We received a letter from the high school that our daughter is eligible for a membership in NSHSS (National Society of High School Scholars). Is this worth the money? Should we do it?

June, 26, 2020 Update

I originally answered this question in July 2017. But it appears my article has drawn the attention and ire of the NSHSS and today I received a legal letter from the NSHSS attorneys requesting I remove this post for misrepresentations.

I have removed my original post and instead I offer my opinion.

Under no circumstance would I register my child with NSHSS. We threw their fancy paperwork in the trash.

As an educator and someone who has worked with high school students for decades, I am not impressed with any of the national programs that “recognize” students– for a fee. This includes the National Society of High School Scholars, Who’s Who Among High School Students, and the like. I advise my clients not to list these items on college applications or resumes.

It is my opinion that you are better off not sending you money to NSHSS.

Evaluate the Details

Here are some things you should do before you register for any award programs that solicited your participation:

  • Ask college admissions staff. Have they heard of the program? Do they have a favorable opinion of it? Would they consider it an achievement or an impressive accomplishment if they saw it on your resume? Do they think it is worth the registration fee?
  • Check the National Association of Secondary Principal’s List of Approved Programs for Students.  From their website “The purpose of this list—developed through NASSP’s National Committee on Student Contests, Programs, and Activities—is to assist principals, teachers, parents, and students in determining the legitimacy and educational value of a variety of external student program opportunities.”
  • Ask yourself if you will get value from the program beyond any potential prestige. Is the information you receive worth the cost?

If you are considering paying the registration fee or purchasing the bound book with your name listed because you think these types of honors may “look good” to colleges, it is my opinion that you should skip the “opportunity”.

How to spot scams targeting teens and their families.

Next time you get an email or letter in the mail announcing an “opportunity,” here are a few ways to spot the scam:

  • If it is an honor or award, has my child done something specific to earn this honor? (writing a winning essay, competing in a national event, completing the requirements for an organizational award, etc.)
  • Have other neighbors or friends received the same communication? It can’t be exclusive or prestigious if a majority of students receive it.
  • Is payment required? You should NEVER have to pay to apply for or receive a scholarship. Membership in some national organizations may involve a registration fee, but most have a local chapter representative who you can ask (i.e. the debate coach who represents your chapter of the National Speech & Debate Association or the NHS sponsor who represents your chapter of the National Honor Society.)
  • Is this a recognized organization? It can be hard to keep up, so when in doubt, check the National Association of Secondary Principals’ list of activities and contests that offer actual academic value. These programs have to demonstrate some benefit to participating students.
  • Are you considering it solely to “look good to colleges”? There is no silver bullet for admission—no single activity, club, or award that will help you get in. Students should pursue interests and talents. This may be the most genuine way to avoid scams.


[The update to this post does not indicate an admission of fault for any previously posted comments. I did not intend to misrepresent any factual information regarding NSHSS or their programs. What I do want to offer is my opinion based on my years of experience.]