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July 16, 2012 7:19 PM Sorority Consultants

By Daniel Luzer

So there are test prep tutors, and college admissions counselors, and life coaches and financial planners. Can Americans do nothing on their own?

Not very well, it seems. Now there’s more. It turns out that some college students are paying for consultants to advise them on sorority rush.

According to an article by Abigail Sullivan Moore in the New York Times:

For a generation that grew up on tutors, admission counselors and relentless competition, prepping for rush seems only natural. A mini-industry of blogs, Web sites, books and consultants now helps them prepare for sorority recruitment and all its fallout, professionalizing what was once left to older siblings.
Samantha von Sperling is an image consultant in New York, but lately her bread-and-butter Wall Street clients have asked her to help their daughters get ready for rush at schools like Harvard; the University of Wisconsin, Madison; and New York University, which has added three chapters since 2006 and more than doubled the number of sisters, to 570.
“It’s the same kind of coaching I do on Wall Street,” Ms. von Sperling says.

Oddly enough, Greek pledging, which was in decline on college campuses for years, is now popular again. According to the author “students raised on Facebook and fears about post-college careers view sororities as the ultimate social network.”

Which, of course, it is. It’s just that it’s not really clear it’s one that matters much beyond college, or if it’s one with which image consultants can really help.

First impressions, of course, are “essential.” According to Moore:

Appealing facial expressions, confident body language and good conversational skills are critical. “Practice, practice, practice in the mirror, saying your name, and see what you look like when you listen,” advises Denise Pietzsch, an etiquette consultant in Ohio who works discreetly with clients heading to Miami University. “If you’re a great active listener, they will remember you because you let them talk.” Her typical fee: $125 an hour.

Von Sperling apparently charges $8,000 for a weekend session, advising young women to “treat rush… as you would a job interview.” She also helps plan wardrobes and gives advice about small talk.

While the article emphasizes that rushing much more complicated and involved at some schools than others, women everywhere planning to rush seem to do so for one, very practical, reason: as one young woman explained, “being in a sorority is the best way to network.”

The article did not present any evidence that young women who hire sorority consultants are any more better off in their rush processes. There’s also no evidence that belonging to a sorority actually makes one more successful in subsequent careers.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer