Ah yes, spring semester! Usher in the New Year’s resolutions, the reunions after a month-long Winter Break, and for some, the panic-stricken week of superficial conversations and adhering to strict dress codes. This is a week of stressing over which outfits classify as “snappy casual” and trudging through snow with sweatpants thrown over outfits. Yup, we’re talking about Rush Week. Granted, for others, it doesn’t connote stressful outfit nightmares and being ranked against other girls by sororities. For male students who decide to rush, Rush Week is chill and easygoing, full of socializing with frat brothers, schmoozing free food from houses, and living it up at parties. With just three rounds of selection, frat rushing is viewed as a more laid-back process, offering more freedom in choosing frats and less pressure to impress.
The difference between the rush process for prospective male and female pledges isn’t a subtle one. One current Delta Delta Delta pledge notes that, “the rush process for Panhellenic is stressful, but extremely organized. They adhere to a lot of rules to ensure that everyone gets an equal chance.” The National Panhellenic Council, the umbrella network of sororities nationwide, carries out a strict set of rules for rushing. Rushing comprises of a tightly run schedule of touring every sorority house, sharing personal stories with strangers, going through rounds of events—all while whittling down house preferences until formal offers are announced on Bid Day. Every day of rush also has a different dress code, ranging from “cocktail party” attire to business casual. The conditions can get harsh in freezing Cornell, where many girls are forced to lug extra shoes and clothes to change out of after trudging through snow. In short, sorority rushing can be intense, taking a physical, emotional, and mental toll for many who participate.
Meanwhile, one Kappa Sigma pledge explains that his rush experience for fraternities “was super fun and lowkey. My friends and I hit up the frats we were interested in, and just chilled with the brothers and ate free food.” He even arrived in Ithaca a day after rushing had started, but was still able to successfully rush—something that never could have happened with Panhellenic rushing. With over thirty social fraternities to rush at Cornell, prospective pledges have a much more laid-back, informal time during Rush Week. Like the sororities, the 33 fraternities are governed by one overarching association, the Interfraternity Council. The organization has much more lenient policies, especially when it comes to rush. Rather than a rigid schedule of touring all the houses, guys can decide which houses they want to visit and attend open houses whenever they’re free. After submitting their preferences, potential pledges are personally visited at their dorms by frat brothers. There are two rounds of this process, and after a third round, pledges are surprised and officially selected to join the fraternity. The differences between this process and that for sororities are stark: guys have much more liberty in their rush process and are not subjected to the strict rules that define sorority rushing. However, there are still some setbacks to frat rushing. Since the system is not as organized, there is an understanding that “you do somewhat need to know people or have connections when you rush frats.” The setup is not as forgiving for those who have not formed prior relationships.
Overall, the fraternity and sorority rush processes both have their ups and downs. The organized, efficient system of sororities may be more taxing and exhausting, but provides a clear structure to follow throughout the experience. Though rushing for guys is not as organized, most people have lots of fun socializing and meeting new friends. Despite their differences, both offer a chance for prospective students to engage in a new community and to hopefully find a new home on Cornell’s campus. Involvement in Greek Life also carries several additional benefits: alumni networking, philanthropic contribution, and leadership opportunities.
No matter how tiring or stressful Rush Week can be, this year’s new class of pledges is quickly adjusting to Greek Life. As they find their place in their new sorority or fraternity, rush will soon fade away as a distant memory. Now comes another difficult phase of the process: initiation, and all of the “perks” that may come with it… good luck!