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National Honor Society Scholarship Program

There are many ways for a family to offset their college expenses. Between financial aid and loans, many families will find that they are eligible for at least some financial assistance. However, with the rising cost of a college education, most families will find that even with financial aid and loans there are still significant college costs to cover. Scholarships are a great way to offset remaining college costs, and there are lots of options out there. In this post, we outline how you can apply for the National Honor Society Scholarship Program, which offers awards of up to $25,000. Keep reading to learn more.

About the National Honor Society Scholarship Program

The National Honor Society (NHS) has been awarding generous college scholarships to outstanding students since 1946. Over the past seven decades, more than $15 million in scholarships have been awarded by the NHS and its parent organization, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). In 2018-2019, more than $2 million in awards were distributed, including a $25,000 prize to a national winner, $5,625 awards for each of 24 national finalists, and 575 additional awards for national semifinalists.


The National Honor Society identifies students who are committed to the four pillars of NHS—scholarship, service, leadership, and character. The application includes a narrative question the focuses on these pillars. In 2018, the narrative question was:


Describe how the four pillars of National Honor Society have shaped your development. How will you apply these pillars to your future goals?


The scholarship application also collects information about your grades and your experiences in leadership and service. You’ll be asked about specific honors and achievements and you’ll need to submit three letters of recommendation. Financial need is also considered.


To learn more about the NHS, check out our post How to Get Into the National Honor Society.

Requirements for Applying to the National Honor Society Scholarship Program

All students applying for an award must be 12th graders who are members in good standing of their local chapter of the National Honor Society. Good standing just means that they are up to date on their chapter obligations and have not been subject to any disciplinary actions.  


A complete application will include the student application, a completed narrative question of 400 words or less, and three letters of recommendation, including one from the NHS adviser, one from the school principal, and a third from a faculty member of the student’s choice.


Students must also meet the income eligibility requirements if they indicate eligibility on their application, (which is an optional question but will be considered if answered).


Awards from the NHS can only be used towards colleges and universities in the United States. Winners do not need to be citizens, but they must matriculate at a college in the U.S..


Applications for the 2019-2020 scholarship cycle will be available online on October 1, 2019. The deadline for submitting an application online is generally late January, but check the program website for details. Recipients of the 2020 NHS Scholarships and their advisers and principals will be notified in April.

Tips on Applying for a National Honor Society Scholarship

Follow All Directions Closely. There are thousands of students applying for the NHS Scholarship, and weeding out those who don’t follow directions is an easy way for judges to thin the applicant pool. Make sure that you read all the rules on the Scholarship FAQ page and work closely with your NHS adviser, who is probably already familiar with them. In particular, make sure you meet the deadline and submit all your recommendations, from the right people, on time.


Keep Track of Your Accomplishments. NHS Scholarships are based on the four pillars of the NHS—scholarship, service, leadership, and character. While your GPA may be a good indicator of your dedication to scholarship, only your experiences and accomplishments can speak to the other three. Make sure you keep a list of the your extracurriculars and the honors, leadership roles, or recognition you receive in them. These will show solid evidence of your commitment to service, leadership, and character.


Access the Narrative Question in Advance and Write it Offline First. The narrative question is a part of the online application, and it allows you write your answer directly into the online application field. We recommend against this approach, though, as it doesn’t allow much time for careful planning or proofreading. Instead, access the narrative question online in advance and write your drafts ahead of time outside of the application. Then, have a mentor or teacher help you to edit and proofread your answer. When it’s time to complete your application, simply copy and paste your polished answer into the correct field.


Select Your Recommender Carefully. Two of your recommendations must come from people specified by the scholarship itself—your NHS adviser and your school principal. The third recommender is someone of your choosing. Try to select someone who can speak to the accomplishments that matter the most for this award. The adviser of your service project or a teacher who has known you for a long time and can speak to your extended growth and accomplishments are good choices. To learn more about selecting a recommender, check out our post Applying to College: How to Get a Great Recommendation Letter. While the information there is specific to selecting recommenders for your college application, the same theories hold true for selecting scholarship recommenders as well.


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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.