What are Honor Societies?
An honor society is a ranked organization that recognizes students’ academic and professional achievements. There are also numerous societies that are aimed towards specific fields or backgrounds. These organizations also serve as networks for members and alumni, opening up countless opportunities for these groups of motivated individuals who share similar goals and interests. Being part of a community of other exceptional students can also help students stay motivated and inspired to work harder throughout high school, college, and beyond.
In addition, students will also receive unique and valuable opportunities while active in an honor society, like workshops for leadership skills, community service, and future planning. All of these elements are a significant boost for college applications. College admission officers look for academically excellent and highly motivated students, especially those who actively take part in extracurricular activities and constantly put in efforts to advance and improve themselves. In addition to highlighting your past achievements and participation in constructive opportunities, having an honor society on your college application also clearly indicates to the admissions officer that you are invested in your community and personal growth. Honor society members may also be given opportunities to apply for particular college and study abroad scholarships, or even sometimes gain access to discounts on specific products and services. Therefore, participation in an honor society is highly beneficial to your academic and professional endeavors.
The List of Honor Societies
1. National Honor Society
The National Association of Secondary School Principals founded the National Honor Society in 1921. National Honor Society chapters are found in all 50 states, US Territories, Canada, and around the world– with more than 1 million students participating in NHS activities annually. Students must be in grades 10-12 and meet all the requirements noted by your school’s chapter to apply for membership. The NHS offers support in college planning, financial aid planning, and specialized scholarships. They also provide unique opportunities for personal and professional development. A fun fact about the National Honor Society is that many well-known public figures and celebrities are alumni, such as Carrie Underwood, “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, and even former US President Gerald Ford.
2. National Junior Honor Society
The National Junior Honor Society is a part of the National Honor Society but focuses on middle-level grades. The National Junior Honor Society was founded eight years after the National Honor Society. The National Junior Honor Society focuses on cultivating five pillars in its young members—Everyday Scholarship, Service, Leadership, Character, and Citizenship—which are encouraged and shared between students, schools, communities, and families.
Students in grades 6-9 who meet the requirements outlined by the NJHS are invited to become members. The criteria are based on the 5 pillars discussed above. For more information about the requirements, click on this link to be directed to the National Junior Honor Society website.
3. National Society of High School Scholars
The National Society of High School Scholars (NSHHS) was founded in 2002 by the great-nephew of Alfred Nobel. The NSHHS boasts its membership of more than 1.7 million young scholars across 170+ countries worldwide. This honor society was created to recognize academic excellence and honor the highest-achieving high school students, providing them with resources to network to excel in college, their future career, and community. They offer various leadership programs, scholarship opportunities, and college support for high school students. Qualified members belong to any of these categories: 3.5 Cumulative GPA (4.0 Scale) or higher (or equivalent such as 88 on a 100-point scale), 1280+ SAT, 1150+ PSAT, 26+ ACT, 4+ AP, 36+ IB, A+ IGCSE, or top 10% rank in their class. Students must be nominated to apply for membership.
It is also important to note that membership in the NSHSS is on an individual basis, and is not chartered through schools like the National Honor Society. The benefits of these individual memberships are that they stay with students regardless of their school and location, and membership is guaranteed for the entirety of the student’s lifetime rather than being dependent on annual performance.
4. National Association of African American Honors Program (NAAHP)
The NAAHP was founded in 1990 by Honors directors from approximately 20 historically and predominantly Black Colleges and Universities to honor and recognize the achievements of African-American students. Since its foundation, this honor society has promoted challenging curriculums, community service, and various competitions to foster a more inclusive environment of community, provide more opportunities for and acknowledgement of high achievement for members of these groups, and promote a greater awareness of and appreciation for African American culture and history. Some examples of competitions that they have impacted are the Academic Quiz Bowl, an “Honors Got Talent” competition, the entire system of competitive college-level debate competitions, the Model UN program, and more.
5. Mu Alpha Theta
Mu Alpha Theta is a National High School and Two-Year College Mathematics Honor Society. This honor society was formed in 1957 at the University of Oklahoma, and it is dedicated to providing support for math students and promoting the subject of mathematics. More than 100,000 students are members of Mu Alpha Theta at over 2,420 schools in the United States and 23 other countries.
To become a member, you must be a high school student in grades 9 to 12, have completed two years of college preparatory mathematics, and either be enrolled in or have completed the third year of college preparatory mathematics. Furthermore, you must have at least a 3.0 GPA.
6. Société Honoraire de Français (French National Honor Society)
The SHF is a chapter affiliated with the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF), which was incorporated in 1936 and promotes French education at all levels. The AATF currently has 70 active chapters across the US, divided into nine regions. The SHF chapter invites students who have a solid academic background and demonstrate commitment to French language and culture. This organization promotes the study of French through annual writing contests, travel grants, and leadership opportunities.
