Not many people decide to rush as a sophomore, and for good reason.
The Greek community can be quick to judge sophomore rushees as individuals who were too socially inept or out-of-control to have made it through the process as a freshman.
As a sophomore rushee, I made sure to clarify that the primary reason I hadn’t joined a fraternity yet was my month-long bout of mononucleosis in the middle of my fall quarter during freshman year, rather than my capacity to socialize. But I know that there were still many doubts about me when it came time to decide whether I would receive a bid or not.
Evidently, you will encounter some obstacles rushing as a sophomore that you wouldn’t have to confront as a freshman. However, there are three key advantages to being late to the party:
1. Spending my freshman year outside of Greek life helped me find my true friends.
Once I realized that I wouldn’t be in a fraternity, my biggest worry was how I would be able to continue meeting new people. Especially since I lived in Bobb, it was incredibly easy to make friends during fall quarter. Once rush ends in winter quarter, however, it’s a completely different story. Since 70 percent of Bobb’s freshmen go Greek, everyone around me immediately started to assimilate into their respective Greek organizations. Bobb’s social climate went from being warm and accepting to being exclusive and cliquey.
Not joining a fraternity meant that I was no longer constantly meeting new people. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise for my social life, because I was able to see who my real friends are, the ones that are actually worth my time. Sure, meeting a whole bunch of new people all at once can be exhilarating. After all, that’s what makes freshman year of college such an exciting and singular experience.
But being able to see through the hustle and bustle of the freshman year Greek scene certainly helped me realize which of the many people I had met were worth keeping around. Not being in a Greek organization gave me ample time to grow even closer to those who valued me as much as I valued them because I didn’t have to spread myself out very thin through meeting new people. By the end of the year, while I hadn’t met as many people as my peers in Greek life, I had formed a close social circle based on true friendship rather than the superficiality of Greek life.
2. Not being in a fraternity as a freshman gave me a better perspective on the positives and negatives of Greek life.
People not affiliated with Greek life like to say that Greek life is corrupt, heteronormative and pompous. Of course, the Greek community likes to think otherwise. In the heat of this polarizing debate, I have often found myself playing monkey in the middle. By spending a year as an outsider and a year as an insider, I feel like I’ve come to better understand both sides of the ongoing debate concerning the merits and faults of Greek life.
My freshman year was a firsthand experience coping with its exclusionary aspects. It certainly hurt at the time, but proved to be immensely important to my well-rounded perspective on Greek life. This allowed me to take all the great things that it offers with a grain of salt, and while at times I feel guilty for giving into something that I don’t completely agree with, I know it was the right decision.
Although I have enjoyed being an active member of a fraternity, I’ve never been a big fan of the concept of Greek life. Especially in schools like Northwestern where around 40 percent of students go Greek, the system perpetuates a culture of gender stereotypes, white privilege and cliques. But something invaluable that I have learned in college is that sometimes, the best opportunities will in some ways go against your moral compass. Often times, advancing in the real world and finding your path to success will ultimately require you to do things that morally don’t feel right. It’s a competitive world out there, and you need to be prepared to accept that.
While I think Greek life promotes some the worst aspects of society, it’s also an incredibly useful social resource. By going Greek, you are presented with endless opportunities from which you’re able to expand your social outreach, whether from forming meaningful friendships or simply building a network. A fraternity or sorority is a rock solid community that you can always rely on being there for you, as long as you join one that you truly fit into.
3. Spending my freshman year outside of Greek life gave me the more time to see where I would fit in the best in the Greek community.
Unlike most other universities where Greek life is so prevalent, Northwestern officially holds rush week during winter quarter rather than in the fall, intending to provide freshmen with more time to consider their options and decide if Greek life is a good fit for them. While it does certainly give freshmen more time, I personally don’t think one quarter is enough time to get an idea of how and where you’d fit in.
A lot of freshmen find themselves caught up in the hype surrounding Greek life and give into its overarching social pressure. Too many freshmen rush not because they actually want to but because they want to do what everyone else is doing. Then they end up struggling to find their niche in the community. This is why so many people that rush as freshmen end up dropping out of Greek life before they even finish the year. On the other hand, by rushing as a sophomore, you get three more quarters to make your mind up and three more quarters to observe the culture. Not only do you get more time, but you also get to see where your friends that rushed as freshmen ended up. Both of these factors greatly aided me in deciding where I’d fit in best, and I couldn’t be happier with my final decision.
My freshman year wasn’t an easy time for me by any means. As one of the only non-affiliated freshman men on my floor in Bobb, I felt like I was really missing out on an integral part of the freshman year experience. In the end though, I feel like I am more content with my social life than I ever would have been if I had joined Greek life in my first year. I wouldn’t be as close with the people I care the most about as I am today, I wouldn’t have acquired a complete perspective on the pros and cons of Greek life, and I may not have even joined the right fraternity. So go ahead, rush as a sophomore. It may impart the same blessings on you as it did on me.
Disclaimer: mono is not a blessing.
[part of The Northwestern Chronicle’s Freshman Issue, Fall 2016]