forced to look and act the same as the rest of the pack. Why are we replicating this culture in college?

On February 10, my friends will receive formal bids from the sororities who want to take them in. They will scrutinize their offers (or offer) and decide which is the best place for them. They will agonize over the decision of a lifetime, while their prospective sororities will be busy securing their own reputations.

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5 Valuable Lessons I Learned As A Teenager

In honor of turning 20 on Monday.


Turning 20 is such a weird age. I'm not as excited as when I turned 19 or especially when I turned 18, but this year is different. I'm going into what my parents call "the best years of your life." This is supposed to be the decade that I figure things out and have fun. I can say I've learned a lot in these past twenty years.

1. Respect and be kind to yourself.

I used to be really mean to myself. Like most girls, unfortunately, I have self-esteem issues and body image issues. I felt terrible growing up because I was bigger than other girls. It took a really long time to love myself, and to realize if I'm healthy then that's all that matters. I am not the person who I was when I was younger, but I wish I had taken the time to not be so mean about how I looked growing up. (Everyone looks bad in middle school, it's not that deep). Self-care is a good and fun thing too! Make sure to be kind to your mind and body.

2. Ignore the people who don't like you.

One thing I wish I could go back in time and tell myself is to not care about those who don't like me. In middle school and high school, I took all of that stuff so seriously. I would go home so upset because some girl didn't like me. Well, that girl isn't me. She doesn't decide my future or my happiness. So I wish I could go and tell myself to just focus on the future. Not everyone is going to like you, so might as well keep on keeping on.

3. Keeping learning.

I am really happy that I am in college. I think that motivating myself to further my education is such an important thing. I want to be able to provide for myself and become a more understanding person. The only way to do that is to keep learning. For me, it's exciting to find out something new every day, even while I'm on summer break from college.

4. Be nice to everyone.

None of us know what the other person is doing in their private life. When I worked for Chick-fil-A, they taught us to be nice to everyone since we didn't know if that person was having a bad day. But honestly, I think it's the decent thing to do to be nice to everyone. I've met people that I was just a little kind towards and it helped me in the long run. I've been introduced to writers and publishers that have agreed to help me in my career, just because I was helpful to them. Also, when you work for tips, might as well be nice to everyone.

5. Spend time with friends, but also have some alone time.

There needs to be some sort of balance between your alone time and friend time. I'm an introvert who pretends to be an extrovert, so I know all about this now. Just go until you feel like you need some time for yourself. But don't ever feel bad if you need a day to yourself. You know you, so watch yourself and take care of your time.

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You Know You're From Trumbull, CT When...

The best memories are made in this boring, little, Connecticut town.


1. The majority of places you will consider to eat at are in Fairfield or Westport... Colony, Shake Shack, Country Cow, Playa Bowls, BarTaco

2. But if you find yourself too lazy to get on 95 for food, Panchero's is the go-to... never Chipotle. If it is past midnight, the choice always comes down to the McDonalds in Monroe, where you are almost guaranteed to see a group of people you know, or Merritt Canteen.

3. Once you got your license, your Friday night plans consisted of picking up friends, driving up and down Main Street, and, somehow, always finding yourself at the THS parking lot seeing who's car is there because there is nothing better to do.

4. In the Fall, you couldn't wait for Friday so that after school you and half of your grade could walk to Plasko's Farm for ice cream and apple cider donuts... and hope you could get them before the owners would yell at you to leave. (This one only applies to Hillcrest Middle School kids, AKA the inferior middle school in town).

5. You couldn't wait to be a senior so you could officially lead the BLACK HOLE at football games... if you were even willing to go in the cold.

6. You looked forward to the annual Senior Scav, the last week of summer before your senior year where a list of tasks is passed down by the recently graduated class... the official kickoff to senior year.

7. You pass by Country Club Rd. and get flashbacks from the worst Cross Country practices ever. Driving up Daniels Farm Rd. in the Fall and Spring, you are conditioned to yell "hi" out the window to your friends at practice.

8. You knew someone who worked at Gene's gas station... and found yourself spending more time there on the weekends than you would like to admit.

9. You are convinced Melon-heads are real after frequenting Velvet St. to see the abandoned insane asylum with your friends, IF you didn't want to drive all the way up to Fairfield Hills in Newtown.

10. You have had/have been to at least one middle school birthday party at the Trumbull Marriott.

11. You know that the 25mph speed limit on Whitney Ave. is way too slow... and can't help but hit a little air going down the huge hill at the top.

12. The guy at Towne likely knows your name.

13. You never find yourself turning right out of THS... that side of town is irrelevant for those who do not live there.

14. You know to avoid the Merrit Parkway from 4:00-7:00pm at all costs.

15. You know more than you would like to about people you aren't even friends with... in a town so small, things get around very quick.

16. Going shopping really means going to Target, or any store in the mall, for the millionth time that week.

17. The marching band was the best in the state and you would see them practicing, literally, every time you drove by THS.

19. Depending on the side of town you lived, you spent a lot of time at Five Pennies Park or Indian Ledge Park.

20. You would say you couldn't wait to leave, but when you got to college, you find yourself excited to come back to your hometown so you can reminisce on old traditions and make new memories.

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