#BamaRush: What It Is, And Why It Is Must-See TikTok Content

by Colleen Dilthey Thomas

I try my best to get plenty of sleep. I get up early and I go to bed early. Most nights it’s lights out by 10pm at the absolute latest. However, that wasn’t the case the last couple of weeks. Instead of dreaming about having a clean house and well-mannered children who never embarrass me in public, by midnight I was hours deep into #bamarush and I couldn’t stop! If you know, you know and you were all in. Please, grab your sweet tea, your curling iron and your favorite Shein dress, cause you’re about to get rushed.

If you attended a college with Greek life, you may be familiar with sorority rush. It is a time when girls arrive on campus, normally a week or two before school starts, and they begin the recruitment process to be a part of a sorority in the National Panhellenic Conference. The University of Alabama rush recently went viral on TikTok and people were invested.

The New York Times broke it down, “The rush process at Alabama consists of four main rounds of events: an Open House, where potential new members (PNMs) get to know all the different sororities; Philanthropy Day, where PNMs learn about — but do not actually participate in — each chapter’s volunteer work; a Sisterhood round, where PNMs spend carefully monitored one-on-one time with different sorority members; and Pref Night, where PNMs visit their favorite two houses.”

Make sense? It is pretty simple really. The PNMs are putting their best face, and extensions, forward to impress the houses on campus. This is all in an effort to receive a bid, or invitation, to join the sorority of their dreams. And at BAMA, these girls turned out. And I couldn’t get enough of it.

Perhaps it is because I am in my 40s and college was 20 years ago and I wore spaghetti strap tanks and those Steve Madden platform slides, but I don’t know where these girls are getting the bankroll for these OOTD (for the uninitiated and/or unhip, that stands for outfit of the day). First, let’s talk about the fashions. These dresses were like nothing I have ever seen. And they didn’t have one; they had dozens to choose from. And they were all pretty cute and they knew exactly where every one of them came from. You know how I know? Because they all told me, every damn day.

“Hi, I’m Cookie and my dress is from a local boutique, and my shoes are vintage couture. My earrings are my grandma’s and my bracelets are Kendra Scott.”

Oh, and Kendra Scott, she’s the darling of the BAMA PNMs. They all have it and some of them even got care packages sent to them after promoting the baubles in their TikToks. It is crazy. I didn’t even know that 99% of these stores and brands and styles even existed. If you can’t get it at Target — or if I’m feeling fancy, Dillard’s — then I can’t be part of your glam squad. But I want to, and I want to keep watching.

Once you start, you can’t stop. And you are suddenly invested in the girls. You want them to get the bid from their top choice. It is real life. I was talking to my phone giving suggestions on the OOTD. Truth be told, they didn’t always take my ideas, which was probably a mistake, but we’ll never know I suppose.

I found myself humming “Where them ZTAs at?” while I was washing the dishes. This particular video has 2.6 million views and a song produced just for rush. As a matter of fact, @young036 creates these little ditties for sororities and colleges all across the country. It’s some impressive stuff and it is catchy as hell. These girls in all of their glory standing in front of their house in the blue and white and making everyone want to be their sister.

And I really wanted to be their sister. I did and I was ready to move into the house. That’s until I looked at how much it was going to cost and then I just dropped out of college completely.

According to the UA website, there are a few fees involved in joining a sorority. The new member fees, PER SEMESTER, are on average $4,120.03. For that low price, you get meals, your chapter fees and some one-time fees. Then, you have to pay the room and board. That averages about $7,465.17 per semester. That’ll get you a room, a meal plan, and your local chapter fees and international fees. Oh, and if you want to attend school, that’ll cost you about $25,000 a year for Alabama residents and just under $45,000 for non-residents. None of this factors in the cost of those Shein dresses and Kendra Scott earrings either.

Even when I knew that I was never going to get a bid, or have a dress from The Pants Store, and my roommate wouldn’t be carefully curling my extensions for bid day, I kept watching. Some of them I couldn’t stand, but they just got a quick swipe. I wasn’t wasting my energy on them. But when the moment came for the girls I liked to open their bids, I wanted them to get in so badly. Tears were shed by all of us when they did. I was proud of them for putting their best foot forward and smiling and staying true to themselves.

Yes, there are plenty of #bamarush naysayers out there. You can find hundreds of videos mocking the southern accents and the blonde locks, but as my mother always said, “When you have haters, you know you’ve made it.” Congratulations BAMA girls, you have arrived.

Now, I would be remiss not to mention that most of what you are seeing in these TikTok videos are white girls who seem to have grown up with the privileges that come along with having plenty of money. As a matter of fact, the sororities at the University of Alabama weren’t even integrated until 2013. Think about that about that for a second. That was only eight years ago. You wouldn’t have even found a Black girl in one of the school’s panhellenic sororities. That is inherently fucked up. One TikToker, Marissa Lee, explains her role in integrating Phi Mu.

Things are changing at big schools like BAMA, but there is still work to be done. Marissa Lee is a trailblazer and has paved the way for girls like herself to no longer be thwarted by the likes of a traditionally-white experience at large universities. There are high hopes for her legacy and transforming these organizations to be more racially inclusive.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to gather my friends to rush a sorority of our own. But instead of looking for sponsorships from Kendra Scott and Shein, I’d like to talk to a company about a mini van detail job and a new pair of Birkenstocks that’ll support my arches.