I have been doing a lot of thinking lately. About what you ask? Well mostly about recruitment. There seems to be a lot of chatter about recruitment these days. Some of it comes from the girls who are getting ready to go through the process. some of it comes from the girls who are Actives and some comes from Alums. So much chatter…..so I thought I’d chatter about it as well.
First of all there seems to be a lot of chatter about recommendations. I was asked today, by a PNM, why they are called rec letters in some cases and recommendations in others? Good question! It used to be a long time ago before the computer was part of our lives and recommendation forms had yet to be designed, Alumnae Women would actually write a hand written letter(*GASP*) introducing a PNM to her sorority and recommending her for membership. These letters were written on stationary (usually with the alum’s name or initials at the top) and mailed (not emailed) to the sorority house where each one was read individually to the actives as they carefully considered the PNMs who were going through recruitment. These letters were personal testimonials about the young woman whom it was written about. In most cases the writer was personally acquainted with the young woman. If the writer did not have a personal connection with the PNM then she would invite her to tea. This invitation was very important for if the writer determined that the PNM was not the”right fit” then she would refuse to write the recommendation letter. These letters we required for membership candidacy. Not having a letter was grounds for being “let go”.
As time has moved on and we have become more savvy in our communication skills and even more importantly as more young women have begun to go through recruitment, the hand written letter has been replaced by the recommendation form. When the rec form first came onto the radar alums contacted PNM’s to “interview” them. The “interview” took the form of a tea or lunch. The Alum who was going to write the recommendation would bring the form along and ask the PNM the questions while filling out the form. The Alum would often times include a personal letter stating why she felt the PNM would be a good sister in her sorority.
Interestingly enough in today’s world not all sororities require recommendations. When referring to a recommendation, we are talking about the form that is filled out by an alum and mailed to her alumnae chapter on the campus of the university the PNM will be attending. In some cases an alum will attach a personal letter to the rec form. These letters are now called “letters of support” or “letters of introduction”. Just to make it more confusing in some cases one alum will fill out the rec form and another will write the letter of support. In addition the Alum who writes the rec is not “required” to personally be acquainted with the PNM. A “sorority resume” will be sent to the Alum writing the rec. The resume serves as an introduction of the PNM to the alum. Attached to the resume are two pictures (usually a head shot and a full body shot). This “visual” of the PNM helps the sorority identify her as she arrives for the first round of parties.
They say that history repeats itself and this has become true for recommendation forms and letters as well. Many college campuses where recruitment has become very popular and thus large amounts of girls are partaking in this activity have begun to “strongly suggest (Yep that means require) that their PNM’s all have a rec form on file with each sorority on campus. In addition some are suggesting that the PNM have 2 recs per house and at least 2 letters of support. Although this is not the case on all college campuses I did hear just this weekend that many Panhellenics who do not have this requirement in place are considering adding it to their recruitment process. Recruitment has become so popular that many campuses are experiencing a huge influx in PNMs. The different Panhellenics feel that “seeing” the PNM on paper and in an actual picture will help the sororities better make decisions about keeping or letting go PNMs.
So ….when I am asked if a rec letter is the same thing as a rec I say “yes”….. a rec letter refers to the recommendation that is filled out by the Alum and mailed to the sorority. A “letter of support” is an actual hand written or type letter that explains to the sorority why the alum writer feels this PNM would make a good sister.
Let’s jump to Alum chatter. We as Alums seem to be possessed with the immense popularity of sorority life currently. In addition we scratch our heads at how “selective” PNM’s have become. I cannot tell you how many sob stories I hear from girls who go into recruitment with just a couple of chapters that they find”suitable” and then don’t understand when not only do they get dropped by those chapters but by the other houses as well. We lecture and lecture about keeping an open mind (really look at every house and what it has to offer), maximize your options (write down every house…no blank spaces), and don’t listen to “tent talk” and yet there are always “those” girls who feel like they have been “wronged”.
A discussion has come up on what is the difference between a campus that has “tiered” sorority houses and “competitive” recruitment…are they the same?? I say..”NO”. Tiered houses refer to a campus where there are 3 or so sorority houses that are deemed the “popular” or “acceptable” houses to be in. So during recruitment many girls only want those houses and when they are released from those houses they quit recruitment.
Competitive recruitment occurs on campuses where large amounts of girls go through recruitment and the houses are HUGE (sometime with over 250 members). In this case there are not large amounts of girls dropping out but rather there are large groups of girls released due to how many each sorority is able to take as PNMs. Panhellenic tries really hard to place as many girls as possible but in many cases you will find 1700 PNMs start recruitment and 1100 finish with a release rate of 25%.
In some cases PNMs want sorority life handed to them on a silver platter. They don’t totally understand what it takes to run a chapter. For most chapters it’s a lot of work. If that chapter is deemed one of the “bottom ” houses it can be harder and even more work that for a chapter that is “in the top tier” of sororities. I think we also have lots more legacies coming through recruitment, in many cases enough to fill one or even two pledge classes. Some PNMs grow up believing that they will pledge the house their mother did and those are the only letters they will even consider. In both of my daughter’s cases I encouraged them to look for “their” home..not just adopt mine.
Finally the Active’s chatter. I had a phone conversation with a young woman who had pledged a sorority that had colonized this fall on her college campus. She was calling to tell me she had quit. I was shocked! When I first met this young woman she literally would have done “ANYTHING” to become a member of a sorority. As we chatted she told me that she never realized how much “work” it was. She had the perception that sorority life was fun and social and easy. When it come right down to it is fun and social but to make a really great chapter takes work. My daughter has sorority obligations at a minimum of days per week. Yes..she holds and Exec office but truth is even the girls who aren’t officers have lots of sorority interaction. On top of that it’s not cheap and in this young woman’s situation her sorority was building a new house and so her house dues were increasing dramatically.
When I questioned her further she mentioned several other girls who were leaving sorority life behind as well. So the Active chatter that I hear is this: Make sure that as a PNM you understand that joining a sorority is not just fun and glamour. It is time consuming. It takes commitment and hard work. Sure there are lots of “fun” things to attend and partake in but as everything else in life it’s not always going to be a piece of cake.
So that’s the recruitment chatter for today ……I hope you’ve learned something :).