Lidia Ragland hadn’t been at K-State more than a week, and she was already pacing around a basketball court thinking over decisions that would affect her entire college career.
Ragland, a freshman from Prairie Village, was going through K-State’s sorority recruitment week, and as part of that process, she and almost 700 other women were touring and learning about K-State’s 11 Panhellenic sororities.
At K-State, though, the sororities’ formal recruitment process relies on mutual selection, which means that just as the sororities pick women who best exemplify their stated values, the women themselves rank the sororities based on their conversations and experiences during the week.
Piper Coen, director of external recruitment for the Panhellenic Council, said not all universities recruit this way, but at K-State, they’ve found success with mutual selection.
“We make sure that women go to chapters that want them to be there,” Coen said. “The women go to chapters and base their opinions on the conversations and connections they have on items like philanthropy and community service. They also do sisterhood days and house tours so they can see every aspect of a chapter throughout the week, and they can figure out the best way they can fit in.”
Despite much of the inevitable chaos that goes on when managing hundreds of mostly freshmen, the coordination behind planning bus transportation routes, activities and itineraries for 700 people is a logistics feat that takes months of preparation, Coen said. This year, the council had to rent out buses from Kansas City instead of locally since the Manhattan-Ogden school district started earlier.
The women started their week with open houses and general tours of all of the sororities, but as the days went on, both the sororities and the recruits ranked each other daily, and by the end of the week, each was left with a narrower preference list. The week was set to culminate Friday evening when sororities present their chosen recruits with bids, or invitations to join the sororities.
With Friday on their minds, the week can be stressful for the women.
“The hardest part is when someone finds out when they come back the next day and not as many chapters invited them back as they might’ve expected,” Coen said. “And it’s really hard to explain to a potential new member why they didn’t get invited back to a certain chapter.”
For that reason, the sororities provide recruitment guides, members who act like counselors, mothers and even comedic relief to put the recruits at ease. But to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest, these recruitment guides “disaffiliate” from their chapters, scrubbing every connection to their actual sorority. Some even go as far as changing their names on social media.
Senior Madison Wilkins said she came back as a recruitment guide for a second year because she enjoys watching the potential new members become passionate about their sororities. She said her goal is to make each of the recruits as comfortable as possible.
“There’s a lot of unknown, and I think it’s hard for anybody to grasp that,” Wilkins said. “They may not necessarily know how sororities and Panhellenic work, and we’re asking them to talk to all of these people they’ve never met before, so there’s just a lot of nerves.”
On Thursday of recruitment week, Ragland still hadn’t made her final preferences, but she was getting close. She grew up with a big family, so she wanted to be in a sorority to start off her college career with a big support system.
“It’s been challenging to find who you click with in each house,” Ragland said. “It can be hard to judge an entire house based on just two conversations, but I feel like you sometimes just have to go with your gut. I’ve been looking for somewhere I can be comfortable and unapologetically myself.”