I Was In A Southern Sorority, So Here Are 14 Things I Noticed Bama Rush Tok Didn't Reveal About Greek Life

·16 min read

If your For You page looks anything like mine, then it's probably been flooded with nothing but sorority videos for the past two weeks. That's right: The latest season of Rush Tok is officially underway.

Text: When bama rush has taken over the entire nation's tiktok but you're literally living thru it
@jellybellyelly25 / Via tiktok.com

While those who weren't a part of Greek life have been expressing total shock about what Southern sorority life is like, I've been over here totally delighting in all of the details, from the OOTDs to the glimpse into work week.

Several TikTok posts showing #bamarush fashions

After all, I was an SEC sorority girl from 2015 to 2019, just at Ole Miss instead of Alabama. Ole Miss rush is just as intense as Alabama's, so these TikToks are both sending me on a trip down memory lane and giving me flashbacks of hourslong rush practices and horrific blisters from sprinting around campus trying to get to each chapter on time.

Young women running together
Brynn Anderson / AP

I’m from Maryland, and when I registered for recruitment, I didn’t know the first thing about the difference between pi and phi, a PNM and an active. I navigated the waters of sorority recruitment without a Lululemon tennis skirt (I did wear my normal jewelry, though — if you know, you know) and lived to tell the tale. I’ve been mining the comments on each and every Rush Tok that pops up on my For You page, and have been making mental notes about the questions I've been seeing most frequently. Whether you're a recovering sorority member, a PNM deep in the throes of rush, or Sam from San Francisco who stumbled upon Bama Rush Tok and can't look away, here are 14 questions about rush, answered by a former sorority girl:

1.So how long is rush? And what's the difference between each round?

2.PNM? Active? Panhellenic? What does this all mean?

Young women sitting, smiling, and holding up signs with names on them

I swear, rush honestly needs to come with its own dictionary. There are a ton of different acronyms and words that make up a strange little recruitment vocabulary (and that’s even before we get into the Greek letters!), but I’ll fill you in on some of the big ones.

PNM: I think I’ve seen this one clarified in about a hundred TikTok comments sections. A PNM is a potential new member, aka a student going through recruitment.

Active: An active is an active member of a sorority. If the PNM is the rushee, then the active is the rusher.

Panhellenic: You know how all of the PNMs mention that their matching T-shirts are from Panhellenic? Panhellenic’s not a store, but the governing body for all of the sororities on a campus.

Rush vs. recruitment: While a lot of people use these terms interchangeably, you're technically supposed to call it recruitment. It always used to be called rush, but the name was officially changed in 1998, perhaps to give the whole thing a bit more of a serious air.

Legacy: Every chapter defines legacy a little differently, but if you're a legacy to a chapter, then someone in your family was initiated into that sorority at any college. Say your mom was a Chi Omega at the University of Alabama. If you attended Alabama, you would be an in-house Chi Omega legacy, while if you attended the University of Tennessee, you would just be a plain old legacy. Some chapters treat legacies with priority during recruitment.

Brynn Anderson / AP

3.Is it really that competitive?

4.Do the outfits really matter that much?

TikToks showing fashions

Sorry to burst the bubble of everyone who loves seeing all of the OOTDs (I love watching them too!), but the outfits really aren’t that important.

Sure, what you're wearing matters somewhat because each round comes with a certain dress code that’s very neatly explained to you when you register for recruitment, but as long as your outfit fits in with the dress code, it’s not really a make-or-break.

There are always rumors that active members use your outfit to gauge whether you can afford to be a member of a sorority. Sororities at big Southern schools (like Alabama) usually cost between $7,000 and $10,000 a year. These dues cover the cost of meals (most chapters at Southern schools provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner every weekday), social events, upkeep for the house, salaries for the house staff, and national membership dues. It's a huge financial commitment, but honestly? The fact that you might be wearing a Lululemon tennis skirt really doesn't reveal the whole picture about your financial situation.

It’s obviously fun to see what everyone wears (that’s why you all got sucked into Rush Tok, isn’t it?), but when an active member meets dozens of PNMs every day, she probably isn’t going to be able to recall what every single one was wearing. I appreciate a fabulous outfit moment as much as the next sorority girl, but good conversations will always be more important than a red carpet–worthy outfit.

@prettypinkash / Via tiktok.com

5.What is work week?

6.Why do they always lose their voices?

"Lost voice from door song"

Have you ever spent every waking hour making conversation in a room with 100-plus other people for a week straight? It’s killer on your voice. If you're an active, you also have to scream-sing up to 20 times a day depending on the number of rounds, so yeah, it's hell on your vocal cords.

Pro tip: Pack cough drops.

@cierarae / Via tiktok.com

7.Do you really need a recommendation letter to go through rush?

Young woman wearing a sorority sweatshirt

Yes and no. For 90% of the Greek systems in the country, recommendation letters aren’t really necessary. But in the South, they’re unfortunately a part of recruitment because of the sheer number of women rushing.

