It was my first day of college, and I was plastered.
My sweaty bangs were plastered to my forehead, my tongue was plastered to the roof of my dry mouth, and my dress was plastered with a Chick-Fil-A honey mustard stain, a memento from the best part of my college experience thus far – lunch. I was in the throes of sorority recruitment at an SEC school.
At many Southern universities, the start of fall semester coincides with the beginning of sorority rush. This weeklong endeavor allows rising freshman to explore each Greek organization on campus through a series of parties, house tours, and one-on-one conversations with prospective sisters.
The Good: A college’s newest residents are offered a structured opportunity to cultivate new friendships and select a lasting sisterhood. The Bad: Rain or shine, rushees spend 10 plus hours per day conversing with strangers, combatting Southeastern humidity, and pounding pavement between sorority mansions in sky-high heels or barely-there sandals. The Ugly: While a potential new member evaluates which groups she would most like to join, these all-female organizations are also considering whether or not this potential new member will be an asset to their chapter. Thus, sorority recruitment can feel like the most daunting game of first impressions ever.
Here to take the guesswork out of Greek life, past and present members of southern sororities – including several staffers from the Southern Living team - share their tried-and-true tips for thriving and surviving sorority recruitment south of the Mason-Dixon.
Don’t Dress in Excess | Be the Most Cool, Calm, and Collected Gal on Campus
Don't stress too much about your outfit. Look cute, but comfort is key, because you've got a long week ahead. Focus more on having great conversations with the people you meet. I guarantee they'll remember a meaningful conversation more than the brand new pair of Tory Burch flats you had on. - Kellyn, Chi Omega at Southern Methodist University
Don't feel pressure to look like a picture-perfect, head-to-toe Southern Belle throughout rush week. That's just not practical. Natural Beauty is 100 percent more comfortable, and it’s always in style. - Krislyn, Kappa Alpha Theta at Auburn University
If you’re outside a majority of the day, just remember patterns and prints hide sweat. Small prints generally distract the eye from marked discolorations in the fabric. Lightweight, breathable clothing with small patterns will also conceal sweat stains better than solid colors. – Paige, Kappa Delta at University of Georgia
Don't invest in or wear a designer, floral, sheath dress just because you think wearing it will impress a certain group of sorority girls. You do you, girl! – Francesca, Kappa Delta at University of Central Florida
Wear comfortable shoes or at least stash a pair in your bag to give your feet a break between houses you’re visiting. - Christina, Phi Mu at University of Georgia
Pack lightly. Heavy bags are only going to weigh you down. Choose something small. For example, I adore the Carson Mini Crossbody from Kate Spade. Remember packing a rush bag is different from packing your usual tote - there's no need to have your wallet. - Ashlee Nicole, Kappa Delta at University of Georgia
Living Up to a Legacy | When Following In Mama’s Footsteps Isn’t Do or Die
Keep an open mind. Even if you are a quadruple legacy, chapters change over the years and you never know where you’ll hit it off. - Jenn, Delta Gamma at University of Kentucky
My mom sang Tri Delta songs to me growing up, but she told me not to pledge this sorority just because of her. This helped me maintain a sense of self during the rush process. I wasn’t pressured to go back to this house just because I was a legacy. - Emily, Alpha Delta Pi at University of Georgia
Beating the Heat | Catch Brewing Beauty Disasters with Coffee Filters
Preparing for a day in the sun starts with your morning routine. Take time to apply sunscreen to those perfectly tanned shoulders and legs. I also use a makeup primer with added sunscreen to ensure my skin is sun safe and as flawless as possible. - Ashlee Nicole, Kappa Delta at University of Georgia
When I rushed at Florida, it was SO HOT! My secret weapon? Coffee Filters! They work the same as oil blotting sheets and they are WAY less expensive. Use coffee filters to maintain a shine-free face. – Francesca, Kappa Delta at University of Central Florida
Choose hairstyles that are appropriate for the climate, your hair type, and your daily activities. For example, if you have long, thick hair and anticipate spending most of your day out in the hot summer sun, try a trendy top knot instead of straightening your long strands. Just be prepared with a few extra hair elastics and bobby pins - just in case you lose the hair battle to humidity. – Paige, Kappa Delta at University of Georgia
Grab a handheld fan from a local pharmacy. It’ll be the best $5 you’ll ever spend! Store it in your purse and use for quick cool downs between parties. – Taylor, Kappa Delta at University of Central Florida
Opinions – Better In Than Out | Don’t Allow Her Perceptions To Influence Yours
