You’re rushing a greek organization or selective living group. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It ever so slightly makes you want to pee your pants from terror.
This column offers some advice for those of you who are in the midst of the rush process. The advice comes from a diverse set of affiliated and unaffiliated upperclassmen. I thank all the upperclassmen who contributed—you know who are. Their advice might help you figure out how to choose between groups, or it might help you cope with a disappointment, or it might help shape your mindset after you join a group. Here goes.
Many people urge rushees to find the place where they “gel” with the group—they get their jokes and watch the same TV shows and go to Shooters with a similar frequency. I suggest that you think beyond which groups you “gel” with; that’s certainly a prerequisite for an enjoyable group experience, but there’s something more to consider.
Throughout life, but particularly in college, we are all “becoming.” We are becoming adults, becoming professionals, becoming the person we will eventually be. Each year in college yields personal, social and intellectual growth. The people with whom we surround ourselves help shape the course of that growth. Our communities influence the people we are becoming. That leads us to my personal piece of advice: Think about who you want to become, and think about what kind of people you want to surround yourself with.
What are your highest values—is it integrity, loyalty, kindness, faith or something else? What qualities do you admire and want to develop in yourself? If you prize intellect and curiosity, seek out a group of thoughtful people who will foster those qualities. Certainly most Duke groups are teeming with smart people. But some groups ignite more intellectual debate and spark more meandering conversations. If you want to become a strong and honest leader, seek out a group where you see role models who might cultivate your own leadership abilities. If you want to dominate cocktail party conversation like Rodney Hood dominated Georgia Tech, find a group of smooth talkers. Even if you feel determined not to be affected by your affiliation, the people who surround you will shape you. Decide who you want to become and find a community that can help you on the journey.
That’s my two cents. But with inflation these days, it takes more than $0.02 to buy most things. So here’s more advice from some thoughtful upperclassmen. During the rush process, meet and befriend your fellow rushees. Don’t ignore people who can’t get you a bid. There are few things as unappealing as a gaggle of over-eager rushees jockeying for face time like piglets crawling over each other for a spot at the feeding trough. If you branch out, you’ll seem friendlier and more genuine.
Go to a lot of rush events. Groups want members who show up to things and spend time with the community. In my living group, we’re interested in people who show potential for a high “Hersh index.” This scientifically calculated index reflects a member’s quantity of time spent in the common room. Only the best members approach Hersh Desai’s legendary 24/7 occupation of our common room during the 2012-2013 year. Whether it was 4:00 p.m. or 4:00 a.m., you could count on Hersh. Did he sleep? Did he eat? No one knows for sure. But he had a damn high Hersh index, and you gotta respect that.
My thoughtful roommate suggested that you think of rush like the college process. You might get rejected from a few places—so try not to set your heart on a particular group. Spend time with two or three different groups so you have a few good options rather than a single option that might not work out. Heck, maybe Duke itself wasn’t your first choice school. (You might have been hoping for Harvard University—or, as we like to call it, the Duke University of the North.) But most people manage to have a good experience here regardless of whether it was initially their favorite. In the same way, you can find a sense of community even in a group that wasn’t always your first choice.
If you choose to join a living group, be sure to stay connected with friends outside that group. Duke brims over with wonderful people who have a rich variety of experiences. If you spend most of your time with any one group, you owe your parents 50 percent of whatever tuition they pay. You’re missing out on half the value of our education by limiting your range of experiences.
Finally, a wise sophomore said that “rush and affiliation can define as much of your Duke experience as you want them to.” You don’t have to forget your freshman year friends if you don’t live together. You choose who you spend time with, and you choose the groups that will shape the person you are becoming. Don’t just think about social status or where your friends go; think about the influence that a group can have on you, for better or for worse.
Andrew Kragie is a Trinity junior. His column runs every other Tuesday.