I have a super power. It is not the ability to fly or run really fast. My super power is that I can talk myself into and out of just about anything. A job, a nightclub, a discount, it doesn’t really matter, because I have a silver tongue.
And what do I have to thank (or blame) for this skill? Sorority recruitment, of course.
Your sorority recruitment, no matter what time of year, over what period of time, or in what dress code, is in one way just like the sorority recruitment on every college campus. It is mainly based off of the conversations between active chapter members and Potential New Members (PNMs).
Girls spend the weeks preceding recruitment practicing their conversation skills. Whether it is having imaginary dialogue with inanimate objects (a wall, a plant, a paper plate) or brainstorming good stories to tell, collegiettes know the importance their conversation plays in the impressions made during sorority recruitment.
While everyone focuses on what to say, sometimes knowing what not to say is just as important. During recruitment, word vomit could be a deciding factor as to whether or not a bid is earned or accepted.
So to make your sorority recruitment preparation simpler (and to help perfect your conversation with the wall), Her Campus lists the top 10 things NOT to say during sorority recruitment for both PNM (potential new members, or rush-ees) and active chapter members to follow.
What NOT to say as a PNM
1. My mom is making me go through recruitment
There are two big warning flags that fly when a PNM says this to an active member. An active member will wonder why you are even there. You are in college and that means you get to make your own decisions. If you want to leave, show some independence and do so. Second, an active member will wonder if you will even take that bid she may offer you and question if spending recruitment getting to know you will be a complete waste of her chapter’s time. Your participation in recruitment should be your decision.
“Choosing a chapter is a personal decision that will influence your college career. During the recruitment week you should focus on yourself and make a decision based on what fits you best,” University of Missouri's former Pan-Hellenic President Michelle Parsons says.
2. Sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll
Okay, depending on the situation talking about rock-n-roll may be appropriate, but talking about sex and drugs definitely is not. Add booze to the no-no list as well. The moment a PNM asks the simple question, “do you like to party?” she automatically becomes “that girl” (even if the title is undeserved). You’re starting college: partying may or may not become a part of your life, and it may or may not be a part of the life of the active member talking with you, but as part of a get-to-know-you conversation, it is really not appropriate. Greek Life has a social function, but it is so much more than that. The girls already in chapters want you to respect that and prove to them you have more to offer to their chapter than just being the life of the party.
“A PNM asked me what fraternities me and the other girls in my chapter hang out with and what formal date parties we usually get invited to. She was more interested in these parties and the boys than she was in my sisterhood or experience with the sorority,” Courtney, a senior who has been through recruitment for four years, said. “It was definitely one of those conversations that stands out for a bad reason. I don’t mind talking about it a little bit, but I think there are bigger topics to address first.
If you are attending a school not too far from your hometown or going through recruitment second semester, you may already know several active members in the chapters you rush. Recruitment is not the time to list off these members. Making a list won’t impress the girl you are talking to, it will simply annoy her. Yes, you can casually drop a few names, but giving a detailed account of whom you know and exactly how you know them is a bit repetitive. Focus on getting to know the other members of the chapter and creating a good impression on them; that way you can rely on old friends and new friends to fight for you to get a bid.
4. I don’t plan to stay in this chapter through graduation
A sorority is a lifetime commitment, if you think otherwise then you may not be what that chapter is looking for. Active members want to bring in PNMs who have the potential to be positive members for their chapter. If you admittedly only plan on being in a chapter for only a year or two, then you are not offering everything you can. Talking about how you just want to join a sorority just to make friends freshman year or how your older sister was in Alpha Alpha Alpha chapter for only two years before quitting are red flags to active members. Active members are looking for girls who will keep chapter retention numbers up and not the girl who will be too busy or too uncommitted to the sorority to stay in it for her entire college career.
5. I already know which chapter I belong in
“If I had any advice about going through recruitment it would be to keep an open mind. This year we really challenged the PNM's and asked them to simply focus on ‘going Greek,’” Michelle said.
