Three years ago in October my daughter’s college search did a 360.  Since the Spring of her junior year of high school she had been committed to Iowa .  We had visited many, many different colleges (over 20!) but she insisted that Iowa was the one for her…it felt like home.  On Columbus Day 2009 all of that was about to change.  Not only did that change impact her college experience but also her recruitment and sorority experience as well.

You see on that morning my dear sweet daughter was just sitting and searching on her lap top when she came across a picture of a ceiling in a library.  She thought it was beautiful.  The caption read….Bruno Business Library The University of Alabama.  She was intrigued and so she googled The University of Alabama and looked at more pictures.  Since we are a football family she knew about football and Bama but had never really “looked” at the campus.  I’m not sure how long she looked at pictures but she became so excited she came down and got me and together we googled and looked for several hours.  At the end she announced that Iowa was out and The University of Alabama was in.  We agreed she needed to have this conversation with her dad and she did the minute he arrived home that evening.  He informed her that she should apply and if/when she was accepted we would take a road trip.  Oh one small thing..she also had to apply to Arkansas.

Good news arrived fast, it seemed that both Arkansas and Alabama had rolling admissions and so at the end of October we were headed to the lad of houndstooth and y’alls.  Our tour only confirmed what my daughter already knew…she belonged at Alabama.  We had looked at the sorority houses that were scattered across the Hawkeye campus but oh my, the streets of “sorority row” at Alabama featured beautiful southern homes with wide porches that featured rocking chairs and beautiful planters of flowers.  She was awe-struck and mesmerized as was I.  I could picture her coming out of one of the doors of these beautiful sorority houses with an oversized t-shirt and a pair of Nike shorts.  It was so hard to leave the next day and head to Arkansas.  As you can guess Arkansas never had a chance and as we drove out of Fayetteville …even as my husband was offering a new car and a iphone my daughter’s mind was made up…she was going to Alabama and go through recruitment and be a southern sorority girl!!

I am sure that many of you are still trying to make decisions about where to attend college.  It’s a tough decision and one not to be taken lightly.  I had an email yesterday from a young woman who was worried because she might not be able to make her final decision about college until February or March.  She fretted over the fact that one of her choices was Alabama and she was very worried about getting recommendations at such a late date.  She also asked about pre-recruitment teas and Preview Weekend…should she try to do these events even though she might not choose Alabama?  what about the other schools she had on her list?  Did some of those require recommendations?  Did they have events that were important for her to attend as well?

So after answering her questions and us mapping out a plan together how to tackle this situation I thought I would share with you all as well since I am sure that some of you might be in this same position.

My first word of advice…DON’T PANIC!!!  Seriously even if you did nothing until you made a final decision in the Spring we would be able to find recommendations.  However it’s always better to be prepared.  I know I preach this a lot but Senior year just kind of has a way of getting away form you and so the earlier you start and the more you get done the less crazy panic you have…oh and by the way…the crazy panic usually hits just about the same time as Prom and graduation :).

My suggestion is to approach each school and recruitment as if it were your final choice. this will take some time and lots of organization but in the long run it will be beneficial when that final decision is made.  Make a list of the schools that are still in the running. Read and research to see if the are competitive recruitment schools that require recommendations or non- competitive recruitment schools where recommendations are optional.  My two cents on optional recs…if recs are mentioned…they ARE NOT optional!  Get them. If you have a school where there is no mention of recommendations, call the Panhellenic or Greek Life office and inquire.

The next task is to make a list of all of the sororities you will need/want recs for.  You can color code these by school if you want.  I’m a huge fan of color coding things, you can simply glance at them and tell who’s who and what’s what. List next to each one the names and contact information for the women you find who will be writing the rec. I would suggest that as you talk with these ladies you explain that yo have not yet decided on a particular school and so you won’t be needing her to do this for a while, possibly Spring.  Do not ask her to write a rec for all of the schools on your list!  Writing recommendations is time-consuming and it is impolite to ask these ladies to do more than one for you.

So you’ve got this list…the good news is that a woman who will write you a rec can do it for any chapter of her sorority across the US and Canada.  Of course when going through recruitment at a competitive campus it certainly doesn’t hurt to have recs from a woman who was a member of the chapter that is on that campus.  Of course for many out-of-state girls these women are hard to find.  So begin searching for women who would be willing to write recommendations for you.  That means you will need to have a sorority resume (did I mention that now’s a good time to start to work on this?).   I realize that your resume might not be complete at this point but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have it started.

I know you are wondering about pre-recruitment events and Preview weekends and events.  Each campus handles this differently…some have these events and they are published for all to see while others will have events that aren’t known to the public but if you know a sorority member then she often times will share that information with you.  I would suggest calling the Greek Life/Panhellenic office of each school you are interested in.  Before you do that generate a list of questions that you have about the recruitment process and other pre-recruitment events that might be offered.  If the campus has a Preview Weekend and it’s possible for you to go I would. These are wonderful events that provide lots of information on the recruitment process.  In addition you will get an idea of how to dress and will meet other PNMs.  You don’t have to share that you haven’t chosen a college yet in most cases.

If you are visiting the campus for another look make sure that you contact the Greek Life/Panhellenic office and arrange for a Greek Tour.  Most schools have Greek men and women who will take you on a tour of the sorority and fraternity living areas.  Remember many campuses don’t have a Greek Row.  On some campuses sororities and fraternities are housed in wings of dorms.  A good question to ask is if you are “required” to live in the sorority house or the sorority living area?  If your scholarship has a housing allowance will it cover the fees for “living in”?  Many National Merit Scholars will have free housing and it will not cover the cost of living in the sorority house.

Just because you haven’t decided on a college doesn’t mean you can’t get some of the organizational work out-of-the-way.  Write your “thank you” notes, you can fill in the name and address the envelopes later.  Make plans for pictures to go with your recommendations.

Finally if you are thinking of attending a school that does invitation pre-recruitment events then you should try to go.  While making the list for possible recommendation writers you can ask if they will call or email their chapter and ask to have your name included on their invitation list.  I have found from past experience that these pre-recruitment events are sometimes deal sealers for girls.  I know that many girls are waiting on financial aid awards and scholarship monies and that going to college just for the sorority experience is not a really good reason to pick a school but I have to tell you that joining a sorority IS part of the college experience.

When you join a sorority you are joining a sisterhood that is an umbrella for so much more that just a social life.  It is a group that will help you educationally, having members that will be in the same major as you are and therefore in the same classes..built in study partners. don’t forget there will be older girls who have also taken those classes.some sororities actually have files that have old tests from different classes! GPA is very important and so you will be required to do well.  In many cases if a girl is struggling grade wise then study hall hours are give and proctored.

Philanthropy is a big part of sorority life.  Each sorority will have possibly more philanthropies that they support and raise money for.  As an alum I still volunteer for my sorority’s philanthropy.

Going through recruitment is a great way to meet friends.  the same is true for attending pre-recruitment events.  By attending these events you will have a chance to meet other young women who are planning on attending this college/university.  You will be able to tell if you feel comfortable with the people you will attend school with…hey that’s important!

So if you are in between decisions you can still start to get ready to go through recruitment even though you haven’t chosen a school. In fact getting ready for recruitment may actually help you to make a decision….good luck!  I am sure you will make the best choice for you!