By Ava Benham
Pledging a sorority may seem like it is the choice that makes the ultimate college experience for a young woman. Sororities provide many young women with a new social outlet who are looking to connect with other women that either share similar interests or expose others to new interests. However, what many young women do not realize when pledging is that there are many requirements expected to be upheld by the sorority which are hidden from prospective pledges. These requirements consist of personal involvement, monthly finances, and social protocols that are fashioned by other members of the group.
During recruitment, you will meet many women involved in different sororities. Their goal during this week-long process is to sell their sorority to you so that they can meet their annual quota of pledges for that year. In the beginning, you may be told that you can be involved as much or as little as you want. However, that is simply untrue. Sororities expect bi- or even triweekly commitments, and if you do not attend these events, you can be sure to expect a generous absence fee in addition to the ridiculously priced monthly fee. When joining a sorority, you are expected to place the sorority as your number one priority; all else must come second. In my experience, this was heavily emphasized when my sorority told me that academic studies and personal matters were no excuse to miss the social events. At times, it seemed like the sorority wanted to pare down other groups of academic involvement and even my full-time job by shaming me for missing out on certain social events.
In the New York Times article called “Greek Letters at a Price,” one sorority member suggests, “You need to collect all the info you can to make the best decision that works for you.” She also admitted that freshmen who want a bid can sometimes lack the confidence to ask about attendance policies and finance issues. But what about those freshmen who do ask all the right questions? I know I did. As previously stated, it is a member’s duty to sell their sorority, and if it means skewing the truth to tell a prospective pledge what she wants to hear, then that is what is going to happen.
Another piece of information you may be told during Rush Week in regards to monthly dues is that there are scholarships and financial aid available for those in need. What the members fail to mention is that scholarships are only available to upperclassmen, and that financial aid just extends the time frame of your dues over the course of the summer. Basically, you are forking out the same amount as other members who can afford the entire annual cost, but with extra time to pay it off.
Yet another crucial aspect of sorority life that should be addressed is the inherent social protocol that many women have to abide by when joining a sorority. I found that being a member of a sorority limited my agency as an individual to express my own thoughts and feelings on pressing issues. There was this expectation and image to uphold as a woman in a sorority, and I just did not fit the mold. I think that this image of a typical sorority girl has been instilled in many social groups as a result of societal norms and the media today. This is why members gear their focus more on the external rather than the internal. Indeed, when judging potential pledges, the categories of beauty and personal wealth rank high on the criteria that determines admission.
All I can say is that if you are considering joining a sorority, then think twice about everything you have been told about sororities, do your own research, and find your own truth. If you want to join a sorority, then that’s fine – but not if it means letting another person try to tell you who you are or who you should be.