New Economy Careers: the Sorority Rush Consultant

Ever on the cutting edge, the Paper of Record has published a fascinating piece about a white-hot new career: the Sorority Rush Consultant.

Time is money people! We broke it down so you can get a jump on the competition.

What is a sorority rush consultant? Rather than try to explain it, here’s an illustrative introductory anecdote:

Margaret King of Birmingham, Ala., was at a loss about how to help her older daughter prepare to rush at the University of Virginia…

So Mrs. King… enlisted the aid of Marlea Foster and Pat Grant, local consultants who had coached their own daughters through rush at Furman, the University of Georgia and Auburn University. Naming themselves the Rushbiddies, they opened shop in 2009 after hearing about the rush misfortunes of their daughters’ friends. About 50 mothers and their “chicks,” as the Biddies affectionately call them, attended one of their two-day workshops in April ($100 a couple), complete with mock rush party, wardrobe hints and paperwork prep.

And there is a mound of it. The smart rushee, the Biddies advise, will have a résumé stressing community service, leadership, academics and teamwork, letters of recommendation from alumnae of each chapter, preferably on the campus in question, and reference letters.

With the help of Ms. Foster and Ms. Grant, who wears a pink feather boa during workshops, Mrs. King asked alumnae of about 10 chapters, several from UVa, to write her daughter’s recommendations. To guide their plaudits, she sent them packets with a professional photograph, transcript and résumé. To thank them, she dropped off a bottle of rosé in their mailboxes.

Whoa. I know, right?! But that’s not all the SRC does! For example, in one SRC’s program:

One day is devoted to carrying yourself properly and the art of conversation. “I teach them how to make interesting small talk: what you saw at the cinema, a trip to Europe… Another day is for getting physically ready — hair, makeup and wardrobe…

Wait, this isn’t just another class-reinforcing service for the wealthy is it?

Samantha von Sterling 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…

Ms. von Sperling offers a Friday-to-Sunday intensive, for $8,000.

Glad we got that settled. Still, one has to ask: do we really need this? Of course we do. This is make-or-break your life stuff we’re talking about here, and the experience is intense.

“Sorority recruitment is like no other experience that you will ever have for the rest of your life,” says Sunday Tollefson Sunday Tollefson [what, really?], author of “Rush Right: Reveal Your Best You During Sorority Recruitment.” “It’s like speed dating meets interviewing meets beauty pageant meets upscale academic summer camp, complete with a counselor.”

Of course, the professional sorority rush consultant has to be aware of potential blind spots. In such a frenzied competitive environment both the rushee and the consultant can lose sight of truly important attributes like character, scholarly dedication, and the selfless desire to serve others. Thankfully the parents are there to help keep priorities straight.

When Rachel Lewis was president of Alpha Chi Omega at the University of Kansas, parents asked: “Should I buy all J. Crew clothing? Do they need designer purses?”

The successful SRC must be flexible and emotionally available. The real value of the sorority rush consultant becomes apparent when, inevitably, such intensity leads to stress:

During the session, the rushee, Mallie, who did not want her full name published because it might affect her chances, was mostly quiet, worn out by her recent finals. Her mother took notes and asked questions. Later, Mallie talked about rush: “It’s going to be stressful — not only making a decision for the next four years but for friends you will have for the rest of your life.” Because the experience can be so emotional, consultants provide “on-call services.”

Yes indeed, other than divorce or the death of a loved one, what is more stressful than making lifelong friends? Still, difficult though it may be, it’s one of those things in life everyone has to face and learn to deal with, and it’s deeply reassuring to know that the guidance of a loving and compassionate consultant can make it much easier.

Of course it’s not just the students’ emotions that you’ll have to deal with:

As rush grinds on, students often text their moms with frequent, sometimes tearful updates. “Drama Trauma Drama,” wrote one weary mother on a Greek chat forum. For some mothers, empathizing with the pain of peer rejection is excruciating.

“I lost six pounds that week,” recalls Julie Baselice, whose daughter Christina is now a Chi Omega at the University of Texas. “It was the most stressful experience of my life.”

This last quote leads to one final, important point about a career as a sorority rush consultant: the student is not your real client.

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