NHS vs. NSHSS: What’s the Difference?

Most high school students are familiar with the NHS, or National Honor Society. However, they might not have heard of another honor society that invites certain students to join its ranks. The NSHSS, or National Society of High School Scholars, is an academic honor society with 1.7 million members from more than 170 countries. Keep reading to learn about the differences between the NHS and the NSHSS and determine which holds more weight on a college application.


What Are NHS and NSHSS?


NHS and NSHSS might seem like similar organizations, but significant differences exist between the two. Established in 1921 by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Honor Society is composed of students who have excelled in academics and have actively contributed to their community. Open to students in grades 10 through 12, the NHS offers free membership to individuals who meet the following criteria:


  • Achieve a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, depending on the school chapter’s specific requirements
  • Volunteer in the school or community
  • Perform leadership functions by contributing ideas, solving problems, and being resourceful
  • Demonstrate good character, honesty, respect, and compassion toward others


The NHS boasts approximately 1 million members throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, U.S. territories, and Canada.


The NSHSS, on the other hand, is a newer organization. Found in 2002, the National Society of High School Scholars exists to recognize high-achieving students and to help them on their academic journeys. According to the group’s website, NSHSS connects its members withscholarship opportunities, internships, career connections, partner discounts, and more.


Unlike the NHS, the NSHSS is not a free organization. Students pay a $75 lifetime membership fee to join the group. Additionally, NSHSS members can qualify to join the group in multiple ways. Currently, high school students must meet just one of the following criteria in order to qualify for the NSHSS:


  • Achieve a GPA of 3.5
  • Score a 1280 on the SAT
  • Score an 1150 on the PSAT
  • Score a 26 on the ACT
  • Score a 4 on any one AP exam
  • Score a 36 on total combined IB tests
  • Be in the top 10% of their class

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Our chancing engine factors in extracurricular activities, demographics, and other holistic details. We’ll let you know what your chances are at your dream schools — and how to improve your chances!

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Is NHS or NSHSS More Impressive?


Membership in the National Honor Society has historically been an important component of a student’s applicant profile. Not only does NHS membership speak to an applicant’s academic achievement because of the minimum GPA requirement, but it also shows that they have impressive leadership skills and a history of providing service in the community. College admissions departments tend to prefer students who demonstrate significant, long-term participation in extracurriculars, and NHS members showcase a strong commitment to community service causes and volunteer work.


While being an NHS member may help you on your college journey, joining the NSHSS seems to have a lesser effect. Because the criteria for getting into the NSHSS are relatively broad, critics argue that the group offers invitations to almost all high school students, diminishing the value of the achievement. Moreover, colleges are generally suspicious of groups that ask students to pay for membership. In an interview with Local 10 in Miami, Karen Long, assistant vice president for undergraduate admissions at the University of Miami, denied having heard of the NSHSS.


“This is an organization that asks students to pay to be a part of it,” said Ms. Long. “That right there is a tip-off that we’re not talking about something that’s on the up-and-up.” Admissions officials also caution that including NSHSS membership on an application may distract from more impressive accomplishments and achievements that should be taking center stage.


Is NSHSS Worth the Money?


Although NSHSS charges a membership fee of $75, the organization aims to provide students increased access to scholarships as part of their membership. NSHSS members can apply for scholarships related to a variety of academic fields, including literature, medicine, STEM, and visual arts. In total, the group and its partners make over $2,000,000 in scholarship funding available to its members on an annual basis.


With college tuition costs on the rise, applying to scholarships is an essential aspect of the admissions process. However, students can find plenty of free scholarship opportunities, provided that they know where to look. For example, a number of colleges offer full-ride scholarships, meaning that they pay accepted students’ tuition and fees in their entirety. Students and parents can find additional college scholarship resources on the CollegeVine website.


Looking for tips in your scholarship search? Check out the following posts:


Getting a Head Start on Your Scholarship Search

5 Tips to Make College Scholarships Your Summer Focus

How to Answer 16 of the Most Popular College Scholarship Interview Questions


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Short Bio
A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, April Maguire taught freshman composition while earning her degree. Over the years, she has worked as a writer, editor, tutor, and content manager. Currently, she operates a freelance writing business and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their three rowdy cats.

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