The National Honor Society, or NHS for short, is an organization that recognizes and encourages outstanding students in grades 10-12. The NHS has chapters in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and other US territories as well. It’s estimated that more than one million students participate in their activities every year.
Sounds like a good deal, right?
You might be wondering what you can do to qualify as an “outstanding high school student” or what sorts of things you need to do as a member of the NHS.
In fact, there’s a lot about the National Honor Society you might not know.
If you’re interested in learning more about this program and what it means to join it, read on!
History of the NHS
The National Honor Society was founded in 1921 by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. MAny local and regional honor societies were around before 1921, but none of them operated on a national level.
Under the leadership of Dr. Edward Runearson, the organization grew from the Alpha Chapter at the Fifth Avenue School to more than 1,000 chapters by 1930.
The NHS has a constitution, an emblem, and a motto, and it quickly became one of the country’s top education groups.
Four main purposes have driven NHS from the start. They aim “to create enthusiasm for scholarship, to stimulate a desire to render service, to promote leadership, and to develop character in the students of secondary school.”
These translate into the criteria that are used to select members into local chapters.
When you are a member of the National Honor Society, you know that you are one of the best students in your class in terms of academics, leadership, service, and character. You are committed to community service projects and connecting with like-minded peers.
College admission committees like to see anything on your application that will set you apart and NHS does a lot of that. It provides you with opportunities to grow leadership skills and gives you the option to attend events throughout the year.
LEAD Conferences are open to students in the National Honor Society, the Junior National Honor Society. LEAD (Leadership Experience and Development) conferences are held throughout the year on different weekends in various cities across the country.
They strive to improve the leadership skills of students across the country while giving them an opportunity to network.
National Student Leadership Week
This was established in 1972 to promote student leadership. It’s an open-ended way for schools to recognize how important student leadership is, and the NHS provides a list of activities for planning this week in individual schools.
State Summits are local events available to members of the National Honor Society. They let the students join in think-tank sessions with state leaders. They spark conversation and try to reach tangible solutions to real issues in schools and communities.
Who Can Be a Member?
NHS membership is determined at a local level. You need to find your local chapter of NHS by searching the Chapter Finder online or by talking with a teacher or guidance counselor. If your school doesn’t have an NHS chapter, talk to your principal or advisor about founding one.
Students aren’t allowed to found chapters themselves, but the process is simple and administrators can usually navigate it pretty easily. Your school just needs to appoint a faculty advisor and a council, fill out a form, and pay an annual membership fee. There are even ways you can raise this money yourself.
All public and accredited private schools can establish an NHS chapter and any student in grade 10-12 can apply, as long as they mee they meet the minimum GPA requirements.
However, the NHS is an extracurricular activity. And like all other extracurriculars, it requires time and commitment. You will need to attend regular meetings and get involved in service projects with your chapter and on your own. You can find more info about the NHS commitments here.
How to Get In
As we mentioned, there are a few requirements before you can join. You have to maintain your GPA at 85 or higher, or a 3.0 on the 4.0 scale. This is a national minimum, though, so make sure you check your local requirements.
If you meet the GPA minimum, you can fill out a form that details your accomplishments in the other three important pillars: service, leadership, and character.
In the leadership area, highlight your experience taking leadership roles in school and community activities. If you’re a team captain or organizing a youth group, include that here. The NHS wants students who are “resourceful, good problem solves, and idea contributors.”
Your application will also ask for your volunteer work experience. Soe local chapter will require you to serve a certain number of hours before you can join. These hours can be spent volunteering in a variety of ways, and you should choose services that have value to you. Don’t rush through them.
You will also have to prove that you’re a cooperative, responsible, reliable, and honest person. MAke sure your disciplinary record os clean and respect those around you.
Some branches might even require a recommendation that vouches for your character. If you need a written recommendation, ask a teacher who taught you in a core subject to write one for you.
You’re Accepted! Now What?
If you have been granted membership to the NHS, you will be invited to an induction ceremony with the other members of your chapter. These are usually public events and you can invite your parents and anyone else interested in coming.
Then, you’ll have to go to meetings and participate in service projects. These projects are both group-based and individual. You’ll be required to complete at least 25 hours of community service projects every year.
It can be hard to come up with ideas for service projects, but the NHS website has a searchable Student Project Database and a Community Service Idea Starters guide.
Take advantage of your membership as much as you can. Go to the conferences and events, consider organizing your own events, and apply for the scholarships in your senior year. Include your active membership in the NHS on your college application as well, to show your academic success and generous spirit.
The National Honor Society is Worth It
The National Honor Society is a prestigious program for students around the country to learn how to lead positive and benefit their community. Colleges are looking for you to stand out from your peers, and the benefits of NHS are worth it to those willing to invest their time and effort.
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