You’ve spent an hour blowing your hair out. You’re tugging at your shirt, making sure it isn’t bunching in any weird ways. You’re trying to convince yourself that your cutest pair of flats aren’t pinching your toes, your throat isn’t sore from talking, and your cheeks don’t hurt from persistent smiling. You’re making PG-rated chitchat with the girls next you in line, notably those with last names of the same letter as your own. Suddenly you hear it. The clapping. The scream-singing. The doors burst open and you hear the incessantly catchy lyrics of yet another anthem as you’re quickly ushered in. This is rush, and you’re effing exhausted.
I could write a pretty hefty article full of tips and advice that echo the sentiments of Stanford’s Inter-Sorority Council, many of the girls you’ll talk to during rush, and possibly your RA or friends that have gone through the process before. I’m going to try really hard not to do that. If you’re planning on going through girls’ rush, you’re going to hear a LOT about how “you should really pick the place that’s best for YOU”, and how you should just focus on “being yourself”. No offense to all of that, but it’s a little trite, and you’ve undoubtedly heard it all before. This is an article for those of you thinking about going through rush, maybe on the fence about sororities in general, maybe unsure of what exactly to expect from the whole process. I want to give you some concrete advice, hopefully some of which that you haven’t already heard before, that might actually help you figure out if Stanford’s sorority scene is right for you.
A little background: I am a member of one of Stanford’s housed sororities. For the sake of this article, I don’t think it’s really important to say which, as the things I want to talk about will focus on Stanford’s sororities as a whole.
Don’t Rush for the Wrong Reasons
There are a lot of reasons to rush: some very legitimate, others completely misdirected. I could go into substantial detail about each of these, but you probably get the gist with the following lists.
Good reasons to rush:
- To meet new people/expand your social network
- To find a group of enthusiastic and supportive friends
- To enhance your social life
- To connect with older Stanford students (and alums) as friends, mentors, and professional contacts
- To take on new leadership roles
Bad reasons to rush (a small sample of reasons I’ve heard):
- Because your friends/family think you should
- Because all your friends are rushing
- Because you want to enhance your social standing
- Because you want to be able to call yourself a “sorority girl” and/or become part of a sorority based solely on its reputation
- Because you feel like you don’t have any friends
- Because you don’t want to have to deal with making choices about housing
- Because you think it “will be good for you”
- Because, by joining a sorority, you believe you will become cooler, more attractive, popular, or fun, and/or that people will like you better because of your new affiliation
These lists are by no means exhaustive, but if you find yourself relating to more of the “bad” reasons than the good ones, then you might want to consider the real roots of why you’re rushing. If you feel friendless, don’t know what you’re going to do about next year’s housing, are insecure about how others perceive you, or want to make other people happy by joining a sorority, rushing is not going to solve your problems or give you what you really need – in fact, joining a sorority might only serve to exacerbate their symptoms.
Life in the Cowell Cluster
So, for those of you who don’t know, Stanford’s Inter-Sorority Council (ISC) is composed of seven organizations: three housed (Delta Delta Delta (Tri-Delt), Kappa Alpha Theta (Theta), and Pi Beta Phi (Pi Phi)), and four unhoused (Alpha Epsilon Phi (AEPhi), Alpha Phi, Chi Omega (Chi-O), and Kappa Kappa Gamma(Kappa)). I have MANY friends who went through rush with their hopes pinned only on housed sororities. I do not recommend limiting your sights so early on in the process. Don’t give preference a sorority you feel “meh” about over a group of girls you really like simply because the former has a house.
While I will absolutely admit that there are a lot of perks to living in a house (skipping draw, living with people you already know, amazing food, nice facilities, mail delivered to the house) there are an equal number of cons (isolated from non-Greek friends, socializing mainly with your sisters out of convenience, not-living with guys, the constant temptations of the open-kitchen, no meal plan/Cardinal dollars). More so than that, the perks of a sorority house will NOT make up for the fact that you might be miserable in it. Trust me, it’s far better to be with people you love in a random dorm than be unhappy and isolated in the Cowell Cluster.
