What Are The National Honor Society Criteria For College Students?

National Honor Society (NHS) membership has long been the marker of a top-notch student. The organization, founded in 1921 is dedicated to recognizing the top performers in 10-12th grades in the United States. But the organization isn’t just about good grades.

NHS membership means, you’re an active part of your community. That you’re of good character and you do things for others. That you’re a leader in your extracurriculars.

Keep reading to learn more about the National Honor Society criteria.

What Actually Qualifies You for NHS Membership?

If you’re interested in joining the NHS, you might be wondering what makes you an outstanding high school student. But eligibility is pretty straightforward.

Beyond getting those National Society grades, what services and activities will you need to participate in? Well, the answer is, you need to serve your community and participate in activities. The society is looking for markets for potential success. So, activities include volunteer work and activities that showcase your leadership skills.

But, here are some examples of what you’ll need to do to be a part of NHS — and get those scholarships for college.

Why Join the National Honor Society?

Being part of the National Honor Society demonstrates that you are among the best students in both your school and nationally. Not only does NHS show that you’ve mastered your coursework, but it also shows that you’re committed to community service, leadership, and have good character.

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Colleges like to see more than just grades–they want to know what sets you apart from the rest of the pack, whether that’s your ability to tutor younger students or your commitment to helping others in your community.

Essentially, NHS participation allows members a clear pathway to proving they’re a well-rounded student poised for future success.

National Honor Society Qualifications

Because you’re likely dying to know the National Honor Society criteria, here is a quick run through of what it actually takes to become an NHS member with the best and brightest of your peers.


The grades, of course, are the most obvious barrier to entry. Students must have a minimum average of 85 or a 3.5-grade average on a 4.0 scale. That said, the 3.0 is a minimum set by the national organization. Individual chapters may have more stringent requirements.

Additionally, if you’re just shy of the B+ average, you may be able to gain membership through other criteria such as high PSAT scores or exemplary volunteer work.


Character isn’t something we look at a whole lot these days, but the NHS still views this quality as a defining marker of success. In the context of the NHS, character means that you hold yourself to a high moral standard — you’re academically honest — and stay away from things like drinking or drugs.

In this case, the NHS is looking for students that do not have marks on their record for poor conduct and shows courtesy and concern for others.


Leadership is a big deal on college applications and within the National Honor Society. While we get that management experience is hard to come by for high school students, the organization is looking for students who take charge of their school or extracurricular activities.

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Leadership experience can come from working with community organizations or within student leadership groups like student government. This could mean organizing homecoming or prom festivities or spearheading a canned food drive. Additionally, involvement with your soccer or basketball team works, too. NHS wants to see that you can work well with others and that you choose to play an active role in whatever you do.

Community Service

Community service is one of the key components of the National Honor Society criteria for membership. Many schools already require that students complete a certain amount of unpaid work before graduating.

Your local NHS chapter will determine your community service requirement, so it’s not the same in every state. In some cases, your chapter may ask that you complete a project with other students, while others may be satisfied with work you do on your own.

The work you do may not be paid work or an internship; rather, it must benefit the community. This work could mean you tutor kids after school. Maybe you do Meals on Wheels or help the homeless. Maybe you’re more ambitious and join Habitat for Humanity. It’s up to you.

Finally, Is Meeting the National Honor Society Criteria Worthwhile?

Yes and no. It’s not at all that the meeting the National Honor Society criteria isn’t valuable; it’s just that it is not the be all end all of the college admissions process.

Your membership in the NHS signifies to school admissions officers that you’ve got the grades and the well-rounded background that they value in prospective students.

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It gives you sort of a compass to follow during your high school career. Meaning if you meet this set of requirements, you’re on the road to four-year college admissions.

On the flip side, college admissions officers will look past NHS membership and evaluate, grades, leadership, and the rest on their own. But, NHS membership does open up the possibility for an academic scholarship.

In the end, NHS membership doesn’t necessarily beat out chess club, choir, or volunteering at the animal shelter. But, you should aim to meet the National Honor Society criteria.

Colleges want to see a dedication to the activities that are important to you.

NHS functions as a shorthand for a good student with high test scores and potential for success. That said, if you have the time and energy to keep up with NHS requirements, it may well be worth a shot at that scholarship.

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