National honor societies are very popular within the academic world. In particular, high school students see admission to an honor society as a big boon on their profiles.
Like every other part of the college admission process, deciding on which honor society is worth the time and investment, can be a difficult decision.
In this article, we try to examine significant factors surrounding national honor societies to provide some support in decision making.
National Honor Society (NHS)
The National Honor Society (NHS) is a group in many schools that emphasizes the commitment to the values of scholarship, service, leadership, and character.
The NHS has been around since 1921 and has chapters in all fifty states, US territories, Canada ,and around the world.
Some famous alumni of NHS are President Gerald Ford, ABC anchor David Muir, and comedian Tina Fey.
Students who are interested should know that membership is based on their fulfillment of four requirements: scholarship, leadership, service, and character.
Those members of the sophomore, junior, and senior class who meet all four requirements must also complete an application documenting their service/activity hours.
Once the Faculty Council evaluates the requirements for each eligible candidate, they will then decide who will be admitted to the National Honor Society.
There is no fee to become a member of the NHS.
National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS)
Founded in 2002, NSHSS provides support for young academics on their journey to college.
With a one- time fee of $75, lifetime membership provides young scholars with an array of resources that encourage smooth transitions from high school to college and beyond.
NSHSS vs. NHS: What Factors to Compare?
As soon as the college application process begins, your child’s inbox is flooded every day with hundreds of offers to help make the process easier and improve their chances of admission.
The area of study and if your child is potentially a college athlete, will also determine the content of these emails.
Trying to determine which offers are from legitimate and credible sources can be challenging.
The bulk of emails tend to be from the admissions department of colleges but woven in there are sometimes offers of all sorts, including honor societies.
There are certain things to look out for when assessing all of the offers:
Age of organization
Pay attention to the founding date. The longer that organizations have been in existence is usually a good indicator. Older societies tend to be battle tested and have gone through the wringer.
A credible and proper functioning honor society takes time to build. Over time they also build their reputation, whether positive or negative, as more persons will have used their services and provided testimonials.
Over time also, you will be able to examine the impact alumni made in society and the potential of these connections.
Impact of alumni
Notable alumni are another indication of not just credibility but prestige. If the alumni are totally unknown, dig further.
Seeing what the alumni have gone on to do and their impact in their communities is important.
This speaks to how much the society helps shape its members and the potential networking opportunities.
Unfortunately, impact of alumni directly correlates with the age of the honor society.
Therefore, this factor by itself should not be viewed as a negative.
The alumni of younger honor societies would not have had as much time to make an impact.
Qualifications for entry
Honor societies are an exclusive group with rigorous entry requirements. This is deliberate. By making the standards of entry so high and strict ensure that the students with the very best academic qualifications and commitment to service are admitted.
Pay keen attention to the qualifications for admission. If there are many means of qualifying, then the society is not as exclusive as it claims.
This is not about discrimination.
Honor societies are deliberately set up to attract the best academic profiles, thereby denoting excellence to prospective colleges. An entry fee by itself may not be a red flag, but some colleges may infer that your honor designation was “bought.
The ideal college applicant resume
The profile of a college applicant is very important.
Parents wonder all the time what is an unspoken requirement for a college profile and which organization, if any, is needed.
The ideal college applicant resume should include high school information like graduation date, GPA, class rank, SAT/ACT scores, academic awards and achievements, college courses or specialized workshops, extracurriculars and community service, work experience, and any special skills like fluency in a foreign language.
When compiling the college applicant resume, encourage your child to be concise.
No fluff is necessary. Focus on depth and length of commitment to activities instead of listing every club they have ever joined.
Provide details of roles they have had in activities.
This gives them the chance to expound on interests that were not included in their admissions essays.
Emphasize the importance of being honest and accurate.
Inconsistencies and dishonesty can result in their entire application being discarded.
Is National Honor Society and NSHSS the Same Thing?
Although NHS and NSHSS both have the term “Honor Society” in their name, there are significant differences between the two organizations.
The National Honor Society was established in 1921 by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. It is made up of students who have done exceptional well academically, while also contributing to their community.
Open to students in 10th to 12th grade, NHS offers a free membership to students who meet the following criteria (as defined on the NHS website):
- A cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, depending on the school chapter’s specific requirements
- Volunteer contributions made by a student to the school or community, done without compensation.
- Perform leadership functions by contributing ideas, solving problems, and being resourceful
- Demonstrate good character, honesty, respect, and compassion toward others
The NSHSS, on the other hand, is a newer organization, founded in 2002, founded by Claes Nobel, a relative of the man who established the Nobel Prize, and James Lewis, who started the Golden Key International Honour Society.
According to the group’s website, NSHSS connects its members with scholarship opportunities, internships, career connections, partner discounts, and more.
NSHSS makes it clear their membership is based on the individual student, not the school. Because it is an individual membership, their benefits extend after high school graduation, into college and beyond.
The NSHSS is not a free organization and charges students $75 for a lifetime membership. To qualify, high school students must meet one of the following criteria:
- 3.5 Cumulative GPA (4.0 Scale) or higher (or equivalent such as 88 on a 100-point scale)
- 1150 PSAT score or higher
- 1280 SAT score or higher
- 26 ACT score or higher
- Score 4 or higher on any AP exam
- Total combined IB test scores of 36 or higher
- Top 10% rank in class
Parents’ Comments: Is the NSHSS Legit or Not?
When we asked the members of our Paying For College 101 Facebook group to share their thoughts with us on the topic of honor societies, the majority of them stated they were skeptical of any organization that charged someone a membership fee.
Overwhelming consensus by parents was that joining NSHSS would not give a student any advantage in college admissions, though parents felt that membership in NHS was a more respectful honor.
“My D(aughter) did join (NHS) and no, not everyone in her school was invited. In fact, several others students who had 4.0 GPA were not sent an invitation. She is proud to be a part of this. It may not be for everyone, and that’s OK. she was able to add to college resume and now to grad school applications.” Julie
“I researched it (NSHSS) and it is not recognized by universities, as well the scholarships can be found via free online resources.” Melanie
“The official National Honor Society was done through our school not the mail. Certain qualifications to meet.” Kerry
“My daughter joined (NSHSS) but they always want money for something.” Jessie
Being invited to join an honor society is a privilege and means your student has met their qualifications.
It is an acknowledgement of your child’s academic excellence and community involvement. It also potentially provides a vehicle to encourage continued excellence and an environment to associate with common minds.
Deciding which invitation to accept should be done carefully, weighing all the necessary factors, especially for those societies requesting a membership fee.
Whether your student decides to join or not, your child has done well and is one step closer to college.
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