Honor societies: scams or legitimate? 

     Students can join several different honor societies depending on their GPA or major. Some are made for students depending on their major or academic focus and some market to all students who meet the minimum requirements no matter their major.  

     Some students may be wary of honor societies. They can seem like scams when they contact students via email to request membership fees. However, many legitimate UCCS honor societies offer scholarship and networking benefits. 

     The Association of College Honor Societies provides tools to find out if an honor society is legitimate. The ACHS is the only certifying agency for college and university honor societies and their website provides questions students should ask before spending money on a membership fee: 

     “Does the organization require minimum scholastic criteria? Does the organization provide transparent governance? Does the organization have campus chapters? Are they a recognized 501 © non-profit organization? 

     “Does the organization have a website that includes: membership criteria, fees and benefits; Bylaws; headquarters staff with contact info; national elected officers?” 

     Honor societies typically reach out to students via email to ask them to apply, so this is not a red flag. However, the ACHS recommends students be cautious about honor societies without chapters on campus, even if they are accredited.  

     For example, the Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity does not have a UCCS chapter but reached out to students in a February email. The ACHS certifies this organization but recommends that students find a contact in the organization and ask for more information before deciding whether to join. 

     The largest honor society at UCCS is the National Society of Leadership and Success. According to their Mountain Lion Connect page, in 2021 they had over 7,485 members at UCCS, including students who have since graduated. 

     NSLS Chapter President Ahmad Najee-Ullah confirmed that the honor society is legitimate. 

     “In fact, it is the only accredited leadership honor society in the country by the likes of the American Council on Education, the National College Credit Recommendation Services and COGNIA,” he wrote via email. “We are also a Registered Student Organization at UCCS.” 

     According to Najee-Ullah, 300 more UCCS students will actively join the NSLS this semester. 

     To join the NSLS, students must first be nominated on the chapter’s invitation criteria which includes having a 3.0 GPA or higher and exhibiting high leadership potential or having a high interest in leadership within their community. A 3.3 GPA or higher means students are invited as NSLS Presidential Members, which is a higher level of distinction within the organization.  

     The society promises students access to $400,000 in scholarships, exclusivity on the NSLS job board and a personalized letter of recommendation. The NSLS also provides a leadership training program for nominated students.  

     The NSLS requires a one-time $95 membership fee. Najee-Ullah said he understands concerns over the cost.  

     “We try to counter this hesitation by making our chapter accessible on campus at club fairs and online via social media and email,” he said.  

     The NSLS was founded in 2001 and has been at UCCS since 2004. The organization, unlike most honor societies, is a for-profit organization. The organization is also not certified by the ACHS but is accredited by the U.S. Department of Education.  

     Najee-Ullah acknowledges that they are a for-profit organization and said the money taken from the membership fee is distributed in multiple ways within the chapter. 

     “About $10 from each member goes directly to the local chapter. Which we then use to fund our core events,” he said. “The rest of the membership fee goes to the National Office to fund other activities and support the NSLS as an organization.”  

     Outside of the NSLS, most honor societies at UCCS are major-specific. Alpha Phi Sigma is a nationally recognized criminal justice honor society and is certified member of the ACHS. International business honor society Beta Gamma Sigma is also a member of the ACHS.  

Alpha Phi Sigma inducts criminal justice majors. Photo courtesy of spa.uccs.edu. 

     There are other honor societies for majors such as accounting, communication and psychology, which can help students make connections in their field. 

     According to Skylar Colwell, president of the ACHS-accredited Honor Society of Psychology, the society looks for psychology students interested in research. 

     “In general, we assume that a lot of our members are moving on to graduate school. Our focus is mostly on research. So, we really can provide a lot to psychology students who are interested in pursuing research and doing research at an undergraduate level. We provide funding for faculty and students to pursue research projects,” Colwell said. 

     “We help take away a lot of the burden of finding things on your own. To find external resources or some of the grants that are specific to psyche members can be kind of difficult if you don’t know what you’re looking for,” Colwell said. 

     Psychology majors who join can apply for funding through the organization’s national website. To join students must be in the top 35% of psychology students and have a GPA above 3.0 and psychology specific GPA above 3.3.  

     The Honor Society of Psychology requires $70 for a one-time chapter initiation fee.