It’s no secret that my interest in the process of recruitment was peeked when our youngest daughter decided to go through recruitment at The University of Alabama. Her sister had gone through a few years before at a regional state school and of course back in the dinosaur days I had gone through at the small liberal arts university I attended. Neither of those experiences even came close to preparing us for the culture shock of sorority recruitment and one of the MOST competitive campuses in the country!
When we signed on the dotted line and sent in our deposit my darling daughter made it known she wanted to “Go Greek”. After sharing this information with her sisters at Christmas time my second daughter called with a word of warning, “Did I know what we were getting into”? I was quickly to learn that I had “no idea”!!
Working in Washington DC and being active in her sorority alumni association she had encountered many young women who had either been in a sorority in the “south” or knew someone who had experienced this phenomena. All of a sudden my yellow legal pad ( ok… disclaimer..actually it was a cute swirly crimson and black pad I bought at the local stationary store) was filled with “to do’s” like rec letters, resumes, head shots and register for “Preview Weekend”.
Preview Weekend is held in the springtime, usually late March. It is a time when young women and their families (yep sometimes the WHOLE family arrives) visit the campus of the college that they are intent upon attending, to spend a Saturday listening to speakers, seeing fashion shows, gawking at show and tell sorority tables and visiting the various sorority houses. It was a very informational and eye opening experience indeed and one that I heartily suggest you attend if at all possible!
When I first learned of this opportunity I immediately signed us up (Dad was not signed up..he wanted NO part of this adventure). Dear daughter had already been all over the Alabama Facebook page for her freshmen class and had made lots of friends. She was quite upset one afternoon to find that these new friends were all being “invited” to teas and barbecues for various sororities during Preview Weekend. I quickly logged onto the Panhellenic Website , scouring for the form that I must have missed that would garner these coveted invites for my daughter as well. Alas, it was NOWHERE to be found! Being a helicopter mom I was then…I am not now..ok maybe a little), I dialed up the Greek Life office and politely (ok so it took a lot of self control to be polite!) inquired as to how I would get invitations to these events for MY dear, sweet, darling daughter (I mean this had to be a mistake right??? No one would leave my beautiful, bright, talented, articulate daughter off such an invite.) The answer almost knocked me out of my chair! Because WE were from OUT OF STATE and knew NO ONE in a sorority at Alabama my precious daughter had little, if NO CHANCE to be invited to any of these events. Panic rose in my throat! If all of these girls were being invited to these parties and getting to know the members of the various sorority houses what chance would my daughter have when formal recruitment rolled around to get a bid.
Being one to not let adversity get in the way I formulated a plan. Grabbing the phone I dialed up the national office of my sorority. I quickly explained to the woman who was the area adviser for Alabama the situation. After a rush of words equivalent of a tidal wave, she took a deep breath and gave tutorial 101 on recruitment at a competitive SEC school. An hour and 45 minutes later we had a plan :). Several phone calls and emails later my daughter had several invites to not only the “invite only” events for my sorority but also for the chapter that her grandmother had been a member of as well.
Smugly sitting back I thought to myself ” yep..I got this..piece of cake”. Oh my I was SO wrong. I quickly discovered that college women are busy with lots of different things and some might not be quite as organized as others. It took us up to an hour before we were set to depart to have a finalized schedule in place along with contact info for the girls who were to be the hostesees for said events.
Looking at my daughters closet I realized that she had nothing “appropriate” to wear to these events. The dress was “sundresses (it was currently snowing in Missouri) or “Sunday dresses”. Frantic shopping, which resulted in sometimes cross words, tears and hurt feelings (as well as a mad dash out of the Lilly Pulitzer store with my daughter locking herself in the car and me raving like a lunatic outside of it waving a pink flamingo covered sundress in the air). The good news is that when we finally loaded the car with the 6 new sundresses and all the accessories to match, we were actually speaking to each other, had a schedule of parties and events she had personally been invited to and mapquest directions on how to get there.
My sorority sister at nationals had arranged for my dear child to sleep and “hang out” with a young woman who was a current member of my particular sorority. Panhellenic rules are very strict on PNM’s and actives contact and time spent together but since this girl lived in the all female dorm known as Tut across from sorority row my daughter could spend Preview Weekend with her. (Since that time there is a new curfew in Tuscaloosa and so PNM’s are not allowed to stay with sorority women anymore….FYI..I’m just saying that decision was probably a good thing).
