Summer is almost over, which means sorority rush is right around the corner. Though sororities have been around since the 19th century, pop-culture’s fascination with rush grew after #BamaRush went viral on TikTok last year.
Thousands of TikToks of University of Alabama students sharing their sorority rush outfits and experiences went viral last year, creating a social media sensation. With rush coming back today, here’s a quick rundown of what it is, why it’s so popular, and what we can expect this year.
What Is #BamaRush?
Also known as formal or primary recruitment, sorority rush is the process where potential new members (PNMs) meet and learn about each sorority on campus through multiple rounds (more on those later) before ultimately receiving their invitations to join (known as a bid).
Rush at the University of Alabama is unique for several reasons. It’s one of the top Greek life colleges in the country with 18 Panhellenic sororities (also known as social sororities, which differ from sororities based on religion, major, or ethnicity) and has multiple sororities with over 400 members. Sororities are also taken more seriously in Southern states than in other areas around the country, and the University of Alabama is one of the most popular and selective.
Sorority rush in Southern schools is so competitive that some PNMs hire rush coaches the summer before so they’re more prepared, and they dress to the nines to impress their potential future sorority sisters. This is where #BamaRush comes in on TikTok, as hundreds of videos went viral of PNMs sharing their OOTDs (outfits of the day) and where they bought everything. #BamaRush became a sensation for many reasons, but it’s mostly because it’s so much fun to watch these TikToks. Before I go into more reasons why #BamaRush is so popular, let’s go over the rush process.
How Is Rush Structured?
Day 1 (August 6): Convocation and Open House
On the first day of rush, the PNMs meet their Rho Chi (an older sorority member who has briefly disaffiliated from her house to coach and counsel PNMs through the rush process) and the fellow PNMs in their rush group. The Rho Chis and members of Panhellenic (the governing body of Panhellenic or social sororities on campus) go over the rules of rush, and every Rho Chi takes her rush group to each house for a quick introduction to the sorority. PNMs then rank each house from their favorite to least favorite.
Most sororities drop PNMs based on grades and reputation (it’s common for a PNM to get dropped if she’s had a bad experience with an active member of the sorority). Active members also have information about each PNM before rush begins, as all PNMs are required to record an introduction video to send to every sorority. If a PNM ranks a sorority on the top of her list but the sorority drops her, it won’t be on her schedule for the next round. PNMs receive their schedules for Philanthropy rounds the next morning.
Since this is the most casual round of rush, most PNMs wear casual clothes with their hair and makeup done, and active members dress according to what their recruitment committee decides is best. Some chapters wear their sorority letters with shorts, and some wear matching dresses in their sorority colors.
Days 2-4 (August 7-9): Philanthropy
Philanthropy rounds last three days, and PNMs receive their schedules on the morning of the first day. PNMs visit houses they were invited back to (I’m not sure the maximum number of houses they’re invited back to, but my school had 10 sororities, and the maximum number of houses you could visit in the philanthropy round was eight) and learn about each sorority’s philanthropic initiatives.
Each PNM will speak to a few active members in each house they visit and will take notes at the end of each visit before they rank their houses at the end of the last day. Active sorority members are slightly more selective about who they want to keep for the next round and will choose which PNMs to keep based on how the active members they spoke to felt about them. If a PNM ranks a sorority on the top of her list, but the sorority drops her, that house will not appear on her schedule for the next round.
Philanthropy rounds have some of the most interesting outfits. PNMs get to show their creativity by styling a t-shirt that Panhellenic gives them with a dressy skirt, skort, or pair of shorts. Many PNMs accessorize with statement earrings and cute sandals. Active members usually wear matching shirts displaying their philanthropy paired with a dressy skirt, skort, or pair of shorts.
Days 5-7 (August 10-12): Sisterhood
Like Philanthropy rounds, Sisterhood rounds last three days, and PNMs receive their schedules on the morning of the first day. PNMs visit houses they were invited back to (I assume it’s fewer houses than Philanthropy rounds, but not a drastic difference) and learn about each sorority’s Sisterhood. Each PNM will speak to a few active members about the house’s Sisterhood (some houses even perform a skit) and will take notes after each visit to rank houses again.
PNMs are supposed to take ranking houses seriously at the end of Sisterhood rounds because the number of spots available for each house during the next round is drastically smaller. Similar to other rounds, it’s possible for a PNM to not receive an invitation from her top house if they choose not to keep her. Active members also take selection for the next round seriously and often go out of their way to ask more personal questions to judge whether or not the PNM is a good fit.
Outfits for Sisterhood round are more formal. PNMs wear sundresses or cocktail dresses (as long as it’s appropriate for Easter service at church, it’s okay to wear) and accessorize with jewelry and heels. The dress code of active members depends on the sorority, but many wear cocktail dresses based on their sorority’s color palette.
