While watching the local news they always have a special section called “what’s trending right now”.  It’s kind of a “heads up” on what people are reading online.  Well today when I got online to read the NY Times I was AMAZED to find an article about sorority recruitment. It seems that getting ready to go through recruitment and insuring that you get a bid is trending right now. I was even more AMAZED because it talked about almost everything that I have been blogging about since January.  Out of the article came the question..”can an ordinary girl go through recruitment at a competitive school and receive a bid or does she need some extra “help” ?”

The gist of the article was that sorority recruitment has become so competitive at so many schools that PNMs and their mothers are reaching out to independent consultants and image specialists to help them to present the “perfect PNM image”.  The first group that’s discussed were the Rush Biddies.  Remember them?  They were the ladies with the pink feather boas that I talked about. They charge to help with resumes, clothing choices, putting together rec packages ect.  The one charge I love is the $50 an hour consultation fee to talk with a PNM or their mother during the week of recruitment.  I am not sure when during recruitment a PNM would have time to call her “consultant” to ask a question.  I know I sound a little, well not very nice and I am so sorry..I don’t mean to be, but I just have trouble picturing a PNM saying” I’ll be down in a minute I need to call my consultant and ask her about what to say tomorrow”.  I mean REALLY???

The article went onto comment on how to make a resume, what to highlight, how to get letters of recommendation.  I was running through the list of girls and mothers who I have “counseled” on how to do all of the above…for free. I have to admit my husband would “love” it if this blog were a little business but how can I charge people for something they really can do themselves if they just listen to the initial instructions? Yep.. I have had those PNMs and mothers who don’t listen, go their own way (even after my gentle suggestions of fixing certain resume items) and well.. then they are on their own at that point.  Candidly speaking sometimes recruitment doesn’t go so well for them.

I love the reference in the article that equates recruitment speed dating meets interviewing meets beauty pageant meets upscale academic summer camp complete with counselor (Rho Chi).  That does pretty much sum up the process. But the article also made me worry just a little bit.  I have no problem with a girl being coached on conversation skills or how to be an active listener but to “transform” her into something she’s not worries me just a little.  I am afraid that after reading this article girls will perceive that they have to be something they’re not in order to get a bid.  Do you remember the movie “Princess Diaries?”  It was on the other night and I was struck at how hard the girl was trying to become something she just wasn’t.  Eventually she did transform from an ugly duckling into that beautiful swan but it wasn’t without some struggles and tears.

If a PNM “changes” her self to be more appealing what happens once she receives a bid. She has morphed into someone or something she isn’t.  Can she now bond with her sisters?  Will she discover that she really doesn’t have anything in common with these girls?  What’s she to do at that point?  Do you see my dilemma? I’ve always been honest with you and so I will be now….probably if I could have found a local person to help my daughter ( and myself) when we were preparing for her recruitment at Alabama and it was in my financial budget, I may have bitten the bullet and shelled out some serious dollars.  But alas…either I just didn’t look (I think I was initially too shell-shocked) or I just jumped in with both feet and treaded water hoping to survive.  Yes..I did it al by myself and in the process my daughter and I learned A LOT!!

We learned how to write a terrific recruitment resume, making sure to highlight all of the “things” sororities look for (community service, leadership, academics, teamwork).  I learned how to sniff out a rec and what rocks to over turn to find the most elusive ones ( a dear Chi Omega once told me in a sugary southern drawl, “why darl’in there’s a Chi Omega under every rock). By the way ..don’t want to toot my own horn or anything but I am a really great, first-rate googler (is that even a word???). I put together rec packets and while I later discovered they were not new to the world they were new to me and I felt like I had really discovered something great by packaging everything together in one place and giving it all to the alum who was writing the rec.  I now know that in the SEC they have been using this method for a very long time!

After a couple of lengthy calls with our legacy chapters (oops..forgot to mention that I also learned that being a legacy got not a lot in many cases..but hey that’s ok!) I picked up some labels that other PNMs might be wearing.  We discovered the wonderful world of “David Yurman” (my husband really wishes we hadn’t), Tory Burch, Longchamps bags, hipster purses and Vera Bradley luggage and totes.  We also discovered that my daughter was deathly allergic to Lilly Pulitzer ( not really but the first time we went into a Lilly store and she had her first pink flamingo experience I thought she might be traumatized for life..good news !!!  She now owns several..crisis is over). So we shopped and bought and then coordinated outfits.  We had a practice run at Preview Weekend…had to come home and fix a few things ( the strapless sundress with the cute little bolero sweater had to go) but we were wiser for going.

After Preview it was back to the drawing board and we finalized plans.  Again I took pics of all of her outfits (with her in them) attached them to the outfit which was bagged and labeled for the party it was intended for.  i even had bags for shoes and jewelry :).  Since I know my daughter pretty well I knew we had to have “options”, so she chose several outfits for each party day.  I guess what I’m getting at is that I did what a consultant would do.  I now blog about it so that you all can figure out how to do it as well.

I know that recruitment has become increasingly more popular and competitive.  There are more girls, large pledge classes and in some cases not enough bids to go around.  A PNM is faced with the question of “how does she make herself stand out amongst 1500 other girls?”  I believe that being paperwork prepared is a big chunk of the success.  Resumes and recs are a sorority’s first introduction to a PNM.  It’s her paper composite so to speak.  Secondly, it’s presenting the best “you” that you can be.  It is not presenting a “Stepford PNM” who has been transformed in to the perfectly poised PNM..a mere shadow of her former self.  It is being prepared.  You wouldn’t go into a job interview unprepared and so why would you go to recruitment not prepared? It’s the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared”….and you should be.

You should also “be prepared” to find a home that hold your ideals, hopes and dreams. Be Prepared that it might not be “the most popular house” or the “biggest house”.  It will be, your home for the not only the next 4 years, but actually for the rest of your life.  Being in a sorority provides you with the ultimate networking system.  Your sisters will be there for you no matter what city or town you live in.  Your sisters will help you find an apartment, recruit you for a new job, be your first child’s Godmother.  You will have a built-in opportunity to volunteer, get involved, make a difference. Pledging a sorority opens doors, plain and simple.

I have had parents, grandparents, family friends and just people in general question the system. Can you really connect and bond with girls who you have only met a talked with for a few minutes?  And most importantly, how do you make a lasting impression on the active member you have just met and talked to?  I know these are the topics and skills that image consultants teach and work on.  I just hope that in the process of getting a girl ready for recruitment they don’t “lose” the girl in the process. I would encourage young women to practice.  I always tell girls I am talking to go put yourself out there in situations where you are forced to talk with people you don’t know.  Doing this in the summer or even spring, before recruitment is very beneficial.

The other little tidbit of advice I would share is this: start getting ready early.  With the competitiveness of recruitment resumes are your first foot in the door.  If you don’t become involved in high school, if you don’t volunteer and give of yourself, if you don’t get good grades, then you will be at the back of the pack.  I think with the addition of image consultants to the recruitment process the whole playing field just got slanted in a new direction.

So my message to you is this. DEcide early and “be prepared”.  Use an image consultant if you want but stay true to who you are.  Make sure that “you” are the PNM that is entering through the doors of the sorority houses.  Sisterhood is for a lifetime…