During our senior year of high school in Texas, my friends and I often sat around and discussed sororities: which were the more “elite” sororities to join and which geeky Greek group to avoid. I was usually quiet during these discussions of sorority bashing and blasting. A year later, just watching my friends navigate the grueling process of sorority pledging was exhausting. Rush seemed to consume their lives. But even as a Tri-Delt double legacy, I had always known that sorority life wasn’t for me.
I am the only woman in my family who chose a school without Greek life. I am amazed that thousands of girls across America are still putting themselves through rushing hell. And their parents, too: some moms and dads actually hire coaches to increase their chances that they’ll survive the sorority cut.
My friends had been obsessed with a website called collegeacb.com, which no longer exists. This website, along with rumors heard through the grapevine, was where wannabe pledges got their information on the reputations of different sororities. Of course, every sorority chapter at each university was different, so the details on collegeacb.com became the holy scripture.
After my friends were accepted into colleges, they then knew which sorority they had to rush. I prepared for my own freshman year halfway across the country, but I also accompanied them to Neiman Marcus and Saks to shop for their “rush outfits,” a term that seemed to be constantly brought up. If you’re wondering why women need special outfits just to rush, you should familiarize yourself with the controversy surrounding Cornell’s rush dress code: it forbid satin (unless you weighed under 130 pounds and wore three pairs of Spanx) and cheapo looking shoes.
True, Cornell’s dress code was more intense than the ones my friends had for their respective Rush Weeks. But it may have been just as as costly: my friends — and their parents — had to conjure up a lot of cash for the multiple ensembles needed for rushing. Each day of Rush Week has a different theme, including Philanthropy Day and Formal Night. And of course their Bid Day, which is either the tearful or joyous day of discovering which sorority has chosen you to join them for the next four years.
But new, sometimes expensive clothes were just one of the necessities of Rush Week: letters of recommendation for each sorority were imperative. Thanks to a widely emailed list of sorority mothers (including my own) willing to write letters for each other’s daughters, “recs” were pretty easy to snag. “Rush pictures” were also required, in which the perfect outfit, hair, makeup, and pose were needed to hide flaws and imperfections. Of course, the “rush pictures” only added to my friends’ insecurities. I can’t and won’t even begin to tell you how much time was wasted talking about dieting and exercise plans in anticipation of Rush Week.
Freshman year — and Rush Week — finally began. Text updates blasted my phone every night and I knew much confidence was being shaken thousands of miles away. Tears were being shed and conversations were whispered, punctuated by the all too frequent sobs. Outfits were being judged and legacies were being cut.
That was two years ago. Today, their Greek lives have settled down. Friends that had cried over being selected by the not-so-popular sorority are now in high leadership positions within their chapter, and are happier than ever. Other friends, though, greatly regret ever joining a sorority.
I don’t regret not rushing one bit. Paying close to a thousand dollars to gain friends in an elitist group is really ridiculous to me. Another huge factor of sorority life that I don’t regret at my Greek life-free East Coast college is the time commitment. Parties, volunteer opportunities, and other functions require attendance, and if you miss too many, you can be fined big bucks. The point of attending college to get an education can be greatly impacted by the amount of time spent at frat parties.
I am just fine with all the various friends I have made outside of Greek life. Sororities are meant to create a sisterhood of women that build each other up and create a group for moral support. Yet I’ve seen through my friends seen how the elitism and seclusion from other students throughout the university creates sheltered girls that don’t have to adapt to people different from themselves. Because each young woman is spending so much of her time with girls that come from such similar backgrounds, she isn’t able to experience and learn from friendships with women that are unlike her. That’s an aspect of college I believe is so important to self-discovery and, yes, education.
Certainly, my friends in sororities will make lifelong friendships and contribute greatly to their communities with volunteer opportunities. But joining a sorority and having those experiences aren’t mutually exclusive. And I don’t regret my choice at all.
Contact the author of this post at Daley@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter.