Your daughter just announced that she wants to rush. What does this mean? I will walk you through the process, as I have learned it, and help you know what to expect as a parent. Keep in mind that everything I’m going to talk about is specific to sorority rushing (not fraternity) and specific to the experience at my daughter’s school. The process can differ slightly from school to school but this post will give you a pretty clear description of the process your daughter is about to go through.
Joining a sorority is a wonderful way to make an instant group of friends. It is a family away from home which is why they call each other, sisters. Joining a sorority is also a way to immediately become involved and invested in a university, but it is not the only path to happiness, friendship, and involvement. Don’t worry if this isn’t your daughter’s cup of tea. Read this guide for other ways your child can involve themselves at college: The Air-Tight Plan For A Positive Transition To College.
You need to understand ahead of time that being in a sorority is not cheap, so it may require some financial planning. My daughter’s sorority is about $3,700 per year…no, that's unfortunately NOT a typo. She is not even in the most expensive sorority at her school. The fees can differ greatly from school to school and from sorority to sorority. If your daughter is on a campus where sororities don’t have houses, it can be substantially cheaper because they aren’t paying the mortgage and upkeep of the property. Besides the membership fees, there are lots of sorority related activities that add to the cost. I’m not telling you this all to scare you; I’m telling you so you can be prepared. Start the conversation early with your daughter so you can decide how this is going to be paid for. If your daughter will be responsible for all or part of the membership fee, she’s going to need a job to save money prior to going away to school. You should be able to find out the costs of each sorority at your daughter’s school by looking at the university’s Greek information section on their website.
So, what is RUSH? Rush is the period of time in which girls who are interested in joining a sorority visit all of the sororities on campus to get to know each group. It has two sides; it gives the girls who are rushing a chance to see where they think they will best fit in and it gives the sororities a chance to see who they think will best fit into their group. It can be as short as a few days and as long as two weeks. Not all schools have rush at the same time. Some, such as my daughter’s school, have rush the week prior to the start of the fall semester, some do it a few weeks into the semester, and some do it at the end of freshman year. Some schools have a fall and spring rush. Because my daughter's school does their sorority rush the week before school even starts, girls who are registered to rush are allowed to move into the dorm early.
The process of rushing is intense, stressful, emotional, fun, exciting, and exhausting all at once. It is a very organized process. At the start, the girls are divided into small groups. Each group has a leader or Rho Gamma, who is a member of one of the sororities on campus. The leader has to disassociate herself from her sorority during rush and she is not allowed to tell the girls which sorority she is a member of. They take this very seriously. At my daughter’s school, the leaders disable all of their social media, stay in a hotel, and wear a specific shirt provided for them by the Greek office. This is all done to maintain the anonymity of the leader’s sorority, and in such, not influence the girls in her group or promote her own sorority. The Rho Gammas are chosen because of their positive reputation and ability to be a role model. Their job during rush is to offer advice, support, and guidance during the week. They are also a shoulder to cry on and a source of motivation.
Have your daughter do some research on the sororities at her school before she starts the process. These early round visits can be overwhelming and some research prior to rush might ease this a bit. Research can involve visiting each sorority’s Facebook page and/or talking to older students at the school. Each sorority has its own personality and these personalities differ from school to school so information from students at other universities might not be relevant or reliable. Tell her not to fall in the trap of sorority ratings or rumors.
Help your daughter figure out what she is looking for in a sorority. One thing that might attract your daughter's interest in a certain sorority is the philanthropy(ies) they support. She should also consider these things....Does your daughter prefer to be in sweats with her hair in a ponytail and no make-up? Does your daughter tend to prefer those who are athletic? Is she looking for the party sorority (of course not!)? Is she looking for a group that is very academically focused? Is she looking for a group with racial, religious, and ethnic diversity? These are some of the many questions she should be asking herself prior to the process and then, look for these qualities as she visits each group. My daughter loved the advice of her Rho Gamma, "Instead of looking at the sorority as a whole, find your people. You will meet many girls this week and you will instantly connect with some you feel like you've known your whole life; girls who you feel like you can cry to or laugh with. Those are likely your people - your group."
Expect that there will be many highs and lows during rush. As I stated, it can be a stressful and overwhelming process. Some girls will decide quickly that it is not for them and drop out. If your daughter decides to drop out, even though you may have loved being in a sorority, support her decision if it is a thoughtful one but still suggest that she have a conversation with her Rho Gamma first. Sororities are not for everyone and she can always choose to rush at a later time. Some may also wish to drop out because the sorority that they had their heart set on doesn't invite them back early on in the process. Hear her out and here too, suggest that she have a conversation with her Rho Gamma for advice. Just because she has her heart set on a certain sorority it doesn't mean it is the right one for her. She might be choosing that sorority for the wrong reasons. Her Rho Gamma should be able to help her sort through these feelings.
