In our series A Class Of Their Own, Refinery29 is following five college freshwomen from across the country as they define their identities and relationships. Sophie Kofoid has waited her entire life to be in a sorority. Now, it's finally her turn to rush. But if she's nervous, the 18-year-old University of Michigan freshwoman shows no signs of it when we meet at a café near campus on the eve of her day of rush. Sophie carries herself with disarming ease, especially for a freshman. She maintains eye contact, has good posture, and never removes her cell phone from her bag during our conversation. She calls to mind a blonde, more clean-cut Lana del Rey. Her account of her high school years sounds a bit like something out of Sweet Valley High: At her Catholic school, the Chicago native was a cheerleader whose photography was featured regularly in the school's literary magazine. She was allowed to date and did so with little fanfare. Her circle of friends was comprised of 13 girls and 13 guys who have remained close since the end of high school.
But Sophie isn’t dwelling on the past or having trouble adjusting to life at her dream school. "I'm not homesick," she says. "I haven’t experienced any culture shock." Instead, she views her time at the University of Michigan as an opportunity to reinvent herself — and not just because she can finally choose what to wear every day after years of Catholic school uniforms. At Michigan, Sophie can pursue her ultimate goal of applying to the Ross Business School while exploring a growing interest in dermatology. She maintains many of her pre-college interests, but Sophie has no intention of treating college like an extension of high school. Michigan’s diverse student body is already exposing her to a wide variety of different personalities and new experiences. "This is a school where people are still finding their place," says Sophie, who uses the phrase "finding my place" quite often in the course of our conversation. "It’s nice to have girls you can be new to," she adds. That's where rushing comes in. At a university where there are more students in just one of her freshman lectures than there were in her entire graduating class back in Chicago, Sophie feels that being involved with something — be it a club, a sport, or Greek life — is crucial to making new friends. She also believes that having a strong network of sorority sisters looking out for one another can help keep a freshwoman safe, especially given the concerning rates of sexual assault on college campuses (though Sophie also says she has never felt unsafe going out at night). But her dream of joining a sorority primarily comes from years of hearing about her mother’s experience in one — and seeing firsthand the many lasting relationships her mom formed during that time.
Sophie is not rushing alone. Her next-door neighbor from home, Maddie, a fellow U of M student, is also looking to get involved in Greek life. The girls are mostly looking at different houses (Sophie expects to visit around 15), but she says her friendship with Maddie has always persevered, even though the two attended different high schools. "Maddie is the kind of person you can just pick things back up with whenever," Sophie explains. "It’s not the kind of friendship you need to tend to every day." A relationship Sophie is not pursuing at the moment is one with her high school boyfriend, Riley, who is now a freshman at DePauw University. Instead of attempting to embark on a long-distance romance while adjusting to their new schools, the two have tentatively called it quits, though the possibility of having a relationship in the future is still on the table. In the meantime, they are operating on a total-accountability policy, vowing to remain honest with each other about what they’re up to, romantically or otherwise. "I’ve already kissed a boy here," Sophie admits. Her roommate, Emily, has taken a similar route with her high school boyfriend — ending the formal relationship, but keeping in touch, with an emphasis on honesty. Between juggling classes and new activities, relationships just aren’t really a priority for either Sophie or Emily. With the commitment of rush looming for both girls, dating (or even just hooking up) isn't as important as making friends with other girls in their hall — and attending football games, a centerpiece of UMich student life.
Sophie and Emily share a double room in the dorms; it's decorated with Sophie's photographs, a flag from Emily’s home state of California, a string of white Christmas lights, and actual curtains (a college rarity) over the window. They've bunked their beds so high that both need stepladders to reach their mattresses, a setup that is at once charming and precarious. The room has an enviable amount of closet space, which the roommates are eager to show off to visitors. Like Sophie's mother, Emily’s mom was involved in a sorority in college, and that has motivated Emily to rush with her roommate. If the act of rushing is starting to seem a little dynastic, that’s because it is — and both girls acknowledge that. But Sophie is confident that even if Greek life isn’t the path she’s destined for, the University of Michigan still has a lot of avenues to make connections. Before we say our goodbyes, Sophie returns to her familiar refrain: "I’m looking forward to finding my place here," she says — and it seems like she’s well on her way.