Trending on TikTok This January – #SMURush

Her top with the oversized pink bows in the back is from Nana Jacqueline, her jeans are Hauser, her hot pink heels are EGO, her dangling silver earrings are from Dillard’s, and the video featuring her Outfit of the Day has been viewed on TikTok more than 5 million times.

Videos documenting the experience of SMU sorority rush were trending on TikTok this January. Most #SMURush videos document students’ Outfit of the Day (OOTD). But there are also choreographed dance videos, and at least one video, with 8.8 million views, which tearfully documents sorority rejection. 

Then there are videos made about the students’ videos. Some use shopping websites to price the OOTDs, which — if you believe TikTok content creators — can cost in excess of $25,000. And there are yet more videos explaining sorority rush, or just criticizing the rush system itself.

So why did clips about the sorority rush experiences of SMU undergrads get more views than the Emmys? (The Emmys, to be fair, did have a record low year.)

“At the end of the day, TikTok is a storytelling platform,” explained Trevor Boffone, author of Renegades: Digital Dance Cultures from Dubsmash to TikTok and editor of TikTok Cultures in the United States. “It’s telling a story in a nuanced way, where you have all of these little pieces of puzzle that tell a larger story.”

Sorority rush videos first made a splash in 2021 at the University of Alabama. Hit #BamaRush videos sparked a TikTok trend, especially at southern schools with an active Greek life. Viewers unfamiliar with rush may not comprehend “the cost and the investment in the process,” Boffone explained. “People are tuned in, they want to watch, because it sort of gives transparency to a thing that a lot of people often feel is not transparent.”

SMU sorority recruitment this year occurred from Jan. 9-14. It began with two days of open houses, followed by Philanthropy Day, Sisterhood Day, Preference Day, and Bid Day, according to the school’s 2023-2024 Panhellenic Recruitment Guidebook.

About 41% of SMU undergrads are members of one of the school’s Greek organizations. New member fees at its seven sororities ranged from $2,525 to $3,878 in May 2023, according to the Guidebook.

SMU undergrads are aware of the interest in sorority rush, Boffone explained, and understand how to make their TikTok content a hit.

“Going viral gets you followers, and with followers comes opportunity,” he said. “The opportunity might not exist right now for these young women, but when they graduate college and they have these platforms, it opens them up to a whole new world of possibility.”

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