I'm actually from Baton Rouge, so A LOT of best friends from my hometown were rushing at the same time I was. As tempting as it was to share our thoughts with each other during recruitment, we kept our opinions to ourselves. By making independent decisions, we all ended up in completely different houses where we made new best friends! - Francesca, Delta Zeta at Louisiana State University
Six of my best friends and I from high school decided to NOT talk during rush week about what sororities we liked and disliked and not to tell the others about our rankings. We ended up being in six different sororities and made friends among all of them. It was SO much better for us to "do our own thing!" - Emily, Alpha Delta Pi at University of Georgia
Ask, Listen, and Learn | Be the Heart of Conversation
Come to parties armed with questions or interesting conversation starters. Sure, discussing your class schedule and favorite meals at the dining hall may be interesting for the first couple of rounds, but by the third house you visit, you’ll be bored to tears. It was always a breath of fresh air when someone had an interesting story to share or engaging questions to ask. - Christina, Phi Mu at University of Georgia
Wondering what to do with your hands during conversation? If the house offers you a beverage, feel free to take it! It gives you something to do with your hands, will help calm your nerves, and it’s not a bad idea to hydrate during those hot days. - Paige, Kappa Delta at University of Georgia
With all the chanting and coordinated outfits, rush can seem like a very superficial process. The thing to remember is that the girls you’re talking to in each house and at each party are just like you and, once upon a time, they were in your same shoes. They want to get to know the real you, not the person you think they want to see. You'll find that your most memorable conversations are those that you were laughing hysterically or finding that one person who just gets you – potentially, a sign you’ve found your forever home. - Jessica, Delta Zeta at University of Central Florida
Show that you’re interested in an organization by coming to a party prepared with a few questions. Ask open-ended questions like, what do you think sets your house apart from the rest? - Jenn, Delta Gamma at University of Kentucky
Worth the Wait | When Prolonged Decisions are the Easiest to Make
I actually went through informal rush in my third year of school - and I'm glad I waited, because I definitely belonged with AOPI! Because the process can be overwhelming, I recommend acclimating to your new school in the first year of college. Get to know a little more about your school, meet as many people as you can, learn a little more about yourself, gather as much information as you can about each sorority and try meeting a few people from your top choices. You don’t have to make a decision right away and this allows you to find the group that will make you the happiest and that you can contribute your best self too. - Aja, University of South Alabama, Alpha Omicron Pi
Take Balanced Breaks | Because a Level Head > Light Head
Sometimes, we forget to eat when we're super busy. Don't make that mistake during rush or you WILL get lightheaded! Eat breakfast, pack snacks in your purse, and accept every bottle of water recruitment volunteers offer you. - Krislyn, Kappa Alpha Theta at Auburn University
Caffeine can make it difficult to beat the heat throughout the day, so replace breakfast caffeinated beverages with a large glass of water. - Ashlee Nicole, Kappa Delta at University of Georgia
When I went through rush, I filled my small purse with all the essentials – gum (just for a quick breath freshener, not to chew during conversation), tissue paper (mostly for dabbing make-up that’s always running off the face), lipstick, a pen and small notebook. - Emily, Alpha Delta Pi at University of Georgia
Take notes between rush parties. Ask yourself, "Did I feel comfortable in that house?" or "Did I enjoy the people I just connected with?" These notes, logged while a party experience is still fresh in your mind, will help you select the perfect Greek home for you. - Francesca, Delta Zeta at Louisiana State University
Placing a cool water bottle or paper towel behind your neck between rounds of rush will help to lower your body temperature when you’re hot and nervous. - Paige, Kappa Delta at University of Georgia
Fast-forward six years and a thousand miles. The Greek letters on my t-shirts have long since faded, but the friendships I gained through sorority life are ever present. I have standing phone dates with some of my pledge sisters, and I help plan the weddings of others. Two sisters who once lived downstairs in the sorority house now live a few blocks away in downtown Manhattan. We make new memories in New York City every weekend.
We’ve gone on to snag our dream jobs as doctors or lawyers or PR gurus, but we found each other before we knew what sorority we wanted to join, let alone what we wanted to be when we graduated. We became sisters when we were at our most vulnerable – when we were too hot and too tired and too overwhelmed by rush week to be anybody but ourselves.
This recruitment season, be yourself, embrace new friendships, and plaster your face with a smile. Remember, the best years of your life are just beginning.