The Obvious and NOT so Obvious Costs to Join a Sorority
Plus! 8 Easy Savings Ideas
It’s time for Fall Sorority Recruitment! The answer to “Mom, can I go through rush?” may send visions of dollar signs dancing in your head. For most, the costs are worth it. They were for us. But it isn't cheap.
But, what exactly are those costs?
Before reading below, please understand that the program at each school will be different, and that dollar amounts can change. Also, some costs are optional or can be creatively modified. But rarely have we seen these cost categories spelled out. Hopefully this blog will help you better prepare for what’s ahead. Our daughters have joined in to give you our tips since we just finished up the process.
Registration Fees (usually done the summer prior to Fall/Early Spring Rush)
To go thru “recruitment” at your college, you might have more than 1 Panhellenic registration fee:
- from the state/city in which you reside.
- from the college in question.
Costs for college Panhellenic registration: as low as $25 up to $250+ for registering late. Amber says to pay attention to deadlines like you did when you were applying for college – you can actually save money this way! Costs for registering with your hometown Panhellenic can be free or can involve another charge up to $50-$100.
You may refer to them differently depending upon where you live, but these packets are the paperwork you need to gather to introduce yourself to each sorority. Some schools require less than others, so it’s good to check with your college’s Panhellenic. Costs for this could include:
- photography for pictures of the “potential new member” (young woman going thru recruitment). No need to pay for a photographer if you have a buddy, like Caroline, who works for the yearbook and is handy with a camera!
- printing several copies of the pictures for each sorority on campus. Walmart and CVS can print these in an hour, for cheap!
- envelopes and stamps.
- printing the student’s resume.
- folders to put all the stuff in.
Many schools are moving to on-line transmission, so this cost really varies. You can take your own pictures or get a photographer. The cost for this can swing significantly depending upon how many sororities are on your particular campus.
Cost of going to Pre-Recruitment Events in the Spring before the Freshman Year
Many schools help “potential new members” mentally prepare for upcoming recruitment and host events where the girls can visit their future college campus. Amber enjoyed seeing what the sorority houses/rooms looked like, and meeting the sisters. Your costs here might include:
- typical travel costs such as gas, plane, food, and hotel.
- cute clothes. As for mentally allocating the costs to “rushing”, these costs can double as a college visit, giving your daughter a chance to tour the campus, find the bookstore, find her dorm, locate parking garages, and find new friends for the fall.
The Costs of the actual Recruitment (Rush) Week(s) Clothing
Clothing costs could include:
- suggestions as to what you are to wear each day. Many recruitment days are “dress casual” and the items you need might already be in your closet. Toward the end of the week, dressing usually gets less casual and might result in buying something (or borrowing) for this.
- Amber and I decided on a budget for clothes and accessories, and then she actually put the cash amount in her wallet. Amber said it was much harder to spend real money than just swiping a card! We also had fun shopping and putting things on hold, while we decided on her final outfits. She took pictures of each dress, then recorded the costs. She reviewed everything after a couple of days of shopping, and came in 30% under budget when she went back for the purchases
Food and housing costs:
- as most colleges allow the rushes to move in early, but be sure to check whether the cafeterias will be open or your student will need to eat on her own.
Many moms like to travel to the college on Bid Day to cheer on their daughter. This is the day the potential new members find out which young women are pledging which sorority. Costs can include:
- travel, housing and food for Moms/families that come to help celebrate. It is optional as to whether families attend.
- buying a sorority gift packet (greek monogrammed tshirts, sweatshirts, mugs) or flowers as a gift for their daughter. Generally this cost is optional.
- photographs. Many groups have a photographer on hand to take pics of the incoming new member class and sorority as a whole. Yep, you might want a copy, but it is optional.
Dues First Semester of Joining
These dues are typically higher due to one-time costs.
- These could include pledging, member pin/badge, and initiation, and national dues liability insurance
- It might include a meal plan in the sorority house.
