This past weekend “my sorority” girl spent all day Sunday in “Rush workshop”.  What is “Rush Workshop” you ask?  Well it’s days upon days devoted to practicing for Recruitment.  It’s kind of like the “unofficial” start to the recruitment season. It usually goes hand in hand with pre-recruitment teas and events.  This is just the first of many for her and her sisters with many more hours and days spent in preparation for Formal Recruitment 2012! (Note:  they have already had pre-recruitment events and teas in cities surrounding their campus..this weekend will be the first pre-recruitment event held for an entire weekend on campus.  All of the sororities will be participating!)

What do they practice?  Well… when you go through “formal” recruitment in August (or if your campus is deferred it might be after classes begin), you will be greeted by choreographed door songs each day.  Door songs are amazing and overwhelming all at the same time!   Here’s how it works. (I feel like I am required to tell you this a “Spoiler Alert”….ha ha ha)

If you been following along you will remember that at the beginning of recruitment you are divided up into Rho Chi groups (that’s the group of girls you will go with the first round of parties and will then meet with the mornings of the following rounds to get your party schedules).  They can be called different names depending on the school you attend but I am just going to call them the name I am familiar with.   I digressed..sorry :).   So,  you get into your groups and your Rho Chi leads you to the first house on your party schedule.  As you look up and down sorority row you will notice other groups of girls standing in front of each of the sorority houses.

Since your Rho Chi group is formed by alphabetical order of your last name (in my daughter’s group there were girls with last name Me through No) your Rho Chi leader will ask you to line up in alphabetical order.  Not an easy task since there will be over 50 of you but you will have already practiced this and by the last party of round 1 you will be pros at it :).  So you are lined up in ABC order and then the count down begins.  (This is the part where your heart starts to race!….in fact mine is doing it right now just thinking about this!!!).  Each Panhellenic does it differently, but basically an annoying bull horn or some sort of loud speaker counts down..5…4…3…2..1..and at that moment each door of the sorority flies open and the members are there…clapping and singing at the tops of their lungs their welcoming door song.

So you’re thinking okay..nice… no big deal?  Yeah, no….it is a  big deal because remember that there are sorority houses up and down the street all doing the same thing,,,it’s actually quite overwhelming! For some reason (if you’re a Grey’s Anatomy fan you will get this..if not skip it and just move on) the whole door song situation reminds me of an early Grey’s Anatomy episode where Derrick has to choose between Addison and Meredith and Meredith says to him “choose me…pick me”…sorry been watching Grey’s Anatomy reruns lately :). there’s all this clapping and singing and at some colleges and universities the members can’t come out of the door frame so they are kind of “stacked” in there.  Now I will tell you a little secret (see you are going to know sooooo much when you start recruitment!).  The girls on the bottom literally have to fall on their knees..a technique that must be practiced (ahhh now you see why they have to do that so much).  Last year my daughter was one of the girls who was at the bottom, on her knees.  When she came home for Spring Break I was shocked!  That poor child’s knees were so bruised and scrapped up!  You are now asking yourself why? Right?  Well she had a little trouble perfecting the art of properly falling to them.  Don’t got better  and by formal recruitment they were back to their regular old selves :).

The PNM’s then walk up the sidewalk and as you get to the doorway the tide of sorority women parts (like the Red Sea) and the girl who is going to take you in grabs your arm and leads the way into where the party will be.  Now some schools allow their girls to come out of the doorway and either line up on the side walk leading to the house (the PNM’s then stand on the sidewalk that is horizontal to the house) or they actually walk down the sidewalk and grab the arm of a PNM and lead them into the house all the while clapping and singing.  At the Big 12 school where I helped with recruitment last year they actually came out of the house and the PNM’s came to them and they kind of circled around and went in the door.  I know in the SEC you DO NOT step over the door frame or your chapter is fined by Panhellenic.  It’s kind of one of those regional differences.

Now this whole process is a fine art that has to be practiced and practiced (sororities will actually practice this with each other during the week before formal recruitment starts).   You see as soon as you pick up a PNM then the conversation starts so it’s “ name is”…it’s game time!  You enter the house and that starts the whole bumping process (see an earlier post).  About 5 minutes before the end of the party you will notice the conversation begin to lull and then that’s the time for the “good bye” song.  You again will have your arm linked in the arm of the girl who you have been talking to and she will lead you to the magical door frame that she cannot pass over (we always laugh that they will turn to dust..poof!!!!) and you will be on your way down the walk where all of the sisters from the house will be wedged in the door and at the end of the song (which is designed to stick in your head so you remember that house) saying “goodbye, goodbye” and the door will shut.

Your Rho Chi will then be hurrying you to another house (you are on a very specific timed schedule!) where the process will begin again.  It’s exhausting…for both the PNM’s and the sorority women.  At my daughters University they do this process over 24 times in two days!!!!  Remember this when you are at the end of Day 1 or Day 2 and you’re tired.  That sorority woman you are talking to is as well.  I think it’s helpful just to remember this…a lot of work and energy occurs on the “sorority” side of recruitment.

So now you have made it through the first round of parties and you’re back for the second round of events.  Each campus does it differently, this could House Tours, or Philanthropy just depends on the campus, it differs by campus and region.  I am going to just go with Philanthropy…any way whatever day it is you will again follow the whole process of lining up in ABC order but this time you might not be with everyone in Rho Chi group.  You made cuts last night so your party schedule and the schedules of your original group might not necessarily be the same..time to meet more new friends!!!  Some houses will have a new a different door song but many will have the same familiar welcoming song from your first visit.  Since it is Philanthropy Day, the “entertainment” will be the craft (now when you look at all those little pieces that you are gluing to that popsicle stick remember someone had to cut them all out…count the pieces..12 time 1700 girls…that’s a lot of prep and cutting!!!) you make, but after a short video is shown about that sorority’s philanthropy the girls will most likely sing a song that will talk about how much they love their philanthropy and how they can see “YOU” as part of this project as well.  They will sing about how glad they are that you are back and how they want YOU to choose them.   I forgot to mention that the song most likely will have movements that go with it.  Some houses have very simple movements and others have very complicated clapping and choreography.   Don’t stress about finishing the are not invited or uninvited because of your artistic ability or whether you finish it or not!  Again at the end there will a goodbye song (could be the same as day 1 or different…many houses have a couple they rotate).

