Honors societies that make the cut: How to avoid getting scammed



By Fink Densford

Every year at UK, some students receive letters inviting them to join prestigious honor societies, but some of these societies may not be as honorable as they claim.

The National Society of Collegiate Scholars is one honor society that invites freshmen and sophomores ranking in the top 20 percent in their class to join, according to its Web site.

Mishri Someshwar, manager of communications for NSCS, said some students are asking whether the groups they are invited to are legitimate or not.

“It’s important to make sure the honors these societies are offering to their members is merited,” Someshwar said. “Anytime you get an invite, you want to make sure you understand what the group has to offer.”

Holly Miller, a graduate student at UK, said she enrolled in a society as an undergraduate that turned out to be a scam. After joining, she said the only information she received was a single invitation to a dinner the society held.

“I never re-enrolled because I didn’t feel like it offered anything to me,” Miller said.

Students with high grades could receive numerous invitations.

Maggie Evans, a psychology junior, said she receives between three to four invitations every semester.

“I throw them away because they seem like things to put on your resume and not real groups to get involved in,” Evans said.

The NSCS provides guidelines, which the Association of College Honors Societies primarily drafted, to help students avoid scams.

The ACHS Web site has a list of accredited honors societies that Someshwar said have gone through rigorous tests and hold high standards.

“Some groups may not belong to that list, but may still be legitimate,” she said.

Someshwar said students should watch out for basic red flags when selecting an honors society.

“Check the GPA requirement. It should be within the top 20 percent of your school,” she said. “If there’s no academic requirement, or it’s not explained, you should be wary.”

Someshwar said it is important to check out things like the society’s financial reports, how much revenue it is generating and where all that revenue is going. It should be easy to find out who is in charge of the money, she said.

“There should be clear member participation as well,” she said. “Not being able to find information on chapter presidents or board members can be a bad sign.”

She said other things to look for on a society’s Web site are its physical address and phone number.

“Honors societies, when they are legitimate, offer great benefits,” she said. “You want to make sure the group does offer those things. Making sure you join the right group and use it to your advantage is our goal.”

The ACHS guidelines are available at www.achsnatl.org.