When you arrive at Rush, you are going to get a pamphlet full of descriptions about each sorority. Each sorority will state the average cost of being a member. This is an average of quarterly dues. This is NOT necessarily how much you will pay once you’re in. While most (if not all) sororities have some kind of mechanism for easing the financial burden of dues on those members that need it, it’s important to bear in mind that dues are only a part of what you will pay when you’re part of a sorority. You know all those neon fanny-packs and hats you see sorority girls sporting at frat parties and Dance-Marathon? The clever bro-tanks that girls wear to the gym? The shirts they wear during rush? Those are all out-of-pocket, and the price of sorority gear definitely adds up. More than that, bear in mind that things like ski trip, special dinners, and social dues/slush funds are often NOT included in the amount charged for dues.
Letters and Grades
While most everyone will agree that joining a sorority will certainly enhance your social life, it’s easy to forget during rush that your sorority can can also have an important impact on your academics. If you consider yourself academically driven (and, given that this is Stanford, I will go ahead and assume that you do), I strongly encourage you to factor academics into your conversations during rush. Girls in your sorority can serve as invaluable academic resources. From consulting with your Big about must-take classes, getting advice from older girls about your major and/or picking an advisor, or checking PSets with girls in your pledge class, sororities can prove to give a serious boost to your academic life.
That said, sorority academics can also work against you. If you are not studying a major that is common among girls in your sorority (not to make a blanket statement here, but I speak particularly to those of you who are engineers or studying a particularly time-consuming major) you may find yourself feeling somewhat academically isolated in certain sororities. Depending on your priorities and how you manage your time, you may face situations where the demands of your schoolwork will require you to frequently miss social events. In housed sororities especially, it can be disheartening to see other girls coming from and going to social events, knowing you have to sit some out because you’ve made a commitment to your studies.
Obviously this is not the case for every girl, but I still encourage all girls going through rush to realistically evaluate their academic and extracurricular commitments and try to accurately visualize how the demands of each sorority might fit in. During rush, ask girls how many nights a week they devote to their sorority versus their other obligations. Ask if they have any girls studying your major (odds are you’ll likely meet at least one). Asking these kinds of questions can really help you get a sense of how each sorority will be of value to you academically.
Every sorority has one. At least one. More likely is that they have several. And you will inevitably wind up talking to one. These are the girls that are painful to talk to, the conversations with whom you mentally pray will end soon, and involve those exchanges that leave you feeling annoyed or, more often, bored. Try not to let these girls ruin their entire sorority for you. No matter which sorority you join, there will be a girl or two (or three or four) that you may find boring, shallow, unrelatable, hard to talk to, arrogant, or cold. By nature of probability, almost every fairly large group of people has at least one person like this. But that really doesn’t matter if everyone else is great. A couple of tough conversations shouldn’t let you forget all of the fantastic ones you’ve already had.
The point when duds become a problem is when you start to notice a trend. If you feel that the majority of girls you talk to leave you bored, put-off, or otherwise unenthusiastic about their sorority, that’s a good indication that it’s probably not the best place for you. Just don’t let a dull conversation or two ruin the opportunity to join a fantastic group of people.
It’s not impossible to fake your way through rush. Sororities are pretty good at feeling out girls of their type, but, with enough effort, it’s not too hard to try to convince people that you’re one of their own. Here’s a good litmus test: there’s a difference between striving to make a good impression and flat out faking it. Everyone knows that rush is an overall shallow and exhausting process. But if you feel like you have to fake being interested throughout the entire process, then sororities probably aren’t for you. Furthermore, if you feel like you have to put on a persona that’s not your own in order to get positive feedback and feel well-liked in a certain sorority, then it’s probably not for you either. By embellishing your personality and forcing yourself way beyond your comfort zone (more than a sore throat and achy feet) you are doing both yourself and that sorority a disservice – you’re wasting your time and ultimately leading yourself down a path of unhappiness. Don’t fake it. You’ll be much happier in the long run.
