In case you haven't figured it out already, no recruitment can really be considered normal or average. The following is only meant to give you an example of what certain days of recruitment are like at some schools so that you have a better idea of what to expect. Feeling overwhelmed or out of place during rush is easily remedied by going in well prepared. Throughout the whole process, remember that when it really comes down to it, recruitment is about meeting people. Recruitment, as crazy as it is, is just an opportunity for you to get to know many different people and more importantly, for them to get to know you.
Rush is usually anywhere from 3-8 days in length in which you attend various "parties" at each chapter. A party may last anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours depending on the day, and gives you a chance to learn a little about the chapter and meet some of the girls in each chapter. The number of parties depends on which round of recruitment it is. Usually there are 3-5 rounds of recruitment in which the chapters and the potential new members narrow down who they want. The different rounds of recruitment are generally given cheesy names like "spirit day" or "friendship day" or may refer to what happens at the parties that day ("skit day".) Most schools put potential new members into party groups that are led by a recruitment counselor, a sorority member that has disaffiliated from her chapter for the week to help you through recruitment. Everyday, you will talk to your recruitment counselor (sometimes known as Rho Chi's or Pi Chi's) and fill our your rating cards. She is a wealth of information, and is required to be completely confidential and impartial, so you are able to share all your concerns with her. Use your recruitment counselor wisely; after all, she was in your shoes just a few years ago.
At most schools, the first round of recruitment is a whirlwind tour of every chapter on campus. At larger schools the first round may actually be split into two days just so each potential new member can visit every house. The parties on this day are shorter, usually lasting no longer than 30 minutes. On this day, you will usually be scattered throughout each chapter’s house or recruitment room and have a chance to meet a few of the girls in each chapter. They may offer you some type of refreshment (usually just water on the first day) and depending on the type of rush, the chapter may perform songs or door chants. The songs and door chants are usually what take most potential new members by surprise. If your school performs these on any (or all) days of recruitment, you can expect a head bopping, teeth showing, super-energetic song. The point is to get potential new members to be energetic and show them how much they love their chapter. Yes, seeing 75 heads crammed into the doors and windows or a sorority house can be a bit unsettling, but just smile back and try to enjoy the show. After all--if you join one of these chapters, you will be doing this exact thing next year!
After you have visited every house in round 1, you will be asked to decide which houses you liked best, usually eliminating a certain pre-set number of houses that you will not go back to the next day. (No worries if this is confusing, we will have a mock rush later so you can see the system in action.)
On the second and third (and maybe even fourth) rounds of rush, you continue to narrow down your list of perspective chapters by getting to know more girls in each house. At the same time, the chapters are narrowing down their lists. Because of this, you may not get invited back to a house you liked--it happens to everyone. You only need one house to invite you back in the end though, as long as it is the right house, so don't get discouraged if that happens to you. On these later days of recruitment you may receive tours of the chapter house, learn about the chapter's social and philanthropic activities, make a craft project for the chapter's philanthropy, see a video or slideshow about the chapter, or watch the members of the chapter perform skits. It all depends on the rules of the campus where you are rushing which activities take place on which days. Still, the most important part is to learn about each chapter you are interested in, and make sure that the girls in those houses are getting to know you too. Each day of rush generally gets more and more formal and the parties get longer and longer. Refreshments, decorations, and clothing generally get more elaborate as well. With all that excitement, make sure to pay attention to what really matters--forming a bond with the sisters of one chapter.
The last day of recruitment is generally known as preference. On this day you will attend only two or three parties, which last longer to give you a chance to really get to know those chapters. Preference day is usually the most formal day of rush where people wear fancy dresses and heels. During preference you can generally expect to be paired up with a girl in each chapter who you have met earlier in the week. You will still have some time to talk and meet new people, but this party will also include what is known as a preference ceremony. A preference ceremony is a chance for each chapter to show you what their chapter really means to them. They may tell uplifting or sad stories about their chapter, and at many places, people cry. On this day, you may also be introduced to some of the other potential new members, the girls that may make up part of your pledge class. Preference day is also the last chance you have to ask questions, learn about the chapters, or meet girls in the chapters before you make your decision. After your last preference party, you will generally have to rank the sororities whose parties you attended that day in order of your preference. With this, the potential new members and sororities are matched up, and your fate is decided.
The next day, or later that evening, you will be able to pick up your bid card to see which sorority has extended you an invitation to join their chapter. (The process by which this occurs will be discussed in the section "Bid Matching".) Also at this time, the recruitment counselors reveal which sororities they are members of and then take the new pledge classes to their chapter house or meeting room. Once all the new members arrive, the chapter usually has a party or takes the girls to an activity or event. Over the next few weeks they will begin their pledge education meetings, attend chapter functions, and within a few months, be initiated into the house. Now that we are all thoroughly confused, let's see the system in action.
Susie Rushee is a potential new member at Example University.
At Example University, there are 10 sororities, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, and J.
On Round 1, Susie visits all 10 houses. At every house she has brief conversations with 2-4 girls and is offered water. When she meets with her recruitment counselor at the end of the day, she decides that she didn't really hit it off with B, G, or H so she ranks them at the bottom of her list.
