When I went through sorority rush approximately 500 years ago (in 2009) I was... not prepared. I didn't own a single piece of monogrammed clothing, I was constantly sweaty, and all of my conversations seemed somehow to circle back to the bizarre mating habits of dolphins (I kept bringing it up). It all worked out in the end — I found my tribe of fellow weirdos, and being in a sorority contributed immensely to my overall college experience. Still, I clearly could have used some guidance. Now, rush consulting is an entire industry, with college-bound women and their parents paying hundreds, and sometimes thousands of dollars to ensure they get a bid to the sorority of their dreams.
Last week, Town & Country magazine interviewed a number of sorority consultants about their businesses, and the services they provide young women going through rush. One of them, Pat Grant, founded Rushbiddies, a Birmingham-based rush consultancy, in 2009 (the same year that I, for reasons I stand behind but cannot go into right now, swore loudly during a solemn, candle-lit ceremony the last night of rush) in order to help girls “prepare for one of the most important aspects of higher education."
According to Town & Country, Grant "works with girls, and usually also their moms, in private consultations in person or over the phone (prices start at $100 for a 90 minute session) and through group workshops, covering everything from what to wear to what to say. She'll also suggest who to ask for recommendations and how to get in if your GPA is under 3.0 — essentially preparing girls for every scenario, question, dress code requirement, and trap that will come up."
Grant says that in addition to advising women on how to present themselves, a lot of her job involves managing their presence on social media. “All it takes is one image to be misconstrued,” she says.
When coaching women, rush consultants toe a fine and slightly troublesome line between teaching their clients how to set themselves apart, and making sure they conform to certain expectations. Grant told the magazine about one girl who *gasp* showed up to a pre-rush workshop in cowboy boots.
“I said, why did you choose cowboy boots? She said, everyone knows cowboy boots are my signature. I told her, maybe back in high school they were your signature. But here, you don’t have a signature. You have to meet what’s expected until you’re established. Then you can wear your cute little cowboy boots."
Let's be honest here — a lot of these practices are problematic. Just reading the phrase "here, you don't have a signature" sends a shiver down my spine, and makes me feel like I'm about to get locked in a dungeon by a cruel nun. Issues of class, body, and, as research has shown, race discrimination are clearly at play. "I’m not saying you have to be prudish," Grant said, "but some girls can wear things better than others. You want to be your best self.”
That being said, it is up to every woman to make her own priorities, and for some, getting into the sorority of their dreams is at the top of that list. Maybe it's for social reasons, maybe they're facing family pressure, maybe they've just always dreamt of being in a sorority. Regardless, if hiring a consultant to guide them through rush makes these women feel more comfortable, more power to them.
In general, however, it is a good idea to be skeptical of people or organizations that encourage you to dilute your personality or play down your "signature" in order to be accepted. If getting into a certain sorority is your dream, great! But make sure you join a sorority whose members embrace you for who you are, weird dolphin facts and all.