Sororities offer members a family away from home

Welcome Week is a magical time filled with professors throwing syllabi at students, early class dismissal and freshmen roaming the dark streets of Champaign in packs scavenging for free beer. As everyone settles into their routines and becomes reacquainted with friends, one thing hovers ominously over this otherwise light-hearted week: sorority recruitment. Scratchy throats and lost voices reveal how upperclassmen have been practicing their cheers long before the arrival of the potential new members.

Sorority recruitment is not an unfamiliar phenomenon to returning students, as approximately 22 percent of our student body is Greek. However, it is a new, and perhaps strange, concept to women who are freshman and have decided to dedicate two long weekends to enter the world that is sorority recruitment.

Most potential new members have decided to go through recruitment because they have heard it is a quick way to meet new people, the social calendars are extensive and the clothing is elaborate. This is the short answer to why incoming women submit themselves to this process year after year. All of that, for the most part, is true. However, as a member of the Greek system, I feel obligated to set the record straight, to provide insight into the longer, more complex answer.

While the friends and the social events are all reasons why women go through recruitment, that’s not the reason why women stay in sororities and continue to commit time and energy to their organizations. Frankly, women who are freshmen don’t get it. They don’t understand the real reason, not yet. But hopefully one day they will. As a senior, I can speak to the recruitment process and what being a member of a sorority truly means. I want to explain what so many have asked, what so many critics of the Greek system fail to understand, and that is simply: Why join a sorority?

For me, the answer became apparent when I experienced a personal tragedy: Your sorority is not the family you were born into, but the family you choose without even realizing it. I, like so many young impressionable freshmen, approached recruitment cautiously and when Bid Day came around I was thrilled, but never thought that the women I stood next to would one day become such influential and irreplaceable aspects of my life. The women, who were first my acquaintances, grew to become my closest friends, and ended up being my family. Though we are unique in our personalities and differ in many ways, there is one thing we all have in common: We would do anything for each other. This bond is a result of shared morals, values and a similar outlook on life, which ultimately gives way to a trust that blooms into friendship.

Through this trust, sororities provide women with the avenue to become the best possible versions of themselves because we encourage each other to be better, to strive for excellence and to be ourselves. I’m not talking about the self you were in high school where you hid some of your weird quirks. I’m talking about the self that likes to talk in strange voices on occasion and binge on McDonald’s chicken nuggets, which, by the way, is totally normal. Joining a sorority allows you the freedom to be who you truly are without judgment. And not only will it make you into a more confident person, you’ll also have some laughs along the way.

The years we spend in college are our most formidable years. So, it is essential that we surround ourselves with people who will be our home away from home, who we can go to anything with, who will help us become successful in all aspects of life. For me, those people are the women in my sorority.

Though the two weekends of sorority recruitment may seem like speed dating for girls, hopefully you will walk away as lucky as I did and find a home with the women in your sorority. If you continue with the process, you will end up not only with a busy calendar, a new closet and an obscene amount of Facebook friend requests, but hopefully you will join a family. Because really, there is nothing better in the world than knowing that you matter to 200 girls and that you have made a difference in their lives. Each and every woman in my sorority has made an incredible impression upon my life, and I can only hope I have done the same for them.

Kate is a senior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]