Before starting college, I was faced with the ultimate college freshman decision: to rush, or not to rush? It seemed like such a huge, make it-or-break it kind of thing, and I wasn’t alone in my apprehension over making the right choice. Especially on campuses where Greek life is the predominant social culture, there’s a lot of pressure over rushing. A lot of people know before they ever get an acceptance letter that they want to join a fraternity or sorority, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But for those of you who are on the fence like I was, here’s a list of things to think about before you go through that week long process known as Recruitment.
Rush week will be a whirlwind—so learn about Greek life before Recruitment.
1. Greek life will cost you
Literally. Being involved in a sorority or fraternity is expensive. Besides owing dues to your specific organization, there are many other expenses. These include new member costs, costs associated with social events (going out, food, etc.), rent costs if you live in-house, and paying for event t-shirts and other memorabilia. The University of Missouri estimates the costs of being an active member of a sorority as falling between $950-$7,000 a year. Ouch.
2. It’s a big time commitment
While there aren’t any solid numbers stating just how much time your fraternity or sorority will take up in your weekly schedule, any person involved in Greek life will tell you that it consumes a majority of their free time. “I would say [students] would need to consider how much of a time commitment it is with all of the events we do and also understanding that its more than just a social organization,” said University of Wisconsin-Stout junior and Kappa Lambda Beta VP Mike Adams. It isn’t called Greek life for nothing, after all. “Greek life takes time, and while we all love spending time together at chapter, philanthropy events, or social events it can be hard to balance with work or other activities,” said VP of Recruitment for AEPhi and American University junior Lydia Hoffman.
“Of course, women in all sororities do 100 different things outside of Greek life as well, so you do not need to ‘pick and choose’ it should at least be a factor you consider when going through recruitment.” Some sororities even mandate how many times you must participate in events each semester. Your time could be better spent, you know, studying and making decent grades (just a suggestion). That is what you came to college for, right?
3. The partying scene might not be for you
Yes, fraternities and sororities do more than just party. But there’s a reason that partying is what they’re known for, and I know more than a few people who only joined a Greek organization for the perks of always knowing where the party is. Especially if you go to a big sports school, where partying and tailgating is THE way of life, it is a ritual you’ll be expected to partake of if you want to fit in. If the party scene isn’t for you or you don’t drink, you might want to reconsider rushing.
4. There might be psychological drawbacks
In Alexandra Robbins’ book Pledged, she went undercover in a sorority to evaluate the ramifications of Greek life on women. While she found that many women graduated college with higher self-esteem, just as many left whose self-esteem had been “crushed.” The reasons for this that she listed included the atmosphere of conformity, intolerance and judgment, along with a heavy reliance on men for social validation. There are also studies that evaluate the effects of alcoholism and partying on students not just during college, but after as well.
5. Your time is valuable
There are literally thousands of other things you can be involved in on campus, most of which are more catered to your personal hobbies and interests. Albert Dweck, a student at Yeshiva University, said, “[It’s] better to join a club or a cause in which you can not only network, but also be productive and contribute to a cause.” Many non-Greek organizations will let you decide your level of involvement, and they’re are made up of a more diverse group of students. Plus, you can oftentimes cater what you’re involved in to your future career, gaining advice and knowledge in your field for future use.
6. You can make friends elsewhere
A girl I knew once told me that she only joined a sorority to make instant friends. While I have no doubt that Greek brothers and sisters become very close, I hardly believe that the bond is instant. Greek life is (mostly) just like real life: not everyone is gonna be your friend, no matter what you pin on your lapel. Besides, between classes, your residence hall/roommates, clubs and organizations, intramural sports and just being around other students, you’re going to make friends elsewhere. And those friendships will have the added bonis of having come naturally.
7. There is a stereotype, and people will judge you
As much as people in the few non-stereotypical houses will tell you it’s not true, a majority of the Greek system is stereotypical. Rich, snobby, stupid, partiers, whores, judgmental…you get the point. We’ve all seen a sorority girl in workout shorts and an oversized t-shirt walking with a fraternity guy in a button down, bow tie and Sperry’s and immediately decided they were Greeks. If you’re someone who’s not okay with people judging you off of this stereotype every day, you might want to reconsider rushing.
8. Your parents will know
This sounds silly, but in high school when you partied, you kept it a secret from your parents, right? In college, your parents are already going to assume you’re going crazy (they’ve heard the horror stories), and joining a sorority or fraternity will make them think you’re partying all the time. “I know a lot of people who don’t rush because their parents worry they will party too much,” said Isabel Drukker, a student at University of Rochester. Many people’s parents won’t pay (see #1) for a lifestyle where they think their child is endangering him/herself.
