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Wait, What’s a Sorority?

Posted by on Wednesday, January 28, 2015 in College Life, Freshman Life, Greek Life.

Okay, let’s talk about sororities.

No seriously, let’s talk. Because coming from California, I pretty much had no clue what a sorority is, why I should join one, if I should join one at all, or how I would go about doing so if I decided that I did want to join one. So I guess you could say there was a bit of uncertainty surrounding Greek life when I first arrived on Vanderbilt’s campus.

Look at these cool people who went Greek. Photo courtesy John Russell/Vanderbilt University.

I know there are probably a lot of you who will be, or are at least thinking about coming to Vanderbilt in the coming years, who are in the same position I was in the months leading up to Move-In Day. So this little FAQ goes out to you. (Unfortunately, I’m not as familiar with the fraternity system for all you guys out there, but I could definitely put you in contact with someone who could provide all of the information you need!)

Q: What is a sorority?

A: I’m sure you could look up the formal definition pretty easily, but basically, a sorority is a group of collegiate women who come together to plan events, perform philanthropic service, help each other, and just hang out. My sisters and I get together to eat lunch, have craft nights, or grab ice cream at Jeni’s on a pretty regular basis. Each sorority is either an international or national organization, with chapters, or subsections, at college campuses across the country. For example, I’m a member of Alpha Delta Pi, the international organization, in the Zeta Rho chapter, the ADPi house at Vanderbilt. I know it kind of just sounds like a regular group of friends, and in a lot of ways, it’s just that. But the thing that distinguishes it, I think, is that this is a group of friends you might otherwise never meet: it’s made up of girls of all years, backgrounds, and majors. The best comparison I can make is that being in a sorority is kind of like being on a sports team. You have a set of letters that you wear proudly around campus, you support each other and work toward common goals, and you just feel a part of something special. It’s also a great way to participate in volunteer service (each sorority has its own national philanthropy) and gain leadership experience! To me, it’s amazing to see that sharing something as small as a set of letters can make you realize how much you really have in common with someone. And finally, being in a sorority isn’t just something you do during your time at college: it’s something that you’re a part of for your whole life. I know that sounds scary, but I promise it’s not. It’s not like you’re bound to some crazy contract for your entire life – it’s more like you’re pledging to stay true to your friends and your values and your pride for your sorority for your whole life, which is something that I know that I want to do anyway.

So this is my new sorority. Can you find me? (I can't...)

Q: How are sororities at Vanderbilt different than sororities in other places?

A: Okay, so there are a couple of key differences, all of which I think contribute greatly to the success of Greek Life and my decision to rush. (FYI, rush is basically the process of trying to join a sorority.) The first is that formal sorority rush doesn’t happen until the beginning of your spring semester. This allows you to really appreciate the magic of the Commons, which is the side of campus where all the first-years live. I met my best friends here at Vanderbilt through Memorial House, my house on Commons, and I don’t know if I would’ve had that opportunity if I had been caught up in rush for the first two weeks of my time here. That’s the other thing: talking to some of my new sisters, it seems like they have amazing friends both in their sorority and outside of it. So basically, delayed rush is for the better, because it allows you to meet as many people as possible during your first year. The other major difference between Greek Life at Vanderbilt and other campuses is that most of the sisters here DO NOT live in the sorority house, which is another big factor in helping students meet people from all over the university.

Q: Do I have to rush if I go to Vanderbilt?

A: No. Absolutely not. I wish I could make that even clearer, but hopefully, you get the idea. Of course, I have had a great experience so far and would encourage everyone to try it out, even if it doesn’t seem much like your thing. But if you know that you do not want to be a part of Greek Life, that is completely and utterly okay. I know that the numbers are a little scary, with almost half of students going Greek. But think about it this way. That means that OVER HALF of students do not go Greek. I know that’s basic math and all, but to me, that made the whole thing a little less intimidating. If you do not want to go Greek, you will not have any less of a social life or find any less amazing people to hang out with. In fact, the majority of my best friends here did not join a sorority or fraternity, and are extremely happy. Your friends going Greek will not abandon you, and you will not be any less awesome if you decide this whole thing is not for you.

Q: So how do I decide if I want to join a sorority?