The next round of parties are usually designed to get far more personal and again there will be the door song.  Your Rho Chi group will change again (more cuts..aughhhh!!) but you still line up in alphabetical order while the horn sounds, your heart races and the singing commences :).  One nice thing…if you are back again to a house, bonds and connections have begun to form.  This is a good thing and a bad thing.  When you are standing on the sidewalk and the door song has begun you are more than likely scanning the women to look for those women you spoke with before.  Specifically you are looking for a smile, a look of excitement for those women as they lock eyes with you.  Remember it’s a mutual selection process…you are back because not only did you want to return but THEY WANTED YOU TO RETURN!  You have to remember that.  Conversely, maybe this was not a house you wanted to return to.  When you saw their name on your party schedule perhaps you heart sunk because it was not a house you could see yourself in.  REMEMBER……they WANTED YOU!  You are entering into a house that WANTS you and even though you might not want them right at this moment….you owe it to yourself and these women to give them a second chance.  Now that you have read all of this you can see how hard they have worked to put these parties together and well….you just really need to go in with an open mind and heart. I know that right now you are saying to yourself , “well of course I can do that”, but the truth is it’s harder during the process.  There is so much emotion!

Okay…. back to skit day.  This party by far is the most elaborate yet.  The skit you see has been practiced literally 100’s of times to perfect it.  It is the goal of the skit to show the real personality of the house.  They want you to see that your personality and their personality mesh (or in some cases not mesh).   Most skits have songs, acting, staring from several girls to many girls.  There are usually costumes and props.  REAL food is served!  I know you are thinking, “how can anyone eat” and then there’s the “what if I spill on myself?” won’t be the first or the last…just laugh , wipe up and move on.  Bumping still occurs.  Remember all of this has been practiced to make it flow smoothly and to make YOU, the PNM feel comfortable. (Just another little reminder..anything that you are given at a particular house has to STAY at that house…flowers, cards even tissues!)

Not only do the girls practice all of Spring Semester but they also come back an entire week earlier (this week is called “Work Week”) than the PNM’s to spend literally 18 hours a day running through each party schedule, entertainment, door songs and bump rotation.  These ladies put A LOT of work into this process.   Each party has specific clothes that each sorority member must purchase. These clothing items will usually have a direct correlation to the day’s theme and might be in the colors of that particular sorority (there is one sorority at my daughter’s school that is required to wear a Lilly Pulitzer dress for one day of recruitment).  Also know that each outfit they have on has been chosen carefully and has had to be “approved” but the recruitment team (this is usually the recruitment chair, her assistant, the house president, and the alum recruitment chair and her assistant).   Usually “dress check” occurs in late March or early April.  All recruitment clothing is looked at for each girl at that time, including accessories (in some cases they are told exactly what earrings, bracelets and necklaces to wear) and shoes and even hair!  In addition that goes for all skit attire.

When you finally get to Preference you will most likely not see the energetic clapping and over the top exuberance you have seen all week.  Instead, this day is designed to provoke emotion.  The songs are about sisterhood and ties that bond for life.  Most houses have their women dressed in cocktail attire (you too will probably be dressed up more than on previous days).  Often these parties are held in the late afternoon or evening, candles are used, poems are read and there are usually tears.  If you are at these parties then these women can picture YOU as their sister.

You probably will not have had a chance to notice the physical being of the house during the week.  What do I mean?  I mean the furniture, the decorations the dishes.  Did you know that on many campuses all of the furnishing in each sorority house are changed out each night after the parties have finished?  Yep…this is especially true in the SEC schools and the Texas schools.  If you are on sorority row in the evenings you will notice large vans with men carrying furniture in and out of houses. Not a lot of people know this when they go through or even more notice because there is so much on their now you do!  Alums are in the house helping arrange all of the different furniture and decorations.  Sometimes this goes on until VERY late (midnight!). You might also see Alums (older women) behind the scenes during each day of recruitment doing food prep, pouring ice water and serving food and or drinks.  It’s takes a lot of help to make everything run smoothly during recruitment!  In addition parents and alums are contacted to provide fresh flowers to be delivered each day.  Everything is perfectly orchestrated to give each house it’s best appearance.

So believe it or not, all of this process has already begun and if you want to get technical it actually began in November when the recruitment chair stood up in Chapter as asked (ok…. no told) their members that each woman had to provide names of PNM’s for invitations to the pre-recruitment events.  And now we have come full circle because these events are occurring… now..kind of the pre-cursor to Formal Recruitment.  If you haven’t noticed, go back and look at your invitations to these parties.  Many of them will be themed.  Again ladies…there will be decorations and food (my daughters sorority is having several of these events this weekend…one is a Hollywood theme…little “take one” decorations and hors d’oeurves )..everything will be perfectly orchestrated to “sell” you on this particular sorority.  You, of course, will also be trying to sell yourself.  Make sure that you are appropriately groomed and dressed.  This is an informal time to get to know these women and the different sororities a little before the actual recruitment process begins.

It has begun. Now you know a little about the “behind closed doors” process. Some people say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing..use it wisely :).