National Honor Society Guide: Benefits, Tips to Get In, and Choosing a Path

National Honor Society

National Honor Society Guide: Benefits, Tips to Get In, and Choosing a Path

Published September 12, 2023 | Last Updated April 29th, 2024 at 11:29 am

National Honor Society

Explore the history and benefits of the National Honor Society (NHS), an organization established in 1921 that fosters academic excellence, leadership skills, and community engagement. This comprehensive article delves into the NHS’s mission, its influence on student development, scholarship opportunities, and tips for prospective members.

What Is the National Honor Society?

The National Honor Society (NHS), established in 1921, honors high school students who excel academically while demonstrating strong leadership, character, and a commitment to community service.

Since its inception, the National Honor Society has blossomed into a dynamic organization, hosting over one million members globally. Its mission is to nurture students who excel academically and embody qualities of good citizenship and active community service. Serving as a vital platform, it allows young individuals to cultivate abilities aligned with the organization’s core values, promising significant advantages in their future endeavors.

Going beyond academic recognition, the NHS offers an arena for students to develop essential skills further. It underscores a holistic growth approach, creating opportunities for students to enhance their leadership capabilities, build a robust character, and undertake service projects that benefit communities at large. Present in all 50 US states, US Territories, and even extending its reach globally, the NHS stands as a pivotal force in shaping the future leaders of the world.

Joining the NHS is more than a mark of academic success; it’s an acknowledgment of a student’s multifaceted achievements. It integrates students into a supportive network of like-minded peers and mentors, keen on fostering their growth. As members, students pledge to uphold the high standards and values established by the NHS, steering towards personal development and contributing positively to society.

What is the Purpose of the National Honor Society?

Since its establishment in 1921, the National Honor Society (NHS) has steadfastly pursued its mission “to create enthusiasm for scholarship, to stimulate a desire to render service, to promote leadership, and to develop character in the students of secondary schools.” 

Beyond acknowledging academic achievements, the NHS endeavors to shape students into proactive and responsible citizens who actively engage with their communities. Its notable commitment to service is exemplified through various public service projects that members undertake, fostering a culture of compassion and community stewardship. Through its diverse programs, the NHS nurtures leadership skills and facilitates character development, molding well-rounded individuals poised to make meaningful contributions to society.

By facilitating numerous public service projects, the NHS provides members with opportunities to apply their skills and knowledge in real-world contexts, ultimately leading to a richer educational experience and a stronger sense of community involvement. Through fostering an ethos of service and community engagement, the NHS embodies its purpose, steering the next generation towards a future marked by success and positive societal impact.

What Are the Benefits of NHS Membership?

Membership in National Honor Society is a great resume builder. It shows that you are among the best students in your class not only academically, but also in terms of character, service, and leadership.

Beyond the resume, there are many other benefits of becoming a member of the NHS.


Since 1946, over $19 million in scholarships has been awarded by the NHS. Each award is a single, one-time distribution. In order to be eligible, NHS students must be members in good standing.

The organization awards about 600 scholarships totaling $2 million annually. 

The largest award will be to one national winner, who will receive $25,000. Many other scholarships will be awarded, ranging from $5,625 to $3,200. 

Beyond financial awards, the organization is committed to helping its members achieve their educational goals.  To this end, the NHS provides several resources to assist members as they plan for college.


There are many chances to improve leadership skills through membership in the National Honor Society. The NHS sponsors multiple LEAD (Leadership Experience and Development) conferences throughout the year in various U.S. cities.

During these conferences, members of both NHS and NJHS (National Junior Honor Society) have opportunities to hone leadership skills through various workshops.

Other leadership events associated with the NHS include national student leadership week, a national leadership conference, state leadership summits, and various service training opportunities. 


By joining the National Honor Society, each member is eligible to qualify for elite internships or summer programs, making it possible to make potentially valuable connections with individuals of many backgrounds. The NHS also encourages its members to network with NHS peers from other states.

Do Colleges Look at National Honor Society?

Yes and no.

Being a member of the NHS looks good on a resume, but it’s not exactly exclusive.  There are many members worldwide. What you do as a part of the organization is what will speak volumes on a college application.

For example, if you earn your NHS volunteer hours through tutoring, and then discover that you really enjoy tutoring, it could lead you to other opportunities that might bolster your resume. And college admissions counselors will see the number of hours you racked up as a tutor.

It’s often not the membership in the NHS itself that catches the eye of prospective college admissions officials but the effort and dedication that went into qualifying for the NHS.

Ultimately when filling out those college applications, think quality over quantity. 

Speak to your academic, club, and volunteer experiences and how those experiences have shaped you in your journey thus far. Admissions officials aren’t looking for clubs piled high but rather time well spent.

What Are the Requirements for National Honor Society?

