I was searching frantically yesterday for scotch tape when I came upon a ring of keys in the kitchen desk drawer.  It was a large key ring with my Miss Saigon embossed ticket hanging from the end.  I was immediately drawn to picking them up. Carefully I started to examine each one, trying to remember what they had unlocked.  Each represented a time in my past life and it was almost as if I was watching a news reel of who I was, as each key unlocked a piece of my past.

I was thinking about those keys this morning while I ran and I realized that those keys and the doors they unlocked played very important parts of my life and made me who I am today.  I then began to think how helpful it might be if you had keys to unlock the mysteries of recruitment, allowing you to open doors that might otherwise be closed, offering you the opportunity to have the successful recruitment you all long for.

So here goes…the keys to unlock the doors of a successful sorority recruitment.

Key number one “Being comfortable in your own skin.”

You gotta be you and more importantly you MUST be comfortable with who “YOU” are when going through recruitment.  In some cases PNMs might visit upwards of 16 or more sororities during the first 2 days of formal recruitment.  Spending a brief time of 20 minutes (less if you count the entrance door song and the exit song) you will need to make an impression on the members you speak with a more over give them a sense of who “YOU” are.

I have a sister-in-law we refer to as “the chameleon” (behind her back of course).  She changes with what ever husband (she’s had several) or friend she’s with.  When she dated the skier she was a skiing enthusiast, one husband was into marine mammal and so she was out in a boat watching whales all day, another husband had some wacky political views and so she ditched her drivers license and social security card.  The current hubby is military and into beer so she’s all about home-brew and is funneling her kids through the military and even has one at the Academy.  You get my drift right??? I actually have no idea who she is!!

So before you go though recruitment have a little sit down with YOU and make sure that it’s the real you take into the recruitment process.  Trust me…the grisl who come through recruitment who are confident in who they are and are comfortable in who they are have the best recruitments.  They are at ease talking with members.  The PNM being at ease puts the members at ease. Conversation flows smoothly.  There is no inner need to impress since you are comfortable with who you are the members will either accept that or not.

I was sitting in a living room during recruitment and the members were discussing one girl in particular who had been through that day.  She was one of their “tops” and it was easy to see why…she had looks, brains, great EC’s from high school and most importantly she was comfortable in her own skin…the members actually used those words!  SO be comfortable with who you are…do not try to be a chameleon (besides…I have to think that al hat switching back and for has to be exhausting!!).

Key number two ” Cross your t’s and dot your i’s”.

In other words make sure that you are organized going into the process.  Make sure that you have done everything possible on the paper work end (recommendations, letters of support ect) to ensure that you have covered all of the bases on the organizational end of recruitment.

What this means is if you are going through recruitment at a highly competitive school that requires recs (or in most cases they won’t say requires but rather “highly suggests”) that you have recommendations for each house.  Not ands, ifs or buts….you need them for each house.

I’m going to put this out there right now.  For some, this is not an easy process, especially if you are going through recruitment at a school that is not in or near your home state.  I think the hardest is girls who are from the north going “south” or going from coast to coast.  Girls who have experienced this will tell you that they have found that  some sorority alumnae associations are more prevalent in different areas of the US.  Because the process can be tiring, overwhelming and exhaustive many PNMs just “give up” on finding those last few recs.  Another scenario is that a PNm decides she “doesn’t” like particular sororities and therefore just won’t get recs for them.  In both cases the PNM then limits her options when it comes to receiving the best recruitment outcome.

I can’t even begin to count the tearful phone calls I receive every August/September from PNM’s or their mothers who have practiced one of the above scenarios and are released by houses they now “love” because they do not have a rec on file. And it gets worse when they end up being released from recruitment all together because they were released from the houses they did have recs for, thus leaving them with no options.  The phrase, “if I’d only known” has become a mantra for many.

So….get recs for EVERY house.  Scour alum groups and panhellenic boards.  Creep on Facebook pages if you have to.  Leave no stone unturned.  I had a chi Omega alum tell me not so long ago that there’s a Chi Omega under every rock..so start turning ladies!!

In addition make sure that your resume is the best it can possibly be.  Have someone who is familiar with sorority resumes look it over and offer suggestions.  More importantly take their suggestions.  I have girls contact me to look at their resume only to then argue with me when I have made suggestions about changes. Be open-minded when it come to this…be accepting and remember it’s not that the person is criticizing you but rather they are trying to help you to be the best that you can be!

Key number three “Don’t be late for a very importantdate!”

Sorority recruitment has what I I would call “soft dates”.  What I mean is that there are some dates that are not cast in stone as to when something has to be done.  Example: when are recs due?  If you go to any major college or university panhellenic website you will find statements that say “recommendations are suggested to be in by no later than…..” and they give a date but they then go not say that IF you don’t have your recs in by then go ahead and send them late.  Okay???? So what you are really saying is “you need those recs so get them in anytime before the beginning  of recruitment.”

