What is your definition of college success?
For some students, it’s walking at graduation with a long, shiny tangle of cords at their neck. For others, it’s a wealth of photos featuring happy memories with friends. For quite a few students, however, the key to a successful college education is simply leaving without too much crippling debt.
What if you could complete your college career with all three of those things? It’s possible when you become a member of a collegiate honor society. These organizations provide opportunities to celebrate academic success, make like-minded friends, and earn some serious scholarship money!
If you’re a strong student, you may already have a GPA that’s high enough to get you into one or more campus honor societies right now! If you’re on the fence, keep reading to learn about the benefits of joining an honor society in college. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of college honor societies, as well as some of the best honor societies for college students today!
Who Can Join an Honor Society?
You probably heard about honor societies for the first time while you were in high school. Many of our nation’s honor societies cater to multiple populations. Some may have both high school and college iterations, while others may be open to undergrad and graduate students.
The factor that high school and collegiate honor societies have in common is exclusivity. Each society (and, sometimes, each chapter) gets to develop requirements for membership. If you meet the specific requirements, you have an excellent chance of becoming part of the organization.
In a general academic honor society, the most common metric for entry is your GPA. As their name suggests, honor societies tend to accept the best of the best. You will have to be a student of distinction, either overall or within a certain field of study.
In the college setting, some honor societies are subject or major-specific. These organizations will only accept students who are pursuing a designated major course of study. For example, beta gamma sigma requires that students be pursuing a degree in business studies.
In some cases, you may be eligible to join if you are pursuing a minor in a specific area of study. This will vary from organization to organization, so a little bit of research will help.
Ideally, there will be a chapter of your honor society of choice hosted on your campus. If not, certain societies offer membership in a national chapter. While there are fewer opportunities to be active in a national chapter, that is often enough to help you reap the perks of membership.
How Do You Apply to Join?
If you meet the basic requirements for membership then congratulations! You’re on your way! Different organizations have different membership procedures, but most of them require some paperwork.
You will most likely have to acquire and submit copies of your most up-to-date transcripts to demonstrate that you meet the most basic requirements. If you visit your school’s registrar’s office, they should be able to print you an unofficial copy.
Some honor societies do require you to write one or more essays along with your application. They will probably provide you with a prompt to respond to. This response should demonstrate your ability to communicate in writing, as well as express your interest in the society’s goals or mission.
It is not uncommon for honor societies to require you to demonstrate good citizenship. You may have to prove that you have a clean disciplinary record. If you have any demerits or marks on your record, they might ask you to explain those in writing.
Often, you will have to provide character references, either from someone on campus or another professional setting. Sometimes this is a signed document, but they will occasionally request a full letter of reference. You should ask your favorite professors or other faculty members, and make sure to thank them in some way!
Once your submission packet is complete, all that’s left to do is wait for a decision. If they select you for membership, you will most likely receive an invitation to an induction ceremony. There may be dues or fees involved, but once you complete induction, you’re in!
The Social Benefits of Membership
College can be a challenging time for a lot of reasons. One of the biggest is that you’re often leaving lifelong friends behind. You have to start over, often on a large, populous campus, which can feel overwhelming.
As a small fish in a big pond, you simply have to hope that you’ll make friends in your dormitory or classes. As a big fish in a small pond, however, you’re far more likely to find “your people” and form bonds for life. A collegiate honor society is definitely a small pond!
You can expect that the other members of the organization will have a lot in common with you! On the most basic level, they will be high-achieving students who value their education. In more specific organizations, they may also share your major or area of academic interest.
Many honor societies function like any campus club. They will have general meetings where you can meet new friends and chat. When you run into other members in classes or lectures, you’ll feel more comfortable because you’ll know someone there.
Some honor societies are service-based, and even academic honor societies often include service in their mission. There will be an opportunity to get involved with projects and bond over shared experiences out in the field. It’s easy to become friends with people who serve alongside you, whether you’re preparing food in a soup kitchen or working in a school tutoring center!
You won’t only be meeting other students, however. Honor societies allow you direct access to dedicated mentors in your field. You will become acquainted with the advisor, as well as many of the professors who teach your discipline of interest.