Now onto the rush process. The girls who are rushing are known as PNM’s (potential new members). For round one, let’s say that your daughter’s university has 15 sororities. During this first round, she will visit all 15 along with her rush group. This first visit is a short one, but the visits will get longer and longer as the week progresses. At the end of round one (and at the end of each round to follow), the PNM’s go to the computer and pick the sororities they would like to explore further, narrowing down their choices - there is usually a limit to how many they can choose at each round. At the same time, the sororities are also indicating the girls they would like to have come back for an additional visit. These lists are cross-referenced and, if your daughter listed a sorority and that same sorority listed her, she will get an invitation to come back for another visit.
This process continues throughout the week. Each time the visits are a little longer and more in depth. Your daughter will get to know some of the girls in the sororities she visits more personally. The sororities will do presentations that include the cost of membership and about the philanthropy(ies) they support. Again, at the end of each round, the PNM’s visit the computer to pick which sororities they would like to visit again and the sororities do the same on the other side. And again, after each round, the lists are cross-referenced for matches and invitations for return visits are offered. As the week progresses, your daughter's list of preferred sororities, and the sorority's lists of preferred new members. will get shorter and shorter.
The final round is called preference. After the PNM’s visit the last house for the week that they have been invited back to, they will go to the computer and list their top 3. At the same time, the sororities make their lists of preferred new members. When a girl is invited to a sorority for preference, it means that the sorority is seriously interested in having your daughter join them and your daughter is seriously considering that sorority. (Some PNM's at this point will have less than three sororities left.) Preference is a more intimate gathering where your daughter will likely be paired with a member or two, many times it's the ones she felt connected to during the week. The girl(s) will tell more about herself and why she chose that sorority. She will get to know your daughter better and visa versa. She will also answer any last minute questions your daughter might have - and your daughter should be asking questions. The sororities each have a preference ritual that the PNM's will observe and/or take part in.
At the end of preference events, the PNM’s go back to the computer one last time. They submit a final list, in order of choice, among the sororities who invited them to preference. At the same time, the sororities will make their final lists of first, second, and third choice PNM’s. The lists are cross-referenced one final time. The process can seem very confusing to parents so I'm going to try to simplify it the best I can. Good new is, even if you don't understand, your daughter does.
Scenario 1. If your daughter lists "sorority A" as her first choice and "sorority A" lists your daughter on their first choice list, it is a match and a bid or spot will be offered to her.
Scenario 2. In this scenario, your daughter lists "sorority A" as her first choice but "sorority A" doesn't have your daughter on their first choice list. If "sorority A" hasn't met its quota from list one, it goes onto its second list. If your daughter is on their second list, it's a match and a bid will be offered - your daughter will never know that she wasn't on their first list. This process continues on, possibly to the sorority's third list, or until they meet their quota.
Scenario 3. If your daughter lists "sorority A" as her first choice, but they do not offer her a bid, and "sorority B" as her second choice and it matches with "sorority B's" first choice list, it is a match and a bid will be offered. The process will continue as described in scenario 1.
Scenario 4. If your daughter lists sorority A as her first choice, but they do not offer her a bid, and sorority B as her second choice and they do not offer her a bid, and "sorority C" as her third choice and she is on their first list, a bid will be offered....and so on.
This night can be the most stressful of the week. The girls are worried that they either won’t get a bid from their first choice sorority or that they won’t get a bid at all. Yes, you heard that correctly. At many schools, there is the possibility that your daughter will go through the entire week of rushing and end up without a bid. It can be heartbreaking for the PNM. It is equally heartbreaking for the parents who are hours away dealing with their sad daughter. I have no statistics as to how often this happens. At some schools, there is a rule that every girl who rushes is offered a bid at a sorority, although it might not be their top choice; this is not the case at most larger universities.
I hope what I’m saying doesn’t make you want to deter your daughter from going through the rush process if this is what she wants. You should, however, see that she is going into it with open eyes understanding all the possible outcomes. Make sure that she is looking for the group where she will best fit in. Help her understand that her aim should not be to try to get into what she perceives or is rumored to be the most popular sorority merely for the label. She also should not avoid one that she hears is the worst sorority or try for the one(s) her friend(s) might be aiming for just to be with them. My best friend's daughter proudly and with a laugh, told me that she is in the loser sorority, according to ratings, but she couldn't be happier in that group. Her message would be to ignore ratings.
