Brooke Olefson: Confessions of a freshman who dropped out of recruitment

I had never planned on rushing a sorority. But after getting to GW, I realized just how hard it actually is to find a home on campus. So, I decided to sign up for recruitment. After just two days, I quit.

As it turned out, my gut had been right: Greek life wasn’t for me. Of course, that isn’t the case for everyone, and my dissatisfaction with recruitment is my personal experience. But Greek life isn’t the be-all, end-all. I, along with anyone else who has avoided or dropped out of the recruitment process, will be just fine.

Upon arriving at the Marvin Center, I looked around at all of the freshly primped and pampered girls in cute dresses and sandals and found myself already sticking out. I had worn jeans and a black sweater, as I was coming from class and saw no need to change, making me the only girl in the room wearing anything below the knee.

After meeting for the first time with my “rush group,” the women with whom I would spend the first day, in J Street, we were lead to the sorority “parties.” I had been told over and over again by people around campus that it’s very easy to meet girls while waiting in line for the parties you attend over the course of those five days. But that wasn’t the case for me.

Pi Rho Chis, sorority women who suspend their memberships for the rush period in order to help potential new members find their “new homes,” coordinated recruitment. They stood watch while we waited in line and shushed everyone who tried to make a peep while standing in the halls. So my first expectation, that I would make friends right away, was squashed within seconds of beginning the process.

After entering the first room, I was overwhelmed by a sea of girls who were clapping, smiling and chanting while wearing matching outfits. Immediately I thought, “I could never do this.” I felt out of place.

Already trapped in the process, I began talking to sorority sisters. We talked about housing, classes, our majors and our favorite foods. Finally someone asked, “Why do you want to join a sorority?”

I really didn’t know how to answer because, the truth was, I had no interest in joining a sorority. I listened to other girls answering the clearly rehearsed question and heard responses like, “My whole family has been in this sorority and I just have to be in it too,” or, “I just want a quality sisterhood and amazing philanthropy opportunities.”

Meanwhile, my response was “I’m not really sure. I just figured I’d give it a shot.” Over and over again, faces fell solemn as I answered that question. Maybe I should have repeated my neighbors’ responses, but I thought the process was supposed to be about being yourself.

This same line of questioning was repeated at all 10 parties I attended that evening, and again the next day. By the second party, I had my answers prepared. The conversation felt dry. The smiles were forced. I realized that I had a harder time trying to appease these girls than I’d ever had with any of my friends. I wasn’t sure that I was willing to put in that effort for the next four years.

Initially, I had wondered why the Pi Rho Chis were handing out cough drops and mints between parties, but it didn’t take me long to figure it out. Soon I had a sore throat, I was tired and I was hungry. I was sick of talking to people, I was sick of smiling so hard that my cheeks began to hurt and I was just plain sick to my stomach.

The second night was my breaking point. So, I told my Pi Rho Chi that I couldn’t do it anymore. She asked me why and she made some suggestions like, “Why don’t you go to one more party?” I told her the sorority thing wasn’t for me, that I had to be done with it. She conceded and, with a huge relief, I went on my way.

I felt as though, in order to join a sorority, I had to be someone I am not and really didn’t want to become. Even if I had decided to tough it out and finish recruitment, had I joined a sorority, I don’t think I would have felt differently. The friends I was looking for and the people I could relate to probably wouldn’t join sororities, or even consider it in the first place.

In the end, I realized I was not cut out for the five sleepless nights, pre-packaged food and sickness-ridden weekend of recruitment. I just didn’t fit in there and I didn’t feel at home. I realized that I would never want to lose myself to groupthink – I know myself too well.

Brooke Olefson, a freshman, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

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