Day 8 (August 13): Preference
Unlike previous rounds, Preference rounds only last one day, but PNMs still receive their schedules that morning. PNMs visit houses they were invited back to (usually two or three houses, but some PNMs only get invited back to one or none at all) for the most formal and serious round of rush. PNMs will learn more about the sorority’s traditions and will likely hear a speech from an active member about how the sorority improved her college experience. PNMs are paired with an active member they bonded with in a previous round (if they didn’t bond with an active member in other rounds, they were probably dropped) to have more important and serious conversations about their rush experience and what they’re looking for in a sorority.
PNMs then rank the houses they visited, putting the house they want to receive a bid from as their number one. Unlike previous rounds, PNMs also have the ability to cut out houses that aren’t their top house but then risk the chance of not receiving a bid. Active members only pick PNMs they want to receive bids, meaning they will only invite back PNMs they want to join their sorority.
PNMs wear more formal (as in slightly more formal than dresses from Sisterhood rounds) or cocktail dresses and accessorize with heels and jewelry, like pearls. Active members usually wear dresses that are black, white, or in their sorority’s color palette and accessorize with heels, nice jewelry, and their sorority badge.
Day 9 (August 14): Bid Day
Bid Day is the best and last day of rush, as it’s when PNMs receive their bids (invitations) to join a sorority. If more than one sorority wants to offer a PNM a bid, she will receive the bid from the house she ranked higher in the preference round.
PNMs usually wear a tank top and athletic shorts because they’ll receive their Bid Day shirts with their sorority’s letters, and active members wear their Bid Day shirts while waiting for their new sisters to arrive. New members also receive gift bags filled with goodies with their new sorority letters that range from shirts to cute accessories like makeup bags and necklaces. New members and active members alike celebrate throughout Bid Day, and the day usually ends with a new member sleepover at the sorority house or a new member retreat.
Why #BamaRush Is So Popular?
From the PNM’s outfits to the cute TikToks active members make in between rounds, it’s easy to see why #BamaRush is popular. Rush is also a big deal in the South, and the University of Alabama is arguably the biggest school for Greek life in the country. It’s different from rush in other parts of the country. As someone who went through rush at a state school in the Midwest (where rush is a big deal, but not like the South), watching #BamaRush feels like reliving my experience, but on steroids. I can’t help but wonder how my rush experience would have been different if I had attended a Southern school, especially Alabama.
Watching #BamaRush TikToks is fun and feels like a reality show, and some PNMs receive so many views on their videos that TikTok users become invested in learning where they’ll end up. Some PNMs become popular because their short OOTD videos and vlogs show off their fun personalities, and one of the most popular PNMs to go viral last year was Makayla Culpepper.
Makayla went viral for her cute outfits, Southern accent, and fun personality. Though she has deleted her #BamaRush TikToks, she currently has 137.4k followers under the username @whatwouldjimmybuffettdo. Due to her popularity, it was a shock to everyone following #BamaRush to learn that Makayla was dropped before preference round.
Some believe that Makayla was dropped because she's mixed race (which Makayla herself doesn’t believe was the cause), but the more likely explanation is that an old video of her appearing drunk while underage resurfaced after her #BamaRush TikToks went viral. Though we’ll likely never know why Makayla was dropped from every sorority, this goes to show how important it is to have a clean social media presence before going into rush. Active members search through the social media accounts of PNMs (this was my job as an active member) to learn more about them and check to see if their social media is clean. Though you could argue that it’s hypocritical (and it is) because most sorority girls drink underage, it doesn’t change Panhellenic’s standards.
Last year’s scandal of Makayla getting dropped has led to rumors on TikTok that PNMs won’t be allowed to post rush videos on TikTok this year. While nobody on TikTok knows what the official rules are, TikTok user and Alabama Zeta Tau Alpha alum Caris Fairfax asked around Tuscaloosa (where the University of Alabama campus is) for answers and believes that PNM's will be encouraged to post as few videos as possible and stick to videos about what’s in their rush bags, dorm tours, and #OOTD videos. PNMs will likely be discouraged from talking about specific houses on social media, which makes sense because when I went through rush, we were allowed to post pictures of our outfits on Instagram as long as we didn’t say which houses we were going to.
Many PNMs have already taken to TikTok to post videos about what’s in their rush bags and dorm tours, and some PNMs are already gaining followers from these TikToks. Since many of these PNMs will likely gain more followers through rush if they post #OOTD videos, it would be in the best interest of each house to keep the PNMs with the most popular TikToks. Some of the most popular PNMs from last year ended up at houses like Alpha Delta Pi, Phi Mu, and Zeta Tau Alpha, and all three houses have gained followings on social media from giving bids to PNMs who went viral on TikTok.
As long as the PNMs have a clean social media presence and avoid naming specific houses on TikTok, posting #OOTD videos shouldn’t cause much of a problem.
#BamaRush begins on August 6 and will continue until bid day on August 14. If it’s anything like it was last year, #BamaRush will likely take over your TikTok feed. If you’re interested in following along, be sure to follow hashtags like #BamaRush, #AlabamaRush, #BamaRushTok, and #RushTok to keep up with the latest.
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