They exist for a reason. While not every girl in a sorority may meet its stereotype, the group as a whole usually does, and, if you join them – for better or worse – you shouldn’t be surprised if outsiders prematurely base their judgments of you on it. While each new pledge class certainly introduces a new dynamic and character to a sorority’s overall personality, reputations don’t change overnight, and you will likely be stereotyped based on the behaviors of years past. For the lo-down on Stanford’s sorority stereotypes, I direct you to this link. I remind readers that these stereotypes come from one person’s opinion, and should be taken with a considerably large grain of salt.
Here’s the honest, clichéd-to-death truth: there is no “best” sorority. There really, really isn’t. A lot of people take those stereotypes and try to craft classifications around them; which sorority is “hottest”, “coolest”, “bitchiest”, “parties the hardest”, or – on the other hand – which is the “most awkward”, “nerdiest”, or “tries too hard” – whatever. Given these superlatives, it’s really easy for a lot of girls to go into rush thinking of it as a competition: that there’s a “best” sorority out there, and that by getting a bid, you can “win” rush. That’s a really crappy way to approach the process. Not to be a cliché and a half, but – at the end of the day – there really is only a “best” sorority for you personally, and – if you’re really honest with yourself – you will probably wind up very happy with your choice – regardless of reputation.
And, to be clear, the best sorority for you might be no sorority at all. During rush you might realize that you were not cut out to enjoy things like neon fanny packs, a packed social calendar, Starbucks drinks with fifteen-syllable names, or the “endless bonds of sisterhood”. That’s okay. If you genuinely realize that you’re not going to get enough out of any sorority to make the process or experience worth it, then, by all means, I celebrate you for making an honest decision for yourself and encourage you to spend your time doing something more meaningful. But if the only reason you’re dropping out is because you got a slip of paper that says you got cut from what you heard was the “best” sorority, then I say you’re making a boneheaded mistake.
Rush is a crappy, judgmental process no matter how you slice it, but it’s the best way anyone’s come up with for helping girls find the sororities that will best celebrate and embrace them. Don’t let the peer pressure and stereotypes that get built up during rush keep you from gravitating towards a group of people that will appreciate you for every part of who you are – your perspective, appearance, humor, ambitions, and experience. The truth that’s hard to realize during rush is that getting cut can be a very, very good thing. With so many girls going through rush, and such a small, pressure-filled window for making these decisions, you really shouldn’t take it personally. Don’t for a second think it means that you are socially incompetent, boring, awkward, or ugly. All it means is that that sorority simply found girls they thought would be a slightly better fit for their group. While it may sting in the moment, I can promise that it means you will be happier in the long run. It means you dodged a bullet.
Rush is a marathon. That’s really all it boils down to. At this point, the only other advice I can give is to encourage you to enter the process with a positive attitude, wear the most comfortable shoes you can find (the first night is six straight hours of standing. Don’t be that girl who makes the mistake of wearing heels), bring cough drops and snacks (you will be very happy you did), and always, always go with your gut.
On a more serious note, I remind you once again that it’s really, really okay to walk away from rush. Not being in a sorority won’t ruin the rest of your Stanford career (or life, for that matter). On the other hand, if you join a sorority without your heart being 100% in it, you may eventually find yourself regretting it – feeling as if you wasted precious time on a group of people you don’t really care about. Your time here is fleeting and valuable, and you should spend it strengthening your relationships with the people who matter the most to you. Walking away – when done for the right reasons – can save you a lot of precious time and energy, in addition to allowing you to spend time with other wonderful, (perhaps) non-Greek students. So long as you go with your gut, I promise you will be happy come Bid Day.
If you have any questions or comments about this article or rush in general, hit me up in the comments section below. I’m happy to respond to questions as quickly and honestly as I can.