The Sorority Rush Guide, Part I

Chi Delta Sorority (formerly Delta Delta Delta), where 44 women accepted bids during the fall 2015 rush period

Chi Delta Sorority (formerly Delta Delta Delta), where 44 women accepted bids during the fall 2015 rush period

Editor’s Note: This is Part I of a two-part exploration of sorority recruitment at Dartmouth. Part II will include descriptions of Round 2, Pref Night, and additional reflections on the process.

Before the Process

After spending a year as outsiders to a Greek system that can claim roughly 75% of each class as members, many female members of the class of 2018 were anxious, excited, and relieved to finally begin the sorority recruitment process. Recruitment is very different than the rush process for fraternities, and prospective members are asked to attend several Panhellenic information sessions before it officially begins. Some ‘18s, like Eliza, were unsatisfied with the sessions: “There were a lot of things about it I didn’t understand. I’m still very confused. I don’t understand why it has to be so complicated.” Soon after, students receive emails from an affiliated upperclassman introducing herself as their “Rho Chi.” These older students oversee groups of roughly eight girls, guiding them throughout the process and taking them around to each house. Rho Chis are entirely removed from deliberations or any aspects of recruitment from the side of the sororities, making them objective resources that can act as buffers against the constant pressure of recruitment week.

Round 1

The recruitment process begins on one of the first Mondays of fall term. Each prospective member travels with her assigned Rho Chi group to four of seven sororities involved in the Panhell recruitment process.  The rest of the houses are visited the following day. Upon arrival at a house, each group is greeted by a mob of screaming sisters dressed in “flair”, Dartmouth jargon for ridiculous, wacky, colorful clothing.  Typically, each house’s dress will have a particular theme, which this year included princesses, America, disco, Taylor Swift, and under the sea.  “[The flair] helped to ease my nerves,” says Samantha ’18. “It was a nice way to infuse Dartmouth into the process and eliminate some of the superficiality and awkwardness.”

After the raucous welcome, girls are ushered off to talk to one or two members of the hosting sorority. While this varies from house to house, most conversations are very short, and prospects may talk to as many as ten or fifteen sisters in an hour. Some, including Zoe ’18, were not enthusiastic about the brevity of these conversations: “You have the same conversation over and over and you come to memorize your little spiel. You’re only really showing one side of yourself because the conversations are so short.” Others were surprised to find that many sisters treated their conversations like a job interview: “I had sisters ask me questions like, ‘What’s your elevator pitch?’ and ‘What makes you tick?’ You should be trying to figure out why I would make a good friend, not whether you should hire me for an entry level job at Bain.” Others were pleasantly surprised by their interactions with the sisters: “I found all my conversations to be very genuine, and even fun. I had so many random conversations, tangents, and all kinds of weird things came up.” But even the student with this positive outlook was able to find some negativity, remarking, “Maybe it does feel a little forced at times.”

Between the Rounds

Perhaps one of the most important parts of the rush process occurs between the first and second rounds of recruitment. After each Rho Chi group has visited all the houses, prospective members are asked to rank the sororities. Each prospect is asked to choose their top four houses, which are counted as one tier (tied for first choice) over their bottom three houses, which are then ranked five through seven. Because of the peculiarity of this system, many girls develop byzantine strategies to ensure that they receive their preferred houses for the next round.  “There were only three houses that I liked at all after the first round,” said Raquel ’18.  “In addition to those three houses, I decided to put another house I didn’t like at all in my top four. I didn’t think that I connected very well with the sisters there in the first round, and thought that there was no chance I would get called back there, which turned out to be right.” Other students were more cautious in ranking their bottom houses: “I decided to rank my fifth favorite house last,” remarked an ’18. The girls there really liked me, and I thought that I would have been sure to be called back there if I ranked it any higher, possibly at the expense of one of my favorite houses.”

Meanwhile, sororities are busy ranking potential members in a tiered system, the specifics of which have never been made known to the public. Next, a computer algorithm, which is also shrouded in mystery, combines the rankings of students and houses to determine who will be called back to which houses for the second round. The system is theoretically designed to ensure that almost everyone is called back to at least one house.  Unfortunately, this virtual guarantee comes with significant downsides.  Many girls find that they haven’t been called back to any of the houses they like at all, with some even receiving their sixth and seventh choices. “It’s absolutely ridiculous,” says Lauren ’18. “People should at least be able to single out one or two houses that they absolutely, unequivocally wouldn’t join, ensuring that they won’t be called back there”. Zoe, another ’18, shared a similar distaste for the computer matching system: “I’m still kind of terrified. I feel like it’s not in my hands at all. I don’t feel like I have any control over it.” Leah ’17, disagreed: “I think it’s impossible to know that you would 100% be unhappy in a house after being there for an hour in the first round. One of the great things about the system is that it actually leads to people ending up in a lot of houses that they didn’t think they would like, but end up liking a lot”.

One of the reasons the inter-round period is so critical is that shortly after, students have to sign a contract acknowledging that they will accept a bid from the house that they are ultimately matched with. Students who breach this contract are barred from rushing until the following year. Thus, it is at this juncture that many students decide to drop fall rush altogether in hopes that they will be able to join one of the houses of their choice in the winter.