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Are there any legitimate honor societies?

lkf725lkf725 Posts: 4,781Registered User Senior Member
edited May 2006 in Parents Forum
My freshman son has been getting several invitations to join honor societies (Phi Eta Sigma, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, National Scholars Honors Society). Are these or any others legitimate? How can you tell? What recognized collegiate honor societies are worth joining?
Post edited by lkf725 on
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Replies to: Are there any legitimate honor societies?

  • tanmantanman Posts: 2,642Registered User Senior Member
    In general, anything that is going to cost you money is not legitimate. The only groups I can think of that are worth joining are groups like National Honor Society (through your high school, probably junior year), Mu Alpha Theta (national math honor society, again through the high school, if they have a chapter) and other honor societies that exist specifically at your school. Maybe other people can think of legitimate outside groups, but off the top of my head, I can't think of any.

    In terms of joining these honor societies, just joining them is not worth much in terms of helping in admissions. You have to join and take initiative - become an officer for the group, help plan events etc.
  • dzleprechaundzleprechaun Posts: 659Registered User Member
    Well, first off I think the discussion here is about college honor societies. NHS, Mu Alpha Theta, etc. are high school.

    It's definitely not true that any society with membership dues/fees isn't legitimate. Phi Betta Kappa, which is rwidely ecognized as the premier college honor society, has some costs associated with it.

    Speaking as someone who interns with the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, we are definitely legit. Each chapter on campus has a list of officials, as well as a faculty sponsor, that is made available to you. If you have any questions, you should contact them or the national office. In any case, the main point of NSCS isn't for it to be one more line on your resume like Mu Alpha Theta, it is meant to be a student-run organization that promotes scholarship and service. You can get as much out of it as you put in.

    Speaking personally, my experience with the National Scholars Honors Society is that it seems pretty phony to me. As a rule of thumb, I would be suspicious of anything not accredited by the Association of College Honor Societies (www.achsnatl.org).

    If you have any questions about NSCS in particular, feel free to ask.
  • lkf725lkf725 Posts: 4,781Registered User Senior Member
    Yes, I did mean college societies. For one thing, I read that the National Scholars Honors Society doesn't have a specific gpa requirement. Given that it is sort of random based on application, I question the value.

    Also, how important are these organizations? I would think that a student's accomplishments would stand for themselves.
  • hoedownhoedown Posts: 3,751Registered User Senior Member
    Phi Beta Kappa invitations wouldn't come until later in the career, but I mention it because I 100% agree that it would be wrong to characterize it as "not legitimate." Yes, there is a fee associated with joining. It is still a legitimate honor, and at least some people (future employers, graduate schools) look on it as a pretty important one. Others, of course, don't.
  • WealthOfInformationWealthOfInformation Posts: 2,022Registered User Senior Member
    Alpha Lambda Delta (First Year Honors)
    Phi Sigma Pi (Co-Ed National Honor Fraternity)
    Phi Beta Kappa (at Graduation)


    These are generally the most respected.
  • quiltguruquiltguru Posts: 1,476Registered User Senior Member
    Don't forget ODK or Omicron Delta Kappa (senior leadership honor society). In addition there are many major or field specific legitimate honor societies (e.g., for superlative education majors, music majors, etc).
  • momofthreemomofthree Posts: 1,486Registered User Senior Member
    Phi Beta Kappa actually can be a junior year honor in college, but grades must be really extraordinary. Then most chapters induct in the middle of the senior year, with a final selection at graduation.
  • TheAnalystTheAnalyst Posts: 2,814Registered User Senior Member
    When I got inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in college, I don't remember any meetings or activity beyond the induction ceremony where you get a little key. I also don't remember the dues part which may be why I didn't get any follow through materials (or they didn't have my address after I graduated).

    As for using the honor society as a resume booster, recent college grads today (at least in finance) routinely put their GPA right on the resume, regardless of how good or bad it is. They also mention volunteer work and community service, so to some extent the honor society membership is redundant. I think involvement in these types of organizations therefore depends on the personality and interests of the individual. Is the person a joiner or a loner? I would advise your son to only participate in groups that give him personal satisfaction, not as a means of future career advancement.
  • jdasmomjdasmom Posts: 122Registered User Junior Member
    I was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa just before I graduated from Smith in 1980. There was an induction ceremony where we received a certificate of membership to the Phi Beta Kappa chapter Smith belonged to. I cannot recall whether I received the key at the induction ceremony or if we had to order it. It does have my name engraved on it however (I still have it all these years later.) I have never paid them any dues but Phi Beta Kappa sends me a regular newsletter and occasional donation requests. At least at Smith, it seems one had to be in the top 10% of one's class to be elected. I am unaware of other criteria. I merely received a letter right before graduation stating I had been elected.

