Judging Credibility

You may be wondering why you need to know about honor societies and certification—simply put, not every honor society is what it appears to be. To be a smart consumer, you need to have a basic understanding of certification of honor societies and the difference between certified and uncertified honor societies. 

Judging Credibility

Things to Look for to Determine Credibility of an Honor Society

If an honor society has not been certified as meeting the high standards of the Association of College Honor Societies (it is not in our directory of member Societies), examine the following criteria:

Does the organization require minimum scholastic criteria?

  • Undergraduate (Specialized and Leadership) – Rank in the upper 35% of the class. That rank converts to a 3.2 or 3.3 GPA in most cases—3.0 is likely too low in this age of grade inflation. Honor societies that advertise a minimum 3.0 are probably more appropriately labeled Recognition Societies (a definition that has been generally accepted since 1925).
  • Undergraduate (General) - Rank in the upper 20% of the class.

These criteria are minimum ones; many societies have higher standards.

Does the organization provide transparent governance?

  • Includes membership participation in setting authority for control of the affairs of the organization.
  • Organization is governed by officers/board members elected by the membership.
  • Allows membership participation in approving and amending bylaws.
  • Regularly provides full financial disclosure.
  • Is recognized as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization by the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Does the organization have campus chapters?

  • Formal chartering of each campus chapter by institution and college/department petition, approved by official action of the governing body of the national organization.
  • Candidate selection by the campus chapter.
  • Membership invitation by an official chapter.
  • Chapter representation in national governance.

Does the organization have a website that includes the following items accessible by the general public (missing items raise questions of credibility):

  • National elected officers and headquarters staff
  • National office mailing address, telephone, fax, and e-mail address 
  • Public disclosure of criteria for membership
  • Benefits of membership
  • Membership fee
  • Bylaws
  • Chapter charter policies and procedures

Additional Factors that Raise Questions about Credibility

  • Address limited to Post Office Box/no physical address 
  • Web site items (above) missing, especially bylaws, which means there is a lack of transparency and openness
  • Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director contact information is missing
  • Online application with no local, campus chapter - certified honor societies issue invitations to all qualified candidates from their institutional chapters
  • Vague and flexible eligibility standards
  • No institutional chapter structure
  • Lack of non-profit status (not sure if it’s a non-profit? See https://www.guidestar.org/Home.aspx.)