University of Tennessee sophomores Kasey Jackonis, left, and Hunter Cross settle in to their room at the Delta Zeta house in Knoxville, Tenn., Aug. 17.
You’ve barely unpacked your bags, but college freshmen are already buzzing about the sororities on campus. Whether you’re in the throes of fall rush, waiting until a later term to start the pledging process, or still unsure if Greek life is for you, you’re starting to think about this decision now, and it’s stressful. Joining a sorority is a sizeable commitment—both socially and financially. We asked the experts about what you need to consider when choosing if you should go Greek.
A sorority is one element of your college experience.
“It’s important to ask yourself why you’re joining a sorority,” says Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out. “Are you doing it because you think you should, or because there’s something about it that speaks to who you are and who you want to be at college? Have a thoughtful conversation with yourself about it. College is a marathon; you don’t want to sprint too hard at the beginning and run out of energy. Remember what it was like to start high school; it takes time to make friends. Just because you join Greek life, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to make your experience easier. Everyone has a process and a transition to make.”
Pledging can offer networking opportunities.
“Sororities are a great segue to get involved with other organizations on campus,” says Kara Apel, the managing editor of UChic.com, an online resource for college-bound women. “You often will find out that a sorority sister is already involved in an organization you’re interested in joining. You’re also able to network with upperclassmen in your major to get advice on the best classes to take, and have study buddies. Don’t underestimate the power of having sisters in your career of choice. They can not only offer advice, but let you know when an internship or job opportunity comes up.”
Greek life requires a financial commitment.
“One of the biggest factors to consider when joining a sorority is how you’re going to pay your chapter dues,” says Apel. “This is a big chunk of change every semester. Most chapters will come up with a payment plan and work with you so you can pay in installments.”
“You’re going to be paying more than just dues,” adds Alexandra Robbins, author of Pledged: the Secret Lives of Sororities. “Gifts for your sorority ‘little’ sister, social outings, and accessories add costs.”
A match should feel natural.
“When you rush a sorority, you want to be liked by people, of course,” says Simmons. “But if you find yourself trying really hard to be accepted and you don’t feel like yourself when you’re talking to these people, that’s a sign. You don’t want to lose the core of who you are in the process of rush, and you have to be the judge of that. If you’re stretching the truth about certain aspects of your life, that’s a sign that you don’t feel comfortable enough with these people and it’s not a good fit.”
The rush process works best if you’re open-minded.
“Understand that your peers are going to have their own opinions about each house,” says Apel. “Don’t judge a house based on what somebody’s sister’s friend’s boyfriend said. You ultimately have to go with your gut. Which house feels right? Which girls do you seem to click with the most? At the end of the day, the stereotypes and gossip don’t matter. Pick where you feel most at home, and you can’t go wrong.”
Your decision isn’t permanent.
“A student can drop out at any time, but unfortunately, the rule is often that once you’re initiated into one sorority, you can never join another,” says Robbins.
“You can try out Greek life and then realize you don’t like it,” says Apel. “If you’re unsure, give it a semester and see how you feel once you’re adjusted to campus life. Figure out who you are first, and then see if Greek life still has its appeal.”
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