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Your daughter just announced that she wants to participate in sorority rush. What exactly can you expect as a parent and how can you be there for your daughter during this time? This post will walk you through the process and help you know what to expect as a parent. The process can differ slightly from school to school but this will still give you a good idea of what to expect.
Why join a sorority? Joining a sorority is a wonderful way to make an instant group of friends. You go from maybe just knowing a few people on campus to being a part of a huge family. Joining a sorority is also a way to immediately become involved and invested in a university. Involvement is vital to a positive transition to college, but it doesn’t need to be through Greek life alone.
(Read this post to understand the importance of university involvement and suggestions on the many ways your student can become involved: The Air-Tight Plan For A Positive Transition To College.)
In a sorority, you have the opportunity to make a difference in the community by participating in philanthropic activities, raising awareness about your philanthropy, giving your time, and raising money. Sorority membership can also be a great way to network. Alumni, out in the real world, are great to reach out to for career advice, internships, and possibly even employment. The rush or recruitment process is excellent practice for future job interviews.
Is joining a sorority expensive? You need to understand ahead of time that being in a sorority is not cheap, so it may require some financial planning. My daughter’s sorority is about $3,700 per year…no, that’s unfortunately NOT a typo, and there are many that are more expensive. Fees can differ greatly from school to school and from sorority to sorority within a school. For example, if your daughter is on a campus where sororities don’t have houses, it can be substantially cheaper because they aren’t paying the mortgage, upkeep of the property, and salaries for chefs and sorority moms. Besides the membership fees, there are lots of sorority related activities that add to the cost; these can include t-shirts, (there are t-shirts for every event) formals, retreats, etc.. Letting you know this is not to frighten you, but so you can be prepared. This is a conversation you should have with your daughter months before school even starts so it can be decided how this is going to be paid for. If your daughter will be responsible for all or part of the membership fee she’s going to need a job to save money prior to school. You should be able to find out the costs of each sorority at your daughter’s school by looking at the Greek pages on your university’s website.
So, what is RUSH? Rush is basically the recruitment period for sororities. It has two sides; it gives the girls who are rushing a chance to see where they think they will best fit in and it gives the sororities a chance to see who they think will best fit into their group. It can be as short as a few days and as long as two weeks. Not all schools have rush at the same time. Some, such as my daughter’s school, have rush the week prior to the start of the fall semester, some do it a few weeks into the semester, and some do it at the end of the year. Some schools have a fall and spring rush. Because my daughter’s school does their sorority rush the week before school even starts, girls who are registered to rush are allowed to move into the dorms early.
What can I expect as a parent? The process of rushing is intense, stressful, emotional, fun, exciting, and exhausting all at once. It is a week of ups and downs and your job is to be your daughter’s cheerleader during the process as it is basically all you will be able to do. Be ready to be supportive and send lots of hugs and love over the phone. Let her vent, complain, and share her excitement. At any point that you feel at a loss for guiding your daughter or if you are completely unfamiliar with the process, encourage her strongly to go to her Rho Gamma to sort out her feelings and emotions. You will read more about the Rho Gamma below.
How does it all start? Rush is a very organized process. At the start, the girls are divided into small groups and each group has a leader or Rho Gamma (may also be called Rho Chi or Rho Si). The Rho Gamma is a member of one of the sororities on campus. The Rho Gamma, or leader, has to disassociate herself from her sorority during rush. She is not allowed to tell the girls which sorority she is a member of and they take this very seriously. She is also not allowed to associate with her sorority sisters or events during the rush period. These girls will often disable all of their social media to keep the girls from being able to figure out the sorority based on her posts and stay in a hotel so that she will not be seen entering her sorority’s house. The Greek oversight office will provide the Rho Gammas with a specific shirt so that she is not seen wearing her sorority’s letters. The Rho Gamma does not participate along with her sorority in the rush process at all. This is all done to maintain the anonymity of the leader’s sorority, and in such, not influence the girls in her group towards her or her sorority sisters. Rho Gammas are chosen because of their positive reputation and ability to be a role model. Their job during rush is to offer advice, support, and guidance during the week. They are also a shoulder to cry on and a source of motivation. They have been through the process themselves and are knowledgeable about all in the ins and outs of rushing. Any questions your daughter has should be asked of her Rho Gamma. Even if you were your sorority president back in the day, the process might differ now or be different at your daughter’s school.
Is there anything that can be done before rush to learn about the sororities? I would encourage your daughter to do some research on the sororities at her school before she starts the process. It might make the early round visits a bit less overwhelming. Visit each sorority’s Facebook page, website for the school’s chapters and/or their national groups, and talk to older students at the school. Some sororities require or recommend letters of recommendation from current members and/or alumni and you want to be proactive in getting these if they are needed. These recommendation letters can and should be sought out before the rush process begins and somewhere within their website it will tell if these are necessary or required.
