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

Many people are still unsure of exactly what these societies are or do. Honor societies are organizations intended to benefit and group together like-minded individuals 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, followed by the provision that you must meet certain criteria in order to join. These societies often come with lifelong membership, allowing members who have long since graduated to stay active within the group.

How to Choose

Some students may be invited to join more than one honor society. It's important to understand that you don't have to pick just one.

Keep in mind that costs associated can add up and, in some cases, 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 vary (anywhere between $20 and $130), it's important to investigate the costs before making the final decision to join. Besides the initial joining fee, which will likely be good for a lifetime, you may 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.

In addition, members are able to network with other students who share similar interests or goals, as well as alumni already present in the workforce. Many honor societies also offer scholarships, grants and other monetary awards to members to lessen the financial burden of post-secondary education.

Benefits for Alumni

The potential benefits for graduates could come as soon as you've graduated. 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 the 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

AS with most things in life, college honor societies come with no guarantees. What you get out of a legitimate honor society depends on what you put into it. Many people who join college honor societies only do it to boost their resumes. 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 it's a professional society related to the field in which you hope to work after graduation, ask relevant professors and college job counselors about the group and whether joining it would be advantageous.

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. 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. On the other hand, campus life offers 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. Honor societies may not be the only means to your desired end.

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