What I wish I knew when I joined a sorority

So, decided to join a sorority. That’s great! Sororities can be amazing places to make friends and build a career network and just have fun. Certain houses have their problems, and Greek life isn’t for everyone. But if it’s for you, you’re probably asking: Now what?

There are plenty of listicles to describe the struggle that is recruitment. They tell you what to wear (think “meeting the family”), what to say (avoid anything kind of controversial, including booze), and what to expect from big/little week (literally every piece of sorority swag that’s ever been invented). What said listicles don’t tell you is what to do if you don’t love your sorority at first—which is more normal than people think, and doesn’t mean that Greek life isn’t for you.

Full disclosure: when I first got my bid, I cried. Not happy tears, but ugly crying because it wasn’t the house I wanted. It felt like the ultimate rejection—like everything I thought about myself that would make me worthy of them “popular” house was entirely untrue. Because while all the websites and guidebooks and older sorority girls say that recruitment is a wonderful time to get to know older members, what it really feels like is a job interview where you’re judged on who you are as a person and what you’re wearing, instead of all your accomplishments. This is what I wish I knew not only going through recruitment but in the months (and even years) after.

Bid day isn’t exactly like all of those videos. 

I’d like to say that once bid day happened I met all of new best friends and had the greatest day of my life… but that would be a lie. Sure, you don’t have the stress of trying to impress people who have the fate of your collegiate life in their hands, but you do have to spend an entire day with stranger dangers that you’re suddenly supposed to think of as “sisters.” For some, bid day means exactly what you see in the recruitment videos—blowing glitter in the air while you channel your inner Ke$ha, wearing headbands that would fit in at Coachella, and dancing wildly to the hamsters-fighting-in-a-trashcan sounds of the latest  EDM jam. For me, bid day meant a trip to a New Orleans food museum. As I attempted to make friends with girls I had never even seen on campus, but who all seemed to know each other, I wondered if the whole sorority girl thing was a mistake.

Joining a sorority introduces you to girls you never would’ve met otherwise

As first semester trudged on, I continued to hang out with the girls on my floor, convinced we would be best friends for the rest of eternity. The reality was that we didn’t have much in common other than proximity (much like Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood squad). We pregamed, we partied, and then we recapped all of it in the dining hall the next day. It was a blast, but it didn’t ever go much deeper than that. It was at my sorority where I met women with different backgrounds that became my really good friends.

Getting involved will make you truly feel like you’re part of the chapter

When sophomore year rolled around, I continued going to sorority meetings because I had to, but I had a moment where I wondered if Greek life was for me. I bonded with my big and there were a couple of girls I grew closer with, but it seemed like once again I was on the outskirts of the cool girl cafeteria table. At the end of my sophomore year I was elected to a position, and that’s when it started to click. Instead of just showing up at the meetings and ghosting the second dinner was done, I felt like I was part of something.

Leadership opportunities are super stressful but so worth it

It never occurred to me that getting involved meant more than just joining a sorority and showing up at the required number of events. Holding a leadership position was stressful, entirely overwhelming, and more political than I expected but it was how I ultimately ended up getting to know the other members.

Ignore the pressure to love your sorority automatically

You don’t have to love your sorority, and many girls don’t. They end up graduating and only have a handful of friends they went Greek with that remain in their call log. It could just have not been a good fit. It might not be because they chose the wrong house, though—it might be because they never put themselves out there enough to feel like their house was where they belonged. You get out of it what you put in. So if you’re in, go for it! Meet new members, talk to people, and get involved.

It’s now been more years than I’d like to admit since I graduated, but the girls in my sorority (and especially my sorority family, which I swear is not as creepy as it sounds), are still the ones I turn to. I wish I had known that sorority life requires effort, and that even if you don’t get the house you want it’s still the house for you with a little bit of involvement and a whole lot of putting yourself out there.

[Image via Universal Pictures]