Each sorority has its own personality. The personalities of each sorority differ from school to school so information from students at other universities might not be relevant or reliable. There are websites that rate sororities on each campus and have question-answer forums. I highly suggest that you discourage your daughter from using these as a resource for influencing her decision. It’s unfortunate, but these sights have a lot of misinformation, gossip, and false rumors. They will only serve to confuse her. Discourage her from aiming for or away from any sorority because of its rating.
What is your daughter looking for? Help her to figure out what things are important to her so that she doesn’t lose focus during the process. As stated, each sorority has its own personality as does your daughter. So, if she’s athletic and loves being active, she should look for this in a group. If she is extremely academically focused, she should look for a group with a similar focus. Does she like to be dressed up, hair done, make-up perfect all the time? How about if she prefers to be make-up free, hair in a ponytail, and lounging around in sweats. Is she looking for racial, ethnic, and/or religious diversity? Is she looking for a group that has more opportunities for philanthropy? If she is clear on what she is looking for, she can ask questions that help her find out if a group fits her needs and personality and she should ask many questions. It will help her figure out where she will best fit and it will show a genuine interest to the people who are getting to know her. Knowing what she is looking for before she starts looking will help keep her focused on the right sororities for the right reasons. My daughter loved the advice of her Rho Gamma and it’s worth repeating, “Instead of looking at the sorority as a whole, find your people. You will meet many girls this week and you will instantly connect with some you feel like you’ve known your whole life; girls who you feel like you can cry to or laugh with. Those are likely your people – your group.”
What should you do if your daughter is miserable, anxious, or stressed during the process? As stated earlier in this post, expect that there will be many highs and lows during rush and bumps along the way. As I stated, it can be a stressful and overwhelming process. Some girls will decide quickly that it is not for them and drop out. If your daughter is considering dropping out of the process, support her decision if it is a thoughtful one but still suggest that she have a conversation with her Rho Gamma first. She might just need a little motivation or encouragement. But, sororities are not for everyone and if she changes her mind at a later date, there will be more opportunities to rush if she feels she just isn’t ready now. You can rush any year you are in college. Some may also wish to drop out because the sorority that they had their heart set on doesn’t invite them back early on in the process. Hear her out, but here too, suggest that she have a conversation with her Rho Gamma for advice. Just because she has her heart set on a certain sorority doesn’t mean it is the right one for her. She might be choosing that sorority for the wrong reasons. Her Rho Gamma should be able to help her sort through these feelings.
What happens all week? There is a lot of vocabulary specific to rush. The girls who are rushing are known as PNM’s (potential new members). There are several rounds they will have during the week and each has its purpose. For round one, let’s say that your daughter’s university has 15 sorority chapters (the local group of a national organization). During this first round, her rush group along with her Rho Gamma will visit all 15 sororities together. This may be broken up into two days if the school has many chapters. This first round is a short, casual visit but the visits will get longer and more formal as the week progresses.
At the end of round one and at the end of each round to follow, the PNM’s go to the computer where they will indicate which sororities they are interested in exploring further and that they want to go back to for another visit. With each round there is usually a maximum number they can indicate. This is how they narrow down their choices. At the same time that the PNM’s are indicating which sororities they want to go back and visit, the sororities are indicating the girls they would like to have come back for an additional visit. These lists are cross-referenced and, if your daughter listed a sorority and that same sorority listed her, she will get an invitation to come back for another visit. Once a sorority is eliminated in the process, either because your daughter did not indicate she wanted to visit them again or they didn’t list her for a return visit, it is eliminated for the entire process.
This process continues throughout the week. Each time the visits are a little longer and more in depth and she will no longer be visiting with her group. Your daughter will get to know some of the girls in the sororities she visits more personally. The sororities will do presentations that include the cost of membership and about the philanthropy(ies) they support. Again, at the end of each round, the PNM’s visit the computer to pick which sororities they would like to visit again and the sororities do the same on the other side. And again, after each round, the lists are cross-referenced for matches and invitations for return visits are offered. As the week progresses, your daughter’s list of preferred sororities, and the sorority’s lists of preferred new members will get shorter and shorter.
