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How to Join the National Honor Society

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

old school building

Experience Leadership, Community Service, and Teamwork in the National Honor Society

The National Honor Society (NHS) is a high school organization that enhances a student’s skills in leadership, teamwork, and community service. It brings together students who share similar values and encourages them to support their communities.

Being a part of the National Honor Society can give students a window into what juggling classes, clubs, and organizations can be like when it comes time for college. This also allows students to gain experience in a competitive program while maintaining a strong GPA and taking high-level courses, which are all the criteria top applicants reach when applying to school.

Students who are a part of organization maintain a high GPA, at least a 3.0 (schools can higher the GPA), participate in community service, be leaders, and have good character. This article will touch upon what it takes to get into the National Honor Society.

Michigan State University High School Honors Science, Math, and Engineering Summer Programs (HSHSP)

History

The National Association of Secondary School Principals established The National Honor Society in 1921. Local and regional honor societies existed before 1921, there wasn’t a nationwide organization at that time.

Dr. Edward Rynearson, the principal of the Fifth Avenue High School in Pittsburgh, helped the organization grow from the original Alpha Chapter at the Fifth Avenue School to more than 1,000 chapters by 1930. With a constitution, an emblem, a motto, and a group of principals as coordinators, the new  National Honor Society organization quickly grew into one of the country’s leading educational groups.

The centennial anniversary of the National Honor Society was on March 1, 2021.

Along with the National Honor Society, The National Association of Secondary School Principals has established various other honor society programs. Eligible middle school students can be asked to join the National Junior Honors Society, elementary school students can join the National Elementary Honors Society, or students can join the National Student Council.

To find out what famous military, politics, sports, arts, and education personnel were a part of the National Honor Society, visit here.

About the National Honor Society

More than one million students participate in the National Honor Society activities. NHS chapters are in all 50 states, US Territories, Canada, and around the world. Being a member of a chapter sets you apart as part of an elite group at your school and involves actively contributing to your community through community service and volunteer activities.

Students from grades ten to twelve are eligible to be asked to join the National Honor Society. Each chapter at every school has to publish its qualifications for membership, which is based on the four pillars of NHS.

The Four Pillars of NHS
Scholarship In accordance with national guidelines, students must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 85, B, 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. (Each school chapter can require a higher cumulative GPA.)
Service Voluntary contributions and efforts made by a student, whether to the school system or community, volunteer means without compensation.
Leadership Student leaders display that they are resourceful, they solve problems and they have a strong initiative. Students can have leadership experiences in school or community organizations.
Character A student with good character is a team player, is honest and reliable, has courtesy, concern, and respect for others; and has a clean disciplinary record.

Once you meet the scholarship requirement of your school/chapter, you will have an opportunity to complete an application that speaks upon your accomplishments in the other pillars: commitment to service, leadership, and character.

lady in green sweater looking outside with laptop and mug

Service

The National Honor Society chapters and students put an emphasis on student achievement, and also community engagement. It’s important that members of the NHS give back, not for necessary volunteer hours or for a stipend, but for the true desire to assist their communities.

National Honor Society students volunteer in their communities at high rates. The average chapter contributes:

  • 1,000 hours of school/community service
  • $26,000 in charitable donations
  • 1,000 pounds of food to local, state, and national causes
  • 100 pints of blood

Scholarship

Scholarship is key for both entering and staying in the National Honor Society (NHS), where maintaining a strong GPA is essential. As a member, you must continue prioritizing your education and keep your academic standards high. This dedication supports your personal growth and sets a positive example for younger students.

Being a part of the NHS also grants you access to exclusive scholarship opportunities. These scholarships, backed by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), aim to honor outstanding NHS members. Each year, the NHS awards about 600 scholarships that total up to $2 million, celebrating students who stand out for their academic and leadership achievements.

National Honor Society Scholarship Amount
1 National Winner $25,000
24 National Finalists $5,625
575 National Semifinalists $3,200

Leadership

The National Honor Society is a chapter, therefore there are various leadership positions within each chapter, based on individual chapters. Different chapters have an executive board, group leaders, and more, which is a great way to learn about being a leader, figure out your direction, and stretch yourself.

The NHS also offers exclusive opportunities for members to develop their leadership proficiency through conferences, leadership events, and summits.

NHS Opportunities Description
Leadership Experience and Development (LEAD) Conferences Weekend meetings to encourage peer-to-peer networking and leadership training.
National Student Leadership Week A yearly celebration of student leadership led by the school and chapter.
State Summits  A time that offers opportunities to grow leadership and empower students

Character

Character is the final pillar of the National Honor Society, but it can make or break who you are as a member and as a person. Character is being open to diverse cultures, opinions, and discussions and building relationships that are empathetic. The character also proves who you are as a leader when under pressure, it’s a quality that can make you a great leader, or a not-so-great leader.

