(Dis)Honor Societies

Dec. 5, 2017, 1:06 p.m. | By Tiara Oldfield | 6 years, 6 months ago

Why honor societies are becoming less relevant

The National Honor Society (NHS) is an organization that recognizes students for their academic achievements, dedication to community service and excellence in leadership and character. Blair and the other 13,000 chapters are supposed to help students develop each of these qualities. However, students largely apply for the boost it gives their resumes, not because they care about growing as a person.

Each school sets its own requirements for its applicants. Blazers must maintain a 3.3 cumulative GPA, have at least 120 SSL hours, participate in at least three clubs, be a leader for one club, and have two letters of recommendation. Yet, nowhere in the application does it asks students to explain their reason for applying.

93 members are inducted for the 2017-2018 school year. Photo courtesy of Renay Johnson.

Tung Pham, Blair's NHS sponsor, acknowledges while some students genuinely care about helping others, many students apply for the boost they assume it will give their resumes. "Not gonna lie, I think a lot of students apply because it looks good on their resumes slash it looks good for college,” Pham said.

However, this is a problem that isn't unique to Blair. According to Jamie Frank, Churchill's sponsor for its NHS chapter for seven years, students hope that being able to put "National Honor Society member” will help with college applications. "In the college search process, it's one of the questions that most applications ask, and so they want to be able to check that box,” Frank said.

What students fail to realize is that membership is not as important as it may seem. With over one million members, NHS is a large organization. Also, as different schools have different requirements for the application process, colleges can't judge how competitive NHS is at each school.

Rachael McCauley, an intern for the Undergraduate Admissions office for University of Maryland, Baltimore County, says there's no inherent advantage in being a member. "I would say it's about the same [as being involved with another organization]...National Honor Society is a really great thing to be in but we just like to see people are involved in general,” McCauley said.

Another flaw about NHS is its lack of direction. At Blair, NHS requires students to participate in a different project each month. This varies from each month, but some activities include Toys for Tots, fundraisers for the leukemia and lymphoma society, making dog toys and preparing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Shepherd's table, a local homeless shelter. This month, the students plan on doing a local clean up. "We're cleaning up the school tomorrow and around the area, picking up trash, et cetera. So that's what we typically do,” Pham said.

While students may think that they are showing a college their charitable nature, colleges may not always see it the same way. In fact, the opposite may be true: service that you're required to do is not worth as much to admission officers.

That's not to say that nobody should join NHS. What students need to remember is that it's not the membership itself that matters, it's the service. It's the fundraising and the making of sandwiches that actually has an impact on our community, and if students have a genuine interest in community service or developing their leadership skills, then they should join. If they don't, they shouldn't bother applying. Students need to make sure that they're joining for the right reasons.

Tags: National Honors Society

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