You might falsely believe you know which chapter you belong in, but recruitment will show you there are a lot of things you didn’t know about your campus’s Greek community before recruitment began. It could show you that you are wrong. Just as you need to keep an open mind, you need to help the active members you meet to keep an open mind about you as well. By telling an active member you know where you belong, she will instantly lose this openness, and your chances to be invited back to that chapter may disappear as well.
6. Money, money, money
Believe it or not no one really cares. Just because your dad has a private jet does not mean you get a free pass into the chapter of your choosing, and just because you go to school on financial aid does not mean certain chapters will cut you. If an active member brings up finances with you, it is probably to explain that there are financial obligations to fulfill as a member of a sorority. Certain schools even require in their recruitment rules for this to be a topic of conversation. Don’t feel you have to work your financial situation into a conversation.
“When we are looking for a sister in our sorority we are not looking at what amount of money she will be able to bring in, but instead what personality she will bring in,” Jen, a recruitment leader for her chapter, said.
7. She has a mouth like a sailor
While a lot of sorority symbols are things like sailboats (Sigma Sigma Sigma) and anchors (Delta Gamma) that is where their sailing themes end. No chapter wants a member who goes through recruitment with a mouth like a sailor. Dropping the f-bomb or other bad language into conversations is inappropriate. Both active members and PNMs alike should act professionally and formally during recruitment conversations. Wait until you get to know active members better before you start to talk like Cee Lo in his song “F#@k You.”
8. Personal Problems
Do you think you sweat an abnormal amount? Did your dress from the day before give you a weird rash? Have your boobs grown since you started college? These are all personal problems you might discuss with your best friend, but not something you want to discuss with a new friend. Don’t take the “getting to know you” conversations of recruitment down to the micro-level. Save your personal problems for discussion with your roommate and not for the active member you just met.
“This girl kept talking about her sweaty hands, and it was right after I shook her hand while meeting her. It was all I could think of the rest of our conversation, and it ruined it for me and I guess for her chances of making a good first impression on me. You don’t have much time with every PNM who comes through so every second is pretty important,” Katie, a senior who has been through recruitment for four years, said.
9. Debbie Downer
No one likes a complainer and, unfortunately, during recruitment there is often a lot to complain about. Weather can be bad, the days are long, and running around in high heels is never good on your feet. But if you let this all come through in your recruitment conversations, active members will think of you as a Debbie Downer. Everyone is going through the same thing, so try to keep your spirits up and look for all of the positives about the experience.
“A recruitment goal for our chapter was to find new members who would be positive people. There is a lot of work involved with sorority activities, and we wanted to find members who would make this work fun and not look at everything as a burden. If PNMs were already complaining during recruitment, then they already didn’t meet this membership goal,” Courtney said.
10. Liar, liar pants on fire
Just because you are at a new school with new people does not mean you can create a completely new identity for yourself. Active members have spent weeks, if not months, preparing for recruitment. They have your transcripts and often your resumes as well. Don’t say you have a 4.0 GPA when you really struggled to get by with a 2.5. If you get caught in a lie you are a lot worse off than if you just told the truth.
What NOT to say as an active chapter member
11. The golden rule
Treat others the way you want to be treated. It is the most basic rule to follow and one you should keep in mind while talking to PNMs during recruitment. Do not talk trash about other chapters in your Greek Life community. You may not be the biggest fan of Alpha Alpha Alpha chapter, but those are thoughts you should keep to yourself. When you talk trash about other sororities, you just look trashy yourself.
“Recruitment is an important time for the entire Greek community as a whole. Talking trash on the other chapters does not promote the Greek Life system or, for that matter, make your chapter look good if you have to resort to talking about other chapters when the PNMs are trying to learn about yours,” Elise, a recruitment leader for her chapter, said.
12. My boyfriend is perfect
If you have found your dream man, congratulations, but it may be a good idea to leave him out of your conversations with PNMs. Girls go through recruitment in order to find a sisterhood to join. If you have a thirty-minute conversation with one of those PNMs all about the ski trip you just took with your boyfriend, then she isn’t learning anything about your chapter’s sisterhood. Talk about how you met your boyfriend participating in Homecoming with your chapter or how he loves your date party at the bowling alley each spring, but leave it at that. Chicks before dicks, remember?