Costs: we’ve seen from $400-$2,000+
Dues as a regular member (after initiation)
These dues vary depending on how the campus and sorority handle meal plans, meeting facilities, and dorms vs. sorority house. Absolutely, you will want to read all the materials from the college’s Panhellenic as most will provide a table or chart with estimated costs. Be sure to consider:
- this is typically where you will see food, housing, meeting room dues, so it tends to be pricey.
- many times living in a sorority house is cheaper than a regular dorm/meal plan. (that happened with us)
- when you compare costs as there could be a savings!
- meal plans. If your campus/sorority has a meal plan, it might only cover weekdays and leave Saturday and Sunday completely out.
Cost Summary: as there are so many possibilities here, we strongly urge you to check with your college Panhellenic. Just read the “fine print” to see what the numbers on the chart cover and whether they are quoted by semester or by the year. This section could easily be $thousands per year.
Pesky “Hidden” Costs
Ok, hidden might not be the right word to use, but many forget that these costs DO occur and you will want to consider them. Among them are:
- events such as “formals”, “parties”, and social events. These costs might be clothing, transportation, pictures, and the memory t-shirt. Depending upon the school, these events might be in another city and require hotel/food. If they are an “away” event, it is typically no more than once or twice per year, and completely optional.
- gifts to your “big” and your “little”. There are “families” within sororities. In fact, this is one of the huge reasons women elect to go thru recruitment in the first place. Tradition might hold that you buy your “big” and your “little” gifts for initiation, and various other times of the year.
- the yearly whole sorority picture “composite”. Each girl that is active within a sorority will show up on this photo composite and it will provide years of looking back and remembering what your “sisters” looked like “back then”. (We still laugh when looking at our composites!).
Costs: our survey from current sorority members reflect a range of $100-$500+ per year.
8 EASY Ways to Save Money In a Sorority
- After covering the “required” costs, set an absolute spending limit on the optional incidentals from party photos to t-shirts to gifts BEFORE the year starts. It is much easier to say “no” to that t-shirt when you know you are saving for the big spring dance.
- Some sororities use “Greek Resource Services” or other such services that might allow a monthly payment plan. Ask your group.
- Some groups allow you to pay with cash at a slightly discounted rate because they can avoid the credit card transaction fee. It never hurts to ask. This could result in a decent chunk of savings change.
- Bring a costume box from home. Often there will be fun themed parties, where you dress up in costume. If everyone brings a box of silly clothing items, they can swap with each other as needed. Of course, running to a dollar store or thrift shop works well, too.
- If you have a sorority meal plan at the sorority house, take advantage of it. Going out during the week instead of eating in will add up quickly. Also, many sorority houses will prepare boxed meals if you have a class that conflicts with serving times. Just let them know ahead and they will probably make you one.
- Consider the clothes purchasing method Amber used (see “clothing” in the Recruitment Week Section Above).
- Borrow clothes as needed.
- Other than the big photo composites, having your own camera handy can save you money at events. On Bid Day, have your family prepared with a camera.
Cost Comments in General
While there are many great reasons to pledge a sorority, if the costs seem a bridge too far for you, then you will survive not joining one – we promise. Typically the percentage of kids in sororities are no more than 30% or less of the kids on campus. There are hundreds of other fabulous groups to join at college that are far cheaper. Remember, the dues are collected by one of the girls in the sorority, typically the treasurer. She will be one of your “sisters”, your peer, and you will see her at weekly meetings. Putting her into a “collection” mode will be very uncomfortable.
Does it sound like we are discouraging sorority life? Absolutely not. All of the positive things you have heard such as lifetime friends, a built-in friend group as you hit campus, an opportunity to hold office and serve, are all true. Just knowing the costs and how to prepare for them will make the whole experience much more pleasant. Hopefully this will help you make a better “rush or not rush” decision.
We are off to find our pledge book and laugh at how skinny we used to be! If you have any other costs and/or savings ideas to share, please do in the comments below. We are still in the mode of our girls going thru recruitment and would love to learn from you.
Just in case you need links to the national Panhellenic and individual sororities, click on this link:
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