Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sorority Rush

Don't worry...I'm not going to talk about any great secrets of the's just that it is 'tis the season for all things Rush...and it is on my mind today. For those of you who did not go the sorority route, you may not really understand what the big deal is, and why all of the stress. Well, let's see if I can put it in perspective.

Sorority Rush is now known as "Recruitment." Whatever. It is a weeklong journey of meeting an untold number of people, choosing and being chosen, and ending up with a group of girls that are instantly labeled your "sisters." Much like your family of origin, you will find that you will relate to a number of them, will have distinct and fun memories with the majority of them, and will have a few that will get on your last nerve. Possibly one or two that will make you wonder how in the world they got into the family.

Just a little microcosm of real life.

At the big universities, there are over a thousand girls that go through. There are generally less than twenty sororities. So, do the math. You have less than a week to get from the starting number to the final number. But, it somehow happens. Year in...and year out.

The fact that there is no way to form a meaningful relationship with anyone in 45 minutes means that there is an awful lot that goes on prior to anyone ever opening the first door at the first house. Letters of recommendation are sent, Facebook is checked, and girls and fraternity guys from each respective hometown are consulted.

What they are looking for varies from group to group, but what they are mostly in search of is like minded girls with sterling reputations, the ability to meet the dues without having to be nagged or threatened, a high likelihood that they will be there for four years (and thus have a high retention rate so that the bills of the group get paid), and have some capacity for attracting future members.

Does that mean that any given group misses out on some really great girls? Absolutely. Again, it is impossible to really get to know someone in such a short period of time. The obvious indicators are checked...grades, activities, looks, personality, and character. Not necessarily in that order.

Today's participants in recruitment come from far flung places where it is sometimes impossible to discover any shenanigans that they got into in high school. It is equally difficult to predict how they will perform in college without their Mama there to get them up, tell them who to date, and to stay away from the beer funnel. But there is a huge vetting process, and it is my personal belief that it all shakes down exactly as it should. It is hard to convince girls of this, though, when their first choice drops them for no particular reason or when the girls who were so nice the day before didn't want them to come back the following day. Chances was just because the girls felt that she was headed in another direction, and they needed to focus on those girls that they thought were headed theirs.

Back in the day, being a "legacy" to a sorority meant that you had an above average chance of getting in. Now, that isn't necessarily the case. Girls often have multiple legacies...Mama was in this sorority, Grandma was in that one, and Big Sister was something entirely different. It gets confusing. The "feel" of a sorority differs from campus to what worked for one family member might not work for others. The sorority wants to fairly look at each of its legacies because nothing makes an alum more fired up (and unlikely to donate to the sorority throughout her life) than having her baby girl dropped from her sorority at Rush. By the same token, there are now generally more legacies than spots in a pledge something's gotta give. The best advice I've heard for girls who have a legacy that they don't necessarily for them to go ahead and drop that sorority when they have a chance. That act will remove all doubt for the rest of the sororities. It's risky...but I've seen it work.

It's a real balancing act. All the way around.

But as for the mothers who are watching their daughters go through the process, it is particularly brutal. Mama wants her to have what is labeled a "good rush". A "good rush" is where she gets to go to the maximum number of parties allotted, and ends up where she wants to be. Sometimes it works out that way...and sometimes it doesn't.

I've seen instances of great girls who were cut from here or there because everyone thought that they wanted this group or that one. Why waste your time trying to pledge a girl who is set on being somewhere else? I've also seen girls who were so quiet that they somehow got lost in the shuffle or had an extraordinary number of girls coming out of their high school that they somehow got overlooked.

I've also heard of girls who start the process and realize as they go through that it is totally not for them. Others who made a mistake somewhere along the way that was public enough for the girls in the house to not want to take a chance that it will repeat itself.

The bottom line it all happens...and works one of the great mysteries of life. Because it usually does work out. The majority of the girls are thrilled on Bid Day.

Not everyone, though. You can see it in their faces. Those who are happy versus those who are walking behind their pledge class on the cell phone with their jersey over their shoulder instead of on...looking lost. I feel for these girls, but I also know that if they put the phone away, pull on their jerseys and catch up to their new sisters that they will find that it really is okay.

When I was in college, Bid Day was referred to as "Squeal Day." This was a more apt description...because there is an awful lot of squealing going on. There still is.

For the Mamas who are going through this on the other end of a phone line, it is torturous. They want to ask questions...but shouldn't. They want to understand why Precious got dropped from this house or that one, but there really IS no explanation that will suffice. They want to call and figure out what it all means...but to do so would tip their hand. And the one thing that a Mama with a girl going through Rush has to do is play her cards close to the vest. With competition for spots that is best that she not indicate which way her daughter is leaning. There's time to confess all of this after the fact. The sororities will figure it all out on their own...for better or worse.

The girls in the houses are exhausted because they've not only had Rush Week to contend with...but the week before as well. Rush Workshop is a time of preparation. Kind of like battening down the hatches. But seriously, when you get all of that estrogen in one place for two weeks, you'll end up with a couple of girls seriously running for the title of "Rush-zilla". It happens. During Rush, the sorority girls have several more parties than the rushees, and at the end of the day, they have smiled so much and made so much conversation, that they just long to be alone. Oh, but no. There's at least four hours of discussions left to go.

Or longer. Ah, the joy of Rush.

After all of the parties have been attended - each with fewer girls, longer, and more serious in nature - Bid Day comes.

Frankly, it doesn't come soon enough to suit most everyone.

Just the night before, the girls have made their final selections, and the sororities have done the same. Everyone is trying to figure out who did what, but nobody really knows until...

The cards are opened, the cheer goes up, and the girls are lined up. Then, they run to their new houses in their jerseys, and the fun begins.

Sorority rush is an important rite of passage if a girl chooses to go that way. Not everyone does...and that's fine. But for those who do...there's nothing quite like it. The work that goes into planning for the next pledge class is nothing short of amazing, and looking at the bid list after the fact shows that most of them end up exactly where they should.

And all is well...until next year.

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