10 Life Lessons from Being a Sorority Girl

I am going away this weekend.
With a date.
I got a new dress!
And a mani/pedi.

Am I:
a) going to a fraternity formal
b) going to a destination wedding
c) either a or b?

The correct answer is “b”, which I’m guessing most of you got, considering I would be a very old fraternity formal date for some (albeit lucky) dude. However, that’s not to say answer “c” wouldn’t be the right choice.

I realized after putting everything together for this weekend’s Napa wedding… I had done this before… many many times throughout my life, including, when I was in college. I hadn’t done this in high school. And probably wouldn’t have done this in college, had I not been in a sorority.

The Greek system tends to get a bad rap because of a few meathead idiots and dummies making stupid mistakes and poor decisions as eighteen year-olds. We see it in the news all the time. All the bad stuff. It really isn’t any different from any other news out there- there is always a facet of any organized group- whether religious, political, or in this case, collegiate, that loves commanding audiences that don’t have the intellect, experience or desire to dive deeper.

I am here to say that the four years I had in a sorority, overall, were great. It was an experience that truly did change my life. Preparing for this weekend’s getaway reminded me of all the other ways a sorority has helped me navigate through the intricacies of life.

1. Getting along with others.
What: In my experience I lived with 100 girls in a house. Yes 100. That makes for limited closet space, sleeping space, bathroom space- pretty much any personal space is all gone. You are in the thick of it. 25 girls getting their period at the same, you betcha. This means that if something goes down- you steal your roomie’s jeans (or her boyfriend), you literally have to live with it. And deal with it. Or your life will be miserable in that house.
Today’s application: Pretty much everywhere. Whether you are trying to avoid road rage, living with your spouse and kids, working with a group at work… life is just easier when you pick your battles, talk ’em though, and just get along.

2. Networking.
What: Having common ground with people opens doors and opens up opportunity. Going into business school, I didn’t know many people- or so I thought. I realized that many of my sorority sisters and others in the Greek system I had met out were in my classes. It made the school feel smaller and create a greater synergy. Don’t worry about the non-greeks- I met them too, one of my best friends from college I met in business school and she was not in a sorority. It just made the transition easier.
Today’s application: I am in sales, so I cannot express how important it is to network. Over 50% of my income is in thanks completely to my networking partners- it is that important. It can also mean having a special table at a restaurant. Helping someone get connected to a dentist or financial adviser or whomever… always feels good.

Bay to Breakers, 2009

3. Handling social situations with ease.
What: It’s no secret that college co-eds partake in libations. Interacting and mingling in a party setting … hmmm…. sounds oddly like, college life. And in the greek life, it was a weekly- if not daily- part of life. Well, honey, it’s not just college where the meet n greets over a little Bud Lite happen.
Today’s application: Again, in a sales role, social interaction is vitally important to my job. We entertain clients, host events and wine tastings regularly. We have annual sales conferences where alcohol flows freely. And just like in college, if you drink too much, do something stupid… that reputation will follow you wherever you go. Exercise caution where you can- remember, nothing good ever happens after midnight.

4. Friendship.
What: I think one of the obvious reasons to join a sorority or any organized group are the relationships you can create from people with common interests. People make the difference whether it is your yoga studio, a sports team, or bible study. Being thrown into a house with 100 women means: 100 different personalities. You aren’t going to get along with everyone, but you may meet people you wouldn’t have on your own. And they just may become one of your closest friends for life.
Today’s application: I try to take the same approach- whether through volunteer groups, work, a friend’s BBQ- get to know some of the people there that you wouldn’t normally talk to. You all are there for a reason- you have something in common. Grow from that.

5. Coordinating Events.
What: We would coordinate philanthropy events, song fest, sporting competitions- you name it.
Today’s application: Family schedules, life, work. If you are involved with a group of people in any capacity, you are doing this.

6. Multitasking.
What: Chapter meetings, committee meetings, philanthropies, date nights, intermural/collegiate sports, internships, jobs, exchanges… oh, and studying. I did it all. And so did many of the other gals in the house.
Today’s application: I think everyone can agree that this is a part of everyday life now. I somehow manage to work full-time, write this blog, get certified as a yoga instructor, volunteer, make time for friends, take care of two dogs, and travel. Multitasking.

7. Planning a date weekend.
What: Fraternities would have a weekend formal once a year. I would usually go to one-three annually. I would know my date, maybe not super well, but thought he was cute enough to spend 24/7 with him in Canada. Yeah, sounds crazy. And it usually was, in a good way. It was also a great opportunity to fine-tune dancing skills.
Today’s application: I am dong this exact thing this weekend- have a cute date, ready to have fun with a bunch of people in Napa and enjoy the weekend. Winetastings, lunch at Auberge, and of course, all the wedding activities. And I don’t have to worry about dancing- I fine-tuned my skills in college.

8. Politics.
What: Maintaining good relationships with girls in your own house, other houses, and fraternities. I remember I once jumped in the pool at the DG Anchor Splash (which was for guys) and had to write the DGs an apology note. It’s a lot easier to build the relationships, do the right thing, know what you are doing, who you are talking to. It will help you immensely in the long-run.
Today’s application: I would say this is most applicable to the work place… although, I suppose if you were actually running for office, it would also be applicable. I’m thinking of how you phrase something in an email to your vice president or employee. Maintaining respect while being heard, and listening to the people around you.

9. Nutrition, exercise and health.
What: So, actually, the food kinda sucked in our house. Squirty chicken was always a fav (chicken that actually squirts at you). I am convinced it is because all of our food was purchased from a company that also produces toilet cleaner. I couldn’t eat chicken for 10 years, thanks to the sorority. I will say, there were definitely those gals  that dieted/exercised a little too much- and I learned first hand how an eating disorder can ruin your life- and saw enough that it scared me out of ever going that route. There were also a lot of girls who liked to run, play soccer, basketball- instant teammates= staying fit. The midnight $6 pizzas, however, did NOT help.
Today’s application: I try to eat only organic whenever possible. That bulk-company’s flavor has forever permeated my palate and I can tell in an instant if it is appearing in my food. I am actually not as in shape as I was in college (although I do weigh less now!) but I continue to maintain exercise 3-4x per week.

10. Commitment.
What: I stuck with the sorority all four years, attending chapter, recruitment- it all. It wasn’t just a place to live, it truly grew me as a person, so I stuck it out.
Today’s application: I think I tend to stick to things in general, but sticking with the sorority not only allowed me to grow, but I gained friends for life. Even as an alumna who volunteers my time, I have met some of my closest girlfriends in LA through the sorority- thanks to my continued commitment to the organization.

I get that any/all of these can be learned without having been in a sorority. I’m constantly saying at work events, “The Greek System prepared me for Corporate America.” The Greek system really is a microcosm of Corporate America- the players, the politics, the relationships. I say this because being a part of a sorority almost forces you to do all these things and learn them early on.  If you’re on your own, you can choose to create these experiences. The sorority pushed me in ways that I don’t think I would have done on my own accord. I am thankful for my experience and truly believe my lessons learned have helped to shape the life I live today.

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2 thoughts on “10 Life Lessons from Being a Sorority Girl

  1. Pingback: Read a Little | Life, Love and Yoga

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