As a first-generation college student, I realized at the beginning of my first semester that I would be navigating uncharted territory. The transition from high school to college wasn’t just about moving to a new place; it was stepping into a world my family had never explored. I wanted to live up to all of the expectations my school, family, friends, and I had for myself. For me, step one was feeling accepted into the collegiate atmosphere. Rushing a sorority became pivotal to me, and it taught me valuable lessons about imposter syndrome, the vital role of community and resources, and helped me find my footing on campus.
Before sorority recruitment even began, I remember reaching out to my college’s first-generation student resource center for advice, and they told me to reconsider. They warned about potential difficulties that could arise from joining sororities with their social and financial expectations. I took their words seriously but also believed in forging connections and seeking support in unexpected places.
Within the first morning of formal recruitment week, I realized I was unprepared. I thought rush was only a few days, not an entire week. I had only brought one sundress and two pairs of jeans. But due to COVID-19, my recruitment experience was changed to online at the last minute. That first morning, I was placed on a Zoom call with over 800 other potential new members (PNMs). I couldn’t help but struggle with imposter syndrome. Just because I was at the same university and was allowed to sign up for this experience, did I deserve to do so? Was I ready to do so? I worried that the movies might be correct. What if every sorority sister I met was a legacy member? What if they had insider knowledge? What if everyone judged me for being first-generation?
On Bid Day, I realized that most of my assumptions were far from reality. My sorority chapter contained only three legacies among approximately 200 sisters. I also discovered about 50 other first-generation students within my sorority chapter alone. This experience taught me a vital lesson about the dangers of hasty judgments based on stereotypes. It showed me that diversity exists within every group, and looking beyond surface-level assumptions is crucial.
Rushing a sorority opened my eyes to the unique challenges first-generation students face on campus. It made me acutely aware of the need for a supportive community and accessible resources. My sorority quickly became that community for me. It was a place where I could openly discuss my struggles as a first-gen student, seek advice from those who’d been through similar experiences, and find a support system beyond academics.
Yet, sometimes, there were still differences between myself and most of the Greek life community. I did encounter women who appeared ignorant and insensitive to the challenges faced by those from less privileged backgrounds. They didn’t seem to grasp why things might be difficult for individuals in poverty or for first-generation students like myself.
Rushing a sorority as a first-generation college student transformed my perspective. It shattered preconceptions, emphasized the importance of community and resources, and provided a sense of belonging on an initially overwhelming campus.
While some of my sorority sisters initially held misconceptions about the experiences of first-generation and financially-disadvantaged students, their willingness to engage in open dialogue marked a significant turning point. These conversations weren’t always easy, and they sometimes challenged deeply-ingrained beliefs. Still, they were essential for fostering understanding and empathy.
As I reflect on my journey as a first-generation college student in the sorority system, I am proud to say that my sorority chapter has taken meaningful steps towards becoming more inclusive of first-generation and low-income students. This process, however, is a slow one, and it is still very much a work in progress.
One concrete example of my sorority’s specific initiatives and actions to address these issues was our recent philanthropic focus, which was on hunger — a cause that struck a chord with many members. By actively engaging in food drives and participating in hunger-related awareness campaigns, we took specific and actionable steps to combat poverty and support those in need.
Additionally, our sorority organized Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) educational events to raise awareness about student poverty. These events featured guest speakers who shared their personal stories and insights, shedding light on the challenges faced by first-generation and financially disadvantaged students. These discussions fostered empathy and encouraged our members to look beyond stereotypes and preconceived notions.
Creating academic mentorship programs to support first-generation and other lost-feeling first-year students within the sorority was another beneficial step toward inclusivity. These programs provided valuable guidance and resources, helping individuals like me navigate academic and social challenges. It was clear evidence that my sorority was actively working to bridge the gap and level the playing field.
Rushing a sorority as a first-generation college student transformed my perspective. It shattered preconceptions, emphasized the importance of community and resources, and provided a sense of belonging on an initially overwhelming campus. College isn’t solely about academics — it’s also about personal growth and finding your place in an evolving world.