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An Outsider’s Guide to Sorority Life

If you’re not in a sorority, then chances are, like me, you know next to nothing about them. Sure, you’ve heard the terms formal and Greek Week, but do you actually know what they mean? What is it really like to live in a sorority house with a bunch of other girls? Do those colors and symbols associated with each sorority actually mean something? And do the girls in sororities really love it as much as they say they do? I’ve asked some of my fellow UIowa HC Contributors who are in sororities all about their sorority experiences, and now I’m going to break it all down for you.

First, let me introduce my own personal sorority panel:

Sarah Yeoman – Chi Omega

Allison Mae – Alpha Delta Pi

Amy Luong – Delta Zeta

Caroline Owens – Delta Delta Delta (Tri Delta)

Holly Reimer – Kappa Kappa Gamma

Chantel Haughton – Alpha Xi Delta

What do the colors and symbols for each sorority mean?

Sarah: “We aren’t allowed to share the meanings behind our symbols!”

Amy: “Sorry, it’s a secret!”

What is your sorority’s philanthropy?

Sarah (Chi Omega): Make A Wish Foundation

Allison (Alpha Delta Pi): Ronald McDonald House

Amy (Delta Zeta): “We have two. The Painted Turtle, which is a camp is for children who are faced with life-threatening and chronic illnesses and The Starkey Hearing Foundation, which is a foundation that helps to distribute hearing aids globally.”

Caroline (Tri Delta): St. Jude

Holly (Kappa Kappa Gamma): Reading is Fundamental (R.I.F.)

Chantel (Alpha Xi Delta): “We work with Autism Speaks, and this year our chapter raised $21,000.”

Why did you decide to join a sorority? Why have you decided to stay in a sorority?

Caroline (Tri Delta): “I actually decided to join my sophomore year instead of freshman. Although there were other complications happening that held me back from going through recruitment, I regretted not doing it for my whole first year. I barely met anyone, I found myself in my room every weekend or going home…I hated school. I decided to join mainly to meet more girls. For me, I have never really had that solid group of girlfriends and I thought why not go through recruitment and meet some girls who are interested in the same things as me. My mom was in a sorority in college and she still talks to her (sorority) sisters and I wanted that for myself. Since I’ve joined, I’ve met girls who are just like me and I’ve made friends that I know will last forever (cheesy I know, but it’s so true). There is always someone who is willing to do whatever, whether its go to the library, get food, or go out I know I can always call any girl in my pledge class and thats such a blessing.”

Holly (Kappa Kappa Gamma): “Actually I was very on the edge about joining. Many of my closest friends were guys back home, so I knew it was going to be a different experience. I decided to take the leap of faith – if you never try, you’ll never know. I wanted to experience all facets of college life and build a circle of friends that will last a lifetime. I also was interested in the volunteer and leadership opportunities associated with Greek life.”

Do you like being in a sorority?

Sarah (Chi Omega): “Yes. I am involved in something great that gives back to charity and does community outreach, and I’m surrounded by great girls that will always support me and make me the best version of myself.”

Holly (Kappa Kappa Gamma): “I love it. I’ve always been a very involved person, so it only made sense to join a sorority at Iowa. I’ve made so many close friends and learned so many valuable life lessons along the way. I’m also so excited to start a tradition in my family.”

Caroline (Tri Delta): “I love it. It’s honestly like having a home away from home. Since I don’t live in this year (I will for my junior year), I can always go to the house for some amazing home cooking by our house mom, Robin. It’s nice to sit down in a dining room and have your friends surrounding you in a place you feel safe and wanted. Of course, like I said before, the group of people I’ve surrounded myself with in Tri Delt are amazing. They say during recruitment to trust the process and that you will get into the sorority you’re meant to be in, and I cannot believe how right they were. It’s funny how similar the girls are to myself and how much we surprisingly have in common. I’ve just met my two best friends in August and we are all three inseparable. I had to bring one of them love it. I’ve always been a very involved person, so it only made sense to join a sorority at Iowa. I’ve made so many close friends and learned so many valuable life lessons along the way. I’m also so excited to start a tradition in my family.”

