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Sororities--Everything You Need to Know: Part 4
Part 4—Preparing for Recruitment
There’s a saying at Texas A&M University that is often used to describe the unique spirit of Aggieland: “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it, and from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.” It’s also an apt description of sorority life—it really has to be experienced to be understood. There is a lot about the process of recruitment, though, that can be explained and that must be understood in order to maximize a potential new member’s chances and exposure in the most positive ways possible. Recruitment can be as simple as an impromptu meet-and-greet at the chapter house, followed by an invitation to join, or more involved, with resumes, school transcripts, letters of recommendation, and photos going out to every house on campus months in advance of Recruitment Week. It’s up to you to do your homework and research what the requirements, expectations, and customs on your campus are, and to follow through on what you learn.
Learn the Lingo
It’s important to know what certain words and phrases mean in the context of sorority recruitment. The following definitions are generally accepted across the country:
Alumna/ae—member/members of a sorority who have graduated
Chapter— the local campus group representing an Inter/National organization; Inter/National describes the sorority’s central organization
Legacy—a potential new member whose family member is an alumna or undergraduate member of a sorority; every sorority has its own definition of legacy—some only consider daughters and sisters legacies, while others include grand- and great-granddaughters as well as nieces and cousins of alumnae. If you have a family member who is a sorority member, check with that group’s national organization to determine your status as a possible legacy
National Panhellenic Conference (NPC)-- the conference body of 26 sororities and women’s fraternities established to collaborate with and advocate for its members
Potential New Member (PNM)-- a non-Greek undergraduate woman who participates in the recruitment process
Panhellenic Council-- the governing body of the National Panhellenic Conference sororities on campus
Resume—an outline of a potential new member’s scholastic record, academic and extracurricular achievements, community service, and personal interests.
The Information Packet
Once you have done your research and established what you will need in terms of numbers of resumes, photos, copies of transcripts, and number of reference forms/recs/letters of support, it’s time to compile your information into a packet that you can distribute to the necessary organizations. Most collegiate Panhellenic councils and many local alumnae Panhellenic association websites have sample social resumes that you can use as a template. This resume should include:
- Your full name and the name you usually go by;
- Contact information, including home address, college address, phone numbers, and email address;
- Parents’ names (including mother’s maiden name);
- Birthdate and age;
- Name of high school, date of graduation, class rank/number of graduates in class, and SAT split scores and/or ACT scores;
- Scholastic and academic honors and achievements, usually listed from most recent to earliest;
- Extracurricular honors, achievements, and participation;
- Community service and participation in charitable or philanthropic activities;
- Personal interests and activities; and
- List of family members with Greek affiliations (members of fraternities or sororities), including name (including maiden name for female relatives), relationship to you, Greek affiliation, and school attended.
A social resume is not the same as a job resume, although it has the same basic format. This resume is designed to spotlight you as a person—don’t be afraid to blow your own horn! Sororities are looking for outstanding leaders, creative organizers, and, of course, excellent students to enhance the group’s image and perpetuate the positive image of the chapter—be sure to highlight any activities, accomplishments, and experiences you have that will complement a sorority’s agenda. Make your resume as long as it needs to be, but for the most part, keep your timeline to your high school years.
Photos are used to identify you during recruitment, and the collegiate Panhellenic council website will probably request at least one photo for submission with your registration materials. This need not be a professional portrait—a recognizable, flattering photo is all that is necessary for sororities to identify you when you arrive at their chapter house for recruitment. Some chapters may request additional photos—these are often used to create posters for members to study so they will be ready to recognize PNMs at the various recruitment parties. Again, these need not be expensive, professional shots—as long as they are clear and recognizable, you’ll just need to determine how many copies you will need for distribution. If you do decide to use the services of a professional photographer, be sure to obtain digital rights to the photos so that you can transmit your pictures with online registration forms.
You may be asked to provide copies of your high school (and/or college, if you are going through recruitment as a college sophomore or junior) transcripts. The collegiate Panhellenic may need an official, sealed copy of your final high school transcript, but most alumnae Panhellenic associations will need only a copy from your senior year that gives a fair idea of your academic status and estimated class rank. Be sure to ask whether official final transcripts are required, and place your requests for these with your high school well in advance in order to receive them as quickly as possible.
You’ll need to keep a digital copy of your information packet available to send with your registration with the collegiate Panhellenic council at your school, if requested. You may also need hard copies for distribution to your hometown alumnae Panhellenic association, who may be able to help you obtain any references or recs that you will need. Many girls use decorated pocket folders, report binders, or large envelopes to contain their resume, photos, and transcripts, but don’t spend a lot of time embellishing your packet—the content is more important that the bows and ribbons tying it all together.
