One of the great benefits of being part of a sorority is the relationships you build with other members. Many sisters looking back on their collegiate days will recall the friends they met who are still a major part of their lives. Unlike finals, fraternity gifts, and ex-boyfriends, sorority sisters will be around long after college has come and gone. While there are, of course, exceptions to the rule, many times you’ll run into women who are still in contact with their best friend from college (who also turn out to be a sorority sister).
Building these lasting relationships is easier for some than others. A great way to facilitate such friendships in your chapter is with a big sis/“lil” (little) sis program. In addition to the following tips, I also encourage you to speak with your chapter adviser and/or your national adviser for more information and recommendations.
The Big Sis/Lil Sis Program
Every chapter has their unique version of a big sis/lil sis program. All differences aside, the goals of each program should be:
- Help new members adjust to sorority and campus life (remember most new members are younger students in unfamiliar surroundings)
- Provide new members with a role model who has positive behavior and a good attitude towards her sisters and the chapter
- Keep older active members involved with the new members process (this is an often overlooked bonus of the program, and can result in more active involvement during recruitment)
During your big sis selection, be sure to keep the second point (above) in mind. You want to make sure that new members are paired with an active member who is in good standing with the chapter, and who will encourage positive behavior in her lil sis. Many chapters have requirements that must be met before an active member can be selected as a big sis. My chapter, for example, required sisters to be financially current (dues paid on time), maintain a specific GPA, and be actively involved. Although these requirements may seem excessive, you’d be surprised at how much this can help motivate your active members.
Running a Successful Program
Once you’ve assigned your big and lil sises, don’t think that you can lay back and relax yet. A good big sis/lil sis program will not only correctly pair sisters together, but will nurture and foster their relationship. Some big and lil sises hit it off immediately, especially if they already knew each other or have spent a lot of time together. Other pairings may take more time to warm up to each other, and may rely on the sorority to help them do so. Here are a few ideas of what you can do once the big and lil sises are revealed:
- Chapter sponsored events, such as arts and crafts, movie night, bowling, and dinners, provide a good opportunity for face time between the big and lil sises (these events not only give your sisters a comfortable environment, but it also allows new members to meet other active members and vice versa)
- Friendly competitions between the big/lil pairs (such as sorority trivia, highest GPA, pictionary and charades) with an award for the two sisters at the end (dinner paid by the chapter, big/lil sorority letters, shopping gift cards)
- Sister study hours where big and lil sises can study together, or in a group with other sisters (again, a great way for new members to get to know other active members)
Just remember: whatever you choose to do, make it a big deal! New members can be shy and guarded at first, not wanting to make a fool out of themselves by being overly excited or emotional. As big sises, your active members should go all out to make the new members feel welcome, involved, and comfortable. Unfortunately, this may mean being super excited and bubbly during big sis/lil sis revealing (something your active members may not be interested in doing), but just remind them that it is for the benefit of the new members.
If your big sis/lil sis program seems different than previously described, there’s no need to worry. However, if you feel the goal of your program is different, it may be important to step back and look at the bigger picture. The point of a big sis/lil sis program is not to just pair party girls with party girls and bookworms with bookworms. While many relationships may start out based on a common interest, they should, inevitably, bring value to both sisters’ lives, as well as benefit to the chapter. If you feel your program is not accomplishing this, it may be time to reassess and make some changes.
By encouraging mutually beneficial relationships, you not only teach your sisters what good relationships should be, but you also give them friendships that will last long after college has finished.