There are so many values to good character, and it also might depend on personal values. The NHS believes perseverance, respect, integrity, honesty, and sacrifice all work together to build good character. It’s especially important in a school setting to be hard working, respectful of peers and teachers, and to be honest, being upperclassmen in the NHS means students are looking up to you, which means NHS members must have good character.

How Can I Join the National Honor Society?

This might be a good chance for a Pre High School Consultation. Various middle schools offer the National Junior Honor Society, but that doesn’t guarantee you a spot in the National Honor Society come to high school.

Students in grades ten through twelve who meet the scholarship requirements for membership outlined by their school’s chapter are eligible to be invited for membership. If you reach the GPA minimum to be asked to join, you will be asked to fill out a form/application regarding your experience in the other three pillars of the NHS, service, leadership, and character. Make sure that you have enough community service experience.

A student presents a poster during the Texas Clark Scholars Program.

In order to be involved in the National Honor Society, it’s important to know you’re making a commitment. Each chapter has meetings, volunteer hours, events, and more, Each chapter has its own bylaws that outline meeting schedules, attendance policies, and more. Use the Chapter Finder to discover your Chapter, and ask the National Honor Society advisor at your school any questions about attendance, time, and more.

Projects

Each NHS chapter must hold community service projects that help the community or help their school. Each chapter has different requirements, but events can vary from tutoring younger students to having a park cleanup to hosting lock-ins to raise money. Here are some examples of projects from NHS chapters across the country:

Students can also come up with their own community service activities that utilize their chapter’s skills, a specific cause, etc. Learn more about creating your own project here. Not only is creating your own project with your chapter a fun creative venture, but it also proves to college admissions counselors that you’ve taken advantage of your leadership opportunities.

Resources

When you are inducted into the National Honor Society, you join an elite educational group that allows you to work with peers and provides you with resources you can’t receive anywhere else.

The National Honor Society is so large, with chapters all over, the best resource is online. Although there are various leadership conferences, as mentioned above, their webinars and Future Ready program allow students from chapters all over to utilize important resources that are specific to NHS members.

The National Honor Society is providing a College Planning Webinar Series that is exclusive to NHS members and their guardians. This is to assist in any college planning needs students have, as well as students can ask questions via the NHS X (formerly known as Twitter) and Facebook.

Some examples of Webinars include:

If you miss the webinar, no worries, the NHS provides notes once the live webinar has ended.

Another really helpful resource is the National Honor Society’s #FutureReady visual self-guided plan. The NHS wants to help students who are starting high school, in high school, and about to leave high school, they provide helpful aid, a worksheet, and a video on various topics, while also using the hashtag  #FutureReady on social media to spread more tips. This program is open to all, there is no need for a National Honor Society login, check it out here.

Here are the various topics NHS provides aid for:

  • Persuasive Speaking
  • Public Speaking
  • Goal Setting
  • Mastering Interviews (AdmissionSight also helps with Interviews if you need one-on-one coaching)
  • Time Management
  • Self Management
  • Exploring Careers
  • Fundraising
  • Building a Business
  • Finding your Purpose (Finding your purpose is very similar to the Personal Statement, which is a really important part of the college application. It might be helpful to view these resources together)
  • Storytelling

It’s never too early to start preparing for your future, the earlier you begin the preparation, the better!

Students Humanitarian Aid

Final Thoughts

Being a part of an educational society such as the National Honor Society sets you apart when it comes to college admissions and gives you a leg up for other competitions, access to other summer programs, and more. It’s really important to explore your interests and use your high school time wisely, you only have four years! To learn more about the National Honor Society, start a chapter in your own school, or plan your community service project, visit them here.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the core values of the National Honor Society?

The National Honor Society (NHS) is founded on four pillars: scholarship, service, leadership, and character. These values guide the actions and standards for NHS members and the organization as a whole.

2. What are the requirements for joining the National Honor Society?

Students wishing to join NHS must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher, although individual chapters may require a higher GPA. Additionally, candidates must demonstrate a commitment to community service, possess leadership qualities, and uphold strong moral character.

3. How does involvement in the National Honor Society benefit students?

Membership in NHS offers students numerous benefits, including leadership development opportunities, community service experiences, and potential scholarship awards. It also enhances college applications by showcasing a student’s commitment to academic excellence and community engagement.

4. What types of activities do National Honor Society chapters typically engage in?

NHS chapters are actively involved in various community service projects such as organizing school events, conducting charity fundraisers, and participating in volunteer initiatives. These activities are designed to benefit the community and help members develop their leadership and teamwork skills.

5. How can students apply for NHS scholarships, and what are the award amounts?

NHS members are eligible to apply for exclusive scholarships supported by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Awards range from $3,200 for National Semifinalists to $25,000 for the National Winner. Members must apply through their chapters and meet specific criteria to be considered for these scholarships.

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