If you were in Columbia the week before classes started, you may have noticed an army of women clad in black-and-gold gear, sundresses or Greek letters. And if it seemed like there were more this year than in previous years … well, there were.

A record 1,765 women registered for fall 2013 sorority recruitment, surpassing the 1,687 who rushed last year. The National Panhellenic Conference is reporting continually growing numbers across the country, and Mizzou is no exception — despite the slight drop in overall student enrollment at MU this year.

We were a little surprised about it on staff,” Julie Drury, senior coordinator of Greek Life, says. “I think it’s a testament that Greek Life is a great thing to be a part of and that there’s an energy to it.”

Planning for the week begins in January. The office of Greek Life partners with other organizations across campus to prepare for the August rush. Organizers review what worked well the previous year, with the goal of improving the process. The result has been a Bid Day that’s become bigger by the year.

There’s been a big growth in the number of community and family members who attend that last few years,” Drury says. “The fraternity men were there and in good spirits and mostly well-behaved, too. As long as they stay that way, it’s fun to have them there because it adds to the energy and excitement.”

Service, sisterhood and success

The reasons for joining sororities vary, but participants’ most common goals include succeeding in academics, participating in service opportunities and bonding through sisterhood.

Last year Greek Week, a weeklong event for the nearly 7,000 students in the Greek system at Mizzou, raised $105,000 for local beneficiaries and provided scholarships to students. Thousands of hours were spent collecting donations, including canned goods for the food bank and blood for the American Red Cross. Recently a weekly service program has started in the Greek community. Each organization must take part in a service event every week, though not every member is required to participate.

In sororities, social events aren’t hard to find, but neither are study sessions. Sorority members lead the way in academic success on campus, boasting an average member GPA of 3.302 in 2013. Greek organization overall had an average of 3.178, while the university as a whole averaged 3.053.

And with just more than 700 of the women this year coming from out of state, Drury says Greek life can make a big place like Mizzou seem a little smaller and more navigable.

Those are the reasons the organizations started for the women on campus,” Drury says. “Back when there were only, like, five of them, it was important to stay together. It was about practicing their speeches and oral examinations in front of each other and reading essays to help each other have strong grades from the very beginning, and it’s what stuck through all these years.”