Why College Students Should Join a National Honors Society

As a dedicated college student, you’ve applied a lot of grit, focus and hard work into pursuing your degree. Over time, you’ve scored high grades and received accolades from your instructors. You feel validated, sensing you’re on the right track to graduation.

Checking your inbox one day, you notice a message from a national honor society chapter at your university. Enclosed is a note of congratulations for your academic achievement and an invitation to join the organization.

Should you accept? Absolutely.

To begin, an honors membership is one of the highest acknowledgements of academic achievement you can receive. “Being recognized…is a boost to your self-esteem because you worked so hard to get to that point,” said Jean Ann Miller, a primary advisor for Oakland University’s Golden Key International Honour Society chapter. You get to participate in a special induction ceremony, wear honors cords at graduation (to add some swag to that boring cap and gown) and add an impressive title to your resume.

Beyond recognition, joining a national honors society gives you access to scholarship opportunities. For example, Golden Key offers a variety of scholarships and grants ranging in award totals from $1,000 to as much as $5,000. That will definitely put a dent in the student loans hanging over your head.

Kelsey Hughes, student president of Oakland’s Golden Key chapter, has received several scholarships and grants since joining as a sophomore. Now a senior, she said one of her most impactful awards was a travel grant that financed her trip to Golden Key’s International Summit leadership conference in Las Vegas. “I spent three days there networking with other chapters and attending seminars designed to promote growth in leadership, academics and service,” Hughes said. “I feel that the opportunities I have had through Golden Key have pushed me to develop a greater discipline not only academically but personally.”

As an honors society member, you will have many opportunities to develop leadership skills and be a #boss, primarily by serving on your chapter’s board. In most chapters, you can be nominated and/or choose to self-nominate for the positions of president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer. But leadership isn’t limited to those four positions alone. You can contribute to your chapter in several other areas, such as event planning, social media management and outreach coordination.

According to Miller, who has advised Golden Key students for 20 years, getting involved with chapter activities and attending leadership summits is important to preparing for future employment. “Golden Key teaches students how to market themselves and build resumes,” Miller said. “Networking connects you with companies, internships and graduate schools.”

Honors societies also help you find a squad of smarties like you for personal connections and lasting friendships. Matthew Blaul, president of Oakland University’s Tau Sigma National Honor Society chapter, said that joining the organization helped him adjust to the university as a transfer student. “When I arrived at Oakland, Tau Sigma showed me how to join student life groups and get involved in activities,” Blaul said. “I’ve gotten to know fellow students and become a more active member of the campus community.”

Blaul said that joining Tau Sigma has also given him numerous community service opportunities, such as renovating a gym floor at a retirement home and packing survival kits for homeless people in Detroit. “I get the opportunity to take responsibility and be a part of something greater than myself,” Blaul said.

At Golden Key, Hughes said she has likewise benefited from serving the community. Her activities have included participating with her chapter at the Auburn Hills Tree Lighting ceremony and helping to make 2,700 PB&J sandwiches for the Salvation Army. “Since being a member, I believe I have grown mostly in my passion for service,” she said. “I have learned to take initiative and to dedicate time to philanthropic efforts.”

Altogether, a national honors society membership is so much more than just a highlight on your resume; it’s an opportunity to pursue scholarships, gain leadership skills, build relationships with classmates and give back to the community.

So why wouldn’t you accept an invitation? Go for it. Reap the benefits that you’ve sown through your dedicated academic work.

How Do You Get Into an Honors Society?

To catch the eye of a chapter on your campus, your grades need to make even the toughest parents and professors proud. Most honor societies will only accept students who maintain a GPA of 3.5 or higher or who place in the top percentage of their class standing.

For example, Golden Key takes only the top 15 percent of sophomores, juniors and seniors at each of its university chapters. At Oakland University, this standard sets the current GPA bar at 3.7 for juniors and seniors and 3.73 for sophomores.

Most national honors programs also charge a one-time entrance fee that usually ranges anywhere from $60 to $95; some organizations also require biannual or annual dues. While the cost might seem steep at first (considering all your other college expenses), it more than pays for itself by guaranteeing you a life-time membership and giving you access to the program’s resources and scholarship opportunities.

To get the most out of an honors society membership, you should strive to contribute value to your chapter, whether through board leadership or community service. For instance, becoming actively involved can help you receive service-based scholarships offered by the honors society.

What’s more, an active membership can add leadership experience to your background, which will go a long way toward impressing future employers.

3 National Honors Societies that Want You

1. Golden Key International Honour Society

Founded: 1977

Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia.

Open to: Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors. All fields of study.

Minimum GPA requirement: Varies, top 15 percent of class standing.

Membership fee: $95

Basic Criteria: Membership into the Society is by invitation only and applies to the top 15 percent of college and university sophomores, juniors and seniors, as well as top-performing graduate students in all fields of study, based solely on their academic achievements.


  • Golden Key has awarded over $12 million in scholarships and grants to student members since its founding in 1977.
  • Offers exclusive job and internship listings through its partnership with the Intern Group.
  • Hosts Leadership Summit in Las Vegas, offers a vast number of international study abroad opportunities.

2. Tau Sigma National Honor Society

Founded: 1999

Headquarters: Auburn, Alabama.

Open to: Transfer students. All fields of study.

Minimum GPA requirement: 3.5 or top 20 percent among incoming transfer students.

Membership fee: Ranges from $40 to $60, depending on local chapter.

Basic Criteria: You must transfer to a four-year institution of higher learning from another academic institution with at least one full year’s academic credits satisfied at the prior institution(s).


  • Awarded $75,000 in scholarships in 2015 alone.
  • Hosts leadership conferences in cities like Orlando, Chicago and Atlanta.
  • Programs help to acclimate transfer students to new universities.

3. Alpha Lambda Delta

Founded: 1923

Headquarters: Fairport, New York.

Open to: Freshmen. All fields of study.

Minimum GPA requirement: 3.5 and 20 percent in class standing.

Membership fee: $25

Basic Criteria: You must be enrolled full-time at an institution that has an active chapter of Alpha Lambda Delta and earn a 3.5 grade point average or higher your first semester or first yea (timeframe determined by chapters).


  • Awards over $207,000 in scholarship money to its members each year.
  • Offers seven different scholarship and award categories.
  • Helps first-year students adjust to college life.
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