Megan Ernst

Simply applying to college can be stressful enough. Once you’re in, though, finding a sorority may prove even more stressful.

I will be attending the University of Georgia in the fall, and rushing a sorority at an SEC school is daunting. Rush Week, which comes the week before classes start, will be grueling in itself: four days of meet-and-greets, house tours and skits at UGA’s 17 sorority houses, culminating in Bid Day, when freshman girls find out what sororities they get in.

No matter what school you go to, the events of Rush Week can range from uncomfortable to terrifying. How do you let your true personality show through five-minute interviews and rounds of events that about 1,500 other girls attend?

I can regurgitate all the advice I’ve been given, but if you’re going to freak out, you’re going to freak out — no matter what anyone tells you.

The first piece of advice everyone hears is to take part in rush even if you’re not sure if you want to join a sorority. Apparently getting up at 6 a.m. every day for a week and marching up and down a street of sorority houses with more than 1,000 other girls in the August heat is a great way to make friends even if you have no interest in officially affiliating with a group of these girls in a sorority pledge class.

It works for some people, and definitely is a great opportunity because it forces you to interact, but it’s not exactly an activity for the faint of heart or the unmotivated.

Rush Week itself is supposedly full of hysterics, life-changing decisions, new friendships, and learning the importance of sensible shoes.

Preparing for rush, however, can be hyped-up and stressed over all summer long. Girls can register for rush beginning in May. That’s when the anxiety starts building.

First, girls planning on rushing start making lists of women in their lives who are sorority alumnae. These women can recommend you to a sorority. Recommendations are not mandatory, but can help your chances by letting sororities get to know you better. “Recs,” as they’re more usually called, are accumulated strategically and cunningly by girls who are serious about rush. Girls can be found scouring their mom’s address books or old sorority pictures looking for ladies to write the perfect rec.

The resumes included with the recs are slaved over until they illustrate a perfectly bid-worthy girl. They are scented, printed and monogrammed to perfection and along with the all-important personal photograph (“This one with my hair tucked behind my ear, or is the untucked one better?”) presented to the sororities as their first impression of any girl who is rushing.

Legacies are a whole other animal. A girl whose mother, sister, grandmother and in some cases, stepmother or aunt were in a particular sorority during their college days can be formally designated “legacies.” That can give them an edge, because they have the opportunity to keep the sorority in the family.

All women giving rush advice will tell you to “keep an open mind” and “look for the right fit.” These empty platitudes are repeated and repeated, but hardly ever followed. Chances are that if you’re rushing, you know family or friends in sororities and have heard at least some gossip about the houses on your campus.

Most girls will handle it well and their preferences will evolve throughout the week, while others will be crying in corners because they weren’t asked to join their “dream” house.

Rushees likely will be stressed out for another month or so, but when Bid Day comes – on the first day of school at UGA – some will be sporting their new sorority’s letters with pride.

Megan Ernst, a recent graduate of Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School and an intern with Reporter Newspapers, starts classes at the University of Georgia in August. She is writing an occasional series of articles about her experiences as she heads to college.