National Memberships/Honor Societies (Scam or Legitimate?)

Throughout your collegiate career you will receive a lot of emails saying things like,

“Congratulations, (You)!  I’m pleased to inform you that because of your outstanding academic performance at School X, you will be receiving an invitation to join The XYZ Honor Society.  Simply pay a one-time membership fee, and….”

While some of these will be legitimate, beneficial, worthwhile organization invitations, most will not.  That’s just how it works.  Most of these “honor societies” will be scams.  Now, “scam” does not necessarily have to mean fake (though, in at least a few instances, it does).  The organization may very well have a website, a Facebook page, campus reps, etc.  However, I will use “scam” to denote organizations that are, A) not worth the money, B) not as prestigious as they claim, C) not beneficial to your resume in any way, or D) a combination of A, B, and C.

In most cases, the $90 spent to legitimize your scholastic efforts will not be worth it.  Your GPA can speak for itself.  However, some societies are actually quite prestigious and accepting their invitation (even with a one-time fee) is highly recommended.  Let’s take a look at some popular organizations (I’ve denoted the ones I’ve joined with a ♦ ).

Legitimate Honor Societies You Might be Invited to Join

  • Beta Gamma Sigma 
    • As a business major, this is the highest honor you can achieve honor society-wise.
  • Phi Beta Kappa 
    • If you double major (or are not a business major), this is the highest honor one can achieve in the liberal arts and sciences.  This is THE honor society to join if you could only pick one.
  • Phi Theta Kappa
    • This is the premier honor society of two year-year colleges (particularly, community colleges).

A Maybe

  • Mortar Board 
    • The Mortar Board chapter at my university is rather difficult to get into and runs a lot of service initiatives.  I’d check the caliber of your local chapter before jumping right in, though.

Scams

Like I said, these organizations might not be fictitious, but they are just more or less not worth the money.

  • National Society of Collegiate Scholars (, but I regret it terribly)
  • National Society of Leadership and Success
  • Golden Key International Honour Society
  • HonorSociety.org

There are certainly others but these are the ones most likely to pop up in your inbox.  I would just ignore these offers.

When in doubt, do a little research and check around on message boards for guidance.  Based on the responses from others, you can pretty much assess the quality of the organization.  Essentially, if you have to ask yourself, “is this a scam?” it probably is.

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15 thoughts on “National Memberships/Honor Societies (Scam or Legitimate?)

  1. I would say that the times in which it is worthwhile to join one of these societies (even the scam ones) are when they provide resources that may otherwise be costly to obtain. Specifically, I was part of the Golden Key Int’l Honour Society which (at that time, ~6-7 years ago) gave me access to Vault guides which were supremely helpful during job recruitment.

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  2. I feel very foolish because I received an invitation to join the National Society of Leadership and Success. I am a straight A student, but I still felt like this wasn’t legitimate, but I ended up going against my better judgment. Only after attending an “orientation” did I realize that this wasn’t anything I wanted to be a part of. I requested a refund, as well. I should have looked all this up in the first place. I’ve been reading things I don’t like about the organization, so I’ve decided to request a refund. Thanks for posting this. I appreciate the warning for the future.

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    1. Yeah, I wouldn’t do it if I were you. Basically, it’s a very non-selective organization that wants you to pay to feel like you’re succeeding. It’s a vanity society. No employer or school that I have ever interacted with cares about this organization (and many view it negatively as resume padding). The “resources” and “network” are meager at best. Be on the lookout for Phi Beta Kappa but throw this one away. I’d be happy to chat further if you shoot me an email.

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      1. I have received the invite for this one every semester. I was sure it was a waste of money, but thought I might want to do it for my senior year. Thanks for posting this!
        How does one get “invited” to Phi Beta Kappa?

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      2. You’d get the invite in your senior year–it’s based on academic performance. And you have to be pursuing a specific degree (I believe many of the sciences aren’t eligible).

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  3. So I did some research on the National Society of Leadership and Success and they don’t claim to be an honor society at all. They claim to help you learn leadership skills. At my college they love it because its ran by students and they promote student interaction more than anything. Also the setup isn’t just based on just society themselves they have opened up resources that most of us weren’t aware of in the college because of all of the college’s advisors that joined in on it. So I think it depends on the type of setup they have at the school.

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    1. The first sentence on their website is, “We are the nation’s largest leadership honor society,” so I would argue that there is an honor society play there. My point is that being a member of this organization will never boost one’s resume, and may actually harm it. The services offered at each school differ, and if a school has a reputation for being helpful (like yours), then that should be weighed against the dues one has to pay to join. What should never be factored in, though, is prestige, resume-boosting, or accolade achievement. This society accomplishes none of these.

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  4. Well, I am screwed.

    Joined GK, was studying abroad when I received the Mortar Board invitation to apply, and already graduated so I cannot get invited to anything else.

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