Senior year of high school is crazy busy.  The “lull” time seems to be in the Fall and I encourage PNMs to start the rec process then..when you have time to search. put together a resume and meet with potential rec writers.  By the time you get to spring you may have Panhellenic Preview events, Local Panhellenic events, Prom, Spring Break, AP testing, the planning of grad parties, going to grad parties, your college orientation and then POW….it’s June 30th…the suggested date for recs being in is July 1 and YOU AREN’T DONE!!!!! Panic mode sets in and all of a sudden you are deciding not to get recs for the houses you “don’t like” (hmmm…..not sure how you could make that decision on a brief if not no meeting but ok??)

Do yourself a favor and as soon as you decided what college/university you are attending and that you are going to go through recruitment get a planner, a calendar..something and start to make goals of time periods when you want to have items done.  Make a list of everything you need to do for sorority recruitment, give it a “finish” date and try to stick with those.  Resumes take time…you don’t have to print it in September (you may have more to add) but it’s much easier to add an item here and there rather than starting from scratch on June 1. I think my harping about this may actually be working!!!  I am currently assisting several girls who are just rising high school seniors but already are putting together resumes and have start the hunt for recs.  No, they haven’t decided where they will be attending college (most have it narrowed down) but they do know that wherever they go they are going to be participating in formal recruitment.

Key number four: “You get what you get and don’t pitch a fit”.

Although not perfect, sorority recruitment is a process.  We have been doing it for hundreds of years.  It’s not perfect but it does work 99% of the time!  Some additions and changes (RFM) have made the process better but I agree there is still room for some improvement but hey it’s what we’ve got and we need to make the best of it. That being said you have to trust the process.  I know from experience how devastating it can be to get a party card only to realize that the house you “LOVED” isn’t on it and/or that you do not have the maximum amount of parties, or..that some of those houses you put on your bottom list are back again.

That party card is what you have at that moment and you have two choices:

1. You can pitch a fit..cry , stomp your feet, say bad words, make a spectacle of yourself, threaten to quit, quit altogether, lock yourself in your room, declare the system unfair (hey…I have seen each one of these scenarios).

or

2. You can give yourself a few minutes to recover from the shock and then set about looking on the bright side of the situation.

I want you really pay attention to this next sentence.  THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PITY INIVTE OR BID! Never ever does a sorority sit down and say, “oh lets invite poor Suzy PNM back. No one wants her so we will take her”.  Ladies it just doesn’t happen that way. First of all the other sororities do not know that house you have or have not been invited back to. The only person who knows this information are you, your Rho Chi and your campus panhellenic. PERIOD!!!!  If you choose to share that information it’s up to you but I wouldn’t.

So the invites you have back are from houses that truly see you as a possible sister. They feel that you would fit in, be a contributing member not just for 4 years but for the rest of your life. Sororities are not in the business of handing out bids only to have the pledge quit.  It’s not healthy for the sorority, it’s not monetarily healthy for the chapter and eventually the sorority will fold and not exist on that particular campus.

So you have to adopt a positive attitude about your options.  If you don’t then chances are you aren’t going to have good conversations and your recruitment is going to start the downward spiral that will only result in a negative outcome. Those of you who have chatted with me on the phone have heard the story of our youngest.  She was released by what she terms “The house” after the second round of recruitment.  She was crushed but to her credit she took a few minutes to have a pity party then she dusted herself off and went to the houses she had left with an open eyes and open heart to see what they had to offer.  She was amazed to find that “her house” the house that she truly belonged in was under her nose the whole time and she just hadn’t seen it because she was so wrapped up and focused on that one house.

This advice holds true for bids and bid day as well.  If you didn’t get your first choice it;s okay to be disappointed but PLEASE give the option you have a chance!  Give it more than 24 hours. Young women have shared story after story about how they didn’t receive a bid to their first choice house and how happy they are in the sisterhood that they have.

Key number five: “Home is where your heart is”.

Sometimes we are easily influenced by others around us.  Going to college is a “growing up ” experience just all by itself.  For many young women you are miles away from home and decision have to be made NOW.  While I encourage you to reach out to your parents, your best friend from home who knows you better than any one, your Rho Chi the ultimate decision of what you decided about sororities during recruitment come down to you and what you feel in your heart.  Do you choose to list first the most popular house on campus where you might not feel totally comfortable laughing so hard that milk come out your nose (oh and you make that snorting sound you always do ) but they have the most amazing swaps with all the hot fraternities or do you list the house where you know if you waltz down the hall with your bra on your head like a helmet singing “Baby, baby oh!”, that you will receive a standing ovation and more than likely 5 or 6 sisters will join in! It’s a tough decision..one that YOU and only YOU can make.  Many will want to offer suggestions (especially those girls who you have just met but really don’t “KNOW” the real YOU). Ultimately the decision has to come from your heart.  Where can you be you..the real you..not the chameleon you?

In the Wizard of OZ Dorothy learns a valuable lesson….that you needn’t search any father than where you are right now to find what you are looking for and ultimately, “There’s no place like home!”

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