Rushing, hazing and initiations: Inside the strange rituals of American sororities


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Rushing, hazing and initiations: Inside the strange rituals of American sororities

Brought to you by a girl currently in one

An American abroad in the UK, I’ve struggled with my fair share of cultural differences (and still can’t keep up with your drinking), but misconceptions work the other way as well.

One thing I’ve been asked more than anything is what college in the States is like and this almost always leads to questions about Greek Life. Front lawns scattered with Natty Light, basements stripped of furniture — everyone has a mental picture of it, but having never taken part in Greek life, I’ve turned to a third-year sorority girl for some unbiased answers.

For her sake, I’ve agreed to anonymity. When in a sorority, you’re not to write about or speak about it without signed permission.

  • Rushing

    Rush is the process of getting into a sorority. It begins with Open Houses. Formal Rush is in the fall, and informal in the spring. Freshmen rushing come to school a week early so it doesn’t interfere with schoolwork.


    This happens after Open Houses. You go back to all the houses and do what’s called bumping. It’s like speed dating.

    You talk to a number of sisters for about 10 minutes each. At the end of each day, you rank them and they rank you. After the first day of rounds, you bump out two sororities. 


    I got called back to six, but one that I didn’t bump bumped me. You do this same thing for four days.


    Interviews happen all through pref. You don’t have to be that worried about the interviews. These girls will know everything about you before you walk in the door. Sorority girls are professional social media stalkers.


    A bid is when a sorority makes an offer to you. At the end of pref there were two interested in me, but I chose to do a suicide bid. I knew I wouldn’t have taken a bid from the second sorority, and if you turn down a bid it’s hard to rush again, so I only ranked one.


    At the end of the six weeks you take an exam and if you pass, you get initiated. Everyone has to wear all white. New members wear white dresses, and existing members wear robes with belts. 

    New members walk into a room and all the sisters are in a circle with the President, Vice President and Ritual Chairman at a table in the corner. On the table are things that we use for ritual, like water and candles. 

    We bring in four sisters at a time. They kneel in front of the table and your big comes up and presents you. You get read things, to which you respond “I do.”

    Inside the sorority

    Some sororities play hard to get during rush. It differs from school to school, but a top sorority at a lot of schools is Zeta Tau Alpha (ΖΤΑ). Their symbol is a crown. A lot of them look exactly the same: blonde, skinny and tall.

  • Then you usually have the ‘bad girl’ sorority. Everyone is a bit intimidated by them. However, once you’re in, they are all quite similar.


    Hazing is a way of making sure new members are going to be committed. We got in trouble a few years ago, so my sorority doesn’t haze as much as it used to. They will break into your dorm in the middle of the night and force you to go to their basement.

    They won’t let you out until you’ve learned whatever it is they want you to learn. They scream at you a lot during this. It’s called a lineup. There’s a lot of intimidation and they get really up in your face.

    It’s common for it to be about emotions. I have friends who have had things like washing machine hazing. They have girls strip and sit on a dryer. Then they turn the machine on and circle any part of your body that jiggles. 


    Initiation night is the first time you can go out with the sorority, and you go to a frat. New members get really fucked up. A lot of us have frats we are closest with so when we have mixers, they are with them.

    For example, one time my sorority mixed with the frat that ZTA usually mixes with, and only 10 of the boys showed up.


    Your big is basically your mom in the sorority. It’s a ranked system. You both rank each other. Potential bigs come to new member orientation so you can get to know them. The heads of the sorority go through and do their best to match people. I have a big, a grand big, and above her is my big three.


    Different sororities have different rules. but there are some pretty universal ones:

    • Sororities aren’t allowed to throw parties (only fraternities are allowed to do that).

    • We are not allowed to have alcohol in the house.

    • Most chapters do not allow boys upstairs.

    • We aren’t allowed to dance or stand on elevated surfaces.

    • Some sororities have rules about not being behind a closed door with a guy at a party.

    • You have to ask a frat’s permission if you want to bring a boy to a party.

    • And of course, we cannot share the secrets of our rituals with those outside of the sisterhood — so you heard none of this from me.

    • Oh, we also have a pin we are meant to be buried with.

    Clothing requirements

    While some sororities have written rules, and some do not, there are unspoken rules about what you are to wear rush week.

    (Intrigued, I looked into some of these written rules. At Cornell University, there is a list of them. Here are a few of the most important takeaways:

  • • NO camel toe.
  • • No muffin tops or extreme low rise bottoms
  • • Preferably, no short sleeves — recommended: full-coverage, elbow-length, 3/4 length, long, thin layers.
  • • Yes: Nice flats (i.e. Tory Burch) and boots worn over pants.
  • • Yes: Shaved legs
  • • No: Satin. No one looks good in satin dresses unless it’s from Betsey Johnson or Dolce and Gabbana, you weigh less than 130 pounds, have three pairs of spanks on and it’s New Years Eve.
  • • Jewelry: I’m not saying you have to be wearing the Harry Winston wreath for me to like it, but I am saying I will not tolerate any gross plastic shizzz. Remember: less is more.
  • • You best have a mani-pedi when you get to Ithaca.
  • • No frumpy!
  • While she explained to me this was an isolated example, she did say sororities at other colleges have such lists as well.)

    While speaking with her supplied me with a huge insight into what it would be like to be a part of such an organization, I’ll never know for sure just how much she told me.

    Seems you’ll have to rush to be sure.