What was recruitment like for you? Can you give me a brief description of your experience?

Allison (Alpha Delta Pi): “I didn’t go through formal recruitment, but I heard it was exhausting!”

Caroline (Tri Delta): “Recruitment was exhausting and stressful! Throughout the two weeks of visits and rounds you rate the houses from what you think best fits you and they do the same thing with you. Sometimes you get the houses you wanted, sometimes you don’t. A lot of girls dropped recruitment half way through because they didn’t get the house they wanted; that made me so sad because I think those girls would have been perfect in whatever house they were put in. Too many I think worry about stereotypes or what they’ve heard. None of that matters. For me, I was lucky enough to get the house that I really wanted. During each round I loved visiting Tri Delt. During the rounds you sit and talk to a girl in the sorority about different things, and with Tri Delt, I found it so easy to talk to the girls. You do a lot of talking, by the end of recruitment I had no voice. Imagine sitting in a average sized room with like 50 other girls and having to talk to someone in front of you loud enough so you can hear them and make a good impression on them. Your voice is tired, and you’re tired. I think I went to bed right when I got home every time.”

Amy (Delta Zeta): “Every day you get invited back to the houses that you like and hope they liked you back, and every day you’re hoping your top choice invites you back. Despite who invites you back each day, you really do end up were you belong.” 

Chantel (Alpha Xi Delta): “Going through recruitment was SO stressful. I’m just excited to be on the other side of it even though it’s going to be a thousand times more hectic.”

What is Greek Week?

Sarah (Chi Omega): “Greek week is a competition week full of different events. Each sorority gets paired with one or two fraternities and they compete in different events throughout the week. There are penny wars, dance competitions, Greek Olympics, letter check-ins, banner painting. It’s a fun way to get out and socialize with the Greek community.”

Amy (Delta Zeta): “Greek Week is a week of competitiveness between fraternities and sororities with fun activities. The pairing who does the best at these events wins fame and glory until the next year!”

Holly (Kappa Kappa Gamma): “There are events all week. It’s kind of like a homecoming, but for Greek Life.”

What exactly is a formal?

Sarah (Chi Omega): “Formal is different for sororities than fraternities. Formal for sororities is like prom. It includes a fancy dinner and dancing all night. But for fraternities, they usually go to a destination formal like Chicago or Fiji, even to the Kentucky Derby.”

Caroline (Tri Delta): “Formal is an event of celebration really, everyone works really hard to put together the event and its always really amazing to see how it ends up. When we go to formal we bring a date (guy or girl doesn’t matter) and it always ends up being the most amazing time. Everyone around you is having a blast. This year we took a bus to our formal in Cedar Rapids and there were little snacks for us to eat, a photo booth and a DJ. It lasted about 3 hours and then we took the bus back home. I think formal is just an event to bring us all together to have a good time.”

Holly (Kappa Kappa Gamma): “Pretty much just an excuse to get dressed up and dance. It’s like the college version of a homecoming or winter formal.”

What are the requirements of your sorority?

Chantel (Alpha Xi Delta): “We have to maintain a 2.5 GPA, attend another fraternity or sorority’s philanthropy, complete 4 volunteer hours, and attend an educational.”

Amy (Delta Zeta): “Holding ourselves to the high standards of our constitution, as well as university and national policies.”

Caroline (Tri Delta): “I think most sororities have the same requirements. GPA is really important in sorority, we work hard to keep our grades up and do our best in school. We have an academic chair and we do study hours every week to keep us on track.”


What kinds of events does your sorority put on?

Caroline (Tri Delta): “Our philanthropy is St. Jude, so we put on a lot of events to raise money for our them. Last year we raised over $60,000! May 1st we our having our philanthropy event- The Golden Heart Gala. It is held at our house and there will be desserts provided that we will be baking (fun!), a silent auction and performances by an a cappella group and some of our very own sisters. During the winter we had Pine Party for Christmas and the holidays and we had friends and family come into the house and eat desserts and look around the house.”