Ultimately, wherever she feels the most comfortable and most welcome, is the perfect sorority for her, whether it's rated the top sorority at the school or the bottom of the rating list. Focusing on a specific group (or avoiding one) for the wrong reasons is going to set her up for disappointment. Back to what my daughter's Rho Gamma said, "Instead of looking at the sorority as a whole, find your people. You will meet many girls this week and you will instantly connect with some you feel like you've known your whole life; girls who you feel like you can cry to or laugh with. Those are likely your people - your group." The days of rushing are meant just to do that and your daughter should trust in the system, not try to circumvent it.
So finally, bid day. On this day, at least at my daughter’s school, all of the PNM’s are gathered in one place and with their original rush groups. Your daughter's Rho Gamma will reveal which sorority she is associated with and she will hand each PNM an envelope with their bid inside. Hopefully, it is the one they were wishing for. They will also be given a t-shirt from their new sorority. Next, are tears of joy and lots of hugging and screaming. The girls gather by sorority and often run to their new home where the members are waiting to greet them and get the party started!
I don’t want to get into all the what if’s but I will tell you that at least at my daughter’s school, the Rho Gammas personally called each of her girls who were not being offered bids to let them know and not require them to show up at the event to find out this news in front of others. I’m sure that is a tough conversation and I would expect that the Rho Gammas do their best to comfort the girls and to encourage them to come out again next time. There is also the possibility for snap bids (see vocabulary at the end of this article). For those whose daughters don’t get a bid, the only insight I can offer that might comfort you is that my daughter made plenty of wonderful friends her freshman year despite not rushing at that time. There are many other opportunities and ways to meet people, form meaningful relationships, and become involved. Should they want, they could always rush again the following year or even in the spring if their university has spring rush.
I will also tell you that my daughter had an outstanding experience, although exhausting and stressful. She waited until her sophomore year to rush because she wasn’t sure that she wanted to at all and it also gave her an opportunity to learn more about each of the sororities and meet girls in them. This better helped her to be able to ignore ratings and rumors. I’m glad she chose this route and I think it was best for her. She loves her new sisters and is thrilled with her sorority.
To wrap up this post, I want to point out a few extra things I didn’t know. First, there is a definite dress code to each of the days of rushing. Plenty of sites are available online to guide your daughter through this. This information will likely also be given at the informational meeting for those who are interested in rushing and, at my daughter’s university, the information was online within their Greek website pages. It is better and easier to have all of these items in hand prior to sending your daughter off to school to avoid panic shopping for a white dress long passed spring. Second, I wasn’t aware but quickly found out, that at my daughter's school parents send “bid day” and “initiation” gifts or flowers to their daughters. This would be a good question to ask in your daughter's universities question and answer forum so that you can be prepared - not chasing your tail like I was.
The following is some sorority vocabulary in alphabetical order:
Bid Day: The last day of the rush process when girls are offered bids or invitations to join a specific sorority and the parties and celebrations that follow.
Big Sister/Little Sister (also called bigs and littles): A member of a sorority who is paired up with a new member to serve as a mentor.
Continuous Open Bidding: This is a process that takes place for any sorority that does not meet its new member quota during the rush period. It allows girls who are interested, to learn more about, and possibly join the sorority in a less formal manner. Not all schools or sororities do this.
Initiation: When pledges officially become members of a sorority. There is a traditional ceremony specific to each sorority.
Legacy: A legacy has a sister, mother, or grandmother who is or was a member of that sorority. Each organization has its own rules, but some girls are guaranteed a bid in a sorority where they are a legacy.
New Member: A girl who has accepted a bid to join a sorority but has not yet gone through the formal initiation ceremony.
PNM or Potential New Member: The name pretty much defines what it is. It is any girl who is rushing.
Quota: The maximum number of PNM's who will be offered a bid in any given rush period to a specific sorority.
Rush: is the period of time in which girls who are interested in joining a sorority visit all of the sororities on campus to get to know each group.
Snap Bids: These are offered by sororities who haven't filled their quota to PNM's whose preferred sororities are not extending her a bid. It is done before the rest of the bids are handed out. Usually, the PNM would be contacted by the sorority, extending them an invitation or bid to their sorority. If the PNM accepts the offer, she will participate in all of the bid day activities and become a new member of the sorority that offered her a snap bid.
Suicide: This is when a PNM chooses to list only one sorority after preference. This means she will only accept a bid from that specific sorority or none at all.