9. Do you have a significant other?
Now I’m not saying people can’t have relationships and be in a sorority or fraternity. They definitely can, and many do. However, many don’t, and for a reason. Greek life is a strong endorser of the hookup culture, especially at big schools where people don’t really date even if they’re not Greek. If you have a significant other outside of the Greek system, it will be hard to find time for them between class, homework and Greek events. Also, all of your Greek friends won’t be as accepting of your non-Greek significant other. Many Greeks looking for relationships find someone already within the system, or just keep hooking up.
This may be going out of style in our modern-day Greek orgs, but it’s still enough of an issue to elicit special rules in most universities regarding what’s considered “abusive” as opposed to “acceptable” hazing. Considering how awful the man tales of hazing are, especially the ones that end in death, it is definitely something to consider seriously before getting involved in rush week. Checking in with your university about how they handle hazing in your Greek organizations is a good idea before you make your decision.
Every year, many people decide to rush fraternities and sororities, and are very happy with their decision. There is no right or wrong answer for everyone, but it’s important to go into the process with a good idea of what you’re signing up for. That way, at least there are no nasty surprises later and you can enjoy college the right way. Living la dolce vita all four years.
Found your sorority? Now it’s time to find the perfect big little gift.
Still not sure whether you should go to rush week? Here’s four more factors to consider before you join Greek Life.
11. Be prepared to take philanthropy seriously
We all know how involved Greek organizations are when it comes to saving the world, but keep in mind that you’ll really need a huge passion for it if you decide to join. “I was surprised to learn…how seriously Greek organizations take philanthropy,” said Hoffman. “I thought it would just be another aspect of our organizations, but instead it is always at the forefront, whether it is through the big events we all organize or in small events around D.C.” Seriously want to rock letters with pride? Be prepared to channel your inner Mother Teresa.
12. Stop, think and think again
“Consider why you are choosing to rush,” said Hoffman. Sounds obvious, but would you make any major life decisions without a second thought? Probably not. “Is it for philanthropy? Sisterhood? Community? Fun? All of these are great reasons to join but knowing why you want to be involved will be essential deciding to go through recruitment or not.” Don’t do it for the wrong reasons. “Consider what kind of experience [you] want in college, what [you] want to accomplish personally and professionally, then think about how a Greek chapter in general adds to that experience,” said Brittany Pham, Chapter President of University of Washington’s Alpha Gamma Delta.
For better or worse, Greek life is a commitment that you’ll need to be prepared to make and honor. Of course, if you’re all in, it’ll benefit you in ways you’ve never imagined. “A lot of people view Greek life as a great way to meet new people, but it can also help them figure out who they are along the way with how they manage their time and what responsibilities they decide to take on once they get more in depth,” said Adams.
13. Rock Your Personality
Some say to treat recruitment like a job interview. Keep in mind that if you act fake AF, that’ll only hurt you. “I think something I wish I would’ve known was to genuinely bring my true personality to the table. Recruitment has a lot of stereotypes surrounding it, and while some may hold true, my opinion is that at the very base of it all, we’re still just women trying to meet other women with ideas, goals and personalities that mesh well with our own,” said Jackie Orner, Vice President of Public Relations at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In other words? No matter how intimidating the houses seem, they want you to join as much as you do. “The most beneficial and enjoyable way to get through it is to come with an open mind and to stay genuine to who you are,” said Orner.
14. Keep an open mind
Remember the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover”? It holds true, especially for Greek life. “One thing that surprised me about Greek life was that rankings ultimately don’t matter,” said University of Wisconsin junior and VP of recruitment Hannah Blum. “I know so many people that join sororities based off of which one is the ‘best’ or hangs out with the best fraternities. However, once I began recruitment I realized those rankings did not matter and what did was whether I felt comfortable with the women in my chapter and comfortable with myself.” Status and prestige don’t matter as much as your gut feeling. Don’t you want to look back on the “best years of your life” and actually remember them like that? “There is a place for everybody and you shouldn’t let other people’s opinions hinder finding your home and your sisters,” said Blum.
Impress everyone at rush week with these super tees.
*Updated on December 16, 2016 by Valerie Siu to include four extra factors to consider whether or not students should rush. Point #2 was also updated to include quotes from PanHellenic experts.