What Panhellenic Recruitment Can Learn From Harry Potter

by  Susan Mathieson

There is nothing more time consuming in the life of a fraternity/sorority professional as formalized panhellenic sorority recruitment. For me, this process includes months of detailed planning, countless hours in meetings and no sleep for two straight weeks. But in the end, hundreds of women join one of our sororities on campus, start their fraternal journey and all is worth it. During my first recruitment meeting of the summer, I couldn’t help but think how this process could be improved and I immediately wished that recruitment could be a bit more like the house selection process at Hogwarts. If only we had our very own sorting hat!

The sorting hat, a sassy, old and magical artifact, assigns each student to one of the four houses at Hogwarts. The hat has the ability to read the characteristics and values of a student and identify which house they are best suited for. They then live, eat, play sports and spend most free time with those in their house. Not unlike membership in a fraternal organization.

I am aware that I am probably never going to be lucky enough to stumble on a sorting hat. But I do think there is a lesson to be learned about what makes the sorting hats magic so successful. By assessing the values of the student, their personal characteristics and their strengths and weaknesses, they were placed into groups with people that will not only compliment, but challenge them. If we spent more time talking about the values and characteristics of the women going through recruitment, we could better help them find their best fit.

Unfortunately, panhellenic sorority recruitment is a very surface level process, which doesn’t allow potential new members and sorority members to have authentic conversations. And how can it not be when PNMs are only allotted twenty to forty minutes with organizations a day. So there is no surprise that meaningful conversations aren’t being had.

The structure of recruitment is not going to change, so how do we increase the success of finding the right organization for those participating in the process? I think that starts with some coaching of the organizations and potential new members. Start teaching the sorority members how to identify the values of the women they are looking for in order to enhance their current organization, and then help them understand how to identify those values/characteristics through the conversations being had. On the flip side, we should be coaching the potential new members on the same thing. What are they hoping to gain from sorority membership? What are they looking for in a group of friends?

By having more authentic and meaningful conversations during the formalized recruitment week, I believe that more women will stay committed to their organizations. They will find a group of people that will support them, challenge them and enhance their collegiate experience.

I am still hoping that I will find a magic hat that sorts all 600 women into their organizations. But until that comes around, I will focus on identifying personal/organization values and authentic conversation.

Wish me luck on Recruitment 2015 and here’s to hoping no one gets killed, or worse – released!

Student Affairs - the First Years

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