If you have opened TikTok anytime in the past week #bamarush has been unavoidable. Every year thousands of girls across the country go through sorority recruitment. The intensity of it varies greatly from school to school with southern SEC schools being the craziest. However, almost every school goes through the same format of formal recruitment and this one week of a girl’s life can completely change her college and adult life.
How Sorority Recruitment woks
Sorority Recruitment is broken into four “rounds” where each potential new member (PNM) visits fewer and fewer sororities each round. Each round is dedicated to a different part of the sorority experience: open house, sisterhood, philanthropy, and preference (commonly referred to as pref night). After each round, the PNM ranks the sororities and the sororities rank the PNMs and a shorter list is made for the next round until a PNM receives her bid (offer into a sorority) on the final day.
In the early rounds, a PNM will speak to a few members of the sorority at each house for about 5 minutes per member, making first impressions extremely important.
Rushing as a plus-size girl
I went through formal recruitment in 2019 at Northwestern University where, at the time, there were 12 sororities and around 800 girls going through the process. As a plus-size girl, I couldn’t shake the thought that I didn’t have the ‘sorority girl look.’
It was further confirmed when I went to fill out the form to get my rush shirt. For the first two nights, every girl is required to wear the same shirt as a way to even the playing field (making it harder for girls to show off wealth). When I opened the form the options were XS, S, M, L and XL. My stomach dropped when I didn’t see my size as an option. I had to go to my recruitment counselor and request they expand the sizes offered, already feeling like this wasn’t a space where I was welcome.
In the first two days, I spent 6 hours a day meeting every single sorority, having the same ‘tell me about yourself’ conversation and praying I made a good impression. I won’t lie there were houses I walked into where not a single active member was above a size 8, I felt like I didn’t belong. All I could think to myself was “I would stick out in every group photo.”
I was genuinely shocked when I was invited back to all of my favorite houses, even the “top tier” ones. I remember thinking to myself that I should be honored to be invited back despite being plus-size. That maybe I would be the one to break their cycle of all thin blonde girls.
As I went back to these houses for round two, however, I realized more and more that these “top tier,” coveted sororities didn’t have a culture I wanted to be a part of. They weren’t the girls I truly wanted to be my forever sisters as everyone told me my sorority sisters would become.
Every night we would go back to the student center on campus to turn in our rankings for the next round. I couldn’t help but notice girls’ shock when they heard that I was invited back to so many houses and that I didn’t like the most coveted ones. Some girls even going as far as to make remarks like “they invited you back but not me?!”
I called my mom crying three times that week. I was feeling extreme imposter syndrome and felt like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. For all of the sororities to drop me for the next round and tell me that I just wasn’t the right fit for them.
“Is this a group of girls you would be comfortable eating breakfast with when you have on your ratty pajamas and no makeup with your hair a mess?”
It so perfectly answers the question of ‘are these girls who you can be your true self with?’ While I’m sure I would have liked many of the women in any of the sororities, I realized that for many of them I would always feel the need to be polished and perfect 24/7, to prove that I’m still deserving of their letters despite my body. Your sorority should not make you feel like you need to prove yourself in spite of you, it should make you feel empowered because of every part of you.
On bid day I ran home to a sorority I love, with women who love me for me. But it was not an easy road to get to them and it wasn’t all perfect. It’s typically for sororities to give every new member a t-shirt with the sorority’s name on bid day. Since they don’t know which girls will join by the end of the week they have to preorder these shirts. When I went to grab my shirt I realized that they had only bought small, mediums and larges. I so desperately wanted to feel included and a part of this new sisterhood that I squeezed my way into a size large and felt uncomfortable all night.
I’m going to be honest, joining a sorority is much more difficult when you don’t fit the cookie-cutter mold of what pop culture has told you a ‘sorority girl’ is supposed to look like. There may well be houses that do drop you because you don’t fit their look and microaggressions even after recruitment is done. But there are also houses that will love you for who you are and be filled with women who could become your best friends. When I told one of the older girls about my shirt they immediately went and special ordered just one more shirt so I would have one that fit and made sure it never happened again.
It’s by no means a perfect journey but it’s one I would recommend to everyone who gets a shot at the experience.
The piece of advice I’ll leave you with is this. Don’t get swept up in who the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sororities are, or who hangs out with the ‘cool frats.’ Focus on finding the women who will uplift and love you. Being plus-size, especially in college, is not an easy experience. Find the women who make it easier, find your forever sisters.