A: Let me preface this by saying that when I sent in my deposit to Vanderbilt, and for the whole summer leading up to Move In, and for a good half of my first semester, I was not planning to rush. But eventually, after seeing sorority girls all around campus, both in my classes and my extracurriculars, I realized that I could see myself being just like them. I wanted to be just like them, and they all raved about how joining a sorority was one of the best decisions that they had ever made at Vanderbilt. Some of them were in my position exactly, not even knowing if they wanted to rush, and ended up loving it. I figured that if they loved their sororities that much, it was worth a shot. I know it sounds cheesy, but keep an open mind. Whether you know you want to rush or are adamantly against it, just know that it’s okay to change your mind. The other thing is that when you register for the recruitment process in the middle of your first semester, you ARE NOT bound to joining a sorority. In fact, you can drop out at any time prior to Bid Day, which is the day when you find out what sorority has invited you to join. (You can also drop out after, if you decide you really, really don’t like it.) Just like most things in life, it can be pretty difficult to figure out if you enjoy something until you try it, so I would encourage you to just register! And if you’re super indecisive like I am, the good news is that you have until pretty much the middle of November to register for formal recruitment.

Showing off my sorority pride around campus.

Q: What is this whole recruitment/rush thing? I am so confused.

A: That was me. The good news is that Panhellenic Exec, which is basically the group that runs this entire sorority thing, is incredibly organized and will guide you step-by-step through the process. The first great thing about recruitment is that once you sign up, you’re placed in a Gamma Chi group, usually with other girls in your house who are planning to rush. Basically, each group gets a wonderful and amazing sorority woman called a Gamma Chi who has temporarily disaffiliated with her own sorority to help all the Potential New Members (PNMs) through the process (shout out to Charlotte, the best Gamma Chi ever!). She’s there to answer all of your questions, prepare you for each day of recruitment, let your group know where to be and when, and provide emotional support. Formal rush begins in January, pretty much right before you get back from winter break (Yes, it’s cold. Bring tights!). The rounds, or days of recruitment, are split up over two weekends, and are basically chances for you to get to know the sororities and them to get to know you. After each day of recruitment, you narrow down your options until you find the perfect sorority for you!

Q: So what do you actually do at recruitment?

A: Before every round, you get a schedule of houses that you’ll be going to that day. All you have to do is show up at your given house at your given time, and you’ll be just fine. Before the house opens the doors to let you in, you line up with your group in alphabetical order. Then, they’ll open the doors and one of the current members will take you somewhere in the house to chat. It’s all very casual and you’ll mostly be talking about yourself, which is fun (of course, this is coming from the girl who blogs, aka talks about herself for a living). Recruitment isn’t supposed to be a test or anything—it really is just a chance to meet the girls in each sorority!

Right before we open our bid cards. We didn't all end up in the same sorority, but we still hang out just as much as we did before! PS Why do I have so many friends who are redheads?

Q: Wait, I heard you can get cut from a sorority?! That sounds intense.

A: Okay, so “cut” is kind of a strong word. Basically, they call it a “mutual selection process,” which means that after every round (there are four), you get to choose the sororities that you are interested in joining, and the sororities choose the Potential New Members (PNMs) who they feel would be a good fit for them. If your preferences match, then you get invited back to the house the next round. I admit that I was quite worried about this whole process when I first began, but you kind of just have to trust that it’ll work out. If you have more questions about this process, email me and I can explain it in excruciating detail.

Q: What is a typical sorority girl at Vanderbilt like?

A: There really is no such thing. I’m not being cheesy, I swear. Are some groups more represented than others? Sure, as with any organization. But there is absolutely no mold that you must fit in order to join a sorority. If you want to rush, than go for it. Even if you’re an introvert like me.

Q: Do I need recommendations/legacy status/fancy clothes/other things to join a sorority?

A: No. I can assure you that I had none of those things, and I am very much in a sorority. If you know previous sorority women who can write you a recommendation, then go for it, but don’t freak out if you don’t. It’s okay. Trust me.

Q: I have more questions, what do I do, please help?!?

A: Take a deep breath. Then email me all of your questions at and I’ll write you another novel about anything you want to know.

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