Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Sydney White / Amanda Bynes
Sydney White / Amanda Bynes
Universal Pictures
Life > Experiences

It’s Not You, It’s the System: Why You Were Dropped From Rush and Why It Has Nothing To Do With You 

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

When you’re thinking about joining a sorority, most of the active members love to gush about all the friends you’ll make, the exciting events you’ll attend, and the academic and social support you’ll receive. What they usually fail to mention is how much you will question your personality and likability throughout the recruitment process. 

From the very beginning of Rush Week, you are encouraged by the National Panhellenic Conference to trust the process, keep an open mind, and avoid falling in love with a house too quickly. Loosely translated, this means; “Please don’t think about this system too hard or you will notice that it is deeply flawed and you might not want to participate anymore!” 

This is all meant to prepare you for the reality that most girls will get dropped from at least one house. Being “dropped” feels just about as unpleasant as it sounds, but the good news is that it usually has very little to do with you. 

I used to be in a sorority at CU Boulder, and experiencing the recruitment process as an active member is what made me decide to leave the Greek system. Keep in mind that every sorority has different recruitment practices, but this article will explain how my sorority selected and dropped potential new members (PNMs). 

Every house on campus gets a list of all the girls that will be rushing. Before you even enter the house, there are certain factors that radically increase or decrease your chances of being invited back for “second datebook”, or the second day of recruitment. One of these factors is legacy status. If you are a legacy, meaning someone you are related to was in the sorority, you are almost guaranteed to be invited back. While this does not guarantee that you will be offered a bid from that house, most sororities value legacies very deeply and will be far less inclined to drop you. 

Another important factor is grade point average (GPA). Most sororities place high value on academic performance, so having a concerningly low GPA might disqualify you from certain houses. If you are dropped for a poor academic record, this will happen very early in the recruitment process. 

Now, for the nitty gritty. The physical execution of a recruitment round is meant to feel natural and poised to a PNM, but is actually meticulously manufactured, staged, and rehearsed. 

While each PNM lines up alphabetically outside the house, the active members are lining up inside with a predetermined order—already knowing your name, extracurriculars, hometown, interests, hobbies, passions, and anything else you put into your recruitment application. This is intended to match PNMs to active members with similar interests, backgrounds, religious or philanthropic affiliations, and personalities. However, assumed compatibility does not always guarantee that you will have strong connections with the active members that you meet with. 

margot robbie in a barbie movie
Warner Bros

This system also leaves room for an extremely common, yet fatal, error in the recruitment process: screwing up the line. All it takes is one girl to be out of order, and the remainder of the line might end up talking to girls they have low compatibility with. 

For example, let’s say PNM #6 and Active Member #6 were matched because they both played lacrosse in high school and love Taylor Swift. But Active Member #6 had to go to the bathroom between rounds and got into line late. She counts five girls in the front of the line and merges in front of the seventh girl. In her hurry, she realizes that she miscounted and is actually the seventh girl in line. Now, she will be talking to PNM #7, who she knows nothing about and has no conversation starters planned for. To add insult to injury, every other girl in line is now mismatched. Active Member #7 will be talking to PNM #8, Active Member #8 will be talking to PNM #9, and so on and so forth. Let’s just say…this happens. Often. 

Making matters worse is the issue of “bump groups.” Each active member participating in recruitment is assigned to a bump group, which in my sorority was three girls who had similar personalities or traits and would be conversing with the same PNMs. The idea is that on each day of recruitment, each PNM will speak with three girls who are all in the same bump group. You probably recall moments during recruitment when you were having a conversation with an active member, and then another member would approach. The new girl would continue the conversation, and the one you were previously speaking to would wander off. This is the process of “bumping,” which is meant to make the PNM feel as though the next active member just sauntered up to her because she was dying to get to know her. In reality, this is a routine we rehearsed dozens of times a day, trying to ensure that PNMs had no idea that we had already planned who they would speak to and why. 

At the end of each recruitment round (literally one millisecond after the front door closes), every active member sprints down to the basement to rank the PNMs. People fall down stairs, girls are shoving each other out of the way, it’s a violent encounter. Everyone finds their bump group and sits in a circle to rank each PNM they met with on a scale of one through five. A score of one means that we really want to see her at the next round of recruitment, and a score of five indicates that we don’t think she should come back. We would also write detailed notes on each girl we talked to, giving a rationale on why we scored her the way we did. 

I’ll be honest, the ranking process made me feel incredibly icky. It felt so degrading to reduce every girl—most of whom were fascinating, beautiful, intelligent, funny, and kind—down to a number. Despite the potential of most PNMs to be great additions to the sorority, the rush structure demands a simplistic reduction of each girl—negating the whole point of rush. 

Sororities are marketed to young girls as a place where they can find community, companionship, and support if they just trust the process. But how are you supposed to trust a process that you don’t understand, that leaves room for error outside of your control? Even worse, how are you supposed to run home on bid day to a group of women who viewed you as no more than a number just one week before? The unfortunate reality of sorority recruitment is that the process is not as foolproof and fair as you are led to believe, and getting dropped is more reflective of a bad system than a bad impression. 

Sage Nye

CU Boulder '24

Sage Nye is a senior at the University of Colorado Boulder, studying sociology with a minor in journalism and a public health certificate. Sage is passionate about women's health, music, and ironic TikToks!