Are Honor Societies Really Such an Honor?

What’s this in your mailbox? An embossed invitation to attend a meeting of Nu Xi Nu, the acclaimed honorary society for pre-vet majors. You know it’s acclaimed, because it says so on the invitation. You read on and see that you’re not only invited to attend, but have been elected a member of the group. Hot dang, Greek letters to put on your resume.

You dig further in the envelope and find an order form for Nu Xi Nu sportswear, letterhead, and even a slid 12 karat gold membership pin, emblazoned with a genuine simulated opal. Not bad for $68.50 plus postage and handling.

Sometimes all that glitters is not gold. Such is the case for many honorary societies. Some of these organizations are active in campus events and charities, offer real leadership experience for officers, and carry some weight in the eyes of recruiters. But most honoraries, unfortunately, won’t have any impact on your job prospects. And the pricey pin? Well, you’d probably get a better return on investment using that money for almost any other purpose. The only thing sillier than buying one of these pins would be wearing it in public.

Many students convince themselves that belonging to several such groups creates an impressive resume. Most recruiters, though, are very familiar with honoraries – some may even have bought the pins and then wish they hadn’t. For real job search impact, join organizations that do something meaningful on campus. Get involved as an active participant and leader, not just as a pin-owning member. A good interviewer will ask not what organizations you belonged to, but what you did to improve the organization or its results. Make sure you have a good answer for that question.

So here is my tip: do your research! Ask around—does this organization do anything on campus or is it just something people join so they can get another line on their resume? You cannot make college count if you are essentially paying for another line on your resume. College success, especially in extracurricular activities, has more to do with what you did in the organizations rather than how many memberships you can rack up.

And definitely don’t buy the Nu Xi Nu luggage!

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