Honor societies are pointless


Photo courtesy of the National Honor Society

The National Honors society is considered to be the most popular and prestigious among other high school honor societies. But when you look behind the mission and vision statements, you start seeing them as aimless organizations.

As we settle into the school year and roll into quarter two, applications for several honor societies open up with the most popular one being the National Honor Society. There are more subject-specific societies as well, including the Rho Kappa Honors Society for social studies, the Science Honors Society, the Spanish Honors Society, the French Honors Society and the Italian Honor Society. But a little dive into these societies shows you how aimless they feel.

The requirements for each vary but are usually associated with GPA and for subject-specific honor societies, experience in two or three years of those classes.

One of the obligations of the National Honors Society is to do a service project every semester. Those projects just tend to be volunteering at the book fair, organizing food and clothing drives, tutoring, and the like.

A lot of the time the case tends to be that as long as you fit the GPA requirements and submit an application, you get in. There is not that much selectivity.

While some people join honors societies because they are “passionate” about the cause, the majority do so because it looks great on college applications. And I get it, the application to the honor society is very easy to fill out and it is just one more thing people can put on their applications to make themselves look like active members of the community.

But what’s the point?

The website for NHS says that their society creates a “give back” mindset for students. They offer exclusive webinars to prepare students for the college process and give 600 students scholarships every year. Most importantly, NHS members are given an honor cord at graduation. They also use words like unique and exclusive way too much. Like if you chose two random students at WJ with the same GPA, one an NHS member and one who isn’t, looked at their records and college applications, you won’t find a difference except that someone had 30 minutes on hand to turn in an application.

The Mu Alpha Theta or Math Honor Society also provides scholarships and organizes a yearly convention for its members with a mission to “inspire a keen interest in math.” Like NHS, they also hand out graduation cords to their members.

The Science National Honors Society’s mission is to “engender a new group of young thinkers” to be America’s future in science and technology. There is a yearly membership fee to join and once again, reward cords at graduation.

But with all of this said, honor societies seem kind of pointless like they are just another honor cord at graduation. I do not blame students, as college applications are extremely competitive. For some schools, another line on an application indicating membership to a supposedly “prestigious” organization matters. Like most, I would also want to have lots of cords around my neck at graduation to show off my hard work. But again, what is the point?

Speaking to former honor society members, many mentioned how they didn’t really do anything or that it doesn’t “lay the groundwork for lifelong success”, as the NHS claims.

I do not want the honor societies to cease to exist, I just want them to be more than glorified tutoring clubs with fancy cords. To peak student interest in leadership or math, start at the bottom. Tutor elementary students who might feel lost, teach them the importance of a specific academic field and captivate them.

A lot of teachers express frustration with their curriculum being unengaging or not interesting enough. Honor societies should start partnerships between interested students and experienced teachers to advocate for changes.

Honor societies could function like a yearly convention with competition for scholarships. If anything, honor societies could and probably should be more competitive— it seems like everyone I know is in every society.