What is preference and what does it mean? The final round is called preference. After the PNM’s visit the last house for the week that they have been invited back to, they will go to the computer and list their top 3. These are three sororities that they are seriously interested in joining. At the same time, the sororities make their lists of preferred new members and again, these lists are cross-referenced and invitations are offered to matches. When a girl is invited to a sorority for preference, it means that the sorority is seriously interested in having your daughter join them and your daughter is seriously considering that sorority. It should be noted that some girls will have fewer than three sororities left at this point. Preference is a more intimate gathering where your daughter will likely be paired with a member or two, and many times it’s the ones she felt connected to during the week. The girl she is paired with will tell more about herself and why she chose that sorority. The sorority member and your daughter will get to know each other better and more intimately. She will also answer any last minute questions your daughter might have – and as stated earlier, your daughter should be asking questions. The sororities each have a preference ritual that the PNM’s will observe and/or take part in.
What happens after preference? They are now in the home stretch of a very long week. At the end of preference events, the PNM’s go back to the computer one last time. They submit a final list, in order of choice, among the sororities who invited them to preference. At the same time, the sororities will make their final lists of first, second, and third choice PNM’s. The lists are cross-referenced one final time. The process can seem very confusing to parents so I’m going to try to simplify it the best I can. The good new is, even if you don’t understand, your daughter does.
Scenario 1. If your daughter lists “sorority A” as her first choice and “sorority A” lists your daughter on their first choice list, it is a match and a bid (invitation to join) will be offered to her.
Scenario 2. In this scenario, your daughter lists “sorority A” as her first choice but “sorority A” doesn’t have your daughter on their first choice list. If “sorority A” hasn’t met its quota (maximum number of girls they will offer bids to) from list one, it goes onto its second list. If your daughter is on their second list, it’s a match and a bid will be offered – your daughter will never know that she wasn’t on their first list. This process continues on, possibly to the sorority’s third list, or until they meet their quota.
Scenario 3. If your daughter lists “sorority A” as her first choice, but they do not offer her a bid, and “sorority B” as her second choice and it matches with “sorority B’s” first choice list, it is a match and a bid will be offered. The process will continue as described in scenario 1.
Scenario 4. If your daughter lists sorority A as her first choice, but they do not offer her a bid, and sorority B as her second choice and they do not offer her a bid, and “sorority C” as her third choice and she is on their first list, a bid will be offered….and so on.
What should I expect from my daughter on this last night? This night can be the most stressful of the week. The girls are worried that they either won’t get a bid (offer for membership) from their first choice sorority or that they won’t get a bid at all. Yes, you heard that correctly. At many schools, there is the possibility that your daughter will go through the entire week of rushing and end up without a bid. This is, of course, very upsetting to the girl and the parents who are hours away dealing with their sad daughter. I have no statistics as to how often this happens. At some schools, there is a rule that every girl who rushes is offered a bid at a sorority, although it might not be their top choice; this is not the case at most larger universities. My personal opinion as to why this sometimes happens is that a girl is trying to circumvent the system rather than trusting the system (more information on this below).
I hope what I’m saying doesn’t make you want to deter your daughter from going through the rush process if this is what she wants. You should, however, see that she is going into it with open eyes understanding all the possible outcomes. Make sure that she is looking for the group where she will best fit in. Help her understand that her aim should not be to try to get into what she perceives or is rumored to be the most popular sorority merely for the label. She also should not avoid any one sorority for any perceived or rumor based reasons. Additionally, she should not try for the one(s) her friend(s) might be aiming for just to be with them. My best friend’s daughter will proudly tell you that she is in the “loser sorority” according to ratings, but she couldn’t be happier. Her message would be to ignore ratings.
Ultimately, wherever she feels the most comfortable and most welcome, is the perfect sorority for her, whether it’s rated the top sorority at the school or the bottom of the rating list. Focusing on a specific group (or avoiding one) for the wrong reasons is going to set her up for disappointment. Back to what my daughter’s Rho Gamma said, “Instead of looking at the sorority as a whole, find your people. You will meet many girls this week and you will instantly connect with some you feel like you’ve known your whole life; girls who you feel like you can cry to or laugh with. Those are likely your people – your group.” The days of rushing are meant just to do that and your daughter should trust in the system, not try to circumvent it.
What happens on bid day? On this day, at least at my daughter’s school, all of the PNM’s are gathered in one place and with their original rush groups and Rho Gamma. Your daughter’s Rho Gamma will finally reveal which sorority she is associated with. Then, she will hand each PNM an envelope with their bid inside. Hopefully, it is the one they were wishing for. They will also be given a t-shirt from their new sorority. Next, are tears of joy and lots of hugging and screaming. The girls gather by sorority and often run to their new home where the members are waiting to greet them and get the party started!
