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What to Expect from Sorority Initiation Rituals

What to Expect from Sorority Initiation Rituals

Aug 28th 2023

You've probably seen plenty of movies and TV shows that depict Greek life, painting a picture of what sororities and fraternities are supposedly like. If you're getting ready to attend college, you might think you want to be part of the Greek life scene based on what you've seen on television. It seems so inclusive and supportive - and it can be. It can also be incredibly fun and take your college experience to a whole new level.

However, you might be a little nervous about taking the plunge and becoming a part of an organized group because of everything you've heard about initiation. While much of what you've seen on TV isn't true, there are sorority initiation rituals you'll have to go through, and they might be challenging to overcome.

Joining a sorority is an experience unlike any other. It's kind of like a graduation and kind of like a formal welcome, but it's also something totally indescribable until you actually go through it. The thing about sorority initiations is that some people have given them a bad rep.

New members sometimes get nervous about what actually happens during initiation because they don't know what to expect - and TV shows and movies don't always depict the reality of what happens on college campuses.

Read More: Greek Life Stereotypes: Debunking Myths and Misconceptions

The mystery of a sorority initiation is meant to honor the unique bond that ties each sorority together, not to leave people in the dark. It's a tricky balance. To clear the air, we're defining the sorority girls' initiation process as best as possible - without giving any secrets away! Here's everything you need to know about going from the sorority pledge process to becoming an active member.

Hazing Is Not a Sign of Sisterhood

What are sorority initiations like? It's a great question, one you may be considering. First, one of the most important parts of being in a sorority you need to understand is that hazing at sororities is unacceptable. Unlike what you've probably seen on TV and in the movies, most sororities expressly ban hazing and don't allow the initiation process to involve any physical danger.

There are all kinds of pop culture interpretations and hazing stories that talk about what happens during initiation, but most of these accounts aren't true. There also have been reports of attempted hazing acts or pranks gone wrong blasted in the media, making the initiation process seem even more scary.

The thing to remember is that these sorority hazing activities are outliers. They're not the norm of sorority life, and they are situations that all schools take very seriously. So whether you're about to join a large sorority or are a founding sister of a new chapter, you likely don't have anything to worry about.

It's a little intimidating to be among so many powerful, strong women at first, but these women are here to empower you, too, not break you down! If you think that any hazing is going on, report it or talk to a trusted older sister about it.

Now that the situation with college girls' hazing has been explained, let's dive into what really happens during an initiation.

Why Do Sororities Have Initiation?

The first thing to understand is why sororities have initiations in the first place. At the end of the day, every Greek organization is pretty much the same. They're all meant to give you a community where you can thrive, connect to your personal values, and make lifelong friends. They all do some form of philanthropy, community service, and host fun events.

Sorority rituals and initiations set each sorority and fraternity apart from one another; they are what make each organization unique. They are meant to make the values of a sorority hit home and celebrate the vision the original founders had. Some initiations last a few hours, others for a few days. All have their own dress code and behavioral rules, like no alcohol consumption for a few days or not wearing makeup to initiation. These harmless rules are meant to enhance the initiation experience and to test you a little bit along the way.

Sorority initiation is also a time to learn more about rituals. Sorority rituals have many components to them, and they come together during initiation. After the initiation ceremony, there are certain parts of Ritual that you'll do during chapter or special events without having to go through the whole thing.

What Happens in Sorority Initiation?

While each sorority's values and ritual procedures differ, all have some version of initiation. Other commonalities include secret sayings, handshakes, singing of songs, and the pinning process. Again, these are all meant to set one sorority apart from another, but funnily enough, all of them have their own version of the same things! You can talk about your own sorority's values or the meaning behind its Greek letters with your sisters, but not with women of another organization.

Initiation varies from sorority to sorority and may even vary year to year. For example, a sister who was initiated two years before you may have had a totally different initiation experience. While some things will never change, like rituals, learning the secret handshake, or memorizing the sorority saying, initiations can be customized each year for different leadership groups and different pledge groups, or they may remain exactly the same.

Secrets of Sorority Initiation

Why all the secrecy? Mostly out of respect, but also to keep the differentiation between sororities in place. If everyone knew each other's initiation process and sorority secrets, there would be nothing that made you feel unique! Here are a few things you should never discuss with other sororities or uninitiated members:

  • Rituals
  • The meaning of your values
  • The meaning of your letters
  • Your sorority handshake
  • Your secret sorority saying
  • Details of sorority initiation activities

The last point is a little tricky. For example, you can tell your roommate that you have Ritual coming up this weekend, but you can't discuss the details once it's done. Another way to think about this is that you can mention the theme of a day or how long it takes, but not what actually happens. Again, the better you keep a secret, the more you'll appreciate the things that make your sorority what it is.

As you start to discover all the secrets of initiation and the reasons your sorority does things a certain way, everything starts to make more sense. This is the best part of being initiated. After you become an official member of your sorority, you have a stronger connection with the values, the ritual, and your sisters. Think of the initiation process as the string that ties all of the sisters in the sorority together. It's an experience that each sister has gone through and has in common with one another, but nobody else on campus shares that experience.

Once you're in on the secret, you can genuinely buy into the purpose and meaning of what your sorority is. This makes you feel accepted and special because not everyone gets this information. After initiation, you're better able to celebrate your sisterhood and express it with other people, both within and outside of your organization. Again, be sure to only discuss certain things with initiated sisters, but other than that, feel free to show your love for your sorority loud and proud!

Life After Initiation: Wearing Your Letters, Growing Your Family and More!

Many people think signing up for rush week or running home is the start of their sorority life. Although these are the first experiences you have in the Greek community, you're not officially involved until you've gone through initiation.

Sorority initiations happen after the pledge process, but they kick off the rest of your time as a sister. Once this is completed, you can really get the full experience out of your Greek life. You're able to become a Big, take leadership positions, and participate in special rituals outside of initiation (like on Founder's Day or for a conference).

While we haven't been able to divulge the specific rituals that occur during sorority initiation, we hope this is enough to alleviate some of your stresses and fears and encourage you to get out and see what Greek life is all about. To learn more about sorority life, check out our blog!