We pulled into town and headed right over to Tut so we could meet my daughters chaperone for the weekend. Thirty minutes later I was headed to the hotel and my daughter was headed for one of the best weekends of her life. She attended several get togethers that evening, (her new friend drove her to each event since none of them can be held on campus at the actual sorority house..in fact most are either held at restaurants or alums homes) met lots of sorority girls for a variety of houses on campus and really got a feel for what life would be like once she pledged a house at Alabama. When she called to report in later that evening before heading out to some band parties at several fraternity houses you could hear the excitement in her voice. I smiled..all that hard work had been worth it!
The next morning we met for breakfast and I got a full briefing on the evenings festivities. We headed off to Bryant Denney Stadium for the program that was hosted by Panhellenic. After buying BOTH t-shirts available (oh and you have to buy them at least a size bigger than you normally wear because that’s what ALL the girls do) we headed up the elevator to peruse the different displays that each sorority had set up. It was a show and tell of sorts with pics (called Zaps), t-shirts, philanthropy and financial info and several girls representing their particular sorority available to chat and answer questions. There was a pamphlet at each table with a synopsis of information and financial break down of costs and fees that you could take home to Daddy :).
We were then treated to a fashion show both by Panhellenic and the mothers and daughters sitting around us. Dear daughter quickly picked up on “labels” that were prevalent and on a particular piece of jewelery that many girls seemed to be wearing (we later discovered thanks to her older sister that these were bracelets that were made by a jewelry designer named David Yurman…let’s just say they are now a staple of my daughter’s wardrobe as well). There were mothers and daughter who obviously were totally in tune with this sort of day and “newbies” like us who were to awe-struck to speak but just sat with gaping mouths taking it all in.
Half way through the event the girls were taken and divided up into “Rho Chi” groups and led away to a simulation of sorts that would familiarize them with what formal recruitment would be like when they returned in August. They visited each house for a quick 10 minutes to get a snap shot of that particular sorority, what their members were involved in on campus and their philanthropy. The parents sat back and talked about recs, Greek Resources ( a financial company that you pay your sorority bill through), purchase fund accounts (the money that you use to pay for your t-shirts, zaps, and all other sorority items purchased for various functions). We learned about Bid Day baskets, coming to Bid Day, maximizing your options, and had an opportunity to meet some of the other parents.
After a full day the parents were then released to go over to sorority row and meet their daughters and attend a barbecue hosted by Panhellenic. Since the girls were not finished visiting each house we got to stand back and watch the process they were going through. I was so excited and nervous for my daughter all at the same time. Secretly I think I was wishing I could be the one to do embark on this adventure. I scanned the crowd for my daughter, catching a glimpse of her engaged in a conversation with another girl who she she was standing next to as they lined up in alphabetical order to enter my sorority. For a brief moment she glanced my way, smiled, gave me a thumbs up and then she was off up the brick walk.
The barbecue was a good time. We sat next to some girls my daughter had become quick friends with and their mothers. We were both exhausted but my daughter was again handed off to her hostess for the weekend and they were off to experience more band parties. I headed back to the hotel to rest. It had been a very full day. I needed my beauty rest as tomorrow morning we were both attending a brunch hosted by my sorority at a antebellum mansion on the outskirts of town.
I had a very hard time getting my daughter to leave Tuscaloosa the next day. She was courted, wined and dined by the active members of my sorority and they made it known that they were very interested in her becoming one of them. They couldn’t come out and say those words but the attention they gave her and the inferences in the conversations told us as much. We actually ended up back down on the Strip (that’s the area just on the edge of campus where there are lots of boutiques, restaurants and memorabilia stores) for over an hour just soaking it in one more time.
So why am I telling you all this? Because Preview Weekend is a MUST as far as I am concerned. It is just what the word implies, a time for you and your daughter to “Preview” Greek Life at the college she is going to attend. You get a snapshot of the young women who will make up her potential pledge class as well as the already initiated members of sisterhood she will join.. It’s a time to ask questions, get answers, learn the personalities of the sororities on campus and connect with other parents who also will be going through the recruitment process.
Not every school hosts these types of events. The SEC schools traditionally have something like this coupled along with private invitation teas and events usually held at the home of an alum, their “Club” or a local restaurant. You can find these teas in Altalanta, Nashville, Birmingham, Hunstville. They usually start late January or early February and continue through April. Sororities send a team of girls to meet and chat with PNM’s from that area.
I spent an entire morning on the phone calling over 100 colleges asking about these types of events. For the most part anywhere north of the Mason Dixon Line I was met by confused silence. I was surprised to find though that as sorority life is becoming more popular (and competitive) at some of the northern schools these activities and events are also starting to pop up. Schools like The University of Washington in Seattle, Iowas State in Ames and Kansas State in Manhattan all have similar events available to high school seniors this Spring.
So ladies (and moms)…dust off your traveling duds, get that manicure and pedicure and head off to “Preview” what be the most exciting time in your daughter’s life!