It is nearly back-to-school time for college students, and many of them will soon be bombarded with invitation letters to join various honor societies. Local chapters usually cost between $30–100 or more to join. It can be difficult to know if it is really worth the cost, or if the tradition is arcane and unnecessary for future success. There are a number of factors to consider when deciding if joining an honor society is right for you or your child. Here’s what you need to know:

Networking

Some honor societies include members from all academic areas, while others are specific to certain majors and career fields, such as business or pharmacy. The more specialized honor societies allow students to network with fellow students who have the same career focus, as well as alumni already working in the field. Meeting the right people can lead to internship opportunities and even job offers—in fact, studies show that between 60–80 percent of all jobs are obtained through networking. But remember, being a member is not enough. You have to plan on going to meetings and events to make helpful contacts, and so the fees may not be worth it if you don’t plan to fully participate.

Social Media

It is worth mentioning that there are ways to be involved and make connections beyond attending events and meetings. Even the oldest honor societies have kept up with the digital age and are active on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Just remember that being a passive consumer of online media is no better than being a wallflower at a meeting. To get your name out there you have to be invested and involved.

Résumé Value

Honor societies are sometimes criticized as just being résumé fillers. It is difficult to know if a prospective employer will be impressed by membership in an honor society or if it won’t really matter. The key to knowing if a particular society is valuable for your résumé is to ask yourself if it is professionally relevant or prestigious. For example, Phi Beta Kappa was founded in 1776 and is one of the most respected, selective and well-recognized honor societies. While I would not go so far as to say that being a member fundamentally changed the course of my career, I have been told more than once that it was the reason I was granted that all-important first interview.

Scholarships for Members

Many honor societies offer substantial scholarship opportunities for members. Paying for college is difficult, so the more opportunities a student has to bring the cost down, the better. Scholarships can range from a couple hundred to thousands of dollars, and can be designated for a variety of expenses such as books, tuition and even travel-enrichment opportunities. Before you join an honor society, it is worth asking about what scholarship opportunities are available from both the local chapter and the national organization.

Future Perks

Membership in college honor societies can come with perks long after your college days are over. Membership can get you special discounts on everything from cell phone plans and insurance to hotels and résumé services. Many societies also offer professional development opportunities like conferences that can help you get ahead after you are hired, so even after you land your dream job, it can pay to stay involved. Staying involved also lets you keep an eye out for new talent when you are in a position to do the hiring.

Scams

Unfortunately, not all honor societies are legitimate. Since almost all societies charge a joining fee and it can be hard for students to know the difference between a real society and a fake one, it is easy for students and their parents to be scammed out of their hard-earned money. Additionally, there are some societies that have let their admissions standards fall so low that they can no longer really be considered valid. A quick way to check on the status of an honor society is to see if they are a member of the Association of College Honor Societies. However, just because a society is not a member doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not authentic, so you may want to check with your college advisor for advice.

This is a guest post by April from Grand Blanc, MI
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Are College Honor Societies Worth the Fees?