If you’ve always dreamed of mentoring other women, becoming a big in your sorority is a great way to do so. Getting a little is an idealized part of Greek life—you get to grow your family, wear matching shirts and find someone to be in all your Instagram photos with you. But it’s so much more than that as well—you’re gaining a lifelong friend who looks up to you for advice, who will indulge in late night fun with you and who may even be at your wedding one day.
You should be over the moon about becoming a big in your sorority, but here are seven things to know beforehand.
1. Most women pick up a little one year after they join the sorority
It’s common that if you joined in the fall of your freshman year, you will get a little during the fall of your sophomore year. This depends on the size of your chapter and if there are any upperclassmen above you who do not yet have a little. Jillian James, a junior at the University of Central Florida, says she became a big exactly one year after she joined her sorority, which she thinks is the perfect amount of time. It’s good to be in the sorority for a while so you know the ins and outs to give advice to your little.
But if you have a busy fall quarter, you can always wait another year or cycle. Timing is everything; if you become a big, you’ll have to attend more events that quarter, such as crafting nights, dropping off gifts to your little and big/little reveals. If you don’t have any time to spare, it might be best to wait.
2. Being a big means being a mentor
Big/little relationships aren’t just for social media. You’re there to impart words of wisdom to your little, whether it’s about relationships, classes or Greek life. “Being a big means being a mentor and you want to make sure that you are able to provide information and advice to your little and that you know the ins and outs of how your sorority chapter works,” Jillian says. Her little has turned to her for career and professional advice, and Jillian was even able to help her find an internship.
“In order to be a good big, you should genuinely care about your little and want to be a mentor,” Jillian says. “You have to step up and be a good role model and exhibit positive behavior. You want to be someone who is knowledgeable about your school, your sorority and campus involvement. Simply put, you want to help make your little into the best version of herself by providing support and advice whenever she needs it!” Basically, you’ll need to be there for your little sister.
3. It’s on you to plan outings with your little
Being a big requires a lot of effort, and you should decide if you’re willing to put in the time alongside your hectic course load. “I’m usually not the kind of person to reach out to others when I want to hang out. But before I signed up to be a big and at the beginning of the year, I kept telling myself that I need to be the one to ask her to hang out, and it’s my responsibility to check in with her and put in the work to show her that I like her and care about her,” says Mackie Lorkis, a junior at UCLA.
You know you’re meant to be a big if this sounds fun to you—hanging with your little isn’t a chore! Since Jillian got her little, they have done a lot of fun things together, which helped them get close. They went to theme parks, visited a farmer’s market and explored new restaurants in Florida.
I personally love going on coffee dates with my little to check out all the different cafes in our college town. It’s a great chance to have deep conversations over coffee without going too far off campus.
4. You should build a real relationship
Like any good friendship, a big/little relationship means you need to maintain your friendship and keep in touch. It’s not a one-time thing where you get a little, give her gifts, hang out once and never speak again. To really get the most out of the opportunity, become genuine friends.
“I try to just check in with her, ask her how her classes and boys are and we get dinner or watch movies together,” Mackie says. “I just want to build a relationship where she can ask me for advice or to hang out a lot and, for next year, be a cool older friend with an apartment.” There are a lot of perks to being the cool big sis, after all.
5. Creativity will make it even more fun
In my sorority, we welcome littles with a basket of goodies related to our chapter. The sisters help make crafts and decorate items to give to the littles—everything from picture frames, to cards to cute puns on candy bars. Although you definitely don’t need to be creative to get a little, it will make the experience a lot more fun if decorating ceramic mugs or making scrapbooks is your thing. I personally loved it, and sharing my handmade items with my little was extra special and meaningful.
6. Being a big can get expensive
Cost is another factor that you should think about before picking up a little in your sorority. Littles often get showered with gifts, and some of those could come out of your pocket. If you have a tight budget this semester, it might be better to wait until the next pledge class to become a big.
“In my sorority we have a ‘clue week’ where you have someone drop off a basket everyday to your little that is filled with presents. Clue week can cost anywhere from $50 to $200 in my sorority. Additionally, you must also order matching shirts for your entire line for big/little reveal day,” Jillian says.
Even after big/little reveals, you still might be putting in money to be a good big. I once ordered matching necklaces on Etsy for my two littles and myself. It wasn’t required but I love them, and I thought matching jewelry would be cute. However, you can also get sorority paraphernalia that’s passed down from graduating seniors. So even if you don’t have a big budget to spend on your lil sister, someone else in your sorority family might have clothing or fanny packs to pass on. But if you become a big, consider how much money you’re willing to spend on the experience.
7. You should be into it
Remember that getting a little is probably a bigger deal to your little than to you, since it’s likely her first few week in college and she wants to feel like she belongs. Make that happen for her and show her how much you care. Mackie says the best bigs are kind, nonjudgmental and excited.
“I felt bad when some of the littles got no presents or late presents, when everyone else had theirs. And if you act like you’re too cool to do things, you’ll probably make her feel bad if she wants to do them. So just be like into things and be happy and excited,” Mackie says.
Jillian has the right attitude about her little. She says, “I wanted to be a big because it’s a very unique opportunity to help someone navigate college life and have a special connection with someone. It gives you the opportunity to make a positive impact on someone’s life.”
Getting a lil sis is so much fun because you can really be there for another college woman like yourself. Get into it and enjoy it.