With the start of the spring recruitment season just around the corner, I have been thinking a lot about the integrity of the sorority admission process. In just a few days, girls across college campuses everywhere will put on their prettiest dresses and venture into a whirlwind week full of small talk, tears, and of course, lots of lip gloss. While I believe that participation in a Greek organization can be a very positive experience, sorority recruitment is a flawed process that pits girls against each other and judges them based on their attractiveness and social skills.
I would first like to point out that, yes, I am in a sorority. Please do not think that I am hating on Greek life or stereotyping sororities. I went through the recruitment process last semester. However, I am lucky enough to be at a school that has an honest and moral recruitment system. I am thankful that my recruitment experience was not like the process at most other schools. I ended up in the perfect sorority for me, and while it was stressful at times, my experience was overall a positive one. Sadly, this is not usually the case.
Many sororities promise their PNMs (potential new members) that the recruitment process is designed to match each girl up with her true home based on her personality, values, and potential. But PNMs are instructed not to talk about the famous five B’s: booze, boys, Bible, Barack (politics), and banks (money). Most sororities do not get to know PNMs on a personal basis, partially because they are restricted from talking about identity-shaping topics like religion and political views. And most PNMs only spend about two hours with their future sorority sisters before joining the chapter. This is hardly enough time for the sorority to make an informed decision about the PNM, let alone enough time for the PNM to decide if this is the group with whom she wants to spend the next four years of her life. Women receive bids not based upon personal beliefs and opinions, but rather on arbitrary and superficial conversations, among other meaningless qualities such as physical attractiveness.
In fact, I wrote a research paper on this topic for a class last year. A source that I used found that high-status sororities, otherwise known informally by college students as the top tier, are the houses that “everyone wants to get into,” and have strong reputations of physical attractiveness and wealth. On the other hand, lower-tier sororities are typically viewed as the “reject” sororities, full of “fat girls,” and in which being a member “is like social suicide.” (Don’t even get me started on how mad these stereotypes make me!) In this study, it was proven that sorority members were more likely to choose a PNM if she was physically attractive.
One of the main purposes of a sorority is sisterhood. Many students join Greek life hoping to meet their future bridesmaids and “besties,” and to feel a sense of belonging and connection. But I strongly believe that the sorority recruitment process is unlikely to benefit those it could help the most. It is easy to see that women who are extroverted and confident are more likely to receive bids over introverted women with lower self-esteems. Basically, PNMs that are already socially successful are the most likely to be accepted into a sorority, while the women that could benefit from sisterhood and friendship are more likely to be denied a bid.
I am also relatively positive that recruitment has caused anxiety and depression in many of its participants, specifically those that do not receive bids. Many PNMs come out of recruitment empty-handed, left only with feelings of rejection. My heart goes out to anyone who has been through this experience. I cannot imagine how awful it must feel. I know many girls that were denied the opportunity to join a sorority due to the harsh and unfair nature of the process, and because they didn’t match the sorority stereotype. This is so unfortunate, because being in a sorority can be an amazing experience, and I believe that everyone should have an equal opportunity to join one. I absolutely love my sisterhood, and I will forever be thankful to have found them. But sorority recruitment is a flawed process that places way too much emphasis on superficial aspects and overlooks core personality traits and potential. Something needs to be changed to prevent the heartbreaking rejection experienced by college women each recruitment season.