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Is the National Society of High School Scholars Worth Joining?

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Question: My son got an invitation to join the National Society of High School Scholars. My wife and I didn't have him join Duke TIP because we didn't know what opportunities it would really give him, but I don't want to make the same mistake again. Should I pay the $75 and join this honor society?

“The Dean” applauds you, Dad, for not jumping on every “Great (paid) opportunity for your child’s future” bandwagon that pulls up to your front door. But, actually, the National Society of High School Scholars and the Duke TIP program can’t really be discussed in the same breath.


The National Society of High School Scholars, while not at all a straight-up scam, won’t boost your child’s college admissions odds. In fact, college officials (especially at the snazziest schools) tend to roll their eyes when they spot it on a resume, and listing it there makes an applicant look more like a rube than a star.

Although the NSHSS solicitation propaganda makes the organization sound highly selective, the bar is actually set fairly low, and there are no benefits to joining other than a long-shot chance at scholarship money. (Note, however, that there are thousands of scholarships out there that require no membership dues or application fees, and the best money usually comes directly from the colleges themselves.) So The Dean gives a two-thumbs-down on shelling out for this “recognition.”

Duke’s Talent Identification Program (TIP), however, is a different story, and it’s worth consideration by parents who, like you, are wisely skeptical of pricey pre-college “opportunities.” Although participating in TIP is not an automatic fast track to the most sought-after universities (as some folks mistakenly believe), the course offerings are wide-ranging and allow students to explore interesting academic areas with bright, like-minded peers. TIP programs can be especially valuable to those whose school classes and/or school peer groups do not challenge them.

Bottom line: With so many programs, awards and other options available to college-bound adolescents, you may need to borrow The Dean’s Dick Tracy Decoder Ring to figure out which ones are worthwhile. But, in general, your antennae should be up when you are asked to pay for any “honor.” If an honor is truly earned, it should be free!

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