    For myself, I know I mentioned Phi Beta Kappa on my resume when I was just out of school. It is not on the current version of my resume as my professional designations, job experience etc are more relevant now. My brother was Phi Beta Kappa at Dartmouth and he still has it on his resume as he is a university professor and it is probably more relevant to an academic career such as his. So, I guess it is up to the individual to decide whether to mention it or not.
  • HImomHImom Posts: 18,056Registered User Senior Member
    I joined Phi Eta Sigma & Alpha Lambda Delta as a freshman. Neither had much cost & both had some great social activities to help us bond with other high-achieving students at our huge state U. Those wree the only friends I made there & would have continued participating except I transferred to an OOS U because I hadn't realized there were any groups where I could meet good friends at in-state U.
    In fact, the experience was so positive, I got the OOS U I transferred to to revive their chapters of Phi Eta Sigma & Alpha Lambda Delta.

    Phi Beta Kappa is also highly respected--I became a member as a senior. Don't really know whether it's on my resume or not at this point, decades out of school. (Probably carries more weight in academic circles than in the legal community.)

    I believe there are other honor societies, sometimes broken down by fields/majors. (E.g., for law school, it would be being on law review and winning national recognition on the Moot Court team.) I agree that if there are substantial funds involved in getting in, I would be highly skeptical. Also, if you don't do anything at all & are just invited & also sent an order form to buy their book, I would balk.
  • aloealoe Posts: 307Registered User Member
    Yes, I actually do have a question about NSCS. I'm a sophomore in college now, and my parents pretty much signed me up for it, then paid the dues. I'm heavily involved in other activities, so I haven't had time to think about NSCS much. Is it worth it to get involved, since I have so many other activities?
  • dzleprechaundzleprechaun Posts: 659Registered User Member
    It sort of depends upon your priorities. Consider the potential benefits of being involved in NSCS, and then compare them with those of your other activities. This will in large part be a product of how active and well-organized your school's chapter is, so you will want to determine that first.

    If you decide that being a particularly active member of your chapter isn't right for you, I would still suggest making use of the opportunities afforded nationally to all members. When you buy books online, go through the NSCS website and you'll get free shipping and 5% off through Barnes and Noble. Take a look at some of the scholarships and programs being offered and see if any of those interest you.
  • mikemacmikemac Posts: 7,205Registered User Senior Member
    When I got inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in college, I don't remember any meetings or activity beyond the induction ceremony where you get a little key. I also don't remember the dues part which may be why I didn't get any follow through materials (or they didn't have my address after I graduated).
    There are associations in many larger cities thru the country; see http://www.pbk.org/ to find one near you. Typically they sponsor events in the area; there is a small annual due to join (around $25). Note the associations are regional and open to members initiated at any school with PBK, which is different from the campus-based chapters. And if you join you also get the national newsletter a few times a year.
  • HImomHImom Posts: 18,056Registered User Senior Member
    Actually with PBK, you get the national newsletter whether you join or not. I was inducted in the 70s & have never paid an annual dues & periodically get the national newsletter anyway. It's one of the better-known & I believe more prestigous national honor societies.
  • BigredmedBigredmed Posts: 3,676Registered User Senior Member
    One that I noticed not on here is MortarBoard.

    I also find it interesting how the "prestige" of certain groups can vary from region to region. I was inducted in ODK my junior year, wasn't particularly involved in it, and due to being a newer circle, very few people in Nebraska have an idea of how big it is in other places.

    Phi Sigma Pi at my school was just starting and were taking anyone with a 3.3 GPA.

    I also like hearing about how many universities have their own honorary groups, ones that are really prestigious and a big deal on those campuses (like the Innocents Society at Nebraska, Heart and Dagger at CU-Boulder, or QEHB at Mizzou). Outside of those areas (and even within them) most people have no idea how much work is involved in getting selected for one of these organizations. The Innocents Society only selects 13 members of the junior class for membership.
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