When I went through recruitment in 2015, it was suggested to secure one or two recommendation letters from alums of each chapter. The letters didn’t have to come from someone who attended that school, but it typically looked better if they did. Now a lot of chapters are lessening the focus on rec letters. In fact, some don't even accept them at all, while others accept "third party" letters from teachers, coaches, or someone who knows you well, regardless of their Greek affiliation.

I'm actually so incredibly jealous of this new development. Picture me at age 17, not really knowing anyone who had been in a sorority. I had to message local alumnae groups of each chapter at Ole Miss to ask if they could write me a letter! It can be done, but you’ve definitely gotta put some elbow grease into making it happen.

Can you go through recruitment at a school like the University of Alabama and make it all the way through without a single rec letter? Possibly, but when everyone else has one, it’s best to ensure you have them so you don’t get released from chapters you loved for a reason as silly as a rec letter.

Brynn Anderson / AP

8.WTF is a bump group?

TikTok screenshot with blurred-out faces and caption "When I'm talking to a PNM and forget I have a bump coming to say hi"

When I went through recruitment, I was amazed that I spoke to so many active members who had my major or who were from the same state I was from. That is, until I became an active member who was schooled in the fine art of the bump group.

To register for recruitment, you usually upload your résumé, which includes what you did in high school, what your major is going to be, links to your social media profiles — pretty much everything about you except your Social Security number goes on here. Each chapter reads that and matches you up with active members who have things in common with you to make the conversations easier.

Before each round, all of the PNMs stand outside the house. The doors open, the girls in the house start their song, and within seconds, actives come streaming out of the house calling the name of the PNM they've been assigned to talk to, based on their commonalities.

Here's where the bump group comes in. A bump group is a group of members who are all friends or who all have something in common to ensure conversations flow smoothly. Each member of a bump group talks to the same PNMs, with each active member moving on to speak to the next PNM after some sort of secret signal is given. Basically, if you’re a PNM and you’re talking to Active Member Jill, all of a sudden Jill’s best friend, Brooke, will come up to the two of you and introduce herself. She'll chat with you for a minute and then Jill will leave and move on to the next PNM so it’s just you and Brooke having a conversation. Ten minutes later, her roommate Ally will come to "bump" her and the whole process repeats. While it's kind of confusing at first, it’s super effective when it works, and ensures that each PNM talks to multiple active members during each round.

There are a lot of rules about bump groups, and chapters often spend the bulk of work week practicing "bumping" to make it look seamless once recruitment starts.

@trideltaksu / Via tiktok.com

9.Is Bid Day actually fun? Sounds like a lot of screaming.

YouTube / Via giphy.com

The screaming note is nearly verbatim from a TikTok comment, and it made me laugh.

Bid Day is usually pretty fun! If you tuned into Season 1 of Rush Tok, you probably saw all of the videos featuring thousands of PNMs gathering to open their bids. Bids are usually written as formal invitations to join the chapter. There’s typically a countdown, and then everyone opens their bid at once and the screaming reaches a decibel that rivals that of the music from the Hollister in your local mall. Everyone runs to their chapter house or the designated spot for their new sorority, and there will be an active member waiting there, usually holding a sign with your name on it and a shirt with your new letters to wear!

In my experience, we hung out at the house for a while and took approximately 48,000 photos, then got on buses to go to a party (PG-rated) with food and a band or DJ. It’s fun but pretty overwhelming because you could quite possibly meet hundreds of new people in a short time span (there were over 400 women in my chapter!).

You’ll often get a Bid Day bag full of T-shirts and items with your letters. At Ole Miss, members of your new chapter always came and decorated the door to your dorm room while you were at Bid Day. I loved cruising down the halls of my dorm and seeing which chapter everyone joined!

10.What if I show up and know virtually nothing about recruitment?

A group of young women walking together, with two women in front circled with "Recruitment counselors" text

You and me both! I thought I knew what I was doing, but once I got on campus, I quickly realized that I didn’t have a clue. Luckily, you’ll be assigned to a small group helmed by a recruitment counselor. They’re usually called something like a Gamma Chi, Rho Chi, Pi Chi, or Rho Gamma, and they’re usually juniors or seniors who were chosen to lead PNMs through the rush process.

I was a recruitment counselor for two years and absolutely loved it, so I might be a little biased when I say that recruitment counselors are the glue that holds it alllll together.

Recruitment counselors go through their own form of work week, full of training on everything from the nitty-gritty rules behind rush (there is actually so much math involved, it's wild to me) to how to console a sobbing PNM who got dropped from her favorite chapter. They know how to handle any situation, from a scheduling conflict to a PNM who wants to drop out of recruitment entirely. I mean, trying to corral 15–20 budding sorority girls takes talent!

