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Image from Pexels

As high school students, we should always evaluate the future importance of the things we do in school, whether they be acing/failing a test or taking/not taking a certain class. It may seem really important in the moment to ace a test, but is it really worth staying up until 2 in the morning to study? Taking AP Physics may seem like a good choice because of those two fancy letters at the front, but do you really want to forego the Drawing class you’ve been dying to take?

Likewise, many students place undue importance on whether they are accepted to NHS or not, and frankly, it doesn’t matter as much as most of us believe it does. Of course, depending upon the school you attend, your chapter of NHS may contribute to the community in significant ways, but for many schools, the NHS is just another way for students to fill college applications with some more generic acronyms under “Extracurricular Activities” on the CommonApp. And because so many are accepted, colleges actually don’t care a ton that you’re in NHS (unless you’re, like, the President or something). Another issue is that each chapter of NHS has different requirements in order to apply as well as different standards to actually be accepted.

To illustrate this concept, a few interns from TP weigh in on their thoughts on NHS/the requirements for each of their schools.

“I go to a public charter high school in Pennsylvania. Our NHS requirements are a 3.5 GPA or higher, a letter of recommendation, 20+ volunteer hours in the last year, the completion of at least 3 honors classes, and a small essay. It isn’t really seen as a prestigious accomplishment, but I think that’s because NHS isn’t a huge presence at my school. No one knows we exist unless they are invited to join…but I do think that [being accepted] says very little about a person.” –Morgan Crist

“At my school you need a 3.75 weighted GPA at the end of your junior year. It’s not extremely prestigious, but its frustrating because the GPA cutoff doesn’t consider the rigor of one’s coursework… I have taken numerous honors and AP courses and wasn’t allowed in while students who took less with higher GPAs are. Its unfair to have a system like this. ” –Morgan Levy

“I think it’s a fantastic organization but it should be more exclusive (at least at my school) since about everyone who applies is accepted, probably about 3/4 of my junior class.” –Kyleigh McGrail

“To be in NHS at my school, you must have over a 3.5 GPA, have over 20 hours of volunteer service, and be enrolled in at least one AP course. However, my school is super competitive so these requirements were pretty insignificant… I like that [NHS] exists, but the kids at my school just see it as another thing to put on college apps.” –Hannah Glover

“The requirements are to have above a 3.75 GPA, have community service hours (they don’t specify how much but most kids have above 50+), have at least 10 teacher/community recommendations, and be in good standing (disciplinary-wise)… [NHS] celebrates the achievements of accomplished students in the community and gives them opportunities to do more. If you’ve done enough for your community, you’ll get in, so no, I don’t think it’s too exclusive.” –Sophia Chiang

“To be in NHS you have be at least a junior, have a 3.7 GPA, and be voted in by your teachers. Our NHS is more selective than our Beta Club. We host tutoring every Tuesday.” –Arlena McLenton

“NHS at my school doesn’t “do” anything, except organize a blood drive each semester. The club is really not very exciting, thus it is easy to claim that the vast majority of members are only in the club for the title, not for any other opportunities (unless someone is *really* into blood drives?)” –Claire Tran

It is quite easy to see how different NHS chapters have different requirements to apply, never mind to get in. At some schools, the club is extremely competitive (10+ recommendations? Wow!), while at others, 3/4 of the class is accepted. Colleges cannot judge the competitiveness of your school’s NHS when all that is listed on your app is “National Honor Society”, so unless you have done something amazing through NHS, it is a pretty insignificant activity that will not sway the college’s decision either way.

The whole concept of a “National Honor Society” easily lends itself to competition that distorts the mission/vision of the original society. So, does NHS matter? Tutoring a kid who is struggling in geometry or history every lunch period matters. Volunteering at local non-profit organizations matters. But, being in NHS just for the sake of saying you’re in NHS does not matter, so you shouldn’t count on it to.

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4 Readers Commented

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  1. Gabi on March 1, 2016

    At my school the requirements seem almost absurd; a personal essay, 60+ hours of community service, a 3.4 GPA and several character evaluations completed by teachers.

  2. Lisa on March 29, 2016

    So, is it worth the time, energy, and more specifically the monetary cost for a school to have or keep an NHS Chapter?

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  4. RHEma on September 22, 2017

    It’s extremely competitive at my school. You have to have a 92 average, commitment to many groups, service hours, an essay, a recommendation letter from a community member (outside of school). And you have to go through a selection process from an anonymous board of teachers. For my school, it isn’t just about being SMART it’s about character. So a lot of “smart” kids didn’t get in just because they weren’t involved in a diverse number of activities

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