Preparation can demystify sorority recruitment

This Monday was significant for two reasons. One, it was Bid Day, when every girl on the Quad tore open an envelope that revealed which sorority had selected her to join the house. And two, the “Today” show aired an unsettling segment about the recruitment process.

The feature focused on how young women perfect themselves before recruitment begins, spending thousands of dollars on private coaches, classes and lessons on how to find the best sorority fit. Dollar signs and clips of singing sorority women flashed on the screen, piquing my attention. To my surprise, two of those interviewed were graduates of the University.

At first, I scoffed at the story, forming a plan in my mind to write an exposé of sorts: I would find a way to interview the two women, then show the world just how sickly obsessed young women have become with sorority recruitment.

That was before I talked to Katherine Cantwell, ’10, and Kilby Macfadden, ’04, small-screen stars of the “Today” show’s piece.

In 2008, Macfadden created Go Greek Girl, offering her skills as a sorority recruitment consultant to young women going through the rush process. As a University student, she was a member of Pi Beta Phi and served on the Panhellenic Council, which sparked her passion for the Greek system.

While attending law school in 2005, Macfadden began informally offering her wealth of knowledge to younger family members and friends that were about to embark on their own recruitment journeys. Cantwell, her cousin, was the first one to seek Macfadden’s help.

“Coming from St. Louis, I didn’t know anyone going to the University, and I had no idea what rush would be like,” Cantwell said. “My cousin laid it all out for me, sharing what would happen at open house and each invite. She told me to be positive and open, and to be myself.”

For Cantwell, the recruitment process worked out in her favor. She became a member of Delta Gamma, a decision she said she has never regretted.

“During college, I lived in the sorority house, the senior house and went abroad with DGs,” she said. “They’re my roommates now, too. These girls became my best friends.”

Cantwell said she gives a great deal of credit to Macfadden, who guided her through recruitment. Now, years later, this is Macfadden’s part-time job. When she’s not fulfilling her duties as a prosecutor, she’s working with potential sorority members.

“We help the girls feel more prepared, so that they’re more confident,” said Macfadden. “Confident that who they are is good enough for any chapter.”

Right when Macfadden said that, I realized how wrong I’d been. Go Greek Girl isn’t about charging thousands of dollars for coaching — in fact, Macfadden said that her group session of 10-15 girls didn’t cost more than $50 each.

“We only started charging this spring because my time is more valuable now. I have a husband, a baby and a job. Honestly, we just needed to cover the cost of the room for the group session,” she said.

Anderson Cooper, “Inside Edition,” and other news outlets have been calling Macfadden, trying to get her story. If you ask me, I think they might be sorely mistaken about the purpose of Go Greek Girl. This company isn’t about manipulation and money — it’s about providing a deeper understanding of sororities and recruitment.

The “Today” show sandwiched Macfadden’s and Cantwell’s interviews between crazy statistics and stories, which led me to believe that Go Greek Girl was no different from those coaches who charged astronomical prices. However, after talking with the two University graduates, I can honestly say that Go Greek Girl’s demystification of recruitment is a refreshing change of pace.

“When I was a freshman, I went into rush blindly,” said Macfadden. “I remember going into my first house, Chi Omega, and sitting there while the girls screamed ‘Always Chi Omega’ at me. It was frightening, but only because I didn’t expect it.”

Thanks to Go Greek Girl, the sorority hopefuls don’t have to endure such a negative experience. They can come to campus with knowledge and insight. At the end of our conversation, I admitted to Macfadden that I originally wanted to write a criticism about Go Greek Girl and other similar companies.

“But after talking to you,” I said, “I think I need a new angle.”

Macfadden laughed and said: “I found so much value in the Greek system at U of I. All I want is for other girls to go through recruitment with confidence.”

Now that the new pledge classes are freshly picked, Go Greek Girl might not be able to do much more until next September. Nevertheless, Macfadden’s passion for helping a younger generation and sincere regard for her sorority experiences is an inspiring note to end this year’s formal recruitment.

Melanie is a sophomore in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]