It is common for honor societies to offer a lifetime membership. You may be able to connect with successful members of your future field through shared society affiliation. They may not be “traditional” celebrities, but researchers, published authors, and more are eager to connect with new members!
The Academic Benefits of Membership
Foremost, membership in an academic honor society means that you are excelling academically, either generally or in your field. Honor societies almost always have a GPA requirement, so your inclusion implies that you are one of the top students in your program, if not your college. You can include your affiliation on resumes, in cover letters, and while applying for jobs and internships.
In content-specific honor societies, you may receive an invitation to attend an annual or bi-annual conference or academic event. You will gain access to presentations and seminars given by experts in your field. This is an incredible opportunity to network with professionals and members of other chapters.
Many honor societies offer lectures or presentations throughout the year. These might even take place in a virtual format so that you can attend from anywhere. You can include any certificates of attendance in your professional portfolios and share them during job interviews in the future.
The best collegiate honor societies might even provide you with an opportunity to submit something to the conference! Many societies have essay or research contests and allow winners the opportunity to show off their work. The prize may be a presentation, inclusion in a round table, or even publication!
These honors are very impressive to graduate admissions boards. Most applicants will not be able to boast publication or conference presentations before graduate school. The connections you make as a member of your honor society will help you stand out!
The Financial Benefits of Membership
One of the best benefits of membership in a collegiate honor society is the scholarships and grants! Almost every honor society offers annual scholarships to eligible members. You can use these funds toward current tuition, graduate school, or expenses like textbooks or conference attendance.
To become eligible for a scholarship, you might have to write one or more essays. In some cases, you may only be eligible if the head of your chapter submits your name and a letter of commendation on your behalf. The decisions are often made at the national level by a board of directors.
Sometimes your inclusion in an honor society can help you win scholarships from other organizations. Referencing prestigious organizations in your application materials can help you stand out. You will be able to list your academic research, participation in service initiatives, and more.
These distinctions are often enough to make acceptance into graduate-level programs of study easy. You will be able to effortlessly display your dedication to your chosen field. Many members of the admissions committee for your program may even be past members!
Inclusion in collegiate honor societies has earned many students scholarships and financial aid upon applying for further study.
What Kinds of Honor Societies Can I Join?
The honor societies with chapters at your college or university will most likely appear in the school’s viewbook, or on their website. They may offer a “club fair” that will allow you to meet representatives from each honor society on campus. Larger campuses are more likely to host a wide variety of societies, while smaller colleges may only offer a few.
You might not even have to seek these organizations out yourself. It isn’t unusual for societies to reach out to students who meet their requirements and invite them to apply.
If you are on a campus with few options, however, you may wish to look into national chapters. Here are a few of the top academic honor societies in the country.
Phi Beta Kappa
Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest academic honor society in America, as well as one of the most prestigious. They only accept between 30 and 70 members each year, so competition is stiff! If they accept you as a member, you will be joining presidents, Nobel laureates, and supreme court justices!
Phi Kappa Phi
Phi Kappa Phi accepts students who fall into the top 7.5% of their class during their second semester. They have a reputation for being generous with grants and awards for members. They emphasize literacy and the arts.
Omicron Delta Kappa
Omicron Delta Kappa is a national honor society for leadership. If your focus is on service, this is the organization for you. You will gain access to resources to help you continue to grow as a leader in your community.
Alpha Lambda Delta
If you’re a new college student, you can join your first honor society right out of the gate! Alpha Lambda Delta specifically honors students who have demonstrated academic excellence during their first year in college. This is a great first honor society for students looking to do great things as they progress through their academic program.
If you join Golden Key, you’ll be in very good company – it’s the largest honor society in the world! They not only value academics but place a large emphasis on leadership and service. Their large member base means they can offer generous scholarships to their most distinguished student members.
Joining a Collegiate Honor Society Is the Smartest Choice
High-achieving students have nothing to lose when they choose to join a collegiate honor society! You might join up to make friends, and graduate as a published scholarship recipient with a free ride to grad school! America’s incredible honor societies have put so many students on the path toward success, and you could be the next!
Hey, scholar! Now that you’ve successfully read this article, why not stick around for further enrichment opportunities? Check out the rest of the blog for more posts that will keep you on your toes!