For many college campuses across the United States, fall is the time when students interested in Greek life have the opportunity to get involved. Whether it’s through rushing, a more formal recruitment process or some other system used by the Greek chapters on campus, students may not be able to join chapters for another year after the fall semester ends.
There are definitely benefits to recruiting new members in the fall, especially at the start of the fall semester. The weather is generally more conducive to hosting outdoor recruitment events, exams won’t be starting for several weeks and first year students are likely to be looking for organizations to get involved with on campus. The problem with the fall recruitment system isn’t making use of this ideal timeframe; chapters should be able to start recruitment events at the start of the school year when students have more time and they’re likely to have better turnout.
Early recruitment becomes a problem when students have to decide to rush too early in the academic year. First-year students are generally living on their own for the first time and may need time to adjust to college life. College workloads are also more intensive than high school ones and students may need to see how much time they actually have before making such a significant time commitment. Additionally, students may need time to see what Greek life is actually like at their campus, as they may have negative preconceived notions about fraternities and sororities due to the way it’s often portrayed in media. Putting pressure on first-year students to make a decision so early in the school year may deter students from participating in recruitment.
Not only could early recruitment result in fewer first-years signing up, it may also contribute to first-years rushing chapters that aren’t the best fit for them. While recruitment systems vary greatly, some systems only require students to rush the chapters they are interested in. If students are new to a campus, they may know little about several of the chapters on campus. This lack of knowledge could result in them ignoring chapters that could be a better fit for them.
Implementing a recruitment system that allows students to learn about chapters early in the year, but not commit to rushing until later could benefit both students and Greek life chapters. If students are given the opportunity to learn about the chapters on campus in a low pressure, pre-rush environment, they will likely make better decisions for themselves than if they have to commit to rushing in a short time frame. If chapters are recruiting from a pool of candidates who are more confident about their decision to rush, they may be able to pick candidates who are more certain that they want to join a sorority or fraternity and, in turn, are more likely to accept their bids. This could help chapters fill their quotas and select candidates who are better fits for their group.
Case Western Reserve University’s formal recruitment system is an example of a system that accomplishes this. While recruitment does not begin until the spring semester, events are hosted by the Panhellenic Council, an organization that represents all of the sororities on campus, as well as the individual chapters that allow students to learn about Greek life, the recruitment process and the individual sororities on campus throughout the first semester. In the meantime, students don’t have to decide if they want to register for recruitment until much later. The fraternity recruitment system at CWRU does allow students to rush during both the fall and spring semesters, but it still has the early in the fall semester rush period that may not be ideal for first-year students.
This isn’t to say that all college campuses need to adopt a process identical to CWRU’s, but the core principles of it—notably focusing on educating students about Greek life before they sign up for recruitment and having first-year students wait until their second semester to rush—should be implemented on campuses across the country. Allowing students to learn about the chapters on campus in a low-pressure environment could help them make better decisions about rushing and the communities available. This, in turn, could help save them time and money, and prevent students from overextending themselves during the academic year.