Sorority life never appealed to me before coming to college. It seemed interesting, but I just didn’t think of myself as “that kind of girl.” I had the same image of Greek life in my mind that so many of us do: the horror stories about hazing, the pressure to look perfect, and the infamous idea of “paying for friends.”
A few days prior to “rushing,” or sorority recruitment, I talked to my older brother on the phone. He tried to convince me not to join a sorority. He goes to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has been successful in college without the help of Greek life.
While I valued his opinion, I went for it anyway. I had nothing to lose. I knew I didn’t have to join and, if anything, I could make some friends in the process.
After meeting the girls, I was convinced.
Although I’ve only been a member of my sorority for a semester now, I can tell you that it’s nothing like what you would expect, at least here at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
Because I am still an active member and respect all of the girls, but want to remain as transparent as possible, I won’t be including the name of my sorority in this article.
We don’t live in a house, there is no hazing or constant partying, and no superficiality or binge-drinking. In reality, our sorority has a strong focus on support and on becoming better women. A community service requirement encourages each girl to give back, and required hours of studying help us to be good students. The opportunities for leadership and higher positions within the sorority can offer valuable career experience. It has also allowed me to meet some of my closest friends and provided me with an endless support system.
While joining a sorority has been a positive experience for me, joining Greek life at UH Mānoa does have its downsides.
The primary drawback of joining a sorority has been the cost. If it weren’t for the high price of being involved, I would say that being in a sorority has been one of the best decisions I’ve made while in college. However, I’m stingy at heart, and not having a job last semester meant I had to dig into my savings.
I spent roughly $800 last semester on fees, not including the outfits, shoes, sorority shirts, Ubers and gifts I bought. However, most of these things are one-time purchases and can be reused over time. The initiation fees, the badge and most of the clothes are purchases I won’t have to make twice. However, I still pay $80 every month just to remain an active member.
Fines within my sorority are meant to hold people accountable and to increase involvement, but can really add up, especially if you have other work obligations or things going on in your life. If you can’t make it to a meeting and don’t have an excuse, you are fined $35. If you wear the wrong clothing to a meeting, you are fined. If you don’t show up to a required event, you will be fined.
Maintaining an Image
There is an image that we are expected to uphold when we are wearing our greek letters and at our weekly chapter meetings. Our chapter meetings require strict business attire. We must wear long skirts or slacks, heels or flats but never wedges or sandals, and we must always wear our badge. I thought it was annoying at first, especially after being told I had to change once, but knowing how to dress for the workplace is important, and there have been countless occasions outside of my sorority in which I’ve needed business attire. Internships, meetings, interviews and the workforce all require a professional look. I wouldn’t be prepared for those without my sorority.
Our social media presence must also reflect the values of our sorority, especially if you have the name or letters of the sorority in your bio or anywhere on your account. Posting pictures of alcohol, anything illegal or offensive will lead to members being asked to delete their posts. Although this is probably a good practice to keep in general, it can be difficult for some to adhere to these guidelines.
With the exception of our chapter meetings, I spend most of my time with my sorority sisters wearing no makeup and looking like I just rolled out of bed. We go to the gym, to the beach, on hikes, have nights in and nights out and I’ve never felt judged for my appearance. We value one another for our personalities and who we are on the inside (as cheesy as that may sound). We are also a very diverse group of women and none of us feel the need to adhere to a standard look.
Not only was I not hazed, but the sisters went overboard to make sure they weren’t doing anything that could be considered hazing. We had a required meeting on anti-hazing and were given an in-depth education on what hazing is so that we could report it. One time after a day at the beach, one of my sorority sisters was driving me home and wouldn’t let me ride in the back of her truck just in case it might be considered hazing.
The Pros Outweigh the Cons
There’s no doubt that being in a sorority is both expensive and a time commitment, and the idea of having to conform to a set of values is not for everyone. But if I need someone to vent to, a textbook or even a hair tie, I know that I have eighty sisters I can turn to. Walking around campus and seeing my sorority sisters brightens my day and makes the school feel less big. There’s always stuff going on, events to participate in, retreats, food, beach days and nights. We’ve given back to the community in so many ways, from making hundreds of sandwiches for the homeless to beach cleanups at Makapu‘u. The connections I’ve made, the confidence I’ve gained, and the endless support and memories make it worthwhile.