Now that your information packets are assembled, you’re ready to register with the collegiate Panhellenic council at your school. This is the most important step in the entire recruitment process, because this is your contact with the sorority houses on campus. Without this step, you will not be registered as a PNM with the collegiate Panhellenic council and will not receive invitations to recruitment parties, meetings, and activities. The earlier you register with your college Panhellenic, the better!
Your college Panhellenic website and the National Panhellenic Conference website will have contact information about your hometown alumnae Panhellenic association. You will need to register with this group as well—they will be able to distribute your information packets to the alumnae sorority members of your hometown, who can write reference forms/recs for you, add them to your packet, and send them to their respective sororities at your school. These local Panhellenic organizations sometimes host recruitment forums (usually in the early spring)—check their website for dates and information. If you do not have a local Panhellenic association, you can contact your collegiate Panhellenic council for advice. Asking family, friends, teachers, and any other women you know for connections or introductions to sorority women they may know was once considered bad form, but today, this is encouraged as a way to get recommendations from women who know you or know of you—these are the most valuable recommendations you can get!
Reference Forms, Letters of Recommendation, and Letters of Support
This may be one of the most confusing parts of recruitment—trying to tell the difference between reference forms, letters of recommendation (recs), and letters of support. At some schools, the terms “reference forms” and “recs” are interchangeable and considered to be the same thing, with letters of support being personal letters written by sorority alumnae on behalf of a potential new member. Elsewhere, these terms stand for three separate types of information or may not all be used when discussing recruitment.
Reference forms are just that—forms provided by a sorority for their alumnae members to fill out on behalf of potential new members. These forms are unique to each sorority, but basically encapsulate the PNM’s resume into a standardized one-page document. There’s also space on the form for the alumna to indicate whether she knows the PNM or her family, and whether the alumna feels that this PMN will uphold the standards and responsibilities associated with membership in her sorority. Most NPC sororities require this form to be filed for any PNM before issuing a membership bid for that PNM; however, if the sorority wishes to issue a bid and does not have a reference form on file, an alumna advisor is usually available to fill out this form. In other words, if a sorority really wants a particular PNM, they will make sure they have everything they need to offer her an invitation to join.
Letters of recommendation are more confusing. In some places, letters of recommendation (or recs) are synonymous with reference forms (also sometimes called recs). In other places, these letters are just that—personal letters written on stationery by alumnae recommending a PMN whom they know personally for membership into the sorority. Letters of support are the same as personal letters of recommendation. The term is used predominantly in Texas to differentiate them from reference forms (which are often called recs).
Clear as mud? The most important thing to remember about these terms is that you only need to know how YOUR school, YOUR collegiate Panhellenic Board, and YOUR campus sororities define these terms, and which of these they require for registration and/or suggest for the greatest success during Recruitment Week. It is also important to know whether your alumnae Panhellenic association provides reference forms, letters of recommendation/support, or both, depending on what your collegiate Panhellenic council advises. Most collegiate Panhellenic websites and many local alumnae Panhellenic associations have an entire section devoted to recruitment, and this information is usually available there; if not, contact the collegiate Panhellenic council and ask them to clarify what will need to be submitted on your behalf.
Most collegiate Panhellenic councils do not require reference forms/recs from sorority alumnae in order to register for recruitment. However, at many schools (particularly throughout the South) there are so many girls going through recruitment that in order to whittle down the invitation lists, some sororities must automatically drop any PNM without reference forms/recs. It can be nearly impossible to receive invitations to recruitment beyond the first round of open houses without additional information submitted by an alumna on your behalf, so getting references/recs are crucial to success at many schools.
Once you’ve registered for recruitment with the appropriate Panhellenic organizations and secured the necessary references/recs/letters of support, you’re finished with the hard part—now it’s time to do some research on the sororities you’ll be visiting. Learn about their philanthropies and activities—there are usually links from the collegiate Panhellenic website to the individual sorority chapter websites. You might even take a look at the houses to make sure you know which one is which—there are always a few PNMs who show up at the wrong house at the wrong time because they don’t know which house is which! Take a look at the websites to generate some possible conversation topics—you’ll be remembered for taking an interest in each individual house.
In the next part of this series, we’ll talk about Recruitment Week itself—what you’ll need, what to wear, and what to expect during this stressful, exciting time.
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