Ivy (and other schools) Greek life

hi! when looking at colleges, social life is something really important to me. i would consider myself social - i have a close group of friends - but not overly popular (though i am still friends with some of the more popular people). at some of the colleges i’m looking at, i’ve noticed that greek life is big, and even at the ones where it’s not big, it is still a present group. i think i would want to join a sorority, but i’m not sure how competitive they are to get into, and i would love to hear more about that. if i rush, will i get into one of my top sororities (or any sorority). what is the process of rushing like and once in, what is the life like?

for context, some of the top schools i’m looking at and would like to hear more about the greek life are: yale, stanford, brown, columbia, princeton, mit, etc.

This article is a little dated but much of it holds true today:

No one can tell you if you’ll get into the house you want, but it is highly likely you’d get into a sorority as they have a process where almost everyone who want to join gets at least one invitation. Whether the school is a ‘top’ academic school or not doesn’t mean it will have a top Greek system. A sorority might be top at UF and not very popular at Yale, or extremely hard to get a bid at Alabama but rather easy at MIT.

Each school will also have its own way to do recruitment. Most big public universities have ‘Rush’ the first or second weekend of fall semester but it’s becoming more common to put it off until spring or even sophomore year.

Pick your college and the sorority part of it will work out.

Not Harvard and Princeton don’t recognize Greek life, but at Harvard there are organizations of national houses off campus. Princeton also has the eating club system.

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Are you from Houston? I don’t know specifically about the Ivies (I think a lot may not even have them, your in-town “Ivy” - Rice - doesn’t). But if they do, it’s nothing like the soul-crushing, brutal rush experience like what you see around you in the south. Looking at you, Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Texas, Florida, etc, where you actually hire a rush coach to prep you on how to present yourself, what outfits to buy, and how to properly answer questions. Where the sororities start rushing you in the spring of your senior year of high school and where, if you don’t have the pedigree/zip code/attend the correct summer camps, you’re not getting in. So, in other words, hopefully a more positive, meaningful experience. You could go on Greek Chat to see what they say, but you will be bombarded with the posts from all the southern schools. But you may find something.


That isn’t exactly true anymore. Alabama, for instance, had 2501 register for Rush this year and 2307 accepted bids. What happened to those other 200? Some may have dropped out of Rush after the first day, some may not have received a bid from their preferred house, some may have decided to wait to join a traditionally Black sorority or one of the specialty Greek houses (music, LBGT, Christian). But really, 200 deciding not to join is a really low number.

Southern sororities aren’t quite as cut throat as they used to be.

Not true. My daughter just went through. Was dirty rushed during the spring and summer as well. Did not get any bids. Plenty of friends who hired rush coaches who did not get in. At least I didn’t hire a coach. And many of her friends who did get in got into a “lower tier” sorority so they are embarrassed and not happy but will try it for a while because their only other choice is to drop out and not be in Greek life (OMG!). But they are thinking about dropping anyway. Could be why there is a high drop rate and sororities go through COB to fill those spots.

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Hiking in heels is one of those rush coaching companies. All you need to do is look at their page to see there is a big problem.


Guessing you missed the 'Bama TikTok moment…

Spoiler: Makayla got 130+K followers on TikTok, made it through all the levels, but got no bids at all


Sorry, got distracted by the Southern sorority thing!

OP, here’s the good news: college is NOT high school. Better news, greek life at academically selective schools (such as the ones you list) is rarely dominant (with the possible exception of Dartmouth, about which reasonable people can disagree). At many of them you see a lot of students signing up in first year, but as early as second year, and very much by third year membership participation drops way off. That’s because you not only have the friends you make through your housing, and your ECs, but from your subject area.

As other posters have said, it varies hugely school by school and sorority by sorority. First, fIgure out what you want from your college overall: the lived experience of Brown vs MIT is starkly different, greek life or no greek life. You have a list of fancy names, but you need to learn what they are each like as a whole. Greek life will not (in itself) be the biggest factor at any of the places on your list.


Oh, another Greek life thread… haha.

In all seriousness, Greek life can be difficult to explain, especially since the experience is so different depending on the school. The following is based on my friends/family experience; I am not discounting anyone else’s experience just providing another example.

Full disclosure: I was in a sorority at one of the big southern unis (not Bama). It was a wonderful experience for me and I have lifelong friends because of it. (I am thankful that was way way before the days of Instagram and TikTok!) I was from a small, rural area so did not experience any pre-rush parties as described by another poster, but I did hear about them from girls from larger towns/cities so I know that happened even back then. I understand why some may feel that is exclusionary, but on the positive side it is a way to preview sororities before the non-stop, overwhelming week of fall rush (hence the name). Sidebar: I am a huge fan of winter/spring rush vs fall rush.

That over the top experience is what people see portrayed in movies and on social media. To my knowledge, that is not typical at the majority of colleges across the country. There are several days of parties hosted by the sororities to get to know the PNMs (Potential New Members). The suggested dress code varies by college. My D is attending a SLAC which has winter rush so the kids have all fall to get to know girls and decide if Greek life is of interest. Additionally, I’m not aware of any girls hiring rush consultants or buying new wardrobes for rush. I’m not aware of any girls wanting to participate in Greek life not getting a bid (perhaps not from a first choice). It is a much more laidback process at her school.

So you should address this on a school by school basis and decide what is right for you. Had my D ended up at a big southern uni, I highly doubt she would rush in spite of knowing it was a positive experience for her mom. That would not have been a good fit for her. It is a good fit for many students so just know yourself. She does plan to rush this winter at her SLAC. She will concentrate on finding the group of girls she is most comfortable with and not the “popularity/tier” of any one sorority. That is an important mindset to have going into rush anywhere.


