Emails alerting students of their induction to honor societies regularly flood their inboxes, demanding dues and pressuring students to jump at the “exclusive” opportunity.
There is one honor society exclusive to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Innocents Society, while many others are a national organization with a local chapter at UNL, according to Veronica Riepe, the director of student leadership, involvement, and community engagement.
The Association of College Honor Societies, which includes organizations such as the National Panhellenic Conference and Mortar Board, is an organization that certifies college honor societies and holds those certified to “the standards of honor society excellence,” according to its website.
The National Society of Leadership and Success, an organization that commonly recruits students via email and mailed letters, is not listed as a member.
Riepe said that a common practice of honor societies is to recruit students with specific academic disciplines or achievements, whereas the NSLS targets students of any academic discipline and at any time in their academic career, which she said makes them an outlier.
“They’re a very unique model and it’s a little bit, quite honestly, it’s a little bit confusing,” Riepe said.
Jacob Schlange, assistant director of experiential learning and global initiatives for the University Honors Program, said that while coaching students on which honor society to join, he often asks them to consider if the group has a clear and active presence on campus.
“So we want students to look and see, ‘does the group that’s approaching you have an engaged group of students already on the campus?’” Schlange said. “If not, or if they can’t find any information about that, that tends to be a red flag.”
The NSLS requires a one-time membership fee of $95, according to its website. Schlange said that although a group asking for dues isn’t always worrisome, students should consider if they are making an investment that will benefit them.
Another important factor to consider, according to Schlange, is whether or not a student has to apply to join an honor society. He said the societies that “cast a very broad net” might be worth reconsidering.
“Typically, a group that requires an application or has some very clear criteria for membership is going to be a group that is a little more selective and that is often an indicator that it’s a group that’s going to be worthwhile,” Schlange said.
Although finding the right society to join can be difficult amid the threat of scams, honor societies can be very beneficial to a student’s academic career, according to Riepe.
“As a whole, I would tell you honor societies are really great things. They’re other student organizations for students to get involved in. They show academic success level and achievement,” Riepe said. “They allow you to interact with other students that have a similar interest.”
According to Schlange’s advice, students should consider joining honor societies that offer them valuable experiences, while still remaining cautious.
“I think the ones that allow students to get involved and make connections with other students on campus can be really enriching,” Schlange said. “I would just caution students to think critically before making a decision about whether or not to join.”