Students and families are generally excited when they receive an offer to join the National Honor Society (NHS) as well as the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS). After all, what teen doesn’t like a bit of flattery and positive attention? However, it’s a good idea to pause for a moment and investigate these two organizations prior to signing up. With that in mind, College Transitions will provide a thorough response to the question—Should I join NSHSS or NHS?

What is the National Honor Society (NHS)?

The National Honor Society (NHS) was founded in the 1920s by a high school principal in Pittsburgh, PA. Within a decade, it had already spread nationally to more than 1,000 high schools. Today, NHS chapters are ubiquitous and exist in all 50 U.S. states, Canada, Puerto Rico, and many U.S. territories. Membership is free.

What is the National Society of High School Scholars?

The National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) launched roughly 80 years after NHS, in 2002. Despite its relatively recent formation, the organization has already inducted more than 2 million members from over 170 countries around the globe. Students from over 26,000 high schools have joined NSHSS. Unlike with the NHS, membership is on an individual basis rather than through local high school chapters. There is a membership fee of $75 to join.

What is the NHS acceptance criteria?

Acceptance into NHS involves meeting a set of criteria set by your local chapter at your high school. However, the criteria set by your high school must align to some extent with the national eligibility requirements. At the national level, NHS requires a minimum of:

  • A 3.0 GPA (on a 4.0 scale)
  • Some level of community service done without compensation.
  • Demonstrated leadership ability (defined by local chapter).
  • Demonstrated character (as defined locally), but usually involving a clean disciplinary record, honesty, and courtesy.

What is the NSHSS acceptance criteria?

The criteria to receive an offer from the NSHSS is wide-ranging. A skeptic might view these many avenues to acceptance as tied to collecting as many $75 membership fees as possible. Students are invited if they meet one of the following criteria:

  • 1280 SAT or 1150 PSAT score
  • 3.5 cumulative GPA
  • 26 ACT score
  • A “4” on any AP exam
  • A rank in the top 10% of their class
  • Total IB score of 36 or higher
  • IGCSE Grade A or higher

Is the National Honor Society worth joining?

Our short answer to this question is—yes. Becoming a member of your high school’s NHS chapter allows you access meaningful volunteer opportunities in your school/wider community. Best of all, membership in NHS is free. However, membership in NHS is not the enormous boost to one’s college admissions prospects that many believe it to be. Meer membership in NHS doesn’t tell a college admissions officer much they don’t already know. After all, your application already reveals your high GPA. Volunteer work, whether done through NHS or independently, will be evaluated the same way.

Is the NSHSS worth joining?

In the opinion of the College Transitions team, NSHSS is not worth the $75 membership fee. We do not recommend that students ever pay for membership in an honor society. While they do offer many legitimate scholarship avenues to members, we would never even recommend applying to any singular scholarship opportunity that requires an entry fee. The same applies to the multitude of scholarship opportunities through the NSHSS.

The Bottom Line – Should I join NSHSS or NHS?

In sum, in our opinion, no high school honor society should cost money for a student to join. We ultimately do not believe that the NSHSS is a good investment of your money. Further, there is no college admissions-related benefit to joining. We do suggest joining your local NHS chapter, but more for the community service component than any admissions-related edge.

If you are looking to get involved in volunteer work outside of an honor society, visit our Dataverse page featuring: Volunteer Opportunities for High School Students.