For Round 2, potential new members are only allowed to go back to 7 chapters. Susie got great returns, and was invited back to A, B, C, D, F, G, H, I, and J. Apparently, even though Susie liked sorority E, she wasn't invited back to that chapter. But, sorority G who Susie ranked low last night did invite her back. Sorority G fills the empty spot left by E, Susie's two lowest rated chapters (B and H) are dropped, and Susie visits A, C, D, F, G, I, and J. Today, Susie makes a craft project at every party for each chapter's philanthropy. Today she may be offered lemonade or tea. At the end of this day, Susie sits down again with her recruitment counselor, and re-ranks all the chapters. Her three lowest ranked chapters are A, G, and I.
For Round 3, each potential new member is only allowed to go back to 4 chapters. Susie was invited back to all of the houses she attended yesterday, so her three lowest ranked houses are dropped. Today she goes to C, D, F, and J. Today, Susie got to tour those 4 chapter houses and see skits. At the end of the day today Susie decided that her favorite houses were D and F. She ranked C and J lowest.
Round 4 is preference day. Each new member is only allowed to go back to 2 chapters. Susie is invited back to D and F. After seeing ceremonies at each house, Susie is ready to make her decision. She feels like she really belongs in chapter F and rates them 1st on her pref card and chapter D second. When she comes back later in the day, she receives a bid from chapter F! Susie is very happy. She then finds out that her recruitment counselor is a chapter F too and her and her new pledge class go back to the chapter house to have fun. What a great rush!
Ok, so this is a little simplistic. Susie was lucky that she got invited back to so many houses each day. Sometimes girls get cut severely in the early rounds of recruitment still to find their dream chapter in the end. Also, Susie didn't seem to have too tough of a time making her ranking decisions. It is often very difficult to decide between chapters based on short conversations. Sometimes, you can't even remember going to a certain chapter at all. Generally speaking however, this is one model of a recruitment situation that could be found at just about any school in the country.
So right now you may be thinking, well that all sounds peachy, but how did the chapters choose Susie? Why did some chapters cut her? The answer to these questions is an interesting formula known as bid matching. Each day, just as potential new members rank the chapters they would like to go back to, the chapters decide to cut certain potential new members that they don't feel would be a good fit with their chapter. This sounds scary, but generally the sororities are not allowed to cut very many people at all. The number they cut (or "release" as NPC calls is) is determined by the number of returns a chapter gets each day. So basically, if everyone wants to go back to chapter A, then chapter A has to cut more PNM's. But if not as many people want to go back to chapter B, then chapter B doesn't have to cut as many PNM's. This keeps the numbers relatively equal between all the chapters. This process is done everyday up until preference.
At the end of formal recruitment, each chapter is only allowed to invite a certain number of girls to be in their chapter. This number is called quota. Quota is determined by taking the number of PNM’s that went to any preference party and dividing that number by the number of sororities on campus. So basically, if our Example University had 200 girls attend even 1 preference party, and there were 10 chapters, then quota is 20. Each chapter will be allowed to invite 20 PNM's to join their house. After preference, each chapter looks at the list of PNM's that came to one of their preference parties. From this list they make a 1st list and a 2nd list (and sometimes even a 3rd or 4th list.) The girls that they really, really want to be in their chapter go on the 1st list. After the 1st list is full (20 names for Example U) they rank the rest of the girls in order of preference. The chapter turns this list over to Panhellenic and then bid matching begins.
Either by computer or, in some smaller schools, by hand, PNM's are matched to chapters. The process works like this: Susie was on the 1st list for chapter F, and Susie rated chapter F highest on her pref card. It's a perfect match, and now Susie will be offered a bid to chapter F. It isn't always this perfect though. What makes it interesting is when a girl on a chapter's A list matches with a different chapter, the first chapter now has an open spot on their 1st list. So, the 1st name on the 2nd list moves onto the bottom of the 1st list. When a girl doesn't get a bid, it may be because she got cross-cut. In this situation, let's say Susie ranked chapter A highest and chapter B next. Chapter B had Susie on their 1st list, but Chapter A had her on their 2nd list. Chapter B gets to Susie's name, sees that she did not rank them highest and puts her name aside to come back to it later if she doesn't match with Chapter A. In Chapter A, Susie did not move up high enough to make the A list, and therefore was not matched with them. However, by the time Chapter B is able to come back to Susie, their quota is full too. Susie did not make a match, and does not receive a bid.
Although getting cross cut is a crummy situation, some colleges have instituted a system that prevents cross-cuts from occurring. If this is the case with your school, then after all the bid matching is complete, they look at the names of the girls that were not matched anywhere. If a girl attended the maximum number of pref parties and ranked the maximum number of houses (instead of what's called suicide bidding, we'll talk about that later) then she is guaranteed to get into a chapter. At this point, the presidents of every chapter vote to allow what is called quota plus. That means that the chapters on a girl’s pref card are allowed to extend her a bid even though it is over quota. They don't have to do this, but many chapters do, to prevent girls not getting bids. Although this all sounds very confusing, the only solace I have to offer is that in the end, the system does work, and it works pretty well.