Although local chapters set their own qualification requirements, all prerequisites are based on the four pillars of NHS:

  • Scholarship: Although many local NHS chapters may establish their own more rigorous standards, national guidelines specify applicants must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or better to be considered for membership. This is equivalent to a B+ average, or an average percentage of 87 – 89. Grades are a big piece of the college application for many reasons.
  • Service:  Interested students must demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the community and civic involvement. Applicants will be asked to detail experiences of service, including volunteer work and other unpaid contributions to school, community, etc. Again, some local chapters may require a specific number of service hours, so it’s wise to investigate locally.
  • Leadership: NHS considers leadership skills when considering membership applications. Those applying should provide information about leadership roles both within and outside of school. Possibilities might include being a team captain, organizing events or groups, or being part of student government.
  • Character: An applicant must show him or herself to be a responsible member of the community.  The student may be asked to provide a written recommendation from a teacher or other mentor and must have a clean disciplinary record.

How to Get Into the National Honor Society

Joining the National Honor Society is a prestigious honour and an excellent goal for students aiming to make the most out of their high school years. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to become a member.

  • Research NHS Chapters: Find a local chapter in your school or nearby area.
  • Understand the Requirements: Ensure you meet the NHS criteria concerning scholarship, service, leadership, and character.
  • Build a Strong Academic Record: Maintain a GPA that meets the minimum requirement for membership, generally a 3.5 or higher.
  • Participate in Community Services: Engage in various community service activities to build a robust service portfolio.
  • Develop Leadership Skills: Take up roles that allow you to demonstrate leadership abilities, such as being a club president or team captain.
  • Gather Recommendations: Collect recommendations from teachers or community leaders to vouch for your character and achievements.
  • Prepare Your Application: Compile all your accomplishments in a well-structured application, highlighting your strengths and contributions in various fields.
  • Submit Your Application: Once prepared, submit your application to the local NHS chapter for review.

How Hard Is it to Get Into the National Honor Society?

Gaining entry into the National Honor Society (NHS) is moderately challenging, requiring students to excel both academically and personally. The essential prerequisites center on the NHS’s four pillars: scholarship, service, leadership, and character.

Initially, students must secure a GPA of 3.5 or higher, reflecting a dedication to academic excellence. Furthermore, they are expected to be actively engaged in community service, holding leadership roles in extracurricular activities, and upholding a high moral character.

Local chapters might set specific or higher standards, making it imperative for aspiring members to cultivate a well-rounded profile. Despite the rigorous requirements, the selection process aims to encourage students to achieve greater heights in personal and academic realms, fostering a journey marked by significant growth and positive contributions to the community.

Is It Worth Joining NHS?

Deciding to join the National Honor Society (NHS) is a significant consideration for academically-inclined students. Beyond the attractive accolades and scholarships, it’s vital to assess the real value it could add to your educational and personal journey.

The NHS is more than an emblem of academic achievement; it is a vibrant community where individuals with similar ambitions can network, collaborate, and evolve. Its rich history of nurturing leaders who epitomize service, character, and leadership goes beyond school boundaries, holding substantial weight in higher education and professional circles.

Membership in the NHS offers extensive opportunities for personal growth. Community service initiatives allow members to positively impact their surroundings while cultivating skills in project management, teamwork, and communication. Furthermore, the organization’s leadership training can be a solid foundation for success in future endeavors.

However, potential members should be cognizant of the commitment involved. Balancing community service, leadership projects, and a high GPA can be demanding. Therefore, students must ascertain their ability to manage these obligations alongside other life aspects.

In deciding whether to join, students should align the opportunity with their personal goals and abilities. For those aspiring to roles requiring strong character and leadership skills combined with a service-oriented approach, NHS membership might serve as a valuable stepping stone.

Overall, though a personal choice, many perceive the myriad benefits of NHS as a worthwhile investment towards fostering personal and academic growth.

Choosing Between NHS and Other Prestigious Programs

In the dynamic world of a high school student, balancing time between the National Honor Society (NHS) and other prestigious programs like AP classes, the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), and honors programs can be a perplexing task. Here’s a concise guide to help you navigate this decision:

  • Align with Goals and Interests: Evaluate how NHS and other options like AP classes or the NSHSS align with your long-term aspirations and personal interests. These platforms offer varying opportunities for leadership, academic excellence, and community service. Choose programs that resonate with your passions and future plans.
  • Assess Commitment Levels: Each of these programs demands a different level of commitment. Consider the time and energy you can realistically allocate to NHS, AP classes, honors programs, or NSHSS without compromising your academic performance and well-being.
  • Seek Guidance and Perspective: Consult with mentors, teachers, or peers who have experience with these programs to gain a nuanced perspective on what each entails. Their insights could be instrumental in making an informed decision.
  • Trial and Adapt: Remember, you can explore these options and recalibrate your choices based on your experiences. Your preferences and goals might evolve, allowing for adjustments in your academic journey.

In essence, making a choice involves a careful consideration of your goals, the potential benefits of each program, and a readiness to adapt as you progress. This approach will pave the way for a rich and fulfilling high school experience.

Junior National Honor Society

The Junior National Honor Society (NJHS) nurtures middle school students (grades 6-9) to blossom into community-focused, academically proficient individuals. As a precursor to the National Honor Society (NHS), NJHS emphasizes academic accomplishment alongside cultivating strong citizenship and character traits.


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