Fraternities and Sororities: How They Work (page 2)

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on May 1, 2014

Sorority Rush and Pledge

The sorority rush period is typically brief and concentrated, usually spanning less than a month. Many schools, particularly those in the South, have a formal rush process in which participating women are required to visit every sorority house. Not all schools employ this requirement, however, allowing women to choose which houses they want to rush.

During the sorority rush, the first rush "events" (that is, parties) are brief, simply providing opportunities for women to meet, mix, and mingle with the sorority sisters in a casual environment. As the rush period wears on, the parties become longer and more directed, with sorority sisters spending more individualized time with individual candidates.

Eventually, you will likely be asked to have a brief ten- to fifteen-minute substantive interview with one or more of the sisters in the sorority. During this interview, the sisters will typically ask you questions about yourself, your general academic and nonacademic interests, and your views on certain subjects.

"Ask a lot of questions and get to know a lot of people in the house during rush," Lyndsee advised. "If you are serious about joining, make sure at least a couple of people know who you are and know something about you so they can speak up for you when the organization is deciding whom to offer bids to."

"I always had a close group of girlfriends in high school and I was looking for the same thing in college," Tiffany explained. "I found the city atmosphere harder to meet this group of close-knit friends with whom I could hang out regularly. I went to all the different sororities to meet each organization. Take the time to speak to several girls from each one. Although you may have established a bond with one particular person, it is best to get a feel for the organization as a whole by getting to know several members."

When this process is complete, rush period ends, and "bids" will be offered to a certain numbers of candidates inviting them to "pledge" the house. You can only pledge one house at a time (hence the word), so if you receive more than one bid, you will have to choose from among them.

With respect to sorority rush, the most important advice we can give, whether you are required to rush every house or not, is to be yourself. There will always be a temptation to try to be "cooler" or more "hip" than you actually are in real life, by dressing, talking, or acting differently in an effort to curry favor with those who would judge you.

Fraternity Rush and Pledge

The fraternity rush period is typically more casual and spread out than sorority rush, often consuming a couple of months or more. There is no standard rush process, and unlike with the sorority rush, there are no widespread requirements for students to rush all the houses.

Fraternity rush events are usually casual house parties, sometimes with themes and almost always with free beer, offering opportunities for guys to hang out and casually meet the brothers. Unlike in the sorority rush, few fraternities have any formalized process for selecting pledges. Formal rush parties and interviews are rare.

When the fraternity rush period has concluded, bids will be offered to a certain numbers of people inviting them to pledge the house. As with sorority pledging, you can pledge only one house at a time (hence the word), so if you receive more than one bid, you will have to choose from among them. Pledging is usually a formality, meaning that unless you act like a complete ass or hit on a brother's girlfriend, if you're offered a bid, you're in. At many schools, there is both a fall and a winter pledge class, offering you more flexibility in deciding whether and when to rush.

Generally speaking, forced drinking and borderline (or over the line) hazing is more prevalent in fraternities, where many of the pledging rituals are kept secret from the administration. As always, common sense dictates the proper response to any situation. If you are asked (or forced) to do anything that makes you truly uncomfortable (compare, for example, being forced to refer to your fraternity brothers as "sir," to clean the frat house basement on hands and knees, or to streak through the sorority house on the next block [all typical], to being forced to drink, vandalize property, or answer questions while a venomous snake is draped over your neck [obviously not okay]), recognize that your participation in the process is optional. Be a good sport about some rites of initiation, but don't be afraid to draw the line. And if the brothers don't respect your boundaries after you draw the line and in­sist on it, then you probably don't want those cats as brothers anyway.

"Try to spend at least part of the time you are rushing sober so you can evaluate what is going on with a clear head and nonintoxicated perspective," Jim warned. "Consider what you will give up in terms of other opportunities before you decide to pledge. And seriously consider waiting until your sophomore year to make that decision. Pledging can be academically destructive.

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