Being in a sorority is one of those quintessential college experiences for many young women. It's something you can bond with your mom, aunt, or grandma about, and it gives you a group of friends you can fall back on now and later in life. Many girls find lifelong friends in their sorority sisters.
For some, preparing to join a sorority is an extensive process. In the South, joining a sorority can be competitive and include rush consultants who take you through a mock rush, advise on clothes, and coach girls on what to say. This type of competition isn't typical though, so if you're not prepared to fight for a spot in a sorority, odds are you won't have to.
If that sounds intense, don't worry. We're breaking down what sorority recruitment is, what you can expect from the process, and answering the question, "How does sorority recruitment work?" Keep reading to get all the info so you can go into it ready to have fun.
What Is Sorority Recruitment?
Sorority recruitment, often called sorority rush, is a process that can last anywhere from three days to two weeks during which sororities recruit potential new members (PNMs) to join their chapter of the national sorority. Likewise, potential members also use this time to check out various sororities they may be interested in joining.
What rush looks like can vary widely between schools and is often dependent on the culture of the individual sorority. Sororities in southern universities are notoriously intense and a decidedly different experience from rushing at Harvard, NYU, or MIT.
They do, however, have a few common factors.
Thanks to the semester system, most schools do Fall recruitment, Spring recruitment, or both. If the school does both, one is considered "formal" recruitment and the other is informal.
Formal recruitment is the time when most girls rush. It's also harder to get in since sororities have more girls to choose from. Fall is the most common time to join a sorority, shortly after the school year begins.
Generally, most sororities do recruitment in four rounds: open house, house tours, skit/philanthropy, and preference.
Some sororities may only have three rounds if the sorority doesn't have a house.
Sorority rush rounds progress from least formal to most formal and are designed to help the PNMs get to know the sorority (and for current sisters to get to know the PNMs).
The rounds of sorority recruitment typically operate on a mutual selection process. The PNMs have to choose what sororities they would like to visit for future rush events and sororities choose what PNMs they would like to see continue in the recruitment process. If your choices match, you're invited back to a sorority for the next round.
There are some things you won't learn about rush until you're in a sorority, like the work that goes into presenting these rounds. For now, it's important to prepare for the rounds and take an honest look at the sororities you see to see which ones you're genuinely interested in joining.
The open house is the first and least formal round. This is your chance to get to know all the sororities at your university and for them to begin to get to know you. This is a great chance to meet a few girls in each sorority and learn what each sorority stands for.
A Rho Gamma or Rho Chi, an older sorority sister who has temporarily disaffiliated from her chapter for the duration of recruitment, will lead you and other PNMs between sorority houses.
On the hour, the doors will open, and you'll be greeted by a crowd of screaming, dancing sorority girls. One will take you by the arm, lead you to a chair and start chatting with you.
After about five minutes, another girl will come to talk to you, which will repeat until you've spoken with four or five girls in total. After 20 minutes, a sister, often the rush chair, will make a speech, and after a funny story or activity, you'll move on to the next house. This isn't always how the open house process goes, but it's a common scenario.
Regardless of the specifics of Round Two, it usually involves a tour of the sorority house, if there is one.
Since you've cut a few houses at this point, the rounds will be longer, which gives you more time to talk to sisters and see the house you'll be living in.
Typically, like the open house, you'll talk to a few girls, but instead of a speech, you'll get a tour of the sorority house. This is also when you'll learn more about the chapter's yearly activities and structure. You'll get a chance to see how the sisters live and learn more about how they work together.
If you've made it to the third round, this is when you really get to know the personality of the sorority in general and the chapter in particular.
Some schools do this round as a skit. If your school does it this way, you'll likely speak to a few girls before seeing a few sisters perform a skit, usually full of popular songs and pop culture references.
The flavor of the skit in question can tell you a lot about the sorority you're considering. What do they focus on? What kind of songs? What's the vibe of the skit? What's the type of humor?
On the other hand, some schools and sororities do this round with a philanthropy focus. All national sororities have a philanthropic foundation and cause for which the chapter does various events and activities throughout the year. If you're passionate about a particular cause, joining a sorority with a similar philanthropic focus can be extremely rewarding.
Pi Beta Phi, for example, focuses on promoting literacy with their philanthropy Read Lead Achieve, while Alpha Phi focuses on heart health.
If you do a philanthropy round, this is a great chance to find out if the values of the sorority align with your own. Do they prioritize causes that you also feel passionate about? How involved are the sisters? Do the philanthropic events sound like something you would be interested in?
Preference is the final round, and it's also the most serious round of sorority rush week. In this round, you'll only speak to one girl, and you're usually only returning to see two or three sororities at most.
Whereas other rounds emphasized fun and you saw a lot of girls screaming, singing, and dancing, pref round focuses on the traditions and values of the chapter.
It's common to hear presentations involving seniors who talk about what the sorority meant to them and what they personally gained from being a part of the group. This is a great chance for you to reflect on each sorority you're considering and to consider how they can help you achieve your goals now and in the future.
What You Wear in Each Round
The rush week dress code progresses from least formal to most formal as time goes on.
There's a fine art to choosing your recruitment outfits. You want to meet the dress code, but you also want to show a little bit of your personality so that girls will remember who you are (remember, just one sister will talk to dozens of girls in a day).
During the open house, pick an outfit that you would choose to go out to dinner with your friends. Dark jeans or nice shorts, cute flats or boots, and a nice blouse or sweater are pretty standard.
Don't go for super revealing outfits, and keep makeup and jewelry subtle.
For the second round, think brunch with your mom or grandma. A cute dress with wedges and subtle jewelry is a common choice, but don't be afraid to show a bit of personality. You can also get a little more adventurous with your makeup--a fun red or pink lipstick with bronzer, for example.
In round three, dinner date attire works well. A slightly more formal dress or good blouse and fun skirt with a statement necklace are good options here, but save any satin for pref.
In the preference round, the dress code is semi-formal, but it's always good to go a little above. A wedding rehearsal dress is a good choice, and make sure to pair it with your classiest heels and a nice necklace (pearls, for example).
Beyond Sorority Rush Week
Sorority recruitment is a huge deal, but it's not the whole sorority experience.
Check out our blog for more tips to help you have a fun recruitment week and choose the right sorority.