Back to School: Sorority Recruitment in Canada

I have had this post planned all month, but I think with how BamaRushTok took over TikTok last week and how Ole Miss Recruitment will probably do that this week, it seems even more timely than I ever thought it would be.

I’ve already made a couple TikToks about this, because if I was a northern/Canadian teenager potentially interested in joining a sorority at a Northern college or a Canadian university then BamaRushTok would probably scare the crap out of you. I p-r-o-m-i-s-e you recruitment in Canada and at northern schools is not like that.

Firstly, every school and every organization is slightly different. There is some standardization amongst Panhellenic organizations (and I imagine it is similar with Pan-Hellenic or most Historically Black Sororities), because they are governed by the overarching Panhellenic rules and bylaws, and if your campus has Panhellenic then each sorority has signed on to a list of rules for that campus. However, each organization will then have their own rules and each chapter will have it’s own customs and traditions.

If you ended up on BamaRushTok like I did, I hope that didn’t make you nervous to go through recruitment at whatever school you are heading to. Sorority recruitment is nothing like that in Canada. Let’s get into the reason’s why:

  1. It’s smaller. Even at campuses with a large (for Canada) Greek community, the organizations are typically very small compared to the southern and generally American chapters. I would say that the average chapter size is between 20-50 members and that it ebbs and flows between those numbers a fair bit. The advantage to this is that you will truly know each one of your sisters. And for me it is the magic of my time in Greek Life. There are advantages to large chapters, more dues money to hold big events, small scandals aren’t as big a deal because you aren’t the only person having/causing drama that week, bigger/fancier house or a house at all lol. But actually being able to fit all my sister’s in one living room was really fantastic.
  2. The actual number of houses/chapters (some schools use different lingo depending on if they had or historically had houses or not) is likely going to be smaller. When I went through recruitment Pi Phi was literally the only sorority on campus, now I believe there are two. Pi Phi ended up being my perfect fit, but who knows. If we had stayed in the US and I had gone to University of Tennessee it could have been completely different. Also, from what I remember University of Toronto has 7 chapters on campus.
  3. It’s less formal, though this obviously depends on the uni and on the chapter, but in general I find Canadian versions of the same organizations that they have in the USA to be way more chill. Perhaps it’s in general a cultural thing but there’s a lot less rigidity to most of the ways the chapters are run. Let’s take the member’s side of recruitment for example. At Bama we saw members talking about things like outfit checks, week long work week, all day/all week of recruitment parties. Both as a member and as an advisor what I have seen is outfit guidelines. I.e. your recruitment letters and denim bottoms, pin attire (sorority for business casual), formal blacks, formal whites, “tea party chic”, Bid Day letters and white bottoms, etc. And I never had to show them to any exec officer beforehand. Again, at both the chapter I advised at and was a member at, there was 1 or 2 spirit days and no more – that was our work “week”. And in general recruitment was over less days. There are less potential new members (PNMs), and generally less chapters to go around, so you don’t need as much time to meet everyone. At Guelph, we typically did a Monday, Wednesday, Friday one week, and then a Tuesday, Thursday the following week, with potentially a weekend party. We did this because we had class schedules that went M, W, F and then T, Th. At Toronto, they typically do weekend parties and often do multiple “round 1s” and “round 2s” to provide flexibility for the PNMs. Just an awareness note, you will likely be expected to attend every day of recruitment as an initiated member, and most organizations don’t count work as a valid excuse as the dates are given months in advance and you have plenty of time to book the time off. Valid excuses would be things like an illness, class, test/exam, you’ll find a list of them in your chapter’s bylaws (generally not a paper because you also get those assigned in advance) – time management is 100% a skill you will learn if you initiate/do any extracurriculars in uni).
  4. “Locals” so I am certain that there are locals in the United States, but you don’t hear about them nearly as much. A local is a sorority that maybe has 1 or 2 chapters and are only found in a small geographical area. From what I’ve seen they are also more likely to have a unique requirement like maintaining 70% Jewish membership in each chapter or they may take women from a local college and university (in Canada those are different, not interchangeable terms). My biological sister was in one at Brock and she had an amazing time. They also likely have different rules, for example Panhellenic sororities are all dry, no alcohol at events (except certain socials with very strict rules about how it is served and never at philanthropies or on chapter property). Whereas a local has no governing body, they make their own rules and I don’t know many modern 18-22 year olds that would create rules for an organization that prevented alcohol consumption lol. Locals don’t have the prestige or travel or scholarship opportunities that international organizations do, or the support structure for exec, but they can offer sisterhood, friendship, and a social network. So if your school doesn’t have any of the big organizations, or you go through Panhellenic recruitment and you don’t like it, give a local a shot if you have the option!
  5. Do not expect there to be door chants, skits, songs, dances etc. I am very glad about this because these would have scared me off and I would have been so embarrassed to do them (although when I was a junior we did do an excellent remake of California Girls that was *chef’s kiss* perfection). Most chapter’s don’t have a house, and if they do, they probably don’t have double doors. And most houses are integrated into residential areas and not on a Greek Row, and we don’t want to scare or tick off our neighbors. Or get a noise complaint lol.
  6. We probably don’t have a list of exactly who is coming to each party. And if we do, it’s scrawled on a piece of paper by your recruitment counsellor/rho gamma/phi chi whatever your campus is calling them or emailed out 10 seconds before. This is because a lot of women register for recruitment and don’t show up, so campus Panhellenic or whoever is walking you around from room to room or house to house is taking note of your name and sending the name to the chapter on the fly. We also don’t get pictures of you in most cases. We are meeting you as you are meeting us. It is important for us to know your name after your first party of course, a) it shows that we met you, we know you b) we need to know who we are inviting back and are very careful not to make mistakes!
Pi Phi’s philanthropy is children’s literacy. When I was Vice President Philanthropy my big and I worked really hard to implement the Champions are Readers program. Photo releases signed by parents in 2013.

