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The gamble in choosing an honors society

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The gamble in choosing an honors society

There are 13 honor societies on the University of Alabama campus. CW | Hanna Curlette


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No, it’s acceptance into an honor society! Wait, wait—it cost $60 to even join? Empty wallet. But, another resume builder, but being “qualified” enough, but what an honor.

But also—what does this organization even do?

Students are often left questioning the value or validity of the various honor societies with every new email. Students worry about filling their already busy schedules with something that will waste their time, and many eventually decide not to apply or join an honor society because they don’t believe they will benefit from being a part of one.

Regardless of a student’s involvement in an honor society, the question remains if being recognized for these membership may be enough to give them a leg up when applying for a job or graduate school in the near future.

“I think they are important,” said Andrew Goodliffe, assistant dean for Graduate Admissions and Recruitment at The University of Alabama. “It shows that someone has gone above and beyond in their discipline. Being a part of one is not the be all and end all, but I think it’s one of those things that will just convince a potential department that that student may be a little more engaged and a little more enthusiastic than the others.”

Radcliffe said that when looking at an applicant for a graduate program, there are numerous factors such as undergraduate research, letters of recommendation and statement of purpose. But, he said, he is also looking to see something that shows the students passion and desire to go above and beyond.

“If a student just goes to class but shows that they aren’t otherwise engaged in their discipline, even with a 4.0 [grade point average], it’s hard to still be impressed,” he said.

The University has 13 honor societies they either promote membership of or have a chapter of on campus. These honor societies recognize students, faculty and even alumni for their dedication to achievement in academics, service, leadership, personal development and character.

“Honor societies bring some of the brightest minds together to not only make an impact on society, but to broaden our perspectives and inspire each other to reach our goals,” said Jenny Lamberth, a senior majoring in marketing. “In particular, Mortar Board is a group of leaders among leaders, and each time we come together for a project, event or meeting, we learn from each other.”

Lamberth serves as the president of Mortar Board, one of the University’s honor societies for students who excel in scholarship, service and leadership. The University’s chapter of Mortar Board recently received an award for being one of the most prestigious chapters in the country at the Mortar Board National Conference this summer. Lamberth said she believes that being a part of an honor society is a great experience to see yourself grow and to make campus a better place.

“Being a member of Mortar Board is so much more than just having an honor society to list on your resume,” Lamberth said. “It truly is an incredible experience that allows some of the most motivated, involved and talented seniors to come together and make an impact on our campus and community.”

Lynn Hamric is a mechanical engineering professor who was approached by two of her students to be an advisor for Golden Key, another honor society. Not all honor societies recruit through email, which sometimes can make the difference whether someone joins.

“After hearing how they felt about [Golden Key], I knew it was one I would be honored to be affiliated with,” Hamric said.

Hamric said over the past 18 years, she has seen numerous members receive scholarships and recognition to further their education and research thanks to all of their hard work through the organization.

With all of the honor society scams, Hamric encourages any student who is eligible for an honor society to go to the honor society’s website and find out for themselves if being a part of one would be beneficial to them. However, she also said honor societies are only as beneficial as the effort students put toward them.

“During our annual fall new member induction ceremony, I explain that attendance at meetings is not a requirement. However, when you decide not to participate, you are the true loser,” Hamric said. “You miss out on developing lifelong friends, working on worthwhile service projects, hearing dynamic speakers on subjects that are beneficial to you as a future professional and also just learning many valuable lessons for after graduation.”

Another email, another opportunity? Or, spam, still?

Personal investigation on the particular honor society is the only suggestion for students in their decision process.

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The gamble in choosing an honors society