I have a continuing growing pile of resumes and pictures on my desk. It’s pre-recruitment season and many young women all over the United States are working hard to secure the sorority recommendations they need for individual campuses. I usually write over 100 recommendations each season, many for girls who are attending the highly competitive SEC schools but I have also begun to write them for girls who are attending the less competitive ones. In any case before I will write a recommendation for a young women, I need to meet with them or in cases where they are not in my area, chat with them on the phone.
I know you are asking yourself why I would do this and more so have I ever turned anyone down? Well the answers are…I do this because I do not think that a young woman should be eliminated from the process of recruitment just because she is the first person in her social circle to go through recruitment or if she just doesn’t have the social contacts available to find recommendations for each house on her campus. This lack of sorority acquaintances can be especially challenging for young women who are from out of state and heading to college not only in a different state but sometimes a different culture (like living in the Northeast and going to college in the deep south). Many young women have SO much to offer to the sororities on campus. I think it shows a lot of perseverance and guts to reach out to stranger , open up to them and ask if they will endorse YOU as a member of their sorority.
In answer to your second question…YES..I most certainly have said no! There are some young women who go through the process for the wrong reasons. If I feel that a young woman who I speak with will not be an asset to my sorority then it’s my duty as a sister to say no. I also have turned young women down who despite my best efforts refuse to listen to take suggestions on how to make their recruitment a positive experience. This process can be very time consuming and if I have a young lady who questions my every suggestion and just refuses to listen to someone who has had TONS of experience in this area …well…it’s just a waste of my time (especially when I could be helping another young woman). I do have to tell you that most times I try to steer the young woman in the right direction. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t….just depends on the young lady.
Most girls reach out at the beginning of the process. They have heard of me through a variety of resources, blogs, parent panels, friends of friends ect. At the beginning they have lots of “questions”, that require lots of “answers”. I can usually tell by this initial contact a little about the young woman’s personality. Many have no idea how to write a sorority resume (it’s totally different from one you would write for a job) and so that’s usually our starting point. It’s kind of step by step process with me doing the gentle guiding and hopefully the young woman doing the work. Besides finding women to write recommendations this is the next most time consuming and difficult thing. Your resume is a first impression to the sorority you are sending it to. From the paper, to the font and most importantly your personal information. Sometimes it’s really hard to get a young woman to “toot her own horn”. I keep telling them that if they don’t no one else will!!! There are very specific items that must be on a sorority resume. They are there not only because the person writing your recommendation will need them to fill out their form but also because each sorority has certain item that they are looking for in a member. The resume is a really good starting point for them to target PNM’s who have these desirable qualities.
I think the biggest is GPA. This is an area where I have had to tell a young woman that I simply can’t write her a recommendation. Do I turn down all young women who have grade issues..no, but I have turned down many….it just depends on the young lady. Last year I had a young woman who approached me for a recommendation. She was absolutely gorgeous, talented and had good extra curriculars! Unfortunately her GPA was below the standard 3.0 that many panhellenic organizations tell young women going through recruitment is the standard marker for acceptance into a sorority. It’s not to say that some sororities will not take a young woman with a lower GPA, but some have strict GPA regulations from their national organizations that don’t allow them to go below this grade marker. We immediately had a “conversation” about “why” her GPA was lower (2.8). Now I know you are looking at that and having one of two reactions. Either you are saying to your self, “How does someone get a 2.8 in high school, especially in today’s world” or….your are saying, “2.8????? That’s just a little below a 3.0. Are they REALLY that cut throat”? Bluntly..yes they can be!
In this young woman’s case she was a nationally competitive cheerleader who spent a lot of time “on the road” and missed a lot of school. There was a not a tutoring system in place for her (some schools do this for athletes that compete not only at a local sports level but travel nationally). After speaking to her I told her that her 2.8 was going to be a problem since she was going to go through recruitment at a HIGHLY competitive SEC school. We spoke at length about how she would handle sorority obligations verses classes and homework. I had been set before we talked to ultimately tell her I would not be able to endorse her with a recommendation but after an hour long conversation I changed my mind. She was so willing to do “what ever it took” to become a member of a sorority that I told her I would help. It’s that willingness to work hard, be positive and listen to someone who KNOWS the process and how it works that is the defining moment for me and often times wins me over.
We tweaked her resume, she enrolled in a couple of community college classes to try to boost the GPA and most importantly we put together a couple of great “letters of introduction” that addressed her grade situation and highlighted her positive attributes (she had down some great community service events in a leadership role). The important thing was that SHE was willing to work really hard to try to market herself as a valuable PNM who would be a great sister and asset to any sorority on campus.
All through the process I continually reminded her that the grade liability was not going to go away. We had to realistic, this could be a problem and potentially she could be released by every house on campus due to the low GPA. I think she understood this but didn’t really want to believe that it could happen. I know it’s hard to understand how something as small as 2 tenths of a point can make a difference but there have to be ways to make cuts and unfortunately the grade marker has become a BIG one.
I wish I could say that formal recruitment went well for our cheerleader but her grade issues were a problem (which we had anticipated) and she was cut by every house the night before Preference. She was devastated!!! I took a very tearful phone call from that young woman that morning. She understood that we had done everything we could and she acknowledged that I had been upfront with her from the beginning. It was just not meant to be. I can just see you shaking our head..I mean she was beautiful and talented, kind of your stereotypical sorority girl, so why? I really think that her nerves and conversation skills (or lack there of) kind of go the best of her as well. She had a hard time opening up (I became aware of that from our multiple phone conversations). We worked on this but when someone is inherently shy it’s hard to change their personality.
There is a silver lining to the story :). On the college campus where she was attending a new sorority was colonizing. As typical for colonizations, this sorority participated in the first day of formal recruitment and then pulled out. After formal recruitment was over they then proceed to hold a series of “meet and greets” and then interviews and finally had a day of Preference Parties and an official Bid Day. I had encouraged my cheerleader to participate in this process. Was I concerned that she would again experience defeat..yes but I felt that perhaps this more relaxed recruitment might be better for her. In addition, I thought maybe her grades wouldn’t carry as much weight as during formal recruitment. Well….she went through the whole process and I am pleased to say that on Bid Day she received a bid!!!! I can’t tell you how excited I was to get that text message showing a pic of her bid card:)..(ok… confession..shed a few tears here!) She had found her letters and her home. I just recently checked in with her to see how college life was going. Grades are still hard for her but she has gotten some help with tutoring and had a 2.9 first semester. As I expected once she settled in she got very involved in sorority life, especially her sororities philanthropy and was elected Philanthropy Chair. She thanked me for all my help and we chatted for awhile about the whole process, the positives, negatives and what she learned. It was a very nice conversation :).
So now I am off to tackle this pile….gotta get them done and in the mail. Even though most panhellenics tell you to have recommendations in by July 1 I really think it’s an advantage to get them in before the Recruitment Chair goes home for summer. I have a confession…I REALLY like writing recommendations. It’s fun to talk to the girls, get to know them and ultimately see where they find their letters. I think it’s kind of a mother hen sort of thing….so off to work I go…(cluck cluck cluck!).