For decades, college women have competed to get into sororities – the exclusive women’s societies famous for their beautiful living quarters and well-connected friends.
Entry has always been by invitation only, and the criteria for being accepted are shrouded in secrecy.
Ari Berman, 17, wants to get into a top sorority, and she knows it will be tough.
“They’re judging you on what you look like and what your clothes are like and what your nails are like,” she said in an interview with “Good Morning America” that aired today.
So Berman hired Samantha Von Sperling, a professional image consultant, to help increase her chances of getting into one of her preferred sororities of her dreams.
Von Sperling charges $300 per hour to coach young women like Berman. Among her services, Von Sperling teaches young women what to wear and say during sorority rush week, the all-important period during which rushees visit sororities and meet the members, hoping to make a favorable impression.
“The more that she’s helped me prepare how to sell myself, I feel like I kind of have an edge on the competition,” Berman said of her coach.
Von Sperling advises clients from her Manhattan office, while Pat Grant and Marlea Foster coach young charges in and around Alabama.
Their business – called Rushbiddies - is the twenty-first century’s answer to finishing school.
Among the Rushbiddies’ do’s and don’ts for rush week:
- Carry an emergency kit that includes makeup and even a rain slicker, so that a party dress isn’t ruined in a downpour.
- Know your audience. In the south, wearing black is a definite “no,” and Lilly Pulitzer dresses are a plus.
- Don’t forget the importance of good grades and extracurricular activities.
But does a young woman really need to pay a consultant to get her into a club? “GMA” talked to sorority sisters who said they didn’t believe a consultant was necessary.
“Girls shouldn’t feel like it’s necessary to pay money in order to get into a sorority, because girls will be just fine if they just act like who they are,” Allison Everett, a junior at New York University and active sorority member who helps oversee all of Greek life at the university, told “GMA.”
Psychiatrists worry parents who hire consultants may be sending the wrong message.
“It sends the message that the child is incompetent and that we must have a consultant to apply to a sorority,” Dr. Ned Hallowell, a child psychiatrist, said. “If you don’t let them do that on their own, what in the world are they ever going to do on their own?
But the consultants argue that they’re not hurting anyone.
“All we’re doing is preparing them to become their best self,” Foster, of Rushbiddies, said.
As for Berman, a student at Chapman College, she got into Alpha Phi sorority, her top choice.
“This is such a dream come true,” she said.