In It for More Than the Frills

 

CHI-O Hockaday graduate Andrea Shiakolas celebrates with her new sorority sisters. Photo provided by Andrea Shiakolas

Seniors consider the benefits of sorority life

Elle Woods and the sorority sisters of Legally Blonde have long reflected a clear stereotype of the perfect sorority girl and sorority life – pearls, pink and parties. But beneath the frills of Lily Pulitzer clothing and monogrammed bags lies a social and academic society that has been building communities of girls for decades, for reasons far beyond the superficial ways seen in Elle Woods’ sorority house.

Now, senior Hockadaisies are faced with the choice to participate in Greek life and experience the sorority scene for themselves.

Andrea Shiakolas ‘11 remembers her initial uncertainty in deciding whether or not Greek life was for her.

“I always thought I wouldn’t be in [a sorority] because I didn’t really have any notion of what they were in reality,” she said.

Yet, after matriculating at Vanderbilt, Shiakolas gained a new perspective on sorority life.

“It’s so prevalent on campus that I really wanted to join,” she said. “I realized when I came that it was just a really good thing to be involved with to add to my college experience.”

Many seniors this year have found themselves in the similar position. Senior Ellen, though she knows little of the recruitment process, has decided to participate because of the size of her intended school as well as the pervasiveness of Greek life on campus.

“I want to be in a sorority because the college that I’m going to is on the bigger side and I feel like it’s a good way to have a community of friends within the bigger community of your class and the college,” Ellen said.

Senior Lizzie grew up surrounded by her mother’s Kappa Kappa Gamma spirit and has always been interested in participating in Greek life.

“I’ve always heard my mom’s stories from being in one, and it always sounded like a really good way to make friends,” Lizzie said. “I was always kind of intrigued by it.”
But not all seniors are interested in joining the Greek scene. Senior Jessie has always had a more negative perception of sorority rushing and life.

“I feel like sometimes sororities tend to be very judgmental,” she said. “I think some schools are more like this than others, but it seems like they pick you to be in a sorority based on your looks or your clothes, very first impressions.”

Jessie finds it more appealing to assimilate into her college class by finding friends based on a common interest or activity, a seemingly more organic start to her social life.

“It just seems more natural, and that’s more the type of experience you might have once you graduate from college,” she said.

Yet history teacher Tracy Walder has been an avid supporter of her sorority Delta Gamma and Greek life since her involvement at the University of Southern California and hopes to dispel rumors about the superficial side to sorority life. Moreover Walder admits that sorority life helped her gain a sense of confidence and a voice that she lacked in high school.

“I was a pretty shy student when I was in high school, I wasn’t super involved,” Walder said. “Being in a sorority actually pushed me to be a leader.”

Walder ended up being Vice President of her sorority and was inspired to become more involved around campus. But beyond social success, Walder’s experience in her sorority helped give her a greater drive academically.

“I actually ended college with a higher GPA than what I had in high school,” she said. “And a lot of that I can credit to my sorority experience.”

Currently working as an advisor for her sorority at Southern Methodist University, Walder continues to be involved with the sorority recruitment process.

“It’s more fair than I think people think it is,” she said. “I know there are a lot of perceptions out there, and I know it freaks some girls out, but it’s a fair process. The girl is looked at as a whole.”

But hazing horror stories and other sorority scares have not hit prospective pledges lightly.

“I’m a little scared, just because I’m not exactly positive what to expect because it’s different at every school,” Lizzie said.

Yet Lizzie and Ellen agree that the fear of hazing does not outweigh their excitement for
sorority life.

“If I was in a situation where I felt like in danger, I would realize that that sorority isn’t
for me, and I would remove myself from the situation, whatever it is,” Ellen said.

For Shiakolas, hazing was never an issue. Instead, she said, they showered pledges with gifts to generate excitement and enthusiasm.

Sororities “are a lot more than they seem,” Shiakolas said. “I actually feel like it’s a
sisterhood, and coming from an all girls school, I really like that feeling of having a sisterhood.”

– Caitlin