If you were to put 10 PNMs in a room and asked then what was the most stressful round of recruitment you might get several different answers, but I am here to tell you that in my opinion it just might be ranking houses after Round 3 and then heading into Round 4 also known as PREFERENCE.

First to the ranking of houses after Round 3.  So you have made it through Ice Water Teas, learned about the different philanthropy possibilities, seen skits that show the personalities of the different houses and now you have to decide what houses you want to visit with the possibility that one of them may be your new sisterhood.  Tough choice right?  This may be especially tough if you had a full party schedule for Round 3.  I mean..how do you choose?

Well, hopefully you took notes so that you could make some comparisons.  I will throw out this thought right now…before you ever begin recruitment make a list of characteristics you are looking for in a sorority.  I’ve already told you that sororities do this when trying to decide what characteristics they are looking for in PNMs.  Get out that list.  Compare your list with your notes.  What sororities have the most of those qualities?  Now do the warm-fuzzy test.  Which sororities gave you that warm, fuzzy feeling…you know..the one that makes you lose track of time.  The one where you feel like you’re at home with your family.  It’s the house where you can be you, no fake smiles, uncomfortable pauses in conversation…just you and the member(s) you’re talking with.  It’s the top 3 houses you will list. The rest go on the other side, in the bottom slots.

I know it’s hard but there is no going back and no second guessing…trust your heart.  don’t listen to others, do what’s right for you. Picture yourself with these girls….in their skit…do you fit?

In the example I’ve been using our PNM only visited 5 houses.  She will list her top 3 and her bottom 2.  Knowing that she can only be invited back to 3 houses tomorrow she lists the top houses she has made connections to..KD, Zeta and ADPi.  After much consideration she put Pi Phi first and Chi O second in her bottom house list.  Some of you will find a harder time listing the bottom houses since they need to be in order of preference.  Again …think about the connections you have made and remember that there is a chance that one of the bottom house may come back up onto your Preference party card.

I bet you were surprised to see KD in the top 3 houses list.  Remember that KD had continuously been in the bottom houses list and just kept coming back.  It’s obvious that Kappa Delta saw something in our PMN that made keep believing that she would be a good match for this house.  And finally…Suzy PNM saw that connection as well!!!  It happens that way with some houses. As you weed out other houses (or they weed out you) PNMs begin to notice connections with houses that they had never noticed before. It’s  like the boy who has lived next door to you forever. You’ve been friends but it isn’t until a heart wrenching breakup and heart to heart with the boy next door that you realize there might be something more.  For the first time you are able to see his quirky sense of humor,  crooked smile and the fact that you feel totally at ease around him.  It’s the same way during recruitment.  In some cases you will have a house that wasn’t even on your radar.  You didn’t really make a connection during Round 1 but by the time you got through Round 3 (some of the distraction houses having left the picture) you all of a sudden have an “ah ha” moment when you notice a house that has been there all along but just now came onto your radar. Mom’s ….your daughters will call and say “Why didn’t I see this before??” You just need to smile, enjoy the moment and remind her that she might have been a little caught up with some of the other houses.

So it’s done…you’ve ranked your houses and again you will wait for the dreaded call from your Rho Chi telling you that you have been released from recruitment. Unfortunately some girls will get that call.  It’s painful, sad and just not fair but it does happen.  I will tell you that most of the time it occurs because a PNM has not gotten all her recs, has a GPA issue or just has trouble carrying a conversation and finally she has only listed one or two houses (not maximized her options).

When a PNM only lists one house they call it “suiciding “.  Since I dislike that term I call it “putting your eggs all in one basket”.  Let’s say you have to get your eggs from the barn to the house but walking across the barnyard there are obstacles and pitfalls. If you put all of your eggs in one basket there is a chance that you will fall, breaking the eggs. If you disperse your eggs into different baskets then you have more chances of getting at least 1 basket full of eggs home After Round 3 some PNMs will have made up their minds that there is just one house for them and they will insist upon writing down just the one house name.  I am telling now DON’T DO I!!!!  List all  of your houses. Yep..it’s true you may have to go to Preference parties  at houses that you are convinced you have no connection to. Before you make that conclusion, give those houses another chance…just one more. You would be surprised how during Preference a magical moment can occur and a bond can form. Remember about maximizing your options…don’t sell yourself short.

