Is the NSHSS Legit or a Scam?

The NSHSS is not a scam. However, the organization's offer letters ask for a payment in the second paragraph which raises suspicion among recipients.


Bridget Clerkin
Updated 13 April 2022
Is the NSHSS Legit or a Scam?
Claim

The NSHSS is a scam.

Rating

Mostly False

About this rating


Some believe the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) is a scam because they receive an unsolicited invitation via email or mail requesting payment for membership. The NSHSS is a legitimate organization that offers support to students via scholarships (requires applying) and other networking opportunities for members. The question of, "Do honor societies provide value to members?" is a tricky one, with answers varying depending on who you ask.

United States Scam & Fraud Statistics 2020


$3.3 billion total fraud losses
4.7 million fraud reports

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Source: 2019-20 Consumer Sentinel Report

Sections on this page
  1. What Is the NSHSS?
  2. NSHSS Membership
  3. Comparing NSHSS & The National Honor Society 
  4. Why the Controversy?
  5. Common Reviews About the NSHSS
  6. Common Misconceptions About the NSHSS
  7. What You Need to Know Before Joining a National Society

Yes, the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) is a legitimate organization offering financial awards, networking, and other opportunities for members. The NSHSS website states that over $2 million in scholarships are provided every year to student members. 

However, there is some controversy around the honor society, with some claiming it doesn't provide the benefits it promises to NSHSS members.

What Is the NSHSS?

The National Society of High School Scholars is an Atlanta-based organization that describes itself as a "distinguished academic honor society." It boasts more than 1.7 million members from more than 26,000 high schools across 170 countries.

Co-founded by Claus Nobel, a relative of the man who established the Nobel Peace Prize, the NSHSS offers students the opportunity to apply for a range of financial awards and participate in webinars and other events, supposedly to help them excel and attain access to colleges and scholarships.

After graduating high school, members can continue participating in the group, which also offers networking opportunities for traveling abroad or other programs.

NSHSS Membership

NSHSS uses a range of criteria to determine student membership eligibility, including:

  • 3.5 GPA or higher on a 4.0 scale.
  • SAT score of 1280 or higher.
  • PSAT score of 1150 or higher.
  • ACT score of 26 or higher.
  • Score of 4 or higher on any AP exam.
  • Total combined IB test scores of 36 or higher.
  • IGCSE Grade A or higher.
  • Being in the top 10% of the class.

The goal is to recognize academic achievement in high school students, awarding them with membership in this honor society.

Invitation to Become an NSHSS Member

If a student is considered eligible, they are sent a packet of information via mail or email. The NSHSS states that "student contact information is provided by teachers and counselors, educational partner organizations, the National Research Center for College and University Admissions, and the College Board Student Search Service. Reference to how NSHSS receives a student's information is noted in the student's letter of invitation for membership with the society.

Membership Fee

If a student decides to join, they pay a one-time fee (currently $75), which offers them a lifetime membership. Low-income students may submit to have the fee waived.

Membership opens access to several scholarship applications and other opportunities the organization may offer. Merchandise like t-shirts can also be purchased separately.

Comparing NSHSS & The National Honor Society 

The NSHSS and the National Honor Society (NHS) do share some similarities to join, including:

  • Similar levels of academic achievement for entry
  • Membership fees
  • Opportunities for high school students and college to apply for scholarships to support their studies

There are also some crucial differences, including the application process and ongoing commitments.

Application Process Compared

The NHS requires students to apply via their local chapter, addressing specific academic, service, leadership, and character requirements that are scrutinized as part of their application. On the other hand, the NSHSS sends out offer letters nationally to potential NSHSS members via email or mail who meet the academic requirements.

Required Commitments

Additionally, the NHS requires students to continue demonstrating their commitment to service, leadership, and character. They are also required to attend local chapter meetings and complete some hours of unpaid service. The NSHSS does not require meeting attendance or service commitments.

Comparison of NSHSS & National Honor Society

  NSHSS NHS
Established 2002 1921
Application Offers are sent via email or mail. Students do not need to apply, although an educator can nominate them. Students must apply through their local chapter, demonstrating that they meet the entrance criteria.
Academic

3.5 GPA or higher on a 4.0 scale.

GPA of 85, B, 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, or equivalent.
Local Chapter

National 

Requires attendance at a local chapter on your campus.
Member of ACHS No No
Non-profit No No
Service Service opportunities are available for members. History of voluntary unpaid service to the community is required and ongoing commitment for members.
Leadership Leadership opportunities are available for members. Demonstrated leadership required for application in school or outside of school.
Character Specific evidence is not required, although an educator can nominate students. Demonstrated high-character qualities (as identified by the faculty member who recommends the student).

Why the Controversy?

In the strictest sense, the NSHSS is not a scam—the company does offer the opportunities it claims to connect students with potential scholarships when it comes down to it.

Still, many people have claimed that isn't enough and that the organization shares a few red flags with actual scams that try to impersonate honor societies.

Unsolicited Mail

First, the invitation packet arrives unsolicited. This can feel overwhelming or confusing for a student already involved in the stressful college application process.

Similarity to the NHS

This issue is further compounded by the similarity of the abbreviated names: NHS and NSHSS. The longstanding NHS, founded in 1921, and the more recent NSHSS, which started in 2002, are undoubtedly very similar at first glance. Some suggest that students join the NSHSS thinking that it's, in fact, the National Honor Society. 

