Tuesday, July 22, 2014

sorority secrets: a guide to rush (and life)

Just two weeks left in July and summer's really hitting its stride. Around Madison that means the normally overstuffed isthmus has a bit more breathing room—students are home to pad resumes and refill wallets before another wild year at the UW. For me, July no longer brings that back-to-school itch I'm sure so many are feeling by now, but living in a college town makes that lifestyle a part of my consciousness basically constantly. As young whippersnappers (I had to) around the country fill backpacks with fresh ballpoints, raid Target for bright bedding sets and stalk future roommates on social media, I'm reminded of my first week on campus: a humid streak of August days ruled by Recruitment. I'm old and wise now (ha), so read and learn from my experience. If I were a 2014 incoming freshman, here are three things I'd do differently during Rush (and—spoiler alert—each point is applicable beyond the college bubble):

Ah, the old fake it til you make it. Classes hadn't started yet, I was alone in a depressing dorm room, there were unfamiliar and intimidating faces everywhere, and I was supposed to find my way in an unfamiliar grid of residential streets to Pi Beta...Phi? Um? I let a little homesickness get the best of me mid-way through the week, while spreading glue and sprinkling glitter on an art project I had zero interest in (what is this, kindergarten?). I wasn't the best conversationalist that day and needless to say wasn't invited back. It's going to be overwhelming at first, but shrug it off, roll up your sleeves, and cut and color like you love it. It's OK to be a rookie—a reality it's easier to embrace than mask. Everyone was in your position at one point, and everyone thinks the crafts are lame. Just control what you can—smile, engage and ask questions, even if you're kind of crying inside. There will be time to let it all out on the phone with your mom later.

I wasn't sure I wanted to go Greek—and wasn't shy about saying it. That's fine, but sororities are more interested in girls who are pumped up and excited about diving right in. They want contributing members and are assessing whether you could be the next Social Chair or will lead them to victory in a philanthropy 5K. Saying you're hesitant to join translates to a deadbeat member who lies in her bed all day (whether or not that was your intention). I think my uncertainty could've been a defense mechanism against potential rejection, but put yourself out there! It pays to gush and flatter here. Actual excitement will follow once the nervousness subsides.

You may not want to hear it, but how you look will affect your Pref Night picks. I cringe thinking about the Nine West purse I carried through the week—picked up from the fashion re-sale store where I worked the summer before college (cringe cringe CRINGE). Don't give up who you are, but know the game and tailor your style accordingly, just as you'd tuck your shirt a little tighter for an interview or bust out your best running shoes for a big race. A classic and tidy crossbody and elegant but understated jewelry (a little this, a little that) will win points.

It's funny—I originally titled this post "if I could redo rush," promising insider info on what went "wrong" and how I'd go back to make it "right." But despite my missteps, I wouldn't change the outcome. I joined a house in January and it made everything about my four years (and beyond) better. And the thing about this list that reveals why signing up for sisterhood (cheesy word choice intended) is excellent prep for post-grad success? Every point can be applied to the "real world"—and is especially relevant for job interviews. Whether or not I realized it, my experience rushing has stuck with me and without a doubt affected how I've conducted myself since, in terms of meeting new people, trying new things, dealing with uncomfortable situations, thinking long-term and following through, contributing to a team and prepping for success. Yes, there were creepy chants, ridiculous choreography and excessive pomp and circumstance, but that was just one week in a full year of uncontrived fun. You'll throw away the name tags and matching t-shirts, and the overarching awkwardness of Recruitment will fade, but you won't forget the rest. AOE!

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