Having graduated in 2019, I will confirm that the article is relevant still, although the chapter count may, or may not, be still accurate.

I never even knew that was a thing. Learn something new every day.

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Eldest is a senior at Bama and is in a sorority. Did not have a rush coach, did not spend very much on her rush outfits, most were already owned, and those she did buy new she subsequently used for game days and other events. She had recs to only half the houses, but ended up in her first choice, a house that is apparently ‘middle of the pack’

She did message me on day one of recruitment saying she was clearly really unprepared compared to some of the girls in her rush group!

In the south, local Panhellenic alumnae groups will have events for seniors in their local towns to help them prepare for rush, or even for alumnae to start scouting out potential new members. D says its these women who have grown up knowing about the whole process who feel the most stress of getting a particular chapter.

re the 200 girls who did not get a bid at Bama, D says these are made up predominately of girls who voluntarily withdraw from rush when they don’t get the invites they want, followed by those girls cut for grades. Very vert few are cut from all houses completely.

I imagine Greek Life at northern, Ivy League schools will have some similarities but lots of differences, as greek systems tend to reflect the vibe of the school where they are located. Some schools only recruit second semester or even only for sophomores - there are pros and cons to this also.

My D says to look for vlogs on sorority life, of which there are many. You may even find some related to the colleges you are interested in. Spend time figuring out what is important to you and what kind of people you would like to spend time with - then you can decide which chapter best fits you, and avoid the popularity game.


Rush coaches? I can’t believe what I’m reading.


I was in a sorority at a northern university. Rushing there was NOTHING like it is down south (but then again, it was in the dark ages of 1986 :wink:)

I learned about southern university rush when my daughter went through the process at her ACC university. The takeaways at the time were most importantly, be your true self! Also, try not to have a list of what you perceive are the best, most popular sororities, but rather to focus on finding the best fit for your personality in an organization that you feel most comfortable in. Much of the bitterness from those who don’t get bids comes from the expectation that it has to be the best sorority or no sorority.

It’s unfortunate that the negatives and common misconceptions about sororities are more frequently highlighted than the many positive things that sororities do (not the least of which is the thousands of dollars that they raise each year for their philanthropy).

As others have said, there are many vlogs, Facebook groups etc., but I would caution you to pick those carefully as many feed into the whole zip code popularity/rush coach/gift basket/expensive wardrobe mentality.


My daughter just rushed at Clemson as a freshman, it started in august so she was able to purchase the clothing she needed, and I did see ads for online consulting classes (which I did not sign up for). She said there was a pretty big difference of expectations from the girls from the south vs. the north (we are in the NYC tristate area). She joked that I, as her mom, should’ve been prepping her all along before college. It went fine, she got down to her two top choices and picked one over the other last minute (she liked both pretty equally). She is pretty laid back and confident. My son saw a bid day video and thought it was nuts (he’s in a fraternity and another of my daughter’s is in a sorority, both northeast schools, and said it’s different here.


OP, if you’re really eager to join Greek Life, my understanding is that Dartmouth and Cornell are stronger in that. But understand that in general, if you’re accepted at an Ivy League school, there is probably an expectation that you’ll be involved in campus life, not just Greek Life.

I would not emphasize this at all in any applications. Inclusiveness is a HUGE thing right now. Greek life, while still present, is not what top colleges are promoting.


Oh, the rush coaches, designer wardrobe, moms moving into town for rush week… those are all things you will hear about at southern schools. And it absolutely does happen (I know people who followed this approach because we live in the South!). But I don’t believe it is in the majority, especially at schools with a good percentage of students who are not from the South. In my statement above (and I see now I did not word it well), I was referring to not hearing of that at my D’s SLAC. So that really gets back to how the experience is very school (and to a certain degree region) specific.

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Don’t forget moms flying in to attend bid day, even if they can only see their daughter for 5 minutes, because they just have to be there at the house to celebrate before the daughter runs off to join her new sisters. :upside_down_face:
I was in a sorority myself as well, but was not like this.

That is a new one for me. I do know of moms who will attend initiation ceremonies if the daughter is a legacy. I’d honestly consider doing that if my D pledged my sorority, but that is a very different scenario from a quick hug on bid day! Also, my sorority isn’t at my D’s school so non-issue. :slight_smile:

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It definitely exists, some moms questioned if it was still a think for them to go to campus on bid day, and many knew what businesses to use to send baskets of sorority swag to their daughters (they sold out so I sent a box of cold brew instead, there is sweet tea in the dining halls but no cold brew.


“Dirty Rush” (continuous open bidding) is not the same as going through the organized recruitment of Panhel. The number of new members will vary widely by houses on the same campus, as it depends on how many members the house accepted during formal rush (it is really filling spots that have become open due to members leaving or not taking a full pledge class in formal rush, or sometimes even because of study abroad; some houses may have no open spots)

Things have changed a lot in the last 20 years, even in the south. My sorority no longer allows a preference for legacies so daughters and granddaughters are disappointed when they aren’t given a bid. Recommendations are not a big deal for us, even in the south.

At FSU they are issued t-shirts for the first few days of Rush, so they all look basically the same. Shorts and shoes are different.

I think that the Tik-tok girl at Alabama posted a little too much snark online. The houses do watch social media. Also no way to know if she was accepting all the invitations she received in the early rounds of parties. Both sides have to buy into the system for it to work.

Just my opinion and experience not only rushing myself but having my kids go through it at very different schools, and working with chapters of my sorority around the country. Every campus is different. OP asked a question about recruitment at top schools and even those are going to vary. Stanford has a much more ‘traditional’ recruitment process than Harvard (which is all off campus, all very informal). Harvard is very different than Yale.