As a college student, belonging to an honor society can be a prestigious achievement.
Joining the right one can enhance your resume, unlock scholarship and extracurricular opportunities and give you access to a valuable professional network. However, you should look carefully at an organization before deciding to join. Some organizations claiming to be prestigious honor societies have been called into question by authorities in the scholastic network, and many colleges have issued warnings to students against joining organizations that require steep registration fees and deliver questionable benefits.
The National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) is one well-known organization that students often wonder whether it's legitimate or not. Here’s a closer look at this organization and its legitimacy, as well as some warning signs to look for when determining if an honor society is the real deal.
Founded in 2001, the National Society of Leadership and Success describes itself as a “leadership honor society,” allegedly the largest in the U.S. with 800 chapters and more than one million members nationally.
An organization that "helps people discover and achieve their goals," the NSLS states that candidacy is a nationally recognized achievement. Nominations go to college students distinguished for “either academic standing or leadership potential," which translates to a minimum GPA of 3.0, with the option for schools to be more selective, if they choose.
Benefits of membership include lectures on leadership, exclusive scholarship opportunities and events, and discounts with partnered companies on books, computers and test-prep courses. Unlike many honor societies, the NSLS is, in part, a training program for young leaders, requiring a series of steps and leadership courses to complete after registration and before induction. Members must complete orientation, networking meetings, and leadership events, either on-campus or online, to be considered inducted members. In general, students take two to three semesters to get through the induction requirements, which take about 14 hours total, plus an additional six hours of community service.
The NSLS offers leadership conferences and educational courses targeting personal goal work, and some inductees report they have benefited from the leadership resources (sometimes compared to motivational speeches and TED talk-style videos). The organization also offers scholarships, with $350,000 earmarked for 2019-2020. According to its site, $2 of every membership fee goes toward scholarship funds.
But is this organization as prestigious as it claims to be? It depends on what you're looking for as it's tricky to evaluate in quantifiable terms. If you're looking for something to namedrop on your resume or in an interview, it may not have much clout; but it is an avenue for gaining leadership skills and access to scholarships from an accredited organization outside of your college. NSLS works with both two and four-year colleges.
The organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, as well as a certified B-Corp ( a business that "meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose," according to B Lab). NSLS is also an accredited organization from the U.S. Department of Education.
However, if you're doing your research, you'll notice that NLSL isn't certified by the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS). One of the standards of qualifications for honors societies in the U.S. comes from the organization, founded in 1925 to distinguish reputable honor societies from those with less proven benefits. Many credible honor societies are certified with the ACHS, which takes into account an organization's academic standards, such as G.P.A. qualifications and certification of chapters, as well as membership policies and purpose.
That said, unlike NSLS, ACHS is not accredited by the Department of Education so you can take ACHS's certification with a grain of salt.
As mentioned, the NSLS exists to recognize, cultivate and honor young leaders, according to its mission statement. Much of the focus of the NSLS seems to be on forming and certifying students to be effective leaders and go after their goals, while traditional honor societies exist primarily to recognize high achievement and act as a status symbol of extraordinary academic achievement.
Joining an honor society can be what you make it, and joining the NSLS isn't necessarily a move that will hurt you. Once you join, you have lifetime access to membership benefits (though, extra leadership courses do cost extra).
To join the NSLS, you pay a one-time $85 registration fee, which grants you lifetime access to its membership benefits. Most honor societies charge initiation fees, and this price isn't out of line; it costs $80 to join Mortar Board and $95 to join the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, two nonprofit organizations that are accredited under the ACHS.
The difference to look for when joining a society isn't necessarily the price, but the return you're getting on your investment. Do your research and watch for signs of credibility to ensure your time and money pays off!
Haley Riemer is a multimedia writer and performer interested in telling stories that are important to women. She's a recent graduate of Tulane University, and her current hobbies include drinking too much iced coffee and talking about feminist political theory at parties.
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