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While many Penn students are spending their first days back from winter break catching up with friends and preparing for the new semester, hundreds of freshman girls are venturing out in the cold in the hopes of becoming sorority sisters.

Wednesday evening, the Penn Panhellenic Council kicked off the first night of formal sorority rush with an open house.

More women registered for rush this year than any other on record, according to Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs Associate Director for Programming and Panhel advisor Stacy Kraus.

Although OFSA does not release rush numbers, Kraus said the number of women registered reflects an eight-percent increase from last year.

While Open House traditionally consists of 10 parties, this year and last year Panhel added an 11th party to accommodate the large number of women rushing.

“We want to make sure that everyone rushing still receives the same individualized attention they’ve received in the past,” Kraus said.

She attributed the steep increase in the number of interested women to Panhel’s new marketing strategies, which included a carnival during New Student Orientation, an informational meeting for parents about recruitment during Parents’ Weekend and the launch of Panhel’s Penn Sorority Life Blog.

College senior and Panhel Executive Vice President Laura Minskoff agreed with Kraus.

“The Panhel Executive Board has worked very hard, since day one, to get freshmen women interested in the formal recruitment process and the wonderful experience of joining the Panhellenic community,” Minskoff wrote in an e-mail.

“Our recruitment chair, Tori Searl, and Assistant Recruitment Chair Meredith Bress are rockstars,” she added.

Kraus also credited the eight-percent increase to a national trend. “The class of 2013 seems to be a class of joiners all across the country,” she said.

Despite the unusually large number of women registered for rush, it is unclear whether these numbers will translate into larger new member classes.

“I’d love to see larger classes, but we really can’t predict how many girls will decide to follow through with the process,” Kraus said.

College junior and Panhel President-elect Darby Nelson is also hopeful.

“I have high expectations for the next few weeks. Panhel and the sororities will have to be on top of their games in order to carry out recruitment in a seamless manner,” she wrote in an e-mail.

The eight Panhel sororities will hold another open house tonight.

After the open houses, there are three more rounds of rush: Skit, Philanthropy and Preference. Each are designed to give interested women a look at different aspects of sorority life.

Rush concludes on Jan. 21 with Bid Day, when the women find out whether they received a bid to join a sorority.

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