Pay-to-Play Nature

What some people seem to find an issue with, however, is the pay-to-play nature of some honor societies. Essentially, joining is paying for the chance to win scholarships—which some claim aren't always particularly generous. (Most scholarships range between $1,000-$2,000, with a few bringing in as much as $5,000.)

Common Reviews About the NSHSS

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports mixed reviews for the National Society of High School Scholars—it has an overall rating of B+ and a customer review score of 4.76/5 from 83 reviews. In addition, they have received over 120 complaints in the last three years.

Complaints

Some complaints centered around students not understanding what they were signing up for, though reasons seemed to vary. Some people seemed to think the organization offered scholarships directly—rather than simply the chance to apply for them. Others alleged that the information they received falsely claimed that the NSHSS was a "spin-off branch" of the National Honor Society, although there has been no evidence of this.

Some reviewers claimed they felt duped after learning that several students were sent the same "prestigious" invitation at their child's school. Others felt the organization didn't offer enough scholarship opportunities to be worth the entrance fee.

Organization Responses

The organization's responses to broader issues could also be a little fuzzy, never quite clarifying the specific criteria or methods used to contact students. 

Still, in many of the cases, it appears refunds were given when asked for. Additionally, testimonials provided on the company's website claim.

NSHSS Offer Letter (Should MakeYou Pause)

Although the NSHSS is "invitation only," the offer letter jumps straight into a request for payment with an offer code. In many ways, it is not surprising that people might be suspicious—this is a very common tactic used in marketing campaigns and by scammers impersonating organizations.

People are increasingly becoming more conditioned that an immediate request for payment and personal details should be carefully verified before proceeding. Therefore, we always recommend that you check the details of any communication before responding or clicking on any links, particularly if it is unsolicited.

You should always independently search for the organization's website. Don't use contact details provided in a letter/email). Instead, find the company's contact details and call them to validate that the communication is authentic.

NSHSS Society Offer Letter
The NSHSS offer letter jumps straight into a request for payment, which is not typical for a "prestigious organization." (Source: Twitter)

Common Misconceptions About the NSHSS

Some people think the NSHSS is the same thing as, or at least part of, the National Honor Society. Some have said that the NSHSS even claims this itself, but it's not true either way.

Scholarships

Another common misconception about the group is that it offers scholarships directly. Instead, after joining the NSHSS, students are simply given access to several scholarship opportunities. But if they don't apply, they won't get an NSHSS scholarship or any form of financial aid whatsoever.

Boosting Career Prospects

Parents and students may also believe that NSHSS membership is a résumé booster that will catch the attention of many colleges. However, while showing that you contribute and achieve in many aspects of your life might improve your chances, there is no evidence that membership alone can boost your chances of being accepted.

What You Need to Know Before Joining a National Society

Before joining an honor society, such as the National Society of High School Scholars, you want to do your research to ensure you're actually benefitting from being a member. A few things you'll want to look into include:

  • The society's backstory and history
  • Fees and the application process
  • Benefits to you, as the student
  • What other societies are available

Backstory and History

You want to choose a national society with a rich back story and history when it comes to supporting college students. Look for information on how the organization has helped students in the past and which colleges they're associated with.

If a society doesn't offer much information on its history, how it started, and what its mission and values are, you may be better off finding an organization that is more transparent about its goals.

You also want to make sure they are a legitimate organization and not one that costs money but doesn't provide any benefit.

Membership Fee and Application Process

Not every honor society is created equal. For example, some charge membership fees (either one-off lifetime membership or subscription-based), while others are free. Additionally, some have stringent rules around who can join the honor society. In contrast, others may seem like they will allow anyone to join, regardless of location, grades, or college.

Most colleges will warn against joining honor societies that charge a membership fee and instead advise that you join a free national society associated with your particular college.

Free Honor Societies May Be Harder to Get Into

You may notice that free honor societies, especially those associated with your college, have stricter membership requirements. This is because these societies are not out to make money but genuinely want to help their students succeed. They won't allow just anyone to join. 

When looking at the application process, you want to pay particular attention to what information they ask of you to determine whether or not you can be a member. Honor societies should want to know about your college admissions information and your grades.

If they don't ask about your GPA or which colleges you're applying to, it may be a sign that they are willing to accept any student into their society. This isn't good for a couple of reasons:

  1. It could mean they don't actually offer benefits to high-achieving students and instead just want to make as much money as possible.
  2. You will be competing against a larger number of people for scholarship money and other opportunities.

Benefits

Of course, you want to make sure that the benefits promised by the honor society match your needs and wants as a student. Many honor societies have similar benefits for students, including:

  • Networking opportunities
  • Career resources (to help you get a job when you graduate college)
  • Access to scholarships and awards
  • Leadership programs
  • Discounts on things like health insurance, textbooks, etc.
  • Assistance with academic advancement

If you join a prestigious honor society, you may notice the benefits are better than other national societies with less stringent requirements.

Other Honor Societies

Don't just pick the first honor society that approaches you to join. You may find other honor societies that offer more benefits on your own without them approaching you first. Remember, there is more than one organization available to you.

The first place to look for an honor society is with your college admissions team. If your college has an associated honor society, look into those first before picking a national honor society that doesn't have any specific affiliations.

Do your research into multiple honor societies before applying and handing any money over.

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