By Mary Noble
With some 350,000 undergraduate women involved in sororities, it’s clear that Greek life continues to play a leading role in the lives of college women. A common rite of freshman year is the recruitment process where women create new friendships, develop a new social life, and step into leadership positions. But what happens when your sorority experience isn’t four or even three years long? For those who choose to wait until junior year to rush, the recruitment process and what follows after is different in a variety of ways.
As a first-year, I knew that sorority life at Albion College was different from the stereotypical portrayal of sororities at bigger universities. The most noticeable difference is that the women don’t live together; instead, the houses are simply used for meetings and sisterhood activities. This made the idea of Greek life more appealing to me, but I still never saw myself as a sorority girl. It took two more years before I began to feel like I was missing out on an important college experience.
A common mantra going into recruitment is “keep an open mind.” Rho Gammas — representatives from all sororities that help women with the recruitment process — reiterate numerous times that there isn’t one house that is better than the other. After only one semester on campus, it’s easy to discount certain stereotypes.
As a junior, it’s not so simple.
Each house has a reputation. The campus’s perception of the members’ looks, wealth, extracurriculars, and party behavior all factor in. Reading too much into this reputation should try to be avoided going into recruitment, but sometimes it’s helpful to know already where you won’t be as comfortable.
Reputations are just as dangerous the other way, however. As a junior, especially on a campus as small as Albion’s, you have likely established some sort of reputation by this point in your college career. Sorority women’s well-formed opinions of you can determine whether or not they invite you back. Behavior that might be forgiven as a freshman, such as an affinity for heavy partying four or five days a week, may not be taken so lightly now that you’ve had three years to mature on campus.
Another thing to consider is your friends. By now, some or maybe all of your closest friends are in a sorority. Women on your sports teams or in your clubs may be involved in Greek life, too. Consider their personalities and what they’ve personally shared about their Greek life experiences. Remember, however, that the house has many other women that won’t necessarily be identical to your friends and acquaintances. Also, don’t expect an easy pass into a house if you have friends there — they aren’t judging you on who you know.
Familial connections through legacy status can boost your odds of getting into a house, but only up to a certain point. Each sorority evaluates legacies differently; some may view a legacy as an immediate ticket into their house, while others don’t necessarily view it as such. As a junior, legacy status may not pull the weight you think it should. Always put it in the system, though, because making your legacy status known never counts against you.
The recruitment process relies heavily on your personality and how well it meshes with the young women in each house. That doesn’t mean it’s not still a numbers game. Sororities want to bring in larger classes of first-year women. As a junior, you’ll be filling an open spot but only for a year instead of four. Sororities are looking to invest in their future through their new members, and juniors aren’t quite as an attractive payoff as first-years.
Once you’re welcomed into a house, the differences don’t stop there. A paradox forms where you’re an upperclassman yet you’re relegated to newbie status along with the rest of the new members who are predominantly freshmen. You may already have established relationships with the upperclassmen in the sorority, but don’t fall back on those all the time. Take the time to get to know all the underclassmen — have dinner with them, study at the library together, and go out as a group with their friends and yours.
Joining a sorority as a junior limits you to only a year of involvement on campus, but sometimes you need a couple years to realize it’s right for you. Luckily, your sisterhood isn’t just for the college years, it’s for life. So, better late than never, right?