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To Rush or Not to Rush… Last weekend, my best friend from home came to visit me at school and stay in my sorority house. Her first comment upon entering was, “I go to an all-girls school, but I just couldn’t take all this GIRL all the time!” At first, I didn’t get what she meant. How could someone who goes to an all-girls’ college not understand what it means to live with girls? Isn’t it the same thing? But after looking back at the past eight months of my life, I realized I’ve entered a crazy, alternate-universe girl world, and I’m not leaving until I graduate. In this column, I will try to explain the mysteries of this alternate universe, covering such alien topics as rush, formals and frat parties. Hopefully, I can shed a little light on this mysterious realm that is Greek Life for those who live in the real world and those who are thinking about joining this one.

And now for the topic of my first column: To rush or not to rush?

Before I left for college, I was sure I didn’t want to rush a sorority. From what I had heard, sorority girls were catty, competitive, hard-partiers who made you stay up all night and eat live goldfish to become a member. But my experience so far has proven them to be nothing more than normal girls who happen to all share a common social experience, kind of like being on a sports team or in a club at school. I’ve come to learn there is no such thing as a “typical sorority girl”, or even a “typical sorority”—every single girl in every single sorority is totally different, and it isn’t fair to assign stereotypes to any chapter or to dismiss the Greek system in general as shallow and superficial.

I think if you are even thinking about rushing you should seriously consider going through with it because what do you have to lose? If you decide you don’t fit in anywhere, you can drop out at any time or choose not to pledge. And if you do feel like you fit in at a particular chapter, then you are in for an amazing experience and a whole new group of friends. Sororities provide opportunities not only for parties and guys, but also for philanthropy, help with your classes, intramural athletics and career connections. But most of all, they help you find a group of girls who you can totally be yourself with because you all had enough in common to feel comfortable at the same chapter. This is exactly where many rushees go wrong—they try to fake their way into a house where they don’t feel comfortable, just because they had heard it’s a “better” house with “better” parties and mixers with “better” frats. As someone who made this mistake myself, I cannot urge you more strongly to BE YOURSELF during rush.

As a freshman in college, totally clueless about the esoteric world of Greek Life, sorority girls became like celebrities to me. Everywhere I went—class, parties, the coolest salad place for lunch—I saw sorority girls, carrying tote bags emblazoned with alien letters, or else dressed to the nines at frat parties and having way more fun than all the freshmen. I wanted nothing more than to fit in with these glamazons, to carry my own tote bag and to roll into a frat house like I owned the place instead of fighting with the bouncer to be let in. I decided the best way to go about this was to treat rush like another three-credit class. My roommate and I immediately began researching—we learned the Greek alphabet, we talked to guys at frat parties and girls at other schools, we trolled Facebook for more hours a day than we did our reading. Each day, we scrutinized the sorority girls walking around our campus, trying to fit a face to each of those ubiquitous embroidered bags. We made lists ranking the chapters, assigning blanket stereotypes to each one: “Kappa Kappa Gamma—Party Girls, Alpha Phi—Preppy Girls, Alpha Xi Delta—Smart Girls.” We even studied the other freshman girls around us, trying to gauge how we fit in comparison to the hundreds of other “potential new members.” Finally, by the time rush came around, we knew absolutely everything there was to know about our school’s 11 Panhellenic chapters… or so we thought.

As I went through rush, though, I realized that all my research was in some sense a waste of time. You can be as fake as you want, greeting each girl who rushes you with a giant smile and the bubbliest “oh my GOD, I LOVE RUSH SO MUCH!”, but being fake will only land you in a house with girls you have to be fake with for four years. Do you really want to be in a sorority where you have to put on a pound of makeup and blow-dry your hair every day so no one knows what you really look like? Getting caught up in the “rankings” and trying to pledge a “top house” just for the sake of it will cost you a lot of effort and probably a lot of grief. After all our worrying, all our scrutinizing, all our list-making, all our fake-smiling, my friends and I all ended up in the houses we would have been most comfortable in all along. And that makes Girl World a lot more manageable in the long run.

Amanda First is a senior English major at Cornell University.  She is Life Editor of Her Campus, as well as founding editor of Her Campus Cornell. She has interned for Cornell Alumni Magazine, Harper's Bazaar, and Parents through ASME's internship program.  Some of her favorite things include high heels, browsing ShopBop, yoga, The O.C. reruns (but only before Marissa dies), and Tasti D-Lite. After college, she hopes to pursue a career in magazine journalism.