As summer nears its end and school starts back up, I find myself getting a few requests every year for recruitment recommendation letters. And, in recent years, I’ve also gotten some requests for a blog post about how to recommend a young woman to a sorority chapter. I actually completed a recommendation yesterday, and I have to say that it’s way easier than it used to be!!
When I was in undergrad, I served my sorority chapter as Recommendation Chair. In those days, as well as when I was a new alumna and an adviser to my chapter, we relied on handwritten letters that were mailed directly to the individual sorority chapters. With stamps and everything! Over the years, this shifted first to “download a PDF, complete it and mail it to the chapter” to the new standard of “complete a quick recommendation form on the sorority’s national website and it will be integrated into the ranking portal. It’s a little less personal, but a whole lot easier — not to mention more reliable and standardized!!! I’ve put together a few tips to remember when writing a sorority recommendation letter. While, of course, I only have first-hand experience with my sorority, Phi Mu, most of these tips should extend to your organization. You may want to check with your sorority’s national website and with the chapter to whom you’re recommending the Potential New Member for specifics!
Keep your purpose in mind!
A recommendation is an introduction. It’s a way of saying to a sorority chapter that you, as an alumna, would like to make an introduction. Think of it as serving as a reference for a job interview — the hard work is there for the applicant to do, but you’re laying the groundwork to make it a little easier for them! Now, a lot of mythology lies around the value of a recommendation letter, and I’ve found that these things vary strongly among individual sorority chapters. Some chapters are rumored to find more value in recommendations from alumnae of their own chapter or from in-state alumnae; others count all recommendations as equal. Regardless of these variations, your recommendation isn’t a guarantee that a potential new member will be invited back to multiple rounds of recruitment parties or that she will be extended a bid. You’re simply alerting the chapter that an alumna vouches for her.
Gather as much information as possible!
Just as with nearly anything else in life, the more prep work you do ahead of time, the easier your letter-writing process will be. Ask the woman whom you’re recommending for digital files of her resume and photo. Be specific — my sorority’s portal asks for high school GPA, high school activities and leadership potential, and any sorority legacy information. This helps introduce the young woman to a sorority chapter and it reinforces that you’re recommending someone whom you actually know! Additionally, make sure you know the recruitment dates for the university where she’ll be rushing, and get your recs in on time!
I know that I shouldn’t have to say this, but be as candid as possible in your recommendation process. Don’t claim to know someone better than you do; you’re doing a disservice to both the rushee and the sorority chapter!
Again, I know that HerKentucky readers are, as a general rule, a polite and gracious group. But, I do want to remind you to mind your manners when interacting with the sorority chapter. The chapter doesn’t owe you an explanation if the woman whom you recommended is ultimately not invited to join your organization. Remember that recruitment is a very stressful time for collegiate members and recruitment members alike; as an adult who is at a remove from the situation, please ignore the temptation to incite additional drama. It doesn’t matter how involved you were with your sorority during your college years — the sorority chapter has, very likely, evolved since then. A woman who may have been your “rush crush” back in the day may find a far better fit with another organization.
I hope these simple, common-sense tips help you introduce a PNM to a chapter of your organization. Let me know in the comments if you’ve written a rush letter this year!