What Is the National Honor Society?

The National Honor Society recognizes outstanding high schoolers and awards $2 million in scholarships annually. Learn more about the benefits of joining the National Honor Society.

portrait of Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
by Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

Published on June 13, 2022 · Updated on June 16, 2022

Edited by Tyler Epps
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What Is the National Honor Society?
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Many honor societies recognize exceptional students. But the National Honor Society (NHS) stands out for its long history and its commitment to college scholarships.

Unlike college honor societies, NHS welcomes high schoolers to its chapters. Students who meet the membership requirements can join the society to gain leadership and service experience. NHS also awards $2 million in scholarships each year.

What do you do in the National Honor Society? And is the National Honor Society worth it? With a track record that stretches back over a century, NHS can be a great option for high schoolers who want to join an honor society.

What Is the National Honor Society in High School?

The National Honor Society recognizes high schoolers who meet high academic standards. The organization was founded in 1921. Today, over 1 million students participate in NHS, which has chapters around the world.

NHS emphasizes leadership and service. Members meet standards for character and draw on their leadership experience to contribute to the society.

The organization operates through chapters in local schools. The honor society reports that, on average, each chapter contributes 1,000 hours of community service. High schoolers can join NHS by meeting membership requirements.

National Honor Society vs. National Junior Honor Society

The National Honor Society is for high schoolers. The National Junior Honor Society is for middle schoolers. Founded in 1929, NJHS operates chapters in all 50 states and around the world. While NHS accepts students in grades 10-12, NJHS admits members in grades 6-9.

Like NHS, the junior honor society emphasizes academics by setting a minimum 3.0 GPA for membership. Community engagement also plays a major role in NJHS activities. Members volunteer in their communities and gain leadership experience.

NJHS membership does not transfer to NHS membership. Each NHS chapter sets its own requirements to admit students, who must meet minimum standards set by the national organization.

What Do You Do in the National Honor Society?

NHS chapters hold events and participate in leadership opportunities. Members can apply for the NHS Scholarship, access member-only college planning tools, and attend leadership conferences.

Chapters also volunteer at their school and in the community. Common service activities include peer tutoring, blood drives, public space cleanups, and community fundraisers.

How to Get Into the National Honor Society

How can high schoolers get into the National Honor Society? While the national organization creates benchmarks, each chapter sets its own standards for membership. Check whether your school has an NHS chapter and contact the chapter advisor to learn about the specific requirements to become a member.

The national requirements include a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale or a cumulative grade of 85%. Some chapters set higher academic standards to join.

NHS also recommends a volunteer service component, leadership standards, and evidence of good character.

Each chapter publishes its standards and information about joining. Students who meet the academic requirement submit a form listing their other qualifications. Chapters then determine which applicants gain admission.

National Honor Society requirements include:

What Are the Benefits of the National Honor Society?

Why do high schoolers join the National Honor Society? NHS membership demonstrates academic and service commitments. Many students join to participate in the honor society community and strengthen their college applications.

NHS offers college admission and financial aid planning resources. In addition, members participate in leadership development events.

The National Honor Society Scholarship is also a major benefit of membership. Started in 1946, the NHS Scholarship has distributed over $19 million in support to college-bound seniors. The scholarship awards $25,000 to one national winner, $5,625 to 24 national finalists, and $3,200 to 575 national semifinalists.

In total, 600 scholarship recipients share around $2 million in awards annually. NHS members can submit their scholarship applications from Oct. 1-Dec. 1 during their senior year. Scholarship recipients learn of their awards in the spring.

Is the National Honor Society Worth It?

Should you join NHS? If you meet the membership requirements and your school has a chapter, participating in the National Honor Society can boost your chances of getting into college and winning a scholarship.

As one of the oldest honor societies, NHS is a good option for high schoolers who want to showcase their academic strengths and gain leadership experience. NHS members can also apply for 600 scholarships offered annually.

How much does NHS cost? Chapters pay an annual fee to participate in NHS, and each chapter sets any membership dues. Prospective members should check with their local chapter to determine the cost.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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