THROUGH Sydney lake24 Aug 2021, 02:00
The Pi Beta Phi Sorority House in the Greek Village is on display at the University of South Carolina, seen in September 2020. (Photo by Sean Rayford — Getty Images)
“Bama rush has broken hearts – and the internet – this month. Sorority recruiting at the University of Alabama, ie. Freshmen and sorority members took over the social media app TikTok, posting videos of their “OOTDs,” or outfits of the day, and gifts they received at the end of the process. Some women also posted tearful clips because they weren’t chosen to join their ideal home.
Thousands of young women went through the week-long process in hopes of ‘going home’ to their favorite chapter on application day, the culmination of recruiting. But the rush starts long before this week, and even before the students make it to Tuscaloosa, says Stacia Damron, founder and CEO of Hiking in Heels, a sorority recruiting coaching company.
“Really, a lot of decisions are made in advance depending on who you know, who you are. [sorority members] get to know it on paper and through other additional material, ”says Damron.
In many ways, the rush mimics the college application process.
For successful sorority recruiting at a large Southern school like Alabama, potential new members (PNMs) need to prepare their best chapters pitch months before the rush. A strong portfolio, including a curriculum vitae, letters of recommendation from alumni, answers to essays and head photos, is even more important now to be competitive in the race as Greek life gains popularity.
Despite the pandemic and recent calls for its abolition over concerns over its history involving racism, sexism and hazing, Greek life remains a social mecca for students and a financial boon for universities and its alumni. Many men and women who are now Fortune 500 executives participated in Greek life during college.
Schools with the highest number of students in a sorority include Alabama, Welch College, Southern University, Washington and Lee University, and Wake Forest University, according to American News and World Report.
Some schools like Texas A&M University have seen the number of women signing up for recruitment doubling this year, according to Damron, who helps FNMs build their portfolios and prepare for the rush.
Sorority sections at schools such as Alabama, University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), Texas A&M, University of Georgia, and University of Arkansas expect to know about NMP even before putting feet on campus.
Much like an application for college admission, these young women must submit resumes and letters of recommendation from former sorority students. Pan-Hellenic Councils – the Greek system of governing life – now also ask for answers to essay questions and an introductory video.
“If everyone doesn’t have the same rulebook and don’t have access to the same information, of course some people will do better,” says Damron.
Since sororities have limited time to get to know the NMCs in person during recruiting week, letters of recommendation and other documents are essential to a “wish list” or compilation of female sorority leaders who would like to see join. the chapter. For the fall recruiting process, such as in Alabama, Damron suggests sending in all materials by May 1, which is often before urgent registrations even open. This also happens on “decision day” when high school students have to choose which university to attend.
“It’s about being on the sorority radar,” says Damron, whose company works with women attending more than 70 schools with competitive recruitment processes. “If you’re waiting for the urgent registrations to come out, you’ve already missed the boat. ”
Heel Ride works with PNMs to gather all of their pre-rush material, practice meeting sorority women over the holidays, and provide advice on what to wear, say, and do during the rush. The company offers two service packages: a premium package of $ 1,495 and an Elite subscription of $ 2,975.
“Just like the SAT or ACT, the more you prepare in advance, the more successful it is likely to be” during the rush, reads the Hiking in Heels website.
Sorority Prep owner Leslie Cunningham suggests preparing as you would for an interview.
“Conversations are the key to recruiting sororities,” she says. “PNMs need to be prepared for small discussions, interview style questions, and be vulnerable to share information about themselves. “
Some women transfer school after or during the rush
Sophia Gallimore spent the summer of 2017 preparing for sorority recruiting in Alabama, which was the only school she had applied to. Sorority life was what prompted her to choose school.
“I wanted to be in the sorority more than I wanted to be in Alabama,” she says. “Really, the only thing that captivated my world was being in a sorority.”
She started researching each chapter, jotting down her favorites, making an effort to meet other Alabama sisterhood women, and spending thousands of dollars on dresses to wear over the holidays. She was doing whatever she could think of to make sure she received an offer, or an invitation, to a chapter.
Gallimore remembers people from his hometown telling him to be ready for recruitment. “Alabama is like no other school,” she recalls saying. “It’s brutal, it’s going to be hard.”
Things changed when she and her family made the trip from Nashville to Tuscaloosa for move-in day. Gallimore began to have doubts about recruiting when she saw how many women were rushing in – around 4,000 at the time – but pushed herself to persevere.
On the first day of recruiting, Gallimore woke up at 5 a.m. and had planned to attend parties in 10 houses that day. That’s more than half of the 17 sorority homes in Alabama today. After a long day, Gallimore returned to her dormitory emotionally exhausted and decided not only to quit recruiting, but Alabama as well.
She drove all night home to Nashville without telling anyone, even her parents. The next morning, she woke up, applied to Belmont University, located in her hometown, and was accepted within days.
“The amount of emotions I had over those two days, I call it almost traumatic because I faced things after I left,” she says. She describes her hometown as a place where most people end up attending SEC schools and rejoining Greek life, so coming home made her a “failure” in some eyes.
While situations like Gallimore’s are rare, there are women who end up being transferred to a school with a second semester recruit. If the fall rush does not go as planned, then they will have another chance to start recruiting again in the same school year.
Some women also choose to stick to recruiting, receive an offer, and then be transferred to a school where this chapter is considered more “desirable”.
“Women either leave the process or drop out of recruiting, but that’s a small percentage compared to the number of women who start the process,” Cunningham explains. “Women who pull out of recruiting a sorority and transfer to another school to try again, are just not open to the process and were narrow-minded from the start.”
Keeping a Perspective on the Role of Greek Life
Although Gallimore did not pursue recruiting in Alabama, she chose to join a sorority after being transferred to Belmont. She graduated in April 2021 and now works for an artist management company in Nashville.
“College is such a small step in your life and I never knew four years could come so quickly, but it has happened,” she says. “I have grown a lot in my own way.
Just as you cannot enter your first choice college, there is no guarantee that you will be chosen to join your favorite sorority. This year, about 2,500 women flocked to the University of Alabama for less than 2,000 places. Each of the school’s 17 chapters presented offerings to an average of 115 women, Damron says. Even though an MFN seems to “do everything right,” she can still be lucky enough to walk into any home, she adds.
It’s more about what you experience, however.
Like other clubs and extracurricular activities, Greek life offers the chance to have “lifelong friends, study buddies, accountability partners, philanthropic support and fun,” Cunningham says.
Additionally, not all recruiting processes are like those in Alabama and other large competitive universities. Gallimore says she had a very different process at Belmont, which is a small liberal arts school. Women can also join through an open and continuous bidding process, which is less formal and occurs after recruitment, adds Cunningham.
“FNMs need to know that recruiting is difficult no matter where you go to school,” Cunningham says. “It’s an emotional and exhausting process, you have to hang in there because the process works if you’re open to it.”