Driving up and down Sorority Row my daughter’s eyes grew larger with each and every house we passed. The ante-bellum mansion that sat on large green lawns over looking the tree lined street were spectacular. To top it off the doors were opening here and there while pretty girls, in oversized t- shirts, smiling and laughing, were walking out onto the sidewalks, backpacks on their backs, obviously on their way to class.
My daughter KNEW she wanted to go through recruitment. She knew she wanted to join, wear “the letters”, serve selflessly to the philanthropy and make life long friends….”living in” the big house was just icing on the cake!
I had “lived in” while in college. In those days living out really wasn’t an option, especially for freshmen and sophomores. If your house was a popular house (which mine was) then we had no problem filling the bedrooms each year. There was often a waiting list and many of the “upper class” girls spilled out into what we called “the Annex” which was a larg older home about a block from sorority row. If I remember correctly it held about 12 of us, two to a bedroom.
The popularity of “living in” varies from campus to campus. My second daughter wanted to “live in” and did her sophomore and junior years. With two girls to a bedroom, she and her roommate stayed shared a room that held a set of bunk beds, two desks, two dressers and two closets. They had a blast decorating it and it was not only a place to study but also a place to share girl talk, sleep and hang out with friends. Their door’s bulletin board was decorated with their schedules, pictures, their letters and notes that other sisiters had written them.
However the majority of their time at the house was spent in the tv room, the dining room or the living room. They gather for breakfast before class, lunch and dinner, sitting at larger round tables that held 8 girls comfortably. The cooks were priceless and quickly learned what my daughter’s “favorites” were and worked hard to make sure they had them on special occasions like her birthday and holidays. The sisters had their “lists” of favorite tv shows and movies. No matter what time of day there were girls sprawled on couches watching their favorite shows.
When my second daughter went to Panhellenic Preview at her university one of the things she looked forward to was getting inside each and every one of the 15 houses on the two streets labeled “sorority row”. From the out side looking in, she tried to imagine what they looked like from the inside out. Since she was a legacy to two of the houses we actually got a sneak peek inside them before the big day. We toured both houses, taking in the formal living room, the dining room and tv room. We were not allowed upstairs to see the bedrooms but the girls who toured us were quick to point out that the girls had a bedroom with a bed, two dressers, one desk and two closets but that they actually slept in large sleeping porches filled with bunk beds on the third floor of each house.
The concept of a sleeping porch wasn’t new to me but my daughter had never seen one. She was lucky to get a look later that evening when she was back at one of the houses for s pre-recruitment event. We had a long discussion about how it worked on the way home. I asked if she thought she could actually sleep with 24 girls in the same room and she said she thought she could. It was interesting to her. When I asked her if she wanted to try and “live in” she said she thought she might. I was a little surprised that it wasn’t a whole hearty “YES” but decided to give her some time to think about it.
What she knew and didn’t tell me was that “living in” at her school would be difficult. The chapters at this particular campus are huge, often over 250 girls. The sorority houses can only sleep 40 to 50 girls., thus “living in” was a privilege that usually went to girls who held elected positions in the house. Some positions required a girl to “live in” while others were given a choice.
AT the end of her freshmen year my daughter did hold an elected position but it was one that had a “live in” option. She chose to not “live in” (I was terribly disappointed) but to share an apartment with 3 of her sorority sisters. When elections came around in November my daughter ran for and was elected to an Exec board position that now “REQUIRED” her to “live in” the house. After scrambling to find someone to sublet her space ( an experience that gave me grey hair and a permanent twitch..LOL) she moved into the house in January….I can safely say she will “live in” until she graduates.
She LOVES it!!! Walking down stairs ot each breakfast in your jammies..yep a good thing :). And even more so doing it 10 minutes before you leave for class…even better :). But even more is the bonding that has occurred. I told her that “living in” made those girls who lived in the house closer…it bonded them and she shared with just recently how right I was. It’s those nights of the Bachelorette or watching Revenge..rooting for your favorite bachelor or applauding as the evil villain is killed off the show that just makes memories you can’t replace.
All of the members eat at the house..it’s part of their meal plan but if you “live” at the house you’re there when the cooks come in early in the morning…you learn their names and you make friends with them. You learn to love and appreciate Miss Mary who cleans up after you and keeps the house neat and tidy. And then there’s “the house mom”.
The house mom is more than just woman who has an apartment in the sorority house and who watches over the girls. She’s there to give a hug when needed, a shoulder to cry on, Tylenol when you’re sick and someone to share a smile and a joke. Many house mom’s are actually initiated members of the sorority they work for. It’s not an easy job but one that everyone of these women love. They love their girls and enjoy having sometimes over 50 young women to take care of. I always joke that I am going to be one of those house mom’s one day. I wold LOVE that job (well most parts of it anyway).
The cost of “living in” varies from sorority to sorority and campus to campus. Each university has it’s own “arrangement” with sororities and fraternities as to how they pay for the space the house sits on. In almost every case the actual house itself is owned by the sorority and they then “rent” the land it is built on from the university (sometimes for as little as a $1 a year!!) In some cases “living in” can make your housing cost rise. In our youngest daughters case it is actually a cheaper alternative at this time although that’s about to change. Her sorority is building a huge new house (one of 4 new sorority houses being built on campus) and to pay for for this lovely new home our cost of “living in” will rise sharply.
What about campuses that have sororities that don’t have actual houses and there are a lot of them? Many of these sororities are housed in dorms, wings of dorms, floors of dorms designated by the university as “greek housing”. Usually they have a “Chapter Room” on campus where they hold their chapter meetings, events, and rituals. Since I haven’t ever had the experience of not having a house I can’t speak factually on what it is like. However from what I have read the girls still bond, they eat together in the dorms at specific times and there is still the dorm tv room with the favorite shows. It’s kind of like “you don’t miss what you never had” sort of thing. I can’t imagine it but it’s really all about the sisterhood right?
So I guess the final thing to do here is just post a few pics of some of these great houses on campuses around the United States. You can look, dream, and imagine just like we did what it will be like one day to “look out” while “living in”.
University of Georgia sorority houses in Athens, Georgia
Chi Omega Sorority House, Nu Zeta Chapter