NSHSS vs. NHS: Understanding The Difference

High school graduate posing
May 6, 2024
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/6/24

If you’re curious about the differences between NSHSS vs NHS and which organization is the right choice for you, keep reading. 

While often mistaken for each other, the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) is completely separate from the National Honor Society (NHS).

If you are an ambitious high school scholar, you may have heard about the NSHSS or the NHS from teachers or peers. While there are differences between the two, both honor societies are open to strong academics with a focus on community service.  

Continue reading as we outline the NSHSS vs NHS if you’re interested in joining an honor society.  

What is the NSHSS?

The National Society of High School Scholars is an academic honor society that recognizes and supports high-achieving students from over 26,000 high schools across 170 countries. The NSHSS offers lifetime membership to students who meet academic criteria such as a minimum GPA, SAT/ACT scores, or AP/IB exam scores.

What is the NHS?

The National Honor Society is a prestigious organization in the US that recognizes outstanding high school students who demonstrate excellence in scholarship, service, leadership, and character. NHS was established in 1921 and has grown to include over 1 million participating students across all 50 states and globally.

NHS Requirements

The NHS invites students to become members if they achieve the four pillars of NHS: Scholarship, Service, Leadership, and Character

To become an NHS member, you must meet the following criteria

  • Be enrolled in grades 10 - 12 
  • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0
  • Volunteer experience 
  • Demonstrate strong leadership skills and participation 
  • Have a good, reliable character; possess a friendly but professional demeanor 

Membership is based on an invitation from a teacher, whose chapters can be found online.

If your school does have a chapter, talk to a faculty member or guidance counselor to see if you would be a good candidate for membership. Then, you can ask a teacher to invite you to the chapter. 

To continue to hold your membership with the NHS, you must reapply to the society each year with proof of your volunteer hours. 

NSHSS Requirements

The National Honor Society for High School emphasizes academic achievements rather than focusing on a student’s overall achievements. The organization focuses more on your academic performance and recognition and is typically more flexible regarding eligibility criteria. To be eligible for an invitation to NSHSS, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • A cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher
  • An SAT score of 1280 or higher
  • A PSAT score of 1150 or higher
  • An ACT score of 26 or higher 
  • A score of 4 or higher on an AP exam
  • Rank in the top 10% of your class
  • IB test scores of over 36
  • IGCSE Grade A or higher

The NSHSS requirements are much broader than the NHS, which might make the NSHSS a more attractive organization for some. 

NSHSS Vs. NHS: Which One Should You Choose?

The NHS has been around longer than the NSHSS and is one of the most well-known honour societies in the US. So, the organization may be more recognizable in name and reputation than the NSHSS.

The NSHSS is not chartered through schools like the NHS, which means you can switch schools and still hold your membership. It also means that you can continue to benefit from your membership after high school. 

Both organizations offer scholarships, leadership opportunities, connections to college admissions members, conferences, and college and career prep.

Both honor societies have pros and cons, and it is up to you to decide which honor society you think fits you the best. It really depends on whether you want to pay the $90 membership fee and whether your school has an NHS chapter. 


Still have questions about NSHSS vs NHS? No problem! Here are the answers to frequently asked questions. 

1. Are NSHSS and NHS the Same?

No, the NSHSS and the NHS are not the same. They are two different honor societies that have different eligibility requirements. 

Another significant difference is that the NSHSS has a membership fee, while the NHS does not. However, while you have to reapply each year to the NHS, you hold a lifetime membership with the NSHSS after you pay the $90 fee. 

2. Do Colleges Care About NSHSS?

The short answer is–not really. 

College officers will probably note that you are a high-achieving student because of the admissions requirements for both societies. Because both societies heavily emphasize community service, the admissions team will note that you are deeply involved in the community. These are two critical things in applications that colleges find desirable. 

Since honor societies have become more common, it’s not necessarily special to be a member. There are many other ways to make your college application stand out that don’t require membership in a society. 

It definitely won’t hurt your chances to have the NSHSS on your application. Just remember to pair this with extracurricular activities, a high GPA, and high SAT and ACT scores. 

3. Is it Worth it to Join the NSHSS?

If you meet the requirements, receive an invitation to join, and can pay the membership fee, there’s no harm in joining the NSHSS. 

Some may argue that because of the membership fee, the honor society is not really worth it and recommend joining the NHS instead, which is free. 

While both the NSHSS and NHS have beneficial community service elements, there are also plenty of volunteer opportunities outside of these honor societies. 

4. Is it Hard to Get Into NSHSS?

It is not hard to get into the NSHSS. If you meet any one of the academic requirements, you have a great chance of getting invited to the society. You are free to ask any teacher to invite you for membership. 

The hardest part of the process is probably achieving a high GPA and test scores that the NSHSS requires. However, getting into the NSHSS shouldn’t be an issue if you are a high-performing student.

Final Thoughts

Overall, there are more valuable achievements you can include in your college applications that trump NHS or NSHSS membership. However, there are tons of scholarships available through the NHS and NSHSS, which can be an attractive feature to some. 

Ultimately, if you have an interest and get an invite to either the NHS or the NSHSS, go for it!

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