The term graduating with honors gets thrown around a lot. It implies academic excellence, hard work, dedication, and sacrifice in pursuit of your studies.
Most people would agree that they would love to graduate cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude. It is a distinction that many students aspire to. It demonstrates their adept skill of mastering content.
Every year, many students receive letters from honors societies, some legitimate, others not. For students with high academic standing, it can be difficult to spot an honor society scam.
Many organizations use the term honor society to lure in unsuspecting victims. They pursue honors dues with no traditional standing in the honor society community. For students — and parents — this can be a challenging thing to navigate.
In this spirit, we attempt to sort out the confusion that can come with joining honors societies. We hope to help you understand the valid letters from what could be an honor society scam.
Here are ten ways to spot an honor society scam so you can get the most out of your honors society choice.
The Benefit of Honors Societies
While having a highly-touted honor society recognized on your resume is nice. There are other important benefits of joining an honors society.
According to Good Call and Lisa Wooten Booth, Executive Director of the Association for College Honors Societies, becoming a member of a recognized honors society can offer several benefits, including:
- The opportunity to network with other high-achieving students in your field of study
- The opportunity to publish your research as an undergraduate or graduate level student
- The opportunity to attend seminars, conferences, and workshops
- The ability to participate in campus initiatives and community programming
Joining the right honors society can establish local, regional, and national connections. Additionally, it can provide opportunities to earn scholarships, awards, and grants. These may not open to other scholars.
Joining honors societies can offer a chance for leadership roles before leaving college! Moreover, it can help land important jobs within your field of study.
Don’t overlook these factors when joining an honors society. That’s why it’s crucial not to dismiss all honors societies as some sort of scheme or scam.
Highly recognized honors societies with a history of excellence have tremendous value. Don’t let a few bad apples spoil your opportunity to your educational experience.
Here are a few ways to spot the established honors societies from the scams.
Nowadays, anyone can come up with an official-sounding name, take time to put together a crisp, sleek-looking logo, and call themselves an honors society. However, only the time-tested and reputable honors societies can and do stand out due to several factors.
1. They Are a Member of the Association of College Honors Societies (ACHS)
While not all reputable honors societies aren’t a part of the Association of College Honors Societies, most reputable honors organizations are. So this is a great place to look when researching an honor society’s relevance.
In the earlier half of the twentieth century, 1925, to be exact, the ACHS was formulated to safeguard students and families from potential scams when it comes to traditional honors societies.
You can quickly search to see if an honors society is an ACHS member through their ACHS Member Society Search from their website. Again, while not all reputable honors society programs will be a member of ACHS, most reputable honors society programs are members.
Make sure you continue to check for other red flags if you notice your organization is not a member.
2. The Organization Is for-Profit Rather Than Nonprofit
Another clear red flag for an organization’s standing as a reputable honors society is that they are a for-profit entity rather than a nonprofit. Reputable honors societies do not seek to earn profit from their members.
If you notice that your organization is a for-profit entity, this could be a clear sign that this organization is a scam. Even if they offer loads of perks and benefits, it’s a good recommendation to steer clear of any honors society program working in the interest of for-profit instead of nonprofit.
It goes without saying that any organization accepting membership fees as a for-profit entity may be looking out for their own self-interest and not the interest of their members, so beware.
3. The Organization Doesn’t Have a Charter on Your Campus
Another clear sign that an honors society may not be on the level is if they are reaching out to you but do not have a registered charter on your campus. Oftentimes, honors societies will reach out to scholars about their honors society program when they don’t have a formal charter on the campus.
In some instances, an organization may be seeking to form a charter at your school. If this is the case, talk to school officials about the organization and if this is the right decision for you.
If this is the case for you, it may be a clear indication that the organization is a scam. If it is a national organization, coming from somewhere else, beware.
While this is not a total disqualified, if you notice this, it should put you on guard to check in to the organization more thoroughly.
4. They are Reaching Out to You too Early
According to an article from USA Today, most reputable honors organizations don’t send out invitations until the end of junior or senior year. This is substantiated by the executive director of Phi Kappa Phi.
While this is not always the case, if you notice that you’re receiving many honors invitations in your freshman and sophomore years, you may want to look further into the organization.
The article suggests that most freshman and sophomore students are most susceptible to scams from unreputable honors programs as they wish to be recognized as a great student.