A bit about Preference.  In most cases Preference parties take place in the afternoon/evening.  These parties are more serious than any of the parties so far.  They are fairly formal in attire and demeanor. What I mean is that the sorority members will be dressed in cocktail type dresses, usually in black or white.  PNMs should also be dressed in cocktail type dresses…no beads or sequins.  The appropriate type dress is one that you would wear to an evening wedding.  I would suggest that you not wear black or white (although you will see PNMs in black and white) but rather choose a color you look good in, some thing subtle and classy. You should wear heels.

So our PNM has made it through the night…no phone call!!!!  She knows at that point she has been invited to at least one Preference party :).  You will again meet your Rho Chi at the designated spot.  I can still feel the nervousness that occurs when you are holding that card. You’re almost too afraid to look for fear a certain house might not be there but too excited to wait any longer.  Preference is a highly emotionally charged day.  You might witness some behavior today that will shock you. For some PNMs who put all their eggs in one basket they will find that they now have no eggs or at least not the eggs they wanted. I have seen PNMs tear up their party cards, throw them away, stomp on them, cry, throw a temper tantrum and even quit on the spot. I actually know of PNMs who quit, called their parents, loaded up their dorm room and leave school. Yes..those are extreme measures but it happens.  Be the bigger person. Accept the challenge.  Be open minded. Take a chance.

We are now back to appreciating the parties you have been invited to.  When sorority members make their lists for Preference they are reminded that the PNMs who they are inviting are potential sisters.  So remember that when you look at that card…those members think you would make a good sister.  Again..they WANTED to invite you back. They ARE LOOKING FORWARD to you coming through the door.

A bit about what is happening at the sorority house while you are getting your party card.  The recruitment chair will gather the members in a specific room and she will read the list of manes of the girls returning for parties.  Just as you are emotional about your party card the sorority members are emotional about this list.  Chances are they too have developed “rush crushes”.  There are names of girls that they WANT to hear. And yes..just like PNMS there will be tears if certain names are not on that list.  After reading the list the recruitment chair will go through each party and pair specific members with specific PNMS.  Even if all week you were not picked up by a certain member today you will be.  The member who picks you up at Preference wants to pick you up!  I have had PNMs ask me about this because they say they really didn’t know the girl who picked them up at the door.  In some cases the girl might be part of a bump group.  The goal is for your final girl be a girl who you have a connection with. Today is planned out to the “t”. For those of yo who have friends in certain houses today may be the day you end up with that friend. Embrace the moment!

I would be remiss if I didn’t share with the moms a tid bit of info. On Preference, when your daughter meets with her Rho Chi to get her party card many times the Rho Chi will take her cell phone.  This can happen BEFORE your daughter gets her party card and has a chance to text/call you to tell you how many parties and what parties she has.  Oh yeah…so not fair!!!  No one warned me about this and I have to tell you it was the LONGEST day of my life.  There is a very good reason for this.  The Rho Chis and panehellenic wants to make sure that your daughter and your daughter alone makes the final decision on how she lists the houses she has visited for Preference.  They want no outside distractions or input.  It has happened in the past that PNMs who have ties to certain may not “feel” the connection but momma, grandma, and auntie all WANT her as a part of this particular sorority family and so through out the day, on the way to voting and during voting they are all texting and calling her to urge her to make thr right decision. This needs to be the PNMs decision.  Once she lists her houses her phone will be returned.  Mommas…find something to do for the day. I was lucky in that I was on an airplane for part of the day but my it was a LONG day!!!!

So are you just dying to find out what houses Suzy was invited back to??? Can you guess?  She had three preference parties…the most she could attend and they are: ADPI, Zeta and KD!!!  In this case she got the three top houses she had listed from Round 3!!!  For some girls they may not get any of their top 3 (especially if they had 5 bottom houses). Some PNMs may find all three party spots filled by bottom houses while other may only one house come back up.  There will PNMs that may only have 2 houses and in some cases only 1 house.  REMEMBER….it only takes one house.  You also need to remember that none of the house know how many parties you have been invited to. There is no need to share this information and sororities should not ask.

For those of you who have a few surprises on your party card, take a deep breath, it’s ok to cry for a few minutes but remember those houses wanted YOU.  Even though you may not be able to see yourself as member they can.  Go, give them a chance. Smile and enjoy the day.   Be open to what they have to offer.

