Being in a sorority was something most people from my small, interstate town in northwestern Virginia just didn’t do. Some people never left the rural county I grew up in. Some went to community college. Some stayed in-state and will likely find their way back when they are finished.
I had friends in the grade ahead of me who rushed, and it seemed like they were having the time of their lives. They looked as if they were having the “ideal” college experience, and they often talked about the benefits that rushing a sorority has brought to their lives.
“When first coming to school, I didn’t know anyone because I was the only person from my high school to come here,” said Courtney Sheehan, a Delta Zeta and junior at Ohio University. “Joining my chapter gave me a home away from home and leadership opportunities I wouldn’t have been able to have otherwise.”
These young women that I had class with, formed friendships with, and looked up to, seemed to be taking the next, bold steps in their lives with such ease I felt comforted and encouraged by the thought of rushing and having a similar support system to help me transition into college and living over 800 miles away from my parents.
“Joining my sorority, AXΩ, has made all the difference for my college experience,” said Kathleen Lauer, an Alpha Chi Omega and junior at The College of William and Mary. “I have had a set of role models who have helped me with everything from class to fighting with friends and more. I have also had the opportunity to share the things I have learned with younger members of the chapter.
“When I decided to change my major, my sisters were there to help walk me through the process and feel comfortable with the change. My sisters are my biggest support system and want me to be the best version of myself.”
During my senior year of high school, I was in many group chats with other senior girls who would be attending Ole Miss, and the topic of sorority rush came up frequently. Between these two events, rushing a sorority popped up on my radar.
However, before I could get my hopes too high, I knew that regardless of the academic scholarship I had received from the university, my family would not be able to afford the added expense of being in a sorority.
August of 2016, I moved south and settled into my dorm. I made many friends from all over the country and was extremely social. Then, in October, sorority and fraternity rush took place, and many of my friends became too busy with the added duties of their new organization and preoccupied with the new people who came with the added promise of being in their lives forever to hang out, or even talk regularly.
There were exceptions to this, and things improved with time, but for the most part, they did not. I made new friends, most of which were not Greek as well, and life moved on.
However, a little over a year later, those old friends and I still plan to get lunch or coffee and never do. We run into each other in public and say hi. We catch up briefly, and they avoid talking about their sorority or fraternity to me, for the most part.
“Pledgeship has been a huge time commitment that a lot of people aren’t ready for,” said Christian Landry, a Phi Kappa Psi pledge and University of Mississippi freshman. “Every morning, we have to be at the house by 7:45 a.m for study hall, and it is expected that we stay there until we have to go to our first class.
“In between each class, we are expected to stop by the house, and hang out with the actives, and get to know them because, in just a few months, they will be our brothers.
“The only real luxury that I had to give up from pre-rush was the ability to sleep in everyday, but it’s probably for the best because now I can do my homework in the morning and have the rest of the day off after class.
“Pledgeship so far has given me over 50 new friends who would do anything for me, many of which I would have never met if I didn’t rush. Pledgeship is definitely worth it and I recommend that everyone who has the opportunity to do it, should.”
It is often expected that I simply do not understand how much easier it is to maintain friendships with people who are in the same organization as you are.
Friends of convenience, that emerge from being part of the same organization, same social circles, and go to the same events as you, are a lot easier to become close with than friends who require more effort to maintain. My Greek friends simply do not have the time for this. I also understand that the bonds of sisterhood are an added element that I do not know about firsthand, and I accept that.
What I understand that they do not understand or see is what is leftover. After rush ends, and everyone finds their new homes and new friends, the people who are left over either never cared about or interacted with the Greek system, or they are like me, and they are on the outside looking in.
“Not being Greek at Ole Miss definitely makes me feel left out of the loop with a lot of the events and groups that are here,” said Joseph Bongiovanni, an University of Mississippi sophomore. “I have the special situation that I was in a fraternity and then was dropped during pledgeship, so I had made really good friends in the fraternity. So then not being part of it anymore, I feel really left out from those Greek events.”
In some ways, the group of friends that I have built outside of the Greek system are my family. They have provided me with the endless love and support. They have met my differences from them with the same empathy and understanding that I would have expected from my hypothetical sorority sisters.
There are days where I look back and imagine what my life could have been like, and I often feel that I would be better off. There are also days when I miss my friends in sororities because I feel that I am more like them than I am like my friends who are not in a Greek organization.
However, there are other days when I feel especially close to my friends outside of the Greek system, days where we go on small adventures or simply enjoy each other’s company over “family dinner,” and I find comfort and kinship in these people that I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to know, and I am thankful.