Waking up at 5 a.m. to apply a full face of makeup, coming back to campus a week early, walking from house to house in 30-degree weather in dresses and heels, returning home around 10 p.m. every night of the week and the emotional ups and downs of being accepted or rejected –– all of these experiences are part of the whirlwind event that is formal recruitment for NPC sororities. However, things looked a little different this year as the Virginia Tech Panhellenic Community participated in their first ever virtual formal rush process. Under this virtual modality, hundreds of girls were able to find their on-campus home from the comfort of their actual homes.
Formal sorority recruitment, is typically an annual week-long event that takes place on the Virginia Tech campus one week before the start of the spring semester. The potential new members, or PNMs, get a taste of what it’s like to be part of each sorority’s sisterhood during open house presentations and conversations with existing members. With each round, PNMs choose and get chosen by the sororities they feel at home with until, at the end of the week, they finally find their new home on Bid Day when they accept an offer to be part of a sorority’s life-long sisterhood. However, COVID-19 threw a curveball into the traditional way recruitment is run and things looked a little different this year.
Virginia Tech Panhellenic made the decision to host an entirely virtual sorority recruitment this past season due to health and safety concerns surrounding the pandemic. It was uncharted territory for coordinators of the event, active members and PNMs alike. Between the girls with no prior exposure to sororities to the girls who come from a long line of sisterhood, formal recruitment this year was a new experience for everyone.
Of course, with this new modality came new issues. Gone were the problems of being packed into crowded holding houses between rounds or the physical exhaustion that a 10-hour day of conversations wrought. This year, PNMs and sororities faced a whole new variety of issues: choppy internet halting the flow of conversation, dud Zoom links and pesky microphone static that zombified voices. Call them technical difficulties, call them a sign of the times, but no one was safe from these issues. These minor issues, for some, made it difficult to connect with active members. How is one supposed to discover deep connections when their internet has connectivity issues?
Well, when it comes to the bond of sisterhood, there was no feat that couldn't be overcome, virtual or otherwise. For freshman Hannah Arroyo, the occasional glitch did not stand in the way of her finding her home at Delta Gamma.
“I really wanted it to be in person, honestly… it was definitely more convenient, but it was difficult trying to make those connections,” Arroyo said when reflecting upon the experience of rush being online versus in person.
“You see those open house videos, but you’re still wondering ‘What are these houses actually like?’” Arroyo said, echoing a common question that passed through every PNM’s mind.
A big part of the experience is being physically present in the houses; each is unique with its own special vibe. Sometimes, no amount of conversation can fully convey what it feels like to be a sister; you just have to experience it for yourself. Sororities, however, did adapt and gave PNMs a chance to see what the houses looked like with virtual tours. Between the house tours, inviting open house videos and genuine conversations over Zoom, sororities did their best in making each PNM feel as if they were physically present to feel how it is to be a sister.
Alpha Delta Pi sophomore Ashley Brinkley viewed virtual recruitment as the great unknown. Not only was this a new experience for her due to its modality, but this was also her member class’ first time recruiting.
“I didn’t really know what it would be like since it was my first time recruiting this year for ADPi,” Brinkley said.
Apprehension was a key player leading up to the event, but the sorority women, through cooperation and an optimistic attitude, worked hard behind the scenes to make recruitment run as smoothly for the PNMs over Zoom as it did for them in person. Additionally, they did not just want to make recruitment run smoothly, but they wanted it to be as genuine as possible for these PNMs by adding personal touches to their presentations each round to make the new girls feel the sense of community that ADPi has to offer.
For Brinkley, the virtual nature of recruitment actually made the experience more relaxed and natural.
“I honestly had a great time doing it though because I got to sit in my own room and be relaxed talking to girls,” Brinkley said. “I was really able to be my true self because I was in my own safe space.”
While the modality of Virginia Tech’s Panhellenic sorority recruitment process was not anyone's first choice, virtual recruitment presented opportunities for more personal, one-on-one connections from the comforts of each girl’s home. Through the extensive planning of the Panhellenic community, the cooperation of the sisters, enthusiasm of the PNMs and flexibility of everyone involved, Tech’s first-ever virtual rush was more successful than anyone could have imagined.