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Everything You Need to Know About Sorority Initiations

Joining a sorority is an experience unlike any other. It's kind of like a graduation and kind of like a formal welcome, but it's also something totally indescribable until you actually go through it. The thing about sorority initiations, though, is that some people have given them a bad rep. New members sometimes get nervous about what actually happens during initiation because they don't know what to expect. But, the mystery of an initiation is meant to honor the unique bond that ties each sorority together, not to leave people in the dark. It's a tricky balance. To clear the air, we're defining the initiation process as best as possible - without giving any secrets away! Here's everything you need to know about going from the sorority pledge process to becoming an active member.

Hazing Is Not a Sign of Sisterhood

This is one of the most important parts of being in a sorority to understand: hazing is unacceptable. There are all kinds of pop culture interpretations and hazing stories that talk about what happens during initiation, but most of these accounts aren't actually true. Unfortunately, there have been some reports of attempted hazing acts or "hazing gone wrong." The thing to remember, though, is that these are outliers. They're not the norm of sorority life and they are situations that schools across the nation take very seriously. That being said, if you're about to join a large sorority or you're a founding sister of a new chapter, you don't have anything to worry about. It's a little intimidating to be among so many powerful, strong women at first, but these women are here to empower you too, not to break you down! If you do think any hazing is going on, report it or talk to an older sister about it.

All Sorority Initiations Are Unique

Now that that's out of the way, let's dive into what really happens during an initiation. The first thing to understand is why sororities have initiations in the first place. At the end of the day, every Greek organization is the same if you think about it. They're all meant to give you a community in which you can thrive, connect to your personal values, and make lifelong friends. They all do some form of community service and host fun events. Initiation is what sets each sorority and fraternity apart from one another; it's what makes each organization unique. This is meant to make the values of a certain sorority hit home and to celebrate the vision that the original founders had for it. Some last for a few hours and others last for a few days. All of them have their own specific dress code and behavioral rules, like no alcohol consumption for a few days or not wearing any makeup to initiation. This is also a time for learning more about ritual. Sorority rituals have many components to them, and all of them come together during initiation. After this ceremony, though, there are certain parts of ritual that you'll do during chapter or special events without having to go through the whole thing.

There Are a Few Commonalities

While each sorority's values and ritual procedures are different, all of them have some version of this. Other commonalities include the secret sayings, the handshakes, the singing of songs, and the pinning process. Again, these are all meant to set one sorority apart from one another, but funny enough, all of them have their own version of the same things! You can talk about your own sorority's meaning behind the letters or values with your sisters, but not with women of another organization.

Certain Things Are Always Kept Secret

Why all the secrecy? Mostly out of respect, but also as a way to keep the differentiation among sororities in place. If everyone knew each others' initiation process and sorority secrets, there would be nothing that made you feel unique! Here are a few things you should never discuss with other sororities or uninitiated members:
  • ritual
  • the meaning of your values
  • the meaning of your letters
  • your sorority handshake
  • your secret sorority saying
  • details of sorority initiation activities
The last point is a little tricky. For example, you can tell your roommate that you have ritual coming up this weekend, but you can't discuss the details of ritual once it's done. Another way to think about this is that you can mention the theme of a day or how long it takes, but not what actually happens. Again, the better you keep things a secret, the more you come to appreciate the things that make your sorority what it is.

You Will Learn Deeper Values of the Sorority

As you start to discover all the secrets of initiation and the reasons your sorority does things a certain way, everything starts to make more sense. This is the best part of being initiated. After you become an official member of your sorority, you have a stronger connection with the values, the ritual, and your sisters. It's kind of like a lightbulb going off. Once you're in on the secret, you're genuinely bought-in to the purpose and meaning of what your sorority is. Now, you're better able to celebrate your sisterhood and express it with other people, both within and outside of your organization. Again, be sure to only discuss certain things with initiated sisters, but other than that, feel free to show your love for your sorority loud and proud!

Life After Initiation: Wearing Your Letters, Growing Your Family, and More!

Many people think signing up for rush week or running home is the start of their sorority life. Although these are the first experiences you have in the Greek community, you're not officially involved until you've gone through initiation. Sorority initiations happen after the pledge process, but they kick off the rest of your time as a sister. Once this is completed, you're able to become a big, take leadership positions, and participate in special rituals outside of initiation (like on Founder's Day or for a conference). To learn more about sorority life, check out our blog!
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