Often, I have conversations with clients about whether or not they should use a story from their fraternity or sorority days as part of their business school application. As with most extracurricular experiences, you can use Greek experiences to show leadership, highlight what you learned, and explain how it’s helped you grow as a person.
Here are some examples of common strengths that can come out of your college Greek experience.
Sororities and fraternities offer opportunities for formal and informal leadership. Being elected by your peers as an officer brings with it responsibility. What did you learn about yourself and others as president or vice president? A client who felt her sorority was not supporting economic diversity in the way she and other members hoped decided to start her own sorority on campus—an organization that would provide financial assistance to anyone who needed it. The group found a house and established an inaugural chapter of the new organization. Another client ran for election as his fraternity’s president soon after the fraternity was kicked off campus. He sought out this responsibility to ensure the future of his chapter and to help maintain for future generations all that he had gained from the chapter. Upon taking office, he built a relationship with the dean of the school and motivated his brothers to develop and execute a plan that led to the chapter being reestablished on campus. This experience showed the applicant’s willingness to take on a tough challenge and to build relationships with higher-ups (a dean) and colleagues (brothers) to ensure commitment from above and within. This is the kind of leader you want in an organization and in your business school program. Having moved cross-country, I joined a sorority to build a network of support at my large university. As president of the sorority, I collaborated with the presidents of the other 52 fraternities and sororities to fund-raise and address issues across campus. I learned to network and use my voice to create change.
Because sororities and fraternities are self-led organizations, it is up to the members to identify opportunities and develop solutions to those opportunities. Think about what changes you enacted while you were a member. As house manager, a past client managed a house of 53 women, including a house mother and cooking and cleaning staff. She also managed the allocation of the coveted 18 parking spaces near the house. After listening to the concerns of young women who had to walk to the sorority house on their own from parking spots far away, she redesigned the parking lot to increase capacity by 35%. In addition to learning how to manage the operations of an organization, she identified opportunities to make improvements.
A key component of Greek life is supporting other organizations through fund-raising and volunteering. Such experiences can show how you dedicated your time at college to help others. A recent client took on a fund-raising role in his fraternity and challenged himself to increase the effectiveness of this role. Working with a national organization that supports military veterans, he put together a benefit concert, collecting more funds than had ever before been seen in the fraternity’s history. On top of this, the pro bono performer of the evening made a generous donation that drove the total amount even higher. This concert was a way for the applicant to show innovation in fund-raising in addition to having done important work in the community.
Growing as a manager is all about mentoring others. Within a sorority or fraternity, there are often opportunities to mentor younger peers, either formally or informally. As an alum, you can provide mentorship by being on a board or offering career advice. Many of my friends in my sorority were studying for the LSAT during their senior year. Alumni would come back to campus to help with studying and to offer career guidance, much like business school alumni offer support to MBA students. A client who was on the judicial board of his fraternity talked about helping a fellow brother who was put on suspension for drinking and low grades. The client sat down with his brother and helped him develop a plan to come off suspension, similar how one might need to mentor or work with a member of their team who was not performing as expected. Such experiences can demonstrate how you motivate, support, and inspire others.
We all know that much of what is accomplished at work is done outside of meetings. It is important to know others’ perceptions of or challenges with an issue and what is important to those individuals. And the best way to find out this kind of information is through relationship building and empathy. Starting with rush, you learn to meet and quickly establish rapport with new people. Within a pledge class, you meet people from different backgrounds and geographies and need to work together on fund-raising and other charity events. Often, you also learn to live together under one roof. A recent client was responsible for managing the Sunday night dinners at their sorority and had to learn to balance dietary restrictions with personal preferences to minimize conflict each week. Similar to business school, a sorority/fraternity can be a safe place to learn within a supportive environment.
What your role was and what you learned are key to whether or not stories from your Greek experience belong in your application. How can these stories show a pattern or offer evidence that fits with and supports your experiences and goals? If you can make this connection, then consider including your Greek experiences in your application.