Sarah (Chi Omega): “We host philanthropy events. In the fall we put on the Chi Omega Golf Classic. Fraternity men and chio dads come and play a round of 9 holes and the chio women catty for the men. All of the proceeds of the event go towards make a wish and granting a wish. We also do Wings for Wishes in the fall. We cater in Buffalo Wild Wings to our house and we open it to the general public. People come and buy wings and watch a game- all the proceeds go towards Make A Wish and Granting A Wish.”

How does living in a sorority house work?

Sarah (Chi Omega): “There are duties that must be done everyday to keep the house running smoothly. Each person is assigned a duty for the week and they rotate out every week. There is a chef (Pam is amazing) that cooks lunch and dinner five days a week and supplies food for Saturday and Sunday as well. We have houseboys that set up and put away dinner. They also help the chef clean up and wash the dishes and take out the trash. They are local fraternity men and they get paid. It’s a ton of fun living with so many girls. You can still escape to your room and get some alone time there, but there is always someone to study or watch TV with.”

Amy (Delta Zeta): “You get the opportunity to live with all your sisters under one roof, getting the chance to bond even further. In our chapter, each member considers the house their “home” despite whether or not they are currently residing in the chapter structure.”

Holly (Kappa Kappa Gamma): “Our house holds about 50 girls. I live in this year actually. I really enjoy it, especially because Chef Will and our baker, Marie, is the bomb. It’s also given me the opportunity to get a lot closer with the girls.”

What is the biggest misconception about sororities?

Holly (Kappa Kappa Gamma): “Probably the stereotypes that come with each house. Each house has so many unique women in it who come from all different backgrounds. It’s unrealistic to loop all 150+ members into one category.”

Chantel (Alpha Xi Delta): “A misconception is that we’re all dumb. I’ve met some incredibly intelligent women through my sorority.”

Caroline (Tri Delta): “I always hear the misconception “you pay for your friends”. Okay, well while I do pay to be a part of my sorority- I don’t pay for my friends. I have amazing friends and sorority did help me find my way to them, but regardless of money I have amazing friends.”

Sarah (Chi Omega): “That all they do is party and they’re all stuck up girls.”

What is one thing you wish everyone knew about your sorority or sororities in general?

Sarah (Chi Omega): “They might get a bad rep, but they were literally formed for the soul purpose of helping a charity and for philanthropic matters. Don’t judge Greek life just because of one bad chapter that you see on the Internet. The Greek system is full of wonderful people that are trying hard to do amazing things for the world.”

Caroline (Tri Delta): “I wish everyone knew how fun sororitys are. I know a lot of girls are sometimes turned off by them and worried that they won’t fit in or it’s not for them. There is a sorority for everyone who wants it. It honestly is such a fun time…all the events we have and the sisterhoods we have are so much fun. You meet the people you will spend forever with. I don’t know where I would be without these girls.”

Amy (Delta Zeta): “Not every sorority woman looks the same, acts the same, or likes the same thing. We’re all different people who believe in the same values. Don’t believe the movies!”

Holly (Kappa Kappa Gamma): “How involved we are on campus and how much we truly care about our philanthropy.”

It’s easy to see how passionate these girls are about their involvement in their individual sororities. I know that I have been truly inspired by talking to these girls and will definitely pay more attention to all of the good they do for our campus.

Sarah Nelson is senior at the University of Iowa pursuing a Journalism major, English minor, and Fundraising and Philanthropy Communication Certificate. When she's not binge-watching One Tree Hill or Jane the Virgin on Netflix (again), she's is probably rereading the Harry Potter series or writing for her blog, SarahNdipity. With an addiction to books and coffee, Sarah hopes to take the world by storm as a book editor. Or social media marketer. Or blogger. (She hasn't quite made up her mind yet, but that's okay because who says you have to be just one thing?)
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