This isn’t going to be one of those, “I didn’t go to college to find a husband, I came to find my bridesmaids” type posts. Cue nausea. Those cheesy idealistic statements are why “Greek Life” gets such a bad rap from outsiders looking in.
I always find myself getting a little sentimental this time of year, as school goes back in session and sorority recruitment commences. Not for all the superficial reasons, but in my understanding of the significant role that my sorority played in molding me into the person I am today.
In high school I would describe myself as more of a conformist. I had my own ideas about things, and an urge to make a difference in the world. However, those underlying urges were overcome by the desire to fit in by staying under the radar. Assuming a leadership position wasn’t necessarily cool, and the possibility of peer disapproval was too much of a risk for my social life to handle. Above all, I lacked true confidence in myself.
I went through the first year of college and found great friends, had a booming social life, a part-time waitressing job, and a full course load. I had mixed feelings about the true meaning behind Greek Life, but always felt like something was missing from my college experience. I unsuccessfully rushed my freshmen year, and with a year of schooling under my belt I decided to give it another try. I am so thankful that I did.
It is so easy to get wrapped up on the superficial side of things. Clearly, the “prettiest” sorority tends to put on the best recruitment, and their goal is to leave you convinced that you belong in their house. Like any smart business model, they want the decision to be left in their court of whom to select, thus resulting in having the pick of the litter of the year’s pledge class. Although it is heartbreaking at times, it all works out the way it’s supposed to be. The house I ended up in wasn’t where I initially had my heart set, but a few months later it was clear that I was in the right place.
There is an unexpected pride associated with being in an organization of strong, growing, women. It makes you think twice about making a fool out of yourself at the bar, because you aren’t just representing yourself, you are representing your chapter and an entire national organization. Sure, you aren’t all going to be best friends, but at minimum you genuinely respect one another. I believe this has prepared me for the professional world, and ingrained an ongoing personal accountability in my everyday life.
Outsiders may turn their noses up at the rituals, traditions, and a creed that new members probably knew nothing about when they first accepted their bid. I know I initially took them for granted, and thought it was borderline crazy how some of the older girls literally ate, slept, and breathed their sorority values. With every chapter meeting, every ritual, every monotone regurgitation of the creed, you begin to understand. You begin to understand that you are a member of something sacred, unique, and founded on values that have been carried on for up to one hundred years. An organization founded by women who were strong and opinionated in a time where the female opinion was not created equal.
My sorority provided role models, inspiration, and a path to follow during a time that can be so lonely and confusing as we are all trying to map out what our lives will become. It’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the tailgates, socials, and status symbol “perks” that accompanied being in a top campus organization, because those are some of my favorite memories. However, as cliche as it may sound, the long-term effects are so much more.
Being in a sorority taught be how to stand up in a room and speak, and have over one hundred people listen that are honestly considering my opinion. I like to think of it as a “rehearsal” for real life. Any life path I wanted to choose, there was someone there before me that I could look towards for advice. I was empowered to run for a leadership position, and executed a sorority-wide philanthropic event. It was such a rewarding opportunity. Even more important than a feeling of accomplishment was my newly established confidence. There were women who accomplished things completely out of my wheelhouse, and whether it’s something as silly as, “that chick from the bachelorette was in my sorority!” to as impressive as, “that fortune 500 CEO was in my sorority!” I am proud to be affiliated with these women as they have accepted the same values that I did, at such a developmentally significant time in all of our lives. Being in a sorority makes the world just a little bit smaller, your paths with alleged “strangers” a little bit closer, and your life moving forward forever altered.
So as fall approaches and sorority season is around the corner I encourage all the ladies out there to not get wrapped up in the small stuff. The superficiality of recruitment and the combination of a lack of sleep, and 120+ girls spending time together non-stop can be enough to put anyone over the edge. From a long-term perspective you will gain so much more than what’s on the surface now. For the skeptics, it is truly something that is difficult to put into words, but I ask you to to consider how much good comes from the efforts of Greek Life, along all other campus-wide organizations.
Love, honor, and truth have transformed from something I wrote on flashcards to memorize for initiation into values that have shaped the person I’ve become. My sorority gave me the gift of these values, lifelong friendships, and most importantly – the confidence to fiercely persevere and stay true to myself. I am forever grateful for that experience and would want nothing less for my own daughter one day.