The National Scholars Honor Society is an honor society for college undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, and those who have earned their degrees. It is open to part-time and full-time students or foreign citizens studying in the United States. The NSHS remains an independent body without affiliation to academic institutions or organizations such as the National Honor Society or the National Honor & Merit Scholarship Society.
University of Illinois medical students founded the National Scholars Honor Society in 1997 following their displeasure with other national honor societies. The group started with 100 members in 1998, but has grown to more than 100,000 today.
Grade point average remains the most important factor in becoming a National Scholars Honor Society member, but the Membership Committee reviews other factors, including extracurricular activities, academic awards, and personal accomplishments. The average honoree is a junior working toward a bachelor's degree, while maintaining a 3.6 GPA and participating in more than one regular campus activity. Applicants must accept the organization's Honor Code regarding academic and professional integrity before being considered for membership.
The National Scholars Honor Society accepts mailed applications, but prefers those submitted online through their website. Updated information regarding current and cumulative GPA, awards, honors, employment, and accomplishments can be added to a member's profile at any time without additional fees. The society lists members on its website for easy verification by interested third parties.
The National Scholars Honor Society claims to have given away more than $700,000 in scholarships, waived membership fees, and stipends to members in 2008. The top scholarship is the $5,000 general merit award. The Scholarship Committee picks all award winners based on academic achievements and not need. The NSHS reports it spends 75 percent of its revenue on these awards and recruiting new members, with the remaining 25 percent paying salaries and other business expenses.
Critics contend the National Scholars Honor Society is not a legitimate honor society but a fraud with services worth less than the value of their services. They assert that the NSHS does little more than list names on their website and is not generally recognized as a legitimate accomplishment by graduate programs and employers. The NSHS counters by claiming that membership is not automatic, although students with GPA's below cum laude are considered if they have otherwise exemplary college records.
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