Lately I have had a lot of questions about the sorority houses on the campus where my youngest goes to school.  PNM’s want to know which house is “the best” one and which one is “the worst one”.  They have asked about drugs and parties and which fraternities like to swap with which houses….lots of questions :).  Do I have answers?  Yep, but most likely not the ones that these girls want to hear.

You know it’s interesting…if you would have asked my daughter when she first started this process which house she could see herself in she would have told one house.  Oh she LOVED that house.  She had never stepped in the door or met the girls but she LOVED that house.  Now you are asking yourself, “how did she love it if she knew nothing about it”?  Oh but she thought she DID know about this particular house because she had talked to people and heard things that made her think she would fit in and be happy there.  She also got on line and looked at pictures of girls who had pledged that house.  We actually looked at the pictures together.  There were smiling blond haired girls that did look very much like my daughter but I was cautious to warn her that they were just pictures…nothing more.  She retorted back that she also was committed to their philanthropy and she liked their colors and their symbols.  There was no talking her down, she had convinced herself that this was the house for her.

We went to Preview Weekend about a month later.  My daughter stayed with a sorority girl in her dorm room.  They immediately hit it off and became “weekend friends”.  The sorority girl was quick to point out that just because my daughter was staying with her, it did not guarantee a bid to that particular sorority (even though she was a true legacy).  Our hostess was kind enough to take my daughter around to the teas and parties she had been invited to ass well as a few fraternities.  On the Saturday of Preview my daughter was put into a rho chi group and for the afternoon she very briefly visited each sorority on campus.  She didn’t spend more than 10 minutes at each house.  She maybe spoke with one or two members at some houses while at others she did not speak to any at all, yet when she returned to me she had “dumped her first house crush” and was onto a new house.  When I asked her why she informed me that she had “heard” things about that house.

Now I should tell you that the “tent talk” (ok so at this point there’s no tent but there will be during recruitment and so that’s why we call it that) actually started when she joined the Facebook group for her incoming freshman class.  Girls were already on talking about how you don’t want that house because the girls never take showers and are gross, or you won’t get that house because they only pledge girls from a particular area OR…heaven forbid!!!!  a particular house (that no one wants) send you mail then you might be (ready for this…) a LOSER!!!!  I remember when an envelope came that had the “loser: sorority return address on it. My daughter was mortified!  She wouldn’t open it…”.send it back”, she begged!  Well of course we opened it and we both did agree they had the cutest stationary of any of the sororities!

So back to the story….She now had a new “house crush”.  She read bout the history of that house.  We looked at more pictures of smiling girls.  We found out what famous women had been members.  This obsession went on for about another month until we went to orientation. One night of orientation my daughter spent in the dorms with 3 random roommates.  Turns out the three  random roommates were also going to go through recruitment and were very well versed on all the “dirt” about each and every sorority on campus.

You guessed it!  When we got in the car to go home my daughter had yet ANOTHER house crush.  We again creeped on them, read everything we could about them, tried to find members on became an obsession.  She stuck with this one until she went off to recruitment.  It was after that first day of parties when she called I knew that she might actually settle down, throw the tent talk to the wind and with her heart (and her brain..thought it was lost for awhile) find the place that was the right fit for her!

You see that she actually “talked” and “listened” to members of each of the houses she visited that day.  She told me, “Mom, I understand what you were trying to tell me..about the pictures.  There were just that Mom, pictures.  They didn’t have personalities or voices that I could make a connection to.  I fell in love with an “image” not the real thing”.  I was so proud of her (secretly I had thought she might get to this point).  And so we had a conversation about what makes a “good” sorority verses a “bad” sorority.

Now, the attributes my daughter might want  might not be exactly the same ones you wan,t but there are a few basic character traits that we decided transcended all of the “good”  houses.

The first one was genuineness.  You will be able to tell if the girl you are speaking with genuinely wants to talk with you.  She will make eye contact, nod while listening to what you are saying, smile when she makes a connection.  She is genuinely interested in getting to know you.  This is not something you can fake…it is apparent that you are faking it.  Being genuine is important.  I should add that my daughter shared that she encountered a house that did not have that trait.  Upon entering the girl who picked my daughter at the door immediately appeared disinterested.  She looked around the room while my daughter was talking, she twisted her hair, looked at her fingers….basically she ignored her and appeared to be counting the minutes until she could get rid of her.  It happens..that’s why it’s called a “mutual selection” process.  My daughter and this sorority “mutually selected” to not spend any more time with each other during recruitment.

The second is what I call the “up close and personal”.  Does the house have a “personality”?  you will be able to tell the minute you walk in the door.  It’s more of a feeling than an actual “look”..kind of a vibe.  You’ll be able to tell by the way the girls smile at one another, the vibrancy that they sing….if they are loud and laughing or quieter.  If you are in a house that is a hodge podge of girls that have not bonded you will immediately pick up on the lack of personality.

The third is that it is apparent to everyone that walks in the door that their sisterhood is strong..these girls really do CARE about one another.  You will notice it when they “bump”…there will be a smile…a touch on the arm….a giggle at a private joke .  There will be a spark…a connection between the sisters in that house.  A good sorority has a sisterhood that cares about one another.

The fourth is a devotion to their sorority and what it stands for..  This is a little harder to see and you might not get it on the first visit but you will definitely see it on Philanthropy day.  The girl you are with and the girls that you continue to talk to should have knowledge about the philanthropy and more importantly they should like being involved with that particular philanthropy.  If you are working together and the girl says, “yeah we HAVE to go and volunteer and this place once a month and well I just really don’t have the time.” know that the devotion is not there.  A conversation where your sorority girl is recounting how during homecoming week even though they had been up all night working on the float, her entire pledge class came out t the 9 pm basketball game to cheer her on because they were playing the beastly sorority…now there’s a sign of a strong, devoted sisterhood.  These girls stand by and support each other.

The fifth and maybe the most important is that this house is welcoming and more importantly it make you feel welcome and a part of all the good things that are happening there right at that moment.  There are no fake smiles, plastic emotions or forced conversation.  You a glove to a hand and a foot in a just fit.

Did you notice nowhere did I mention that all the girls were beautiful.  Looks does not make a “Good” sorority.  I didn’t mention that the house structure itself was bigger or better than any other house on campus.  A big house doesn’t make a “good” sorority.  I didn’t mention that a “good” sorority was full of pageant girls or student government reps or baton twirlers or smart girls, those things don’t make a “good” sorority.  Do we notice those things..sure you do!  It’s like going to the store to buy a new coat…are you going to buy the one that is so cute, has shiny buttons, is made up in the latest style , all shiny and new but maybe doesn’t have the warmest fabric and might not fit exactly right OR are you going to buy the one that will keep you dry and warm when you wear it?  Oh you might want the first one REALLY bad but in the long run the second coat is the better choice.

Of course there are different things that will be important you personally.  You might identify with the house that is full of really smart girls..that’s are bonding with their have a “Connection”. But don’t choose a sorority just because you perceive it to be the “popular house”, the beautiful girls house, the one that you’ve heard ALL the fraternities want so Swap with.

Sorority shopping…be a wise shopper.  Make a good choice!  Don’t give in to the all the flash and glitz but dig deep and look for the sorority that is “good” for you.  Listen with your heart, rationalize with your head.  Go ahead and do some window shopping along the way but in the end make sure and make the smart choice!