Searching for a home away from home

More than 1,000 hopefuls participated in sorority formal recruitment.

Pi Beta Phi sorority members Megan Munson and Lauren Hunt cheer before the mass revealing of sorority bids Saturday morning on Francis Quadrangle. More than 1,300 women vying for spots in Greek organizations participated in Bid Day, the culmination of formal recruitment week.

Many fantasies start with the beginning of a woman's college career. She might imagine dating all those wildly bad boys that her parents told her not to touch. Maybe she imagines getting an internship in New York City that will lead to fame and fortune. But perhaps a fantasy that everyone can relate to is finding a great group of friends to keep in touch with for life.

There are many ways to make all those scenarios a reality, but perhaps the best-known way for a woman is to join a sorority. Last week there were 1,306 women who tried their luck at joining one of the competitive and coveted organizations. That week is known as formal recruitment and it encompasses many social meetings and gatherings as a way of finding out if the potential member is compatible with the particular sorority of her dreams.

"At Mizzou, formal recruitment is a process that allows interested women to get to know each sorority chapter before deciding which organization is best for her," Panhellenic Association spokeswoman Audrey Danner said.

The women who are in the process of recruitment - or vying for a spot in a Greek organization - move onto campus a week before the fall semester starts.

"To make the process easier, the women are assigned a group of Pi Chis (Panhellenic Counselors), who are sorority women disaffiliated from their chapters during recruitment week," Danner said. "These women are with the women throughout the week, and they can answer any questions they may have about recruitment or Greek life."

These counselors are incognito in the sense that they are there to help the women and offer advice but none of the potential members actually know which chapter the Pi Chis belong to. Thus, the Pi Chis can get a sense of the potential member's true personality without the burden of eager flattery.

Various different social activities are scheduled for each day of the week so that the members of the sororities and the hopeful recruits can mingle and see if they are compatible. One of these days is Sisterhood Day, in which women can show off their sense of humor in skits, Danner said.

Potential member Madeline Wolf said that the skits provided the women with a valuable glimpse into the individual chapters.

"It was good to see the goofiness and personalities of each house," she said.

Another social event is Philanthropy Day, when recruits learn about the various community service projects that each chapter performs throughout the year.

PHA President Diamond Scott said Preference Day has a more serious atmosphere compared to the other days during formal recruitment.

"It features a candlelit ceremony, where the women can talk to someone one-on-one and gives a deeper look into the sisterhood," Scott said.

On each day of formal recruitment, both the potential new members and the chapters try to decide if they are comfortable with each other. If they both agree that they like the other and get along well, then the recruit is invited back to the chapter to mingle some more. Saturday, the final day, was Bid Day.

"For Mizzou PHA, Bid Day is the last day of formal recruitment where the potential members receive bids from the chapters," Danner said. "It's an exciting event for both the chapters and the potential members."

This is the day all the women were waiting for. Each of the recruits who were offered bids - invites to join a chapter - meet by the Columns to find out in which chapter they've been offered a spot.

Scott said that Bid Day is one of her favorites because she loves seeing how excited all of the new members are.

On this day, the recruits excitedly wait with their hands behind their backs. Then the Pi Chis hand them an envelope containing the name of the chapter they've been invited to join. On the count of three, all the women rip open the envelopes to see their bids. In unison, the new members all turn and run to the Columns, where the senior members of each chapter are waiting to welcome them.

But not everyone who goes through formal recruitment gets placed in a chapter.

"Due to the large number of women, not everyone gets in," Scott said. "If we accepted everyone we'd have a hundred women per pledge class. Some get released, and some withdraw on their own."

The Bid Day experience is a memory that will last forever. Not only did friends and family of the women show up to watch them join their new sisters, but so did Ardelle Crisler, a member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority who graduated in 1952.

Crisler said she happened to be in town and heard that Bid Day was happening, so she decided to check it out and relive old times.

"It was different when I went through it," she said. "Only about one-tenth of the people rushed. It's just so overwhelming."

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