Using Lessons from Greek Life in MBA Applications

Recently, I had a conversation with a client about whether or not he should use a fraternity story as a part of his business school application. After learning more about his story, it was obvious the life skills and leadership he learned is his role as president of his fraternity was directly applicable to business school and life skills overall. As with most extracurricular experiences, you want to highlight what you learned in a situation and show how it’s helped you grow as a person.

Here are examples of common strengths that can come out of your college Greek experience.

Relationship building

We all know that much of what gets done at work is done outside of an actual meeting. It is important to know others’ perceptions of or challenges against an issue and what is important to them. And the best way to find all this out is through relationship building and empathy. Starting with rush process, you learn to meet new people and quickly establish rapport. Within a pledge class, you met people from different backgrounds and geographies and needed to work together for fundraising and other charity events – and often learn to live together under one roof. A recent client was responsible for managing the Sunday night dinners at a 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.

Problem-solving skills

As self-led organizations, it is up to the members of a sorority or fraternity to identify opportunities and develop solutions to those opportunities. Think about what changes you may have enacted while you were there. As house manager, a client managed a house of 53 women, including a house mother, cooking and cleaning staff. She also managed the allocation of the coveted 18 parking spaces near the house. After listening to concerns of girls walking on their own from parking spots far away from the house, she redesigned the parking lot to increase capacity by 35%. In addition to learning how to manage operations of an organization, she identified opportunities to make improvements.

Leadership opportunities

Sororities and fraternities often 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 VP membership? A client ran for election as president soon after his fraternity was kicked off campus. He sought out this responsibility to ensure the future of his chapter and 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 build and execute on a plan that led to the chapter being reestablished on campus. This experience showed his willingness to take on a tough challenge, build relationships with higher-ups (a dean) and colleagues (brothers) as he needed commitment from above and within. This is a 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 in my large university. As president, I collaborated with presidents of the other 52 fraternities and sororities to fundraise and address issues across campus. I learned to network and use my voice to create change.

Mentorship

Growing as a manager is all about mentorship of others. Within a sorority or fraternity, there are often opportunities to mentor younger peers either formally or informally. As an alumni, 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 senior year. Alumni would come back to help with studying and offer career guidance, much like alumni from business school offer support to 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. He sat down with his brother and helped him develop a plan to come off suspension, similar how you might have to mentor or work with an member of your team that was not performing as you expected – how you motivate, support and inspire.

Like with other organizations, your role and learnings are key to whether or not your Greek experience belongs in your application. How can these stories show a pattern or story that fits with your experiences and goals? If you can make this connection, then consider including your Greek experiences in your application.

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