Nonetheless, most reputable honors societies wait until the end of junior or into the senior year to get an accurate impression of the student, which is hard to glean in the freshman and sophomore years.
5. Mailing Address Is a P.O. Box and Has Minimal Contact Information
Another major red flag is if the organization’s address is a P.O. box. Most reputable honors organizations would have an actual address. If you notice that the address listed on their website is a P.O. box, the next thing to check is if they have another form of qualified contact information.
If it is challenging to find contact information, this may indicate that the organization is a scam.
Honors societies by nature are organizations that seek to bring members together and provide a connection between charters. If the organization is difficult to be reached, it’s safe to say they aren’t connecting charters or benefiting students in any way.
6. The Organization’s Principles or Values Aren’t Clear
When you research the honor society, is it clear what their mission, principles and values are, or are they vague and hard to find? If so, this may indicate that more research is required to assume this organization’s reputation.
Most reputable honors society programs will have clear and established principles, values, and mission. An organization simply using grade point average as their only qualifier for recognition should put you on guard and make you question their motives in starting the honors society.
Most organizations have a mission, value, and guiding principles that are well-established to help them seek candidates.
7. There Are a Lack of Member Reviews or Experiences on Their Website
While this isn’t discriminatory on its own, if an organization lacks member experiences or reviews on their website, it may require some more digging. A reputable organization is all about connecting scholars locally, regionally, and nationally under the guise of the organization.
Membership should be rewarded with experiences unique to being a member. If an organization isn’t doing anything to recognize members locally, regionally, or nationally, this may be a red flag that something is up.
Most reputable organizations look to promote the great things they are doing for students within the program. If your honors society isn’t promoting their members and all the ways they are enjoying the program, what good is the membership?
8. They Formed Only Recently or Have No Formal Date of Origin
Most reputable honors programs have a long and storied history. They are nationally recognized and have a reputation for being around for decades, if not longer.
If your honors society has no clear origin date on their website or is new on the block, you may want to do additional digging. While this isn’t a reason to totally dismiss an organization’s standing, it does provide a reason to look further into the program and its validity.
Many reputable organizations formed in the early part of the twentieth century. If this isn’t the case with your honors society, look into it, and see if there is something fishy there.
9. The Honor Society Have Reached Out to You, but Your Grades Aren’t Great
If an honors society has reached out to you, but you have a questionable grade point average, chances are, it could be a scam. Most reputable honors society programs covet their members as some of the highest-achieving scholars on the campus.
If you’re receiving literature from an organization, and grades don’t refect you even being an honors student, beware. It could just be a scam.
Many scams will seek out students in hopes of receiving membership dues from questionable honors status. While it can be tough to look at it from that perspective, it’s important to research the organization before sending in membership fees.
While it’s great to be recognized, it’s important to ask yourself if you’ve got the grades it takes to be considered an honors society member.
10. Is the Membership Invite Only?
Another clear red flag that an honors society may be a scam is if they have an online application available on their website. Traditional, reputable, honors societies usually don’t have applications available on their website, and membership is invite-only.
Honors societies should be inclusive yet rigorous in their selection of members. If your honors society seems to let anyone join that has money to pay for a membership, you are most likely dealing with a scam.
A reputable honors program has clear and distinct qualifications that entitle you to a member invite. These could include:
- Must meet GPA requirements
- Meet a certain percentage among the elite in their class
- Have certain traits the organization is looking for (i.e., leadership, charity work, etc.)
If the honors society has an application yet requires certain parameters to meet the qualification for recognition, this may be okay. It is important that the honor society is invite-only.
If their online application (if they have one) is used for screening purposes and not joining purposes, this indicates that the organization is still invite-only, and therefore may be reputable.
By researching the organization and its reputation, you’ll have a better understanding if the honors society is reputable or not.
Don’t Fall Prey to an Honor Society Scam!
Don’t fall prey to an honor society scam! Make sure you do your necessary research to decide if an organization is credible or not. With all of the organizations out there passing themselves off as legitimate, it pays to do your research.
If you’re looking to learn more about our honors program and all the benefits members receive from our organization, please check out our website.
Also, be sure to read our member’s blog with great stories and suggestions on being an honors student.
Source: HonorSociety.org Member Articles
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