I am currently an undergraduate student at a four-year institution. Coming into college, I was bubbly, social, had a well-rounded résumé, and graduated from high school with honors. Many members of my family had gone Greek, so a lot of people I knew thought I would be a great fit for one of the social sororities at my school. The summer before I started college, I got everything in order: letters of recommendation, legacy introduction forms, professional recruitment pictures, and cute outfits for each day of recruitment. I signed up to rush almost as soon as the forms were released. I was almost as excited to join a sorority as I was to start college.
What I didn’t expect was the disappointment and heartbreak that swept through the dorms during and after recruitment. It started on the first day when we were waiting in a room before we had to rank the sororities we wanted to go back to for the next round. Of course, if you’re stuck in a room with more than 700 18- to 20-year-old girls, there’s bound to be discussion. So many girls–including me–in my recruitment group were upset to find out that a house that may have been a favorite had a price tag that wasn’t a favorite, or that the majority of the members from House ABC came from the same hometown or high school.
The first thought that ran through my head was, “I’ll just make the best of it and hope for the best.” The second? “I can’t do this–I need my mom here.” I ended up taking the high road and pushed through day two of recruitment, where I got invited back to five great sororities, all of which I would be happy to be a member of. I felt like I really made connections with women in all five houses, and that I would be excited to be a member of any of them. Unfortunately, that excitement never came for me. The morning of preference day, I got that dreaded phone call from my recruitment counselor saying that I had no invitations back. I was sad, confused, and angry all at the same time. I was barely three days into college, and I was already staring the biggest rejection I had ever gotten straight in the face.
I didn’t understand how organizations that were so-called “above snobbery in word or deed” or “kind alike to all and think more of a girl’s inner self and character than of her personal appearance” could reject someone based on an hour of conversation. Yes, I get it, there were more than 700 girls going through recruitment, but in that moment, I felt like the only one who was going through this; I felt like the biggest failure.
My sophomore year, I decided to go through recruitment again, because I felt I had matured a bit and I knew women in almost every house. I really wanted a group that would make my school feel smaller, and I knew five or six girls personally who had gone through recruitment for a second time, each successfully finding a house.
The difference between my first recruitment and my second was not the outcome–it was how I viewed the process and how it affected those around me. I kept my mind completely open and ranked the sororities on how I felt like I would fit rather than what fraternities they spent the most time with. My top house the second time around was a house that women in my group swore up and down they would not want to be invited back to. At that house, I felt the connection I craved, and I really hoped that I would be invited back there, along with almost every other house on campus except one. This particular house was affiliated with a religion that I did not belong to, and the girls were extremely rude to any woman they did not want during recruitment. When I went through first rounds at this house, I immediately felt uncomfortable and disrespected.
Unfortunately for me, the only house I was invited back to for second rounds was the one I ranked dead last on my list, the one that made me feel so uncomfortable that I would rather not be Greek than be a member of that house. I made my decision as soon as I saw my schedule. I withdrew from recruitment because I wanted to be respected, not belittled.
I wasn’t all that upset, because I knew I was making a choice that was best for me. What did make me upset was to see how heartbroken my friends ended up being. Out of 15 friends who went through recruitment with me (all but two were sophomores) four made it to preference rounds.
I saw one of my closest friends, who is one of the sweetest, most loyal, dedicated people I know, get completely released after the first round. I let her cry on my shoulder while she lamented about how she felt like she wasn’t good enough for anyone anymore. I spent a good two hours at her house reassuring her that yes, she was good enough for me, and for all of our other friends. It made me so angry that all the sororities at [university redacted] didn’t see the girl who volunteered at a camp for children with disabilities all summer and was the captain of the club dance team as a freshman. Instead, they just judged her on her looks and location.
I saw another friend, who went to one of the “desirable” high schools in our area, get invited back to just two houses for the second round. One was a sorority she felt a real connection to, and the other was the house I, along with many others, withdrew from recruitment because of. After she went to second rounds, she told me about her awful experience at the second house. It was made pretty clear that she wasn’t wanted there, and that she was only invited back because of previous low return rates to that particular chapter. When she got to pref, she only saw one sorority on her schedule: the one that insulted her and was rude to her face, not the one she connected with. She texted me when she got her schedule: “[chapter redacted] ☹” The only response I could think of was the crying emoji. I didn’t have any words. My insides tensed up and I broke down crying. I tried to bring her spirits up by saying, “at least you’ll look killer when you go out tonight,” because she had already gotten ready when she got her schedule back.
It wasn’t just the three of us on our particular campus; there are thousands of girls who go through this disappointment every year, and it NEEDS TO STOP. Why are women judging others on factors that don’t align with the creeds of their organizations? Why are they judging women on what they look like, rather than on what they’ve done with their lives? Why don’t you take a page out of the fraternities’ books? They seem as if they’ve done alright for years, and they haven’t broken down countless potential members before they’re accepted into an organization before school even starts.
It upsets me so much that people think sorority recruitment has okay system, because clearly, it doesn’t. We were told to “trust the process,” but what if that process fails us and leaves us with a place that is not a good fit for us?
Something needs to be done, and it needs to be done on a national level.