What happens to the girls who don’t get a bid? At my daughter’s school, the Rho Gammas personally call each of her girls who are not being offered bids to let them know. They are not required to show up at this festive event to find out the news in front of others. I’m sure this is a tough conversation and I would expect that the Rho Gammas do their best to comfort the girls and to encourage them to come out again next time. There is also the possibility for snap bids (see vocabulary at the end of this article). For those whose daughters don’t get a bid, the only insight I can offer that might comfort you is that my daughter made plenty of wonderful friends her freshman year despite not rushing at that time. There are many other opportunities and ways to meet people, form meaningful relationships, and become involved. Should they want, they could always rush again the following year or even in the spring if their university has spring rush.
I will also tell you that my daughter had an outstanding experience, although exhausting and stressful. She waited until her sophomore year to rush because she wasn’t sure that she wanted to at all and it also gave her an opportunity to learn more about each of the sororities and meet girls in them. This better helped her to be able to ignore ratings and rumors and probably didn’t hurt that some of the girls were already her friends she met in her freshman year. I’m glad she chose this route and I think it was best for her. She loves her new sisters and is thrilled with her sorority.
Is there anything else I need to know? To wrap up this post, I want to point out a few extra things.
∼Everyone, both the sorority members and the PNM’s are, of course, on their best behavior and presenting their best self. It is important to smile to the point that your face hurts, show genuine interest, and ask many questions. It is somewhat like a job interview, so while you don’t want to pretend to be something you’re not, you certainly want to present yourself the best you can. It is discouraged that your daughter talks about alcohol, drugs, boys, or boyfriends. They don’t want to hear about your daughter’s long-term boyfriend or guys she’s dated on campus or elsewhere. Talking about fraternities, trashing other sororities, gossiping, repeating rumors, or talking negatively about any particular person is a major turn-off. All talk should be positive.
∼There is a dress code to each of the days of rushing. Plenty of sites are available online to guide your daughter through this. This information will likely also be given at the informational meeting for those who are interested in rushing and can also be seen online within the university’s Greek website pages. It is better and easier to have all of these items in hand prior to sending your daughter off to school to avoid panic shopping for a white dress long passed spring.
∼At some schools, such as my daughter’s, parents send “bid day” and “initiation” gifts or flowers to their daughters. This would be a good question to ask in a question-answer forum specific to your school so that you can be prepared – not chasing your tail like I was. These Alex and Ani sorority bracelets seem to be the most popular gift and my daughter says that she sees them on the other sorority girls all the time. It was the gift recommended to me on the parent Facebook page for my daughter’s university.
I hope I answered any and all questions you might have had about the rush process. If I left anything out, please let me know in the comments. Also, if you have other advice, words of wisdom, or anything else to say about rushing, leave a note in the comments.
Some sorority vocabulary in alphabetical order:
Bid Day: The last day of the rush process when girls are offered bids or invitations to join a specific sorority and the parties and celebrations that follow.
Big Sister/Little Sister (also called bigs and littles): A member of a sorority who is paired up with a new member to serve as a mentor.
Continuous Open Bidding: This is a process that takes place for any sorority that does not meet its new member quota during the rush period. It allows girls who are interested, to learn more about, and possibly join the sorority in a less formal manner. Not all schools or sororities do this.
Executive Board: These are members of the sorority who have been elected to serve on the board for their chapter in various positions such as president, vice-president, treasurer, etc.
Initiation: When pledges officially become members of a sorority. There is a traditional ceremony specific to each sorority.
Legacy: A legacy has a sister, mother, or grandmother who is or was a member of that sorority. Each organization has its own rules, but some girls are guaranteed a bid in a sorority where they are a legacy.
New Member or Pledge: A girl who has accepted a bid to join a sorority but has not yet gone through the formal initiation ceremony.
Philanthropy: Just another word for charity. Each chapter has its own charity or cause that they focus on, raise awareness of, and raise money for.
Pledge Class: All the girls who were accepted into a sorority chapter at the same time as you.
PNM or Potential New Member: The name pretty much defines what it is. It is any girl who is rushing.
Quota: The maximum number of PNM’s who will be offered a bid in any given rush period to a specific sorority.
Rush: is the period of time in which girls who are interested in joining a sorority visit all of the sororities on campus to get to know each group.
Snap Bids: These are offered by sororities who haven’t filled their quota to PNM’s whose preferred sororities are not extending her a bid. It is done before the rest of the bids are handed out. Usually, the PNM would be contacted by the sorority, extending them an invitation or bid to their sorority. If the PNM accepts the offer, she will participate in all of the bid day activities and become a new member of the sorority that offered her a snap bid.
Suicide: This is when a PNM chooses to list only one sorority after preference. This means she will only accept a bid from that specific sorority or none at all. This is highly discouraged.
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