Okay so those are the big reasons:

  1. If you initiate, you will occasionally get jealous of the American chapters of your sorority. They can do things bigger, everything from philanthropies to socials to houses. More people = more money, and older chapters = more alumnae who donate to the chapter. Which even in Canada doesn’t seem to be as much of a thing. For example, Pi Phi at UofT has been there since 1914 and alumnae donations didn’t really seem to happen.
  2. Greek Life within itself is an amazing community that will introduce you to people outside your major and education, however you may face some weird reactions from the rest of campus. This may also happen in recruitment. So many students at Canadian universities don’t even know that there is Greek Life on their campus and if they do, the only idea they have of Greek Life is movies. A comment on TikTok said that sororities in Canada are more like Girl Guides (Girl Scouts if you’re not from Canada lol) than anything you saw in BamaRushTok or even in movies and that description really hit home. There are definitely parties and stuff, but it is really primarily an academic/philanthropic/social club.
  3. Some things are super annoyingly more expensive, like all the merch, your letters (clothing with the Greek letters of your sorority on it), because basically nothing is made in Canada. Also for events, like annual sorority meetings, international trainings and conventions and stuff you will almost always have to travel to the USA. Now, if you are being sent as a representative of your chapter your chapter will pay for it, but if you want to go for the experience you will be paying out of pocket and of course, you need a passport and to be able to legally travel to the USA. So depending on your nationality, that may involve visas. And if a President like 45 is in, citizens from certain countries may have a travel ban in place which could ruin things for you.
  4. I know I said this for recruitment, but literally everything is smaller, smaller philanthropy events, smaller chapter sizes, small social events, but more of an opportunity to have a real impact on your chapter. If you see something about your chapter that you want to change, you have a real opportunity to do that, without having to influence literally hundreds of women.

Joining a sorority can seem like a weird move in Canada. It’s really uncommon, most people don’t know there are sororities at Canadian universities and it can have a stigma that you are a party girl or ditzy. But as long as you continue to be your smart, creative, brilliant, whatever you see yourself as, people will know you as that. Also I know more sorority women who went to vet school, med school, dental school, grad school, law school, successful event planners or became CPAs or something equally cool and successful than I do from my not-Greek friends. There are things like the GPA requirement to join AND maintain membership, study hours, community service hours that are requirements to being a member in good standing and they can really pad your resume.

Also, this goes for any organization in any country, but ask about dues. Ask about the money. Money is important and often tight in university, I prioritized my tuition, my rent, and my dues in my budgeting, but if it isn’t worth it to you make sure you know how much you need to try and budget and make sure you actually do value it that much.

This is one of the things I mean when I say I learned skills I never imagined I would. I planned all of these events, I managed their budgets, booked venues, coordinated insurance and security. I developed programming. I repainted those giant wooden letters in my dorm room (and they are still in use in that design to this day and I graduated in 2016!).

All in all, joining a sorority and going on exchange were two of the best decisions I ever made. I met my best and lifelong friends, had a ton of fun, and gained a lot of really valuable leadership experience. I have continued to make friends through alumnae connections. If you are even slightly interested give recruitment a shot, if you meet all the houses and don’t like it, you can drop out of recruitment. If you get a bid and take a pledge to initiate, you can break your pledge and go through recruitment again in a year if you don’t like your organization or just leave. And if you initiate and you truly don’t like it, you can resign. But I would recommend avoiding that at all costs, it’s really heartbreaking for your sisters and you will have likely invested some money at that point, and if you won’t be able to join another sorority. Once you initiate that’s your organization for life, even if you resign.

If you have any questions about recruitment or Greek Life in Canada, or Pi Phi specifically (even more specifically at UofG or UoT) dm me @lauracaeris on Instagram or leave a comment on this post!

Best of luck!


One thought on “Back to School: Sorority Recruitment in Canada

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s