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National Honor Society Applications: A Necessary Evil?

Alice Yang and Thomas Howell

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The National Honor Society, or NHS, is an organization in which Ward Melville has participated for many years that is designed to recognize outstanding students who are leaders in their schools and communities. Students in their junior year are highly encouraged by teachers and administrators to apply; however, many juniors decided not to or were unable to apply this year despite being eligible.

The requirements for this year’s NHS applicants included a minimum of 40 hours of volunteer service (inside or outside of school), examples of leadership, and a GPA above 90. Applicants were also required to write an essay describing their leadership qualities and to attach letters from their out-of-school service and leadership supervisors.

Some eligible students did not apply because of the difficulty associated with tracking down former supervisors and soliciting them for letters, arguing that, since NHS requirements differ from school to school, membership is not valued enough by colleges to warrant such an arduous application. For others, it was because they did not have enough time to meet the requirements or collect all of the necessary information for the application. The plights of these students raise the question of whether NHS applications are overly difficult or unavoidably agonizing.

In terms of the required supervisor letters, it is true that, if they were not required, some students would cheat by forging signatures or fabricating hours, so this portion of the application is, sadly, necessary. Although aside from these letters, the application truly is manageable. As one junior, Katie Chen, put it, “I applied because it didn’t take a lot of effort for me to fill out the application, considering that I already had 40+ hours of community service.” However, it is for students who don’t already have this community service and the letters to match that the application becomes much more difficult. Another student, Drake Eggleston, said, “I had no idea that I needed to keep track of and get letters for my outside community service in order to apply and by the time I figured it out, I didn’t have the time to scramble to get everything.” Drake, like many other academically qualified juniors who don’t have older siblings, was completely unaware of the NHS requirements until about a month before the application was due.

While the NHS application may be a necessary evil, it could be made easier on students if they were given more notice. If students were told going into 10th grade that they needed to record all of their out-of-school community service and leadership hours and ask for letters along the way, when NHS application season rolled around, they would be more prepared and more likely to apply. More importantly, everyone, not just students with older siblings, would be informed of the requirements with enough time to meet them.

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National Honor Society Applications: A Necessary Evil?