To be considered an active participant, a student must achieve at least 5 points in each semester through activities related to their language of study (for example: tutoring for French, being a teacher’s assistant for a French class, attending a camp focused on the French language), make 90 cumulative points from all of their studies in French, and register for an advanced level course.
To be a part of this honor society, qualified candidates must be in 10th-12th grade in high school, and currently enrolled in their fourth semester of French or higher (i.e., the second semester of Level II or equivalent) with a minimum score of A- or higher in French and B- or higher in all other subjects. Students in 9th grade may be eligible if they meet the second requirement.
7. The Tri-M Music Honor Society
The Tri-M Music Honor Society, formerly known as Modern Music Masters, is exclusively for student musicians in grades 6 through 12. Currently, the society has more than 84,000 students in over 2,100 chapters in all 50 states. The society accepts students who have gone above and beyond academically and musically, recognizes them for their achievements, and provides valuable rewards to help inspire other students. To maintain membership, students must be enrolled in at least “1 music class for at least one semester, have a 2.0 GPA in their core classes, and a 3.0 in their music class(es), and be of strong character” (Website).
Like any other honor society, the Tri-M Music Honor Society offers service and leadership opportunities, helping students develop soft and hard skills while encouraging a sense of community and belonging.
To participate in this honor society, students must be nominated by a Music teacher, have a 3.2 Cumulative GPA, and have had at least 4 semesters in music classes.
8. Rho Kappa Social Studies Honor Society
Rho Kappa National Social Studies Honor Society recognizes high-achieving high school juniors and seniors in the field of Social Studies. This Honor Society was founded by the National Council for Social Studies—the largest professional association in the country devoted solely to social studies education. Social studies include disciplines such as anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, history, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, sociology, etc.
To be eligible for membership, students must have completed at least four semesters of social studies, at least 6 semesters in general, and have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above. Please note that this is not the standard requirement since criteria differs among chapters.
9. Science National Honor Society
The Science National Honor Society (SNHS) is an academic, nationwide honor society that recognizes high school students for excellence in science in the United States. Established in 2000 in Texas, it has since expanded to over 1733 schools in all 50 states. Members of the honor society can participate in science outreach opportunities and are encouraged to be involved in science competitions. SNHS’s vision is to usher in a new group of young thinkers, who will become leaders in the future of research and scientific exploration.
To become a member of this honor society, students must maintain a 3.0+ unweighted GPA, a 3.5+ unweighted science GPA, be enrolled in an Honors or AP Science Class during their application year, and complete the required attendance and volunteer hours (5 pts./semester) to be in good standing.
10. Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica- National Spanish Honor Society (SHH)
Founded in 1953, the SHH is an honor society for high school students enrolled in Spanish and/or Portuguese, sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP). The SHH is committed to recognizing high school achievement in Spanish and Portuguese, and promoting an interest in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian studies. To become a member of the SHH, students must be in grade 10 and have studied Spanish or Portuguese for a minimum of three semesters.
11. Quill and Scroll
The Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society for High School Journalists was founded in 1926 at the University of Iowa to encourage and recognize individual student achievement in journalism and scholastic publication. Today, there are more than 11,300 high school members and alumni distributed between all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 29 foreign countries. By becoming a member of Quill and Scroll, students will have the opportunity to participate in 2 contests: the Yearbook Excellence Contest and the International Writing, Photography, and Multimedia Contest, which includes a Blogging Competition and a contest for middle and junior high school students. Additionally, students working on a magazine or newspaper can request News Media Evaluation. All the contests and opportunities are focused on helping students advance their soft and hard skills in journalism.
Students interested in this honor society must be sophomores, juniors, or seniors, with a B- grade average (or equivalent) for the year of their election. Students must also have demonstrated superior work in journalism to be considered.
12. National English Honor Society (NEHS) for Secondary School
The National English Honor Society (NEHS) was launched in 2005, and is an international organization recognizing achievements in English for secondary students and faculty. Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honor Society for four-year colleges, and Sigma Kappa Delta, the English Honor Society (for two-year colleges) sponsor this honor society. This group does not include individual membership but instead operates through school chapters. To be qualified for membership, students must have studied at least one semester in high school, completed two semesters of English, and have an overall English GPA of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale).
Honor societies recognize academic excellence and provide opportunities for students to develop their skills in various areas. Honor society members can benefit from scholarships, exclusive access to leadership programs, and increase their chances of admission to prestigious universities. Each of these societies has a unique history and criteria for admission. High school students should evaluate their strengths and passions, explore the requirements of the many different groups, and look into the specific benefits of joining each of these honor societies to see which may be the best fit for them. By joining an honor society, high school students will gain recognition for their achievements and become part of a community of like-minded peers. With hard work and dedication, they can make a difference in the field and open doors to new opportunities. We hope this list of honor societies for high school students can provide guidance and direction to those who wish to pursue their passions. Good luck!