How to Avoid Honor Society Scams & Why You Should Pick a Local Chapter

With so many honor societies across the country, it can be difficult to decide which one to join. Here's why you should join a local chapter.


Cameron Craig
Updated 24 September 2021
How to Avoid Honor Society Scams & Why You Should Pick a Local Chapter
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Phishing Statistics 2021


90% of data breaches are caused by phishing
3.4 billion phishing emails are sent every day

1.4 million phishing websites are created every month

Source: Digital InTheRound, 2021

Sections on this page
  1. What Are Honor Societies?
  2. Honor Society Scams and Controversies
  3. Why Choose a Local Chapter?
  4. Legitimate Honor Societies

There are hundreds of honor societies to choose from, including those associated with your college, national and international associations, and those that require a certain GPA and other membership requirements. Unfortunately, since honor societies are so prevalent, so are scams that target potential members. 

When choosing an honor society to join, we recommend choosing a local one affiliated with your college. 

What Are Honor Societies?

College honor societies are organizations that recognize excellence in students and provide opportunities for:

  • Obtaining scholarships (it's important to note that you're not given a scholarship as a member, just opportunities to apply for scholarships)
  • Employment through networking events and improving your résumé
  • International study

In the U.S., most honor societies are official 501c3 non-profit organizations and members of at least one of the following associations:

  • The Association of College Honor Societies
  • National Collegiate Honors Council
  • Association of American Colleges and Universities

Some independent honor societies are affiliated directly with the colleges themselves and are not members of any international or national association. 

Regardless of which associations an honor society is affiliated with, the best practice when receiving invitations to join a society is to only consider those that have a chapter on your campus. 

University of the People

Honor societies aim to bring together like-minded students who have impressive skills, and being a part is often associated with prestige. Honor societies often include many social events for networking, which can be beneficial for the future.

Honor societies of course come with no guarantees, and unfortunately are sometimes a scam. 

Honor Society Scams and Controversies

Honor societies are not scams in themselves. There is, however, much controversy surrounding these societies in general and specific societies that many members claim don't follow through with their promises.

Fake Honor Society Email Scam

There have been several reports of fake Honor Society Foundation (HSF) emails being sent around to high school and college students. These emails may look like the real deal, using the Honor Society Foundation's logo to impersonate the organization. However, the email contains a link to a phishing website designed to steal your information and, ultimately, money. 

Don't Trust All Invitations

Trustworthy honor societies will not send bulk invitations to students who fail to show academic excellence or remarkable service, character, and leadership qualities. Although it may be nice to be invited to join a society, if you don't think you meet minimum qualifications, you could be getting scammed.

HonorSociety.org is Not a Scam

Many also think the genuine Honor Society Foundation is a scam itself—this is not the case. The foundation is a legitimate non-profit organization; however, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) shows complaints from people about: 

  • Being charged for membership without knowledge of signing up
  • Not receiving any benefits from being a member of the society
  • Being charged even after canceling membership
  • The society harvesting student information unethically

Although the society has some bad reviews, HSF's overall rating on BBB is near-perfect, and it remains one of the top honor societies in the U.S. today.

National Society of High School Scholars Scam Allegations

The National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) is another organization that many question legitimacy. Like the HSF, NSHSS is a legitimate non-profit organization that has had its share of controversy over the years. 

The main complaint about the NSHSS is the sheer number of invitations that are sent out every year. According to several online reports, the organization doesn't have any standards for membership (or very low standards at least), resulting in thousands of students paying for membership without getting any benefits. 

The point of an honor society is to recognize elite students—if a society invites anyone and everyone, the organization's legitimacy comes into question.

Why Choose a Local Chapter?

It's generally recommended that you join an honor society with a chapter on campus and is affiliated with your college of choice. Why? Because some national organizations have come under fire for not recognizing "excellence" in any way—they invite thousands of students every year to collect membership fees.

While these societies are technically legitimate, it's been said that membership won't help you:

  • Gain entry into any colleges
  • Boost your résumé
  • Stand out from other students
  • Get a job

An honor society that is associated with your college is considered a better choice and provides more benefits because:

  • Memberships are much more limited and competitive
  • Being a member is a true indication of excellence, with selection based on genuine merit
  • Benefits are clearer
  • You'll be able to gauge the culture of the society and decide if it's a good fit

Most Honor Societies Charge Fees

An honor society that charges fees isn't necessarily a scam. These fees are usually charged to cover administrative costs and pay for events held for its members. 

Protect Yourself From Scams

Joining a local chapter can also help you avoid falling for a scam. Scammers impersonate many national honor societies (specifically the HSF and NSHSS), sending fake emails pretending to come from legitimate organizations. 

If you join an organization with a local chapter, you'll have direct access to the administration team and can confirm that your membership is real. 

Legitimate Honor Societies

When choosing an honor society to join, you need to do your research. Legitimate honor societies usually:

  • Are legitimate non-profit organizations—stay away from for-profit societies. 
  • Are members of The Association of College Honor Societies, the National Collegiate Honors Council, and/or the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
    • Although lack of membership doesn't indicate that the society is 100% a scam, it should warn you to proceed with caution.
  • Have a long history of members, scholarships, and benefits.
  • Have minimum GPA requirements.
  • Limit their invitations to a small number of students each year.
  • Will know your name, grades, and school.
  • Are affiliated with colleges and have chapters on campus.

Phi Beta Kappa
Phi Beta Kappa, one of the top honor societies in the U.S. only extends invitations to ~10% of their arts and sciences graduates.

Top Honor Societies

According to several online sources, some of the most prestigious honor societies worth considering include:

  1. Phi Beta Kappa
  2. HonorSociety.org 
  3. Golden Key International Honor Society 
  4. Phi Kappa Phi
  5. Gamma Beta Phi
  6. Alpha Lambda Delta
  7. Omicron Delta Kappa
  8. National Society of Collegiate Scholars

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