This blog post comes from our consultant Tom Robinson (with additional input from Sir Williams, K. Quinn Brown, Derek Meeker, Anne Dutia, and Nick Everdell). Tom has worked in admissions for over 20 years, most recently as the Director of J.D. Admissions at Harvard Law School, where he received the 2018 Dean’s Award for Excellence. During his years in admissions, Tom has evaluated thousands of applications, interviewed more than 900 law applicants, and served on admissions committees within three different universities. Tom earned a Master of Education at the University of Vermont and a Doctorate in Leadership in Higher Education from the University of Massachusetts, where he concentrated on issues related to learning outcomes and campus racial climates.
We often hear from applicants who feel they should scrub their resumes and other materials of any mention of their involvement in fraternities or sororities. While some applicants in online forums seem to support this prohibition, the best approach for you individually might be more nuanced. Greek Life is often portrayed in popular media as sophomoric, anti-intellectual, alcohol and drug-fueled, and much worse, and it is understandable that applicants are cautious about how their affiliations might be viewed. The main concern for applicants is that admissions officers and faculty admissions representatives will have a bias against Greek Life involvement. While this does sometimes exist to some extent, it is in context. Many admissions officers were in fraternities and sororities themselves, and still others appreciate getting a sense for the applicant’s dedication and level of involvement. They will look for other signs of achievement while you maintained your affiliation in a fraternity or sorority.
Some would-be law students might have dedicated much of their leadership in college to programs and initiatives related to their fraternity or sorority. One recent applicant with whom I worked spent several years in his fraternity leading significant outreach and support for families who are housing insecure, and many others work with causes related to mental health resources, cancer fundraising, and support for domestic and sexual abuse survivors. Fraternities and sororities can be important centers of community and life-long conduits for group service, as is the case for many members of the historically Black “Divine Nine” organizations.
If you dedicated a significant amount of your co-curricular leadership to supporting the Greek Life community during your undergraduate years, don’t just assume that you should omit it from your application. Instead, reflect on your experiences and decide whether you can convey them with sufficient depth to have them buoy your application. For instance, you could highlight your work toward and dedication to chapter philanthropy. You could also use your resume to showcase your leadership and project management accomplishments and how you reimagined chapter recruitment, for example, in order to build a more diverse pledge class. You can emphasize the positive impact that your affiliation had throughout your undergraduate experience.
If Greek Life was only a small part of your experience, then consider omitting it to make room for additional important entries on your resume. However, if your resume looks a little light without the inclusion of your significant fraternity or sorority involvement, then you should likely include it! Take time to consider how you performed in all other parts of your undergraduate life and think about how your membership in a fraternity or sorority contributes to the overall theme(s) you’re sharing.