This time of year, I always start thinking about sorority recruitment. It's one of those things that, for former sorority girls like myself, are simply unavoidable. Warm (or sometimes not-so-fond) memories of skit practice, of those girls whom you just knew would make wonderful sisters, of the tense voting sessions, the long afternoons of decorations, and the seemingly impossible task of finding the perfect t-shirts. It's been a rite of passage for American college women for decades. And while for many it holds the hellish connotation of boot camp or medical residency, it's something that I believe that all college women should undertake if their circumstances possibly allow.
I've said it, time and again: If I had a college-age daughter, I'd insist that she at least go through rush. I'd prefer that she join a sorority, and I'd really prefer that she join my sorority, but she definitely should rush.
I know how that sounds. Really, I do. It paints me as a silly, antiquated Southern woman, somewhere between a Eudora Welty character and Suzanne Sugarbaker. Maybe even the ladies in The Help*. But, hear me out. There are some really valuable lessons -- both personal and professional -- to be gleaned from the recruitment experience.
If, indeed, college is really about fully preparing a student for both life and the professional arena, then rush is the first true skills-based interview many young women will ever undertake. Think about it:
- Well-qualified candidates know that it's more than just applying and showing up. They take pride in their applications, they solicit letters of recommendation, and they find a way to stand out on paper. They tell a cohesive story that accentuates their strengths and, often, puts a positive spin on their weaknesses. They seek out alumnae to recommend them when possible. They put together a package that, hopefully, stands out to a chapter.
- Potential New Members quickly develop their very first elevator pitches. Over the period of a day or two, rushees learn to market themselves as highly sought-out candidates for an organization. Successfully selling oneself as a potential fit for an organization -- be it club membership or a dream job at a corporation -- requires a delicate balance of ego, humility, assertiveness, and grace. In a society that often tends to shut out women's voices, recruitment can provide a rare girls-only arena for developing the skill of selling oneself as a candidate.
- It's a great lesson that you can't trust everyone. Professionally and personally, you may think you've made a great and lasting impression, only to find that either (a) you actually haven't made that great of an impression; or (b) the person with whom you spoke was being disingenuous. The more savvy young women become about trusting people, the more likely they are to safeguard themselves. Learning that you can't take everyone at face value is a skill that naive college women need to process as quickly as possible. An unfortunate experience with a disingenuous sorority woman is, relatively speaking, a pretty mild starting point for this lesson. Which brings me to my last, and perhaps most crucial point.
- It's often a great learning moment about rejection and disappointment. Nobody gets everything they want out of life. We aren't all Beyoncé or Kate Middleton. And, for the oddest of reasons, rushees usually get cut from chapters during recruitment rounds. And, most of them will go on to get rejected by a dream medical school or employer at some point. It's a hard lesson to learn, but the earlier you start picking yourself up, the less likely you are to be devastated by future rejections. Or, maybe the rushee loves a chapter, but ultimately walks away from the recruitment process because money is tight or her schedule simply doesn't allow time for sorority membership. It may teach her to question her whether her "dream" law school or internship or job is, in reality, the right fit for her. That's a pretty darn good skill to have on hand.
If you think of sorority recruitment as a mini-boot camp for future entrepreneurs and professionals, doesn't it just makes sense to get a foot in the door?
*The author of The Help? Totally my sorority sister. As are authors Elin Hilderbrand and Joyce Carol Oates. Phi Mu has a special level of recognition for all of our sisters who are published authors, the Augusta Evans Wilson Literary Society. #lifegoals