With the school year just beginning, many new students will be faced with the decision of whether or not to join college honor societies. Invitations to honor societies are typically earned through hard work, participation in leadership activities and academic accomplishments. Although these are all characteristics that can help anyone to excel in the working world, are honor societies really worth it in the long run?

The Who and What
Curiosity surrounds honor societies, as many people are still unsure of exactly what they are. Honor societies are organizations intended to benefit and group like-minded individuals together based on academic excellence, leadership abilities and other similar interests or abilities. Some of these societies may be known as professional fraternities, depending upon the organization, and many are named using Greek characters. Acceptance into these groups usually comes as the result of invitation or application, then the provision that you must meet certain criteria in order to successfully join. These societies often come with lifelong membership, allowing members who have long since graduated to continue to maintain activity within the group.

Choosing the One
Some students may receive invitations to join more than one honor society. It's important to understand that you don't have to pick just one. You are welcome to enroll in more than one group. Keep in mind that the costs associated with this decision can add up, and you might even find that the time obligations of involvement might be more than you're willing to take on. Selecting the right honor society will take some careful research into which group most closely matches your goals and ideals, and which provides you with the most potential benefits.

Cost of Joining
Every college honor society comes with a fee. Though these fees do vary (often anywhere between $20 and $125), it's important to do your homework and investigate what the costs are before making the final decision to join. Besides the initial joining fee, you may also find that some honor societies charge chapter or national fees.

Benefits for Students
Perhaps one of the most appealing benefits to students is the prestige that's often associated with joining a college honor society. Some academic societies only accept the top-performing students in terms of academics, which has the potential to be a real boost to your resume. Honor societies also generally come with opportunities to access a range of social events, leadership opportunities and even international study programs over the duration of your college years. For some students, this might make these groups particularly alluring. Along with this, comes the opportunity to network with other students who share similar interests or goals, as well as alumni who are already present in the workforce. Many honor societies also offer scholarships, grants and bursaries to members in order to lessen the financial burden associated with post-secondary education.

Benefits for Alumni
The potential benefits for graduates could come as soon as you're done school. These benefits could come in the form of internship opportunities, or perhaps even the opportunity to fast-track applications into some of the top companies if you've networked with particularly successful alumni or any of the group's corporate sponsors. Some employers may be attracted to the fact that you've been a member of an honor society, since many do come with a certain amount of prestige. There is often an association between being a member of an honor society and leadership ability, or ability to create effective working relationships and business networks. Both skills are highly important in a number of industries. Many alumni continue to stay active in their honor societies after graduation since many networking events are also open to college alumni.

Honor Society Scams
It's a sad fact that not all honor societies are on the up-and-up. You can check with the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS) to see if the society you've been invited to join is legit. This is the national organization that certifies honor societies to ensure that they're meeting standards. You can further ensure that the honor society is legit by checking its website, phoning the head office of the society and reviewing the society's chapter policies to ensure that everything looks authentic. You should also ensure that the honor society you're considering has a presence on your campus. Visit the campus office and talk to the members to understand their experiences. You should be wary of any society that does not have a physical street address listed on its website.

The Bottom Line
Like with most things in life, college honor societies come with no guarantees. What you get out of them is dependent upon what you put into them. Many people who join college honor societies only do it to boost their resumes. If employers are aware of this trend, it's unclear exactly how much benefit joining will provide. Some employers may be attracted to the fact that you've been associated with a prestigious fraternity or honor society, while others may not care at all. If you're actively networking through the society in order to obtain scholarships and job opportunities after graduation, there's a good chance that joining will be worthwhile for you. Campus life does offer a wide range of opportunities to network and socialize, so there's a chance you'll get the same benefits from simply joining campus social groups that match your goals and interests. Whatever you choose, this is an important question for you and your family to investigate. Perhaps there is a family history with a particular society and it will be meaningful to you on a different level. There are many ways to network in school, and honor societies may not be the only means to your desired end.

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