Recruitment counselors normally disaffiliate from their chapter so they can provide unbiased advice to women going through the process. It’s always fun to try to guess which chapter each counselor belongs to, and if this season of Bama Rush Tok is anything last year's, by Bid Day, you'll be seeing tons of TikToks saying, “I think Mary Beth is a Pi Phi, I think Mary Beth is a Chi O, I think Mary Beth is a Tri Delt.” On Bid Day at Ole Miss, all of the recruitment counselors wore trash bags and had a ceremony where we ripped them off to reveal our letters underneath.

Recruitment counselors usually have to lock down their social media to prevent their PNMs from learning what they are, which usually results in some FBI-like stalking. I used to switch my Facebook to Madison Panhellenic every fall, and one year, my PNMs still managed to somehow find a copy of my résumé with my sorority listed on it.

Sean Rayford / Getty Images

11.What does a sorority do after rush is over?

12.Are the rules really that bad?

Paramount / Via giphy.com

Ehhh, sometimes. Sorority life definitely comes with rules about social media and behavior that members are expected to follow. While these can sometimes be frustrating, they're usually put in place for a reason.

Honestly, social media was the most complained-about rule when I was in college. You weren’t allowed to post pictures with alcohol, even if you were 21. Some chapters had an account that would post a comment with a code word or emoji on your photo, which meant you would have to remove it or else face the wrath of a standards meeting.

In a standards meeting, you're usually given an opportunity to explain your behavior. There's typically a consequence for whatever rule you broke, ranging from not being allowed to attend a certain social or having to volunteer as a sober monitor at events. Other things that could get you sent to standards include acting inappropriately at a chapter event or drinking while wearing your letters.

On Rush Tok last year, there was a lot of discourse about PNMs who had been supposedly cut from rush for being standards concerns. While nobody but the chapter members themselves know why a PNM is cut (membership selection is confidential), you probably want to clean up your social media before recruitment begins.

13.Is a sorority all just partying?

Young women in the same sorority wearing the same outfits and cheering

Your sorority experience can be what you want it to be. Some people go all gung-ho with their letters and are completely devoted to their chapter, while other members just join to meet friends.

Play your cards right and your letters can mean so much more than new friends and cute T-shirts. You can actually get a major résumé booster from your membership. Case in point? Every chapter has some type of finance vice president who handles the chapter’s budget. When you added up all of the dues and fees that went into my chapter of 400-plus women, it created an over $2 million budget each semester! I mean, how good would it look on a résumé to, you know, be able to just casually write that you successfully handled a multimillion-dollar budget at the ripe old age of 20?

Not good with numbers? Each chapter has opportunities in everything from event planning to social media to standards and ethics, all huge roles that give you some pretty great experience. Your chapter can also provide you with ample ways to get involved with community service using your chapter’s philanthropy.

Greek life also emphasizes having good grades. Every chapter has a minimum GPA requirement for all active members. If your GPA dips below the threshold, then you must complete a set number of study hours each week.

If you want your sorority experience to be all about partying and your social life, then by all means, you do you, but there’s definitely more to it than date parties and formals.

Congressional Quarterly / CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

14.And finally, is Greek life really as toxic as people say it is?

A crowd of people standing outside a sorority with a "Bid Day" banner hanging from it

While I loved my experience in Greek life, as a whole, the system definitely has it flaws.

Like I said, I loved being in my sorority. I don’t think I would have loved college as much as I did had I not been a member. I met lifelong friends in my chapter (for real, our group chat is going off as I type this) and had a lot of fun opportunities. When I got to college, I didn't realize exactly how much free time I would have once I learned that my only real obligation was going to a few hours of class a day. Being in a sorority gave my life a lot of structure and encouraged me to get involved on campus in other ways.

BUT Greek life is far from perfect. Race and Greek life have a very complicated relationship. Chapters in the South look incredibly homogeneous and are not reflective of their student bodies. I mean, the University of Alabama didn’t integrate its Greek system until 2013. Alabama's first Black sorority president has spoken about her experiences and how she was still treated differently, even after she reached her chapter’s highest honor as president.

Greek life is also expensive, often prohibitively so. It’s evident in all of the Cartier bracelets and Gucci sneakers featured in TikTok after TikTok. Dues at schools in the South can top $10,000 a year, and the cost definitely freezes out a lot of people.

And while I personally never experienced hazing, I know it exists and can be a huge problem. There are hazing horror stories that are heartbreaking to read, and I feel lucky that I was never hazed in my chapter, and that none of my friends from other chapters were, either.

I don’t have the answers on how to fix Greek life. I don’t think getting rid of it is the answer because for a lot of people, it becomes a cherished memory, but like anything, it has its pros and its cons.

Brynn Anderson / AP

Going Greek is definitely not necessary in order to love college. I would have made friends and been involved on campus had I not had a set of Greek letters on my oversize sorority T-shirt, but I am grateful for my experience.

If you were in Greek life, I would love to hear about your experience. Even if you weren't involved in Greek life but have found that your For You page has been taken over by rush content, come chat about all things Bama Rush Tok in the comments!