So what happens at Preference parties.  These are by far the most serious parties of the week.  I can’t tell you exactly what happens because each party will be unique.  I will tell you that you will see a glimpse of each sororities history, sisterhood and uniqueness through a simple ritual or rituals that will be performed along with songs and in some cases testimonies by sisters of what being part of her sorority has mean to her..  The word ritual sounds scary..they are just really ceremonies that are performed that let you see a little deeper in to the sorority.  You will find in most cases that rooms will be candle lit. The ceremonies are serious.  This is a very emotional time for the sorority members.  Just like you have experienced, this has been a long, tiring and emotional week. The sorority members have seen PNMs come and go.  They are anxious to get the best pledge class ever filled with wonderful new members that will devote themselves to this sisterhood just as they have.  For the seniors of the sorority this will be the last Preference they participate in. Tears will flow freely for them as they put their arms around each other and sing together for the last time.  For many PNMs there will be tears as well.  It’s during these ceremonies that you may truly feel where you belong.  If you are still not sure look around the room at the PNMs and members…these young women are you potential sisters. Can you see yourself as part of this group?

As you go from party to party you will get different vibes and feelings. Some houses will feel more cohesive while others may feel a little disjointed and not a close. Many PNMs report this when they go from an old well established sorority to a house that has newly colonized on campus. Please …take this into consideration when you are thinking about your relationship with each house.  Houses that are newly colonized will not have that cohesive group of seniors who have been together as sisters for the past four years.  It’s not that they have a strong sisterhood, it’s just that they have yet to develop a “history” together. However if you get this feeling from an already established sorority on campus then that may be cause for contemplation and concern.

These parties are 45 to 50 minutes long. There will time for talking about serious things.   As a PNM it’s okay to ask the member you are talking to why this sorority?  What does she love about her sisterhood? Did she know that this was her house before preference?  What is her best memory? When she graduates what will she miss the most?  What does sisterhood mean to her? Members may ask you if you feel comfortable?  Can you see yourself here?  What has been your best memory of the week? Just as you are looking for some sort of clue as to whether they are going to bid you…the sorority is also looking for clues to see if they are your #1 house.

In some cases a sorority members may take a PNM into a separate room away from the group of PNMs.  They will then question the PNM, trying to elicit a response that basically tells them that this PNM will be putting them first on their bid sheet.  This is called “hot boxing” and is against panhellenic rules. It doesn’t happen very often but it does happen. If it happens to you tell your Rho Chi.

When you have finished all of your Preference parties you will walk in silence to list your houses for the final time.  Different campuses approach this differently. Some will wait until an entire Rho Chi group is done and then that group walks in silence together. Other campuses will have PNMs go when they are finished with their last party.  It varies from campus to campus, but one way or another the PNM will go to a designated to list/rank/vote for the final time.

So how do you make this decision?  You will rank/list the houses you visited for Preference in order with 1 being your top choice, 2 being your second choice and 3 being your third choice. Remember the eggs in the basket theory?  Yep it come into play here as well.  LADIES…list all of your houses.  Remember “maximize your options”.  Is there a possibility that you won’t get your first choice? Sure there is but many, many girls match their first choice.  Some girls will match to their second choice and yea some girls will match to their third. I have always operated with the opinion that everything happens for a reason…trust the process…you will end up where you belong!

So our PNM listed her house like this. 1. Kappa Delta..yup…that house from the bottom of her list. The house that she continuously put in her bottom houses came back to be “the house” where she felt the strongest connection.  I can imagine that any PNM in this position would be thankful that she listed all of her houses, kept an open mind and ultimately listed to her heart! She listed ADPi #2 and Zeta #3.  Suzy PNM knew in heart  that the house she would be happiest in would be Kappa Delta but decided that she would be open to the other two.

The final act of recruitment is signing the bid card (the card you listed your houses on). By signing this card a PNM says that she understands that she is willing to accept a bid from any of the houses she has listed on this car. Once she signs the card she cannot change the order of the houses. If she does not receive a bid from any of the houses she has listed she is eligible for Continuous Open Bidding (COB). She understands that by listing houses on this card she acknowledges that she is willing to accept a bid from any of these houses and is bound to them for 1 calendar year.  If she is offered a bid and does not accept it then she in not eligible for COB and cannot go through recruitment until the following years formal recruitment. If she does not list all of the houses whose Preference parties she attended then the PNM understands that there is a chance she may not receive a bid and she will not be eligible for COB. Finally…many panhellenics have gone to the system if a PNM maximizes all of her options, listing the names of all of the houses where she attended parties throughout the week including preference then she is guaranteed a bid for membership during formal recruitment.

So there we are…the week is over..and Bid Day is next…get ready :)!!!