I Never Planned to Join a Sorority: My Story from Continuous Open Bidding to Panhellenic Exec

Picture this, it’s August 2020, we are in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and you just packed up your stuff and moved to university. You only know your roommate and a handful of other people, and all of your classes are online. This was my experience when I moved into my dorm to start my freshman year of college, feeling isolated and unsure of what my first year would hold. I had heard the word sorority before coming to college, but my whole family and I are from England and moved to the United States in 2007, so I did not know what it meant at all

One day in August, I was scrolling through Instagram in my dorm room, and came across a bunch of photos of sorority Bid Day after my university’s formal recruitment process.  I saw posts of sorority women dressed up, welcoming their new members home to their sisterhood. Even though I still had no idea what Bid Day was, or what a sorority was, I knew that I wanted that sense of belonging that I saw in those photos. I immediately started feeling regret. Did I miss the biggest opportunity to find a home on campus? How am I going to find my lifelong friends without formal sorority recruitment? 

I knew that my high school friend was in a sorority on my campus, so I sent her a text message telling her about my fears about not joining a sorority. She called me and told me about an informal recruitment process called continuous open bidding (COB), where I would still be able to join a sorority in the fall even though I had not participated in formal recruitment. After speaking to her, my parents and researching sorority life on my university’s website, I decided that I wanted to pursue the COB process. 

I found the sororities participating in COB and I ended up going on two coffee dates where I met two different sisters in the sorority. They told me about their sorority experience and what being in a sorority meant to them. It only took a 30-minute conversation with each of them for me to know I could find a home in their sorority. They made me feel so comfortable and welcomed. I ended up getting a call from the Membership Vice President, offering me a bid to join the sorority, and I was so excited. I ended up officially joining the sorority just one week after Bid Day and jumped right into the new member process. One of the biggest highlights in the first few months of joining was meeting my big and grand big at Big Little Reveal!

Every new member goes through some form of an onboarding process, mine was called “new member education”. Myself and my fellow new members learned about how the sorority works, its history, values and what being a member means. Even though my new member education process was entirely online (thank you COVID!), I absolutely loved attending the meetings every week and being able to connect with my new sisters. I loved it so much that I ended up texting my friend who helped me join, asking her what the process was of joining the new member education leadership team and being able to help transition new members not only into sorority life but campus life as well (since many were freshman).

In the spring of my freshman year, I was chosen to serve as a New Member Educator Assistant. I did everything I could to create a welcoming environment for our new members and add to their sense of belonging in our sisterhood. My sophomore year, I was elected to serve as the New Member Educator. Over the course of the year, I was able to act as a big sister and mentor to over 120 new members, and lead over 60 active members of my sorority as well. This ended up being one of the most special experiences of my entire life. 

When my term as New Member Educator ended, I wasn’t sure what was next for me, but I knew I wanted to continue to be a leader in the community. One of my friends encouraged me to run for my Campus Panhellenic executive board. I ran for the Vice President of Public Relations position because I was studying marketing and had a passion for social media and how it could bring the community together.

I was able to serve in this role for a year which was a dream come true, getting to connect with the entire Panhellenic community and meet women in every sorority. I was also able to be a resource and mentor to marketing leaders in the sororities, which reminded me of being a mentor when I was New Member Educator. At the end of our formal recruitment process, everyone serving in a Panhellenic position gets to run home on Bid Day, which is something I did not get to experience as a Freshman with informal recruitment, and it made the whole experience even more special and full circle.

Now, I serve as a Marketing Intern for the National Panhellenic Conference, applying what I learned in my VPPR position to improve Panhellenic marketing efforts across the country. If freshman year me could see myself today, she simply would not recognize herself. I joined a Panhellenic sorority on a gut feeling that it was something I should do to find a home on campus, and I simply could not anticipate how it would change my life by developing my leadership skills and giving me a community of inspiring women.

My advice to anyone considering joining a sorority would be to just go for it. I never planned to join a sorority, but my life has been so greatly impacted by my experiences and I cannot imagine what my college experience would be like if I had not found this home on campus.

Emma Gill

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