The Alpha Sigma Zeta Chapter at Onondaga Community College (OCC) in New York has watched its member acceptance rate increase over the last few years. Chapter advisor Dr. Annie Tuttle attributes this to a few key things, including old-school, in-person communication. Below, she shares what’s working for her chapter.
(Editor’s Note: The following was written and submitted by Dr. Annie Tuttle. It has been edited for clarity.)
We send an email at the beginning of each semester to eligible students, letting them know they are eligible to join PTK. We try and put PTK on their radar right away and help them learn about the many benefits of membership, including college benefits like early registration for classes, access to our PTK Lounge, and travel opportunities.
Our college has different windows for class registration, meaning different groups of students are able to register on different days. PTK students are eligible to register for classes on the first day that registration opens. This helps PTK members pick the classes they want and that fit best with their schedules.
Further, we send personalized emails to both the student’s college and personal email, usually once a week, advertising leadership opportunities, scholarship trainings, volunteer opportunities, and upcoming meetings. Eligible students receive these emails even before they join, which we believe helps students get excited about joining.
Also, our invitation is old school, sent via USPS and signed personally (by hand!) by our provost, and our induction ceremony is well-attended and special. Last year, we had 120 inductees attend. This helps students see that PTK is something that our college values.
In addition, our college president tells all Presidents’ List honorees in her letter to them that they should look into becoming a member of Phi Theta Kappa. These are students who earned a 3.7 to 4.0 that semester. Our email and phone number are listed in the letter, and we always get around 50 to 60 inquiries about PTK soon after the Presidents’ List letters go out.
I think one of the reasons we have seen such an increase in our acceptance rate is that we have partnered with the OCC Foundation to help students join PTK. Our students only have to pay $11 to join PTK, and our OCC Foundation pays the rest. This has helped eliminate the financial barrier to join PTK. We are so appreciative of the Foundation and thank them every chance we get.
We also require students to turn in their applications in person. This helps students know that this is an actual organization that they are joining, with real people leading the way. The students have to come to our suite to ask questions and accept membership.
Our PTK student leaders have office hours so many of the inquiries are addressed by students. We believe strongly that the personal connection has helped us grow our chapter and the number of students who are actively involved in our chapter.
When I began working with PTK, we had only three to four active members, and they served as our chapter officers — they were the entire chapter. We now have 19 members on our OCC PTK Leadership Team and over 50 members who take part regularly in our chapter activities.
Our college has also been beyond generous in creating a PTK/Honors Suite. In our suite, we have a conference room, student lounge, and advisor offices. This has given our chapter a home on campus.
As I mentioned, each member of our PTK leadership team holds one office hour a week in our lounge, so there is often a student available to answer questions and work on projects. When eligible students see our suite, they get excited to join. It is a place they can study, get to know other members, or just relax between classes.
In general, these four recruitment tips have worked for us, and hopefully they will work for you:
1. Personal connection is best. Students are looking for a place to belong and to meet other students, faculty, and staff that they can connect with. Make your correspondence local, from your college email. It helps if students learn about PTK from your advisors, administrators, and student leaders.
2. Make your mark on campus. On Mondays, we wear PTK. Students earn a shirt by attending induction or completing a service opportunity. Our PTK shirts have helped us get our name out in the campus community, which helps increase membership.
3. Create campus perks. PTK headquarters offers awesome incentives to join, but create a few more on your own campus. At OCC, we have priority class registration, lounge access, monthly leadership and service opportunities, and monthly pizza! Helps students see that there are perks both at the international and local level.
4. Partner with your Foundation or administration. Ask for financial assistance from your college to help students join PTK. Our chapter has worked hard to prove to our college that PTK benefits students, and we are so fortunate to have them support us in the form of paying the majority of students’ PTK membership fees. College budgets are increasingly tight and getting tighter by the day, so even if this is not feasible at your college, ask administration for just a little help. Maybe they can offer one or two scholarships or help you create a program where faculty or staff sponsors a student’s registration. It can’t hurt to ask, and every little bit helps!