How to Identify a legitimate honor society

If you’re in college and did exceptionally well this semester, you probably got invited to an honor society. You’re probably wondering  whether you should join.

I know you have these questions, because I hear them often. I work for The National Society of Collegiate Scholars, an honor society inviting high-achieving freshmen and sophomores at 233 universities across the US. We’re sometimes asked how to identify a legitimate honor society– after all, there are lots of groups out there that are happy to take your money and give you nothing in return.

That’s why we decided to compile a list that will educate college students and their families.

Most of this information is compiled from the Association of Honor Societies (ACHS) an accrediting agency for honor societies.

1. Check if the honor society is listed on the ACHS Web site: The Association of College Honor Societies’ serves to accredit honor societies. Only groups that have been around for at least 10 years and meet a set of rigorous standards are allowed to join. If an honor society is listed on this page, it is absolutely legitimate.

2. If an honor society does NOT have ACHS accreditation, it could still be legitimate. Here are some guidelines that ACHS has created to help you evaluate the organization. Summary below:

  • Minimum Scholastic criteria of a 3.2 or 3.3 GPA and rank in the upper 20 percent of the class.
  • Members’ participation in setting authority for control of the affairs of the organization.
  • Governance by officers/board members elected by the membership.
  • Membership participation in approving and amending bylaws.
  • Full financial disclosure.
  • Campus Chapters and formal chartering of each campus chapter by institution and college/department petition, approved by official action of the governing body of the national organization.
  • Candidate selection by the campus chapter; membership invitation by an official chapter and chapter representation in national governance.
  • Web Site has a fully accessible list of:
    • – national officers and headquarters staff
    • – mailing address and contact information
    • – criteria and benefits of membership
    • -membership fee
    • – bylaws
    • -chapter charter policy.
  • Suspicious items on Web site: Address limited to Post Office Number; contact information missing; Online application (certified honor societies issue invitations to all qualified candidates from institutional chapters), vague and flexible eligibility standards.

3. Pay careful attention to the name: For example, our name, The National Society of Collegiate Scholars, sounds a lot like The National Scholars Honor Society. However, the two organizations are completely separate. Different organizations that have similar names have different standards of acceptance and offer different benefits.


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