Prior to starting UCI, I was repulsed by fraternities and sororities. I figured frats only existed to perpetuate toxic masculinity, and I would not fit in with srats. When I made friends at UCI prior to starting school, some of them encouraged me to try Greek Life.
My friend was the president of her sorority, so I figured I would join hers. However, she encouraged me to go through formal recruitment, despite her sorority not participating in it, because there may be another sorority that I would like.
Formal recruitment is a 5-day event where Potential New Members (PNMs) visit the houses of Panhellenic sororities (the sororities who participated are DG, Tri-Delt, APhi, AXO, Pi Phi, GPhi, and Thetas). I went into the experience not expecting to join a sorority, mostly feeling ‘forced’ or ‘over-encouraged’ to do it, and I transitioned through multiple emotions throughout the whole thing. The long hours of each event made the entire process grueling. Both PNMs and sororities choose who they want to visit the next day. The sororities are well-rehearsed in their songs, conversation starters, and hosting. Some sororities were more polished and put together than others (that’s not to say the others did a bad job- all of them did a great job) in that their performances were more formal. For example, one house that stood out to me was DG. PNMs walked into their house where the sisters were gathered. The president and recruitment chair introduced themselves, then all of the sisters seamlessly walked out of their formation and held their hands out to PNMs. It was flawless in that each seemed to know which PNM they would talk to without competing with another sister.
Day 1 is open house. The dress code is casual (but dress to impress). Everyone visits each of the 7 houses, gets to know members and the sorority, and then rotates to another house. At the end of the day, each PNM chooses 1 house to knock off their list, taking it from 7 to 6. I felt out of touch with everything as recruitment counselors tried to make everyone feel extraordinarily happy and excited. I’m a smiley person, but I felt dysphoric trying to be excited for something I was confused about.
Day 2 is philanthropy day. The dress code is business casual. Everyone visits up to 6 houses (depending on how many invited them back), learns about the philanthropy of the sororities, and then rotates to another house based on their unique schedule. At the end of the day, each PNM chooses up to 2 houses to knock off their list so that they have 4 left. In my case, only 3 out of 6 possible houses invited me back on day 2, so I did not need to drop a house. It was much less than others, and this was most likely due to my hair, which is completely blue and green. Recruitment counselors are required to tell PNMs that their hair and other features aren’t a reason they weren’t called back, but let’s me honest. It is. The only other person who had unconventional hair like me was also called back to the same sororities. I felt disappointed because the first sorority that I felt excited about dropped me on day 1. This was supposed to be one of the sororities that actually accepted colorful hair. At this point, there was one sorority that I really did not vibe with. Nothing against them, but my experience with them was meh. Overall, I felt lost on this day, and I dreaded recruitment at this point.
Day 3 is sisterhood day. The dress code is casual. Everyone visits up to 4 houses, discusses formals, retreats, and the house, and then rotates based on their unique schedule. Each PNM chooses up to 2 houses to knock off so that they have 2 left. In my case, the 3 previous houses invited me back, so I only had to drop 1. During this experience, there was a sister who warned me about my hair. She said nationals would require me to dye my hair in order to participate in recruitment (as a sister), and I would not have the option to not participate. I knew she would get in trouble for being honest (it seemed as if anything negative wasn’t allowed during recruitment, at all), so I kept it a secret. Because of this warning, I dropped this house instead of the one I didn’t like from Day 2. I felt uneasy and upset because I began to see through the lies of being accepted as I am. I knew my recruitment counselors weren’t being honest with me because they were required to uphold a certain standard. However, I also fell in love with another sorority on this day. In this house, I was able to laugh with other sisters and talk about memes- something that I didn’t feel was a popular topic in other houses for some reason. I looked forward to returning to this house.
Day 4 is Preference Night. The dress code is cocktail. Everyone visits up to 2 houses, goes through a mini-formal and ritual, and rotates. Each PNM ranks the 2 houses in order of who they want a bid from. In my case, only 1 house invited me back- the one I wanted to return to. When I visited, I was greeted by someone who I already met, and she walked me to a table where we ate cake. Then, another familiar sister switched spots and showed me a card she wrote about how much she wanted me to join her sorority. I actually cried over that because I felt like they wanted me. After this event, I had to make a decision- submit my ranking (which would guarantee me a bid from that sorority because I did not have a second house), or not. See, the thing is that if I submit my ranking, I have to sign MRABA, an agreement that states that I will accept the bid I am given or else wait an entire year before rushing another sorority. At this point, I figured that was the only sorority I wanted to join, so why not agree to it? For those who were given 2 houses but only wanted a bid from 1 were allowed to “single pref” and sign MRABA. This meant they were not guaranteed a bid, but if they received one, it would be from that specific srat. The rules of MRABA would still apply to them. During this night, however, I felt impostor syndrome, and maybe for good reason. Being told that “everyone is guaranteed a bid”, assuming they maximize their options, which I did, I wondered if I was only getting into this house to fulfill a quota or regulation. Someone told me, however, that the guarantee is a lie. There are some people who go through recruitment and do not get a bid at all. The fact that a sorority invites a PNM back for pref night means they are willing to extend a bid to that person.
Day 5 is Bid Day. The dress code is casual- actually casual so I could wear the sorority’s shirt. Everyone is given their bid card, and they open it at the same time. Then, the new members meet the sororities out on the field to ceremoniously run to each other. After, the sororities, with the new members, walk back to the house for festivities and information. Throughout this event, I felt like something was off. I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t excited like everyone else. I still felt like an impostor. During the event at the house, I felt alone and depressed. I was really happy when the person who gave me the card on pref night came to sit with me and talk. But I just didn’t get it.
I left early to take a depression nap. I felt ashamed. Why was I a part of this? I didn’t know how I would pay for a sorority. I didn’t know if I would have time for it. I didn’t know anything about sororities prior to 5 days ago. I was expected to be excited for something I knew nothing about. Maybe it was gender dysphoria. Maybe it was something else.
I missed out on information for pledges, like Sunday pledge meetings and Monday chapter meetings, because I left early. So many of the sisters added me on Facebook, that I felt even more pressure to join. But it wasn’t what I wanted, at least not at the time. I just didn’t understand.
So I wrote a public apology to that sorority. I wanted them to know that I respected their sisterhood and what they stood for, but I wasn’t ready for commitment. I told them I was going through a lot right then, moving away from home for the first time, being at a new school, and worrying about managing time. I mentioned that I would still love to join at a later time, but I wasn’t ready. Many of them liked the post, and one person commented saying they felt they made a good decision extending a bid to me, which meant a lot to me.
I continued to support that sorority by attending their campuswides and their philanthropy. The sister who I bonded with (she wrote the card for me) is now one of my good friends, and I wouldn’t have met her without recruitment. I’ve also met other sisters who I consider good friends and understand the decisions I made.
Overall, I feel left out of things because I’m not part of Greek Life, but I’d rather feel this way than spend a lot of money and time into something I felt pressured to do. After all, I basically made the decision to go through recruitment because of other people.