13. One nation under God
Although most sororities have a cross-section of members both politically and religiously, it is difficult to have a positive and meaningful discussion about these subjects during recruitment. You are too short on time, and these issues are too touchy. Getting beyond surface conversations is important, but make sure to stay on fairly neutral topics of interest. Talking about your volunteer work for Obama’s campaign is one thing, but arguing about the nitty-gritty details of the healthcare bill is another.
14. Sorry for partying
Just like PNMs shouldn’t talk about partying, active members shouldn’t either. You never know what type of PNM you may be talking to. One girl could have been voted “Most Likely to Host a Killer Party” in high school, while the next was Miss. Square. There is so much more to your chapter than your social aspects, so make sure every PNM coming through recruitment knows that.
15. I’ve stalked you on Facebook
As an active chapter member you have spent weeks, if not months, preparing for recruitment. This means you probably already know some details about certain PNMs going through the process (maybe girls from your high school or certain chapter legacies). The PNMs should expect this, but that does not mean you should pull back the curtain like Todo in The Wizard of Oz and show them the inside process. First off, it is kind of freaky to do this. Hearing their list of high school activities and senior awards will out you as a true Facebook creeper. Second, letting them tell you about themselves will show you what is most important to them. Maybe a PNM’s involvement with the American Cancer Society is listed last on her recruitment resume, but it is actually the most important activity she thinks she does.
“I still see certain girls even after recruitment is over, and I remember where they are from or what their hobbies are, but I never let them know because it would just be too weird for me and them. My mom was in a sorority in college, and she says she can do the same thing for random people she runs into even though she did rush over 25 years ago,” Katie said.
16. Drama, drama, drama
“It’s awkward when someone brings up girl drama. Everyone has at least a little bit of it in her life, but I think most girls want to join a sorority that is pretty drama-free. You want to join a sorority where girls get along and work through disagreements,” Ellie, a junior who has been through recruitment three times, said.
If you and your sister are in the middle of an unresolved disagreement, it is not the best idea to bring it up with a PNM. A lot of girls go through recruitment nervous about what joining a sorority entails. A lot believe it will involve a lot of girl freak-outs. As an active member you know this isn’t the case, but make sure to prove it by leaving the drama out of it.
17. Money, money, money
As an active member you know picking sorority sisters is not about finding the ones who have private jets and vacation houses in Cabo. But, a lot of girls going through recruitment still think it is. Do whatever you can to avoid making them think money matters in the impression you are making about them. Don’t ask what a PNM’s father does for a living or where they “summer.” The questions may, at times, be situationally appropriate, but can also be interpreted wrong.
“I had a friend who would always somehow talk about her designer sunglasses or fancy clothes in conversations. It was annoying and made you think she felt she was better than you because she had those brands. I did, too, I just didn’t feel the need to obnoxiously show them off,” Jen said.
18. My chapter is the best at everything
You may really believe this, after all isn’t that why you joined it to begin with? You have the best sisterhood, the best intramural teams, you win every Greek competition and obviously host the greatest date parties, but if you aren’t careful you won’t sound like the best chapter to PNMs, you will just sound like the biggest braggers. Make sure to tread the line carefully between talking your chapter up and bragging. Hit the key pride points of your chapter but don’t sit with a PNM and list your chapter’s resume.
Sometimes it is not always about what you say, but how you say it:
“When I visited a chapter the active member wasn’t looking me in the eyes, and it made me feel like she was looking at me for flaws and not actually giving me her full attention. I swear she was staring at my legs the whole time, and I just wanted to tell her I had big muscular legs because I play soccer, and I wanted to tell her to stop judging me,” Jen said.
Simple things like eye contact and body language are important. Make sure to be professional. Make eye and hold eye contact. Sit up straight. Actively listen. When a PNM comes through your chapter that may be her one-and-only experience with your sorority. You want to make sure every girl leaves loving your chapter and feeling like she had your full attention.
Michelle Parsons, former University of Missouri PHA President
Sorority sisters from colleges across the country