In the United States, an honor society is a rank organization that recognizes excellence among peers. Numerous societies recognize various fields and circumstances. The Order of the Arrow, for example, is the National Honor Society of the Boy Scouts of America. Chiefly, the term refers to scholastic honor societies, those that recognize students who excel academically or as leaders among their peers, often within a specific academic discipline.
Many honor societies invite students to become members based on the scholastic rank (the top x% of a class) and/or grade point averages of those students, either overall, or for classes taken within the discipline for which the honor society provides recognition. In cases where academic achievement would not be an appropriate criterion for membership, other standards are usually required for membership (such as completion of a particular ceremony or training program). It is also common for a scholastic honor society to add a criterion relating to the character of the student. Some honor societies are invitation only while others allow unsolicited applications. Finally, membership in an honor society might be considered exclusive, i.e., a member of such an organization cannot join other honor societies representing the same field.
Academic robes and regalia identifying by color the degree, school and other distinction, are controlled under rules of a voluntary Intercollegiate Code. In addition, various colored devices such as stoles, scarves, cords, tassels, and medallions are used to indicate membership in a student's honor society. Of these, cords and mortarboard tassels are most often used to indicate membership. Most institutions allow honor cords, tassels and/or medallions for honor society members. Stoles are less common, but they are available for a few honor societies. Virtually all, if not all honor societies have chosen such colors, and may sell these items of accessory regalia as a service or fundraiser.
Many fraternities and sororities are referred to by their membership or by non-members as honor societies, and vice versa, though this is not always the case. Honor societies exist at the high school, collegiate/university, and postgraduate levels, although university honor societies are by far the most prevalent. In America, the oldest academic society, Phi Beta Kappa, was founded as a social and literary fraternity in 1776 at the College of William and Mary and later organized as an honor society in 1898, following the establishment of the honor societies Tau Beta Pi for Engineering (1885), Sigma Xi for Scientific Research (1886), and Phi Kappa Phi for all disciplines (1897). Mortar Board was established in 1918, as the first national honor society for senior women, with chapters at four institutions: Cornell University, The University of Michigan, The Ohio State University and Swarthmore College. Later, the society became coeducational.
The Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS) is a predominantly American, voluntary association of national collegiate and post-graduate honor societies. ACHS was formed in 1925 to establish and maintain desirable standards for honor societies. While ACHS membership is a certification that the member societies meet these standards, not all legitimate honor societies apply for membership in ACHS.
List of honor societies
Notable national and international honor societies based in or at schools include the following:
General collegiate scholastic honor societies
These societies are open to all academic disciplines, though they may have other affinity requirements.
- Alpha Chi, ΑΧ (all academic fields), colors: Emerald Green and Sapphire blue
- Alpha Kappa Mu, ΑΚΜ (all academic fields)
- Alpha Lambda Delta, ΑΛΔ (freshman scholarship),
- Alpha Sigma Lambda, ΑΣΛ (non-traditional students), colors: Burgundy and Gold
- Alpha Sigma Nu, ΑΣΝ (Scholarship, Loyalty and Service at Jesuit institutions of higher education), colors: Maroon and Gold
- Chi Alpha Sigma, ΧΑΣ (college student-athletes)
- Chi Beta Lambda, ΧΒΛ (competency-based learning), colors: Navy blue, Pink, and White
- Delta Epsilon Sigma, ΔΕΣ (all academic fields at traditionally Catholic colleges and universities)
- Delta Epsilon Tau, ΔΕΤ (Distance Education Accrediting Commission institutions)
- Epsilon Tau Pi, ΕΤΠ (General scholarship, Eagle Scouts)
- Golden Key International Honour Society (academics)
- Mortar Board (Scholars chosen for Leadership united to Serve)
- National Society of Collegiate Scholars, NSCS (scholarship/leadership/service), colors: Purple and Gold
- Phi Eta Sigma, ΦΗΣ (freshman scholarship)
- Phi Kappa Phi, ΦΚΦ (all academic fields)
- Phi Sigma Pi, ΦΣΠ (all academic fields), colors: Purple and Gold
- Phi Tau Phi, ΦΤΦ (all academic fields) Republic of China
- Tau Sigma, ΤΣ (transfer students)
- Lambda Sigma, ΛΣ (student leadership, scholarship, and service)
- Order of Omega (fraternities and sororities)
- Sigma Alpha Lambda, ΣΑΛ (all academic fields)
These societies recognize leadership, with a scholarship component; multi-disciplinary.
- Order of The Key Honor Society (leadership)
- Mortar Board (leadership), colors: Gold and Silver
- National Residence Hall Honorary, NRHH (Residence hall leadership/service)
- Omicron Delta Kappa, ΟΔΚ (leadership and academic; juniors, seniors, graduate students, alumni, faculty and staff, honorary)
- Sigma Alpha Lambda, ΣΑΛ (leadership)
- Sigma Alpha Pi, ΣΑΠ (leadership) --> See National Society of Leadership and Success or NSLS (certified by the U.S. Department of Education)
- Phi Kappa Alpha (Syracuse), ΦΚΑ (leadership) Dormant, as of 1961.
These are collegiate-based honor societies for students in the armed forces. There are other non-collegiate honor societies serving military branches, often listed as professional fraternities.
- Arnold Air Society, (United States Air Force cadets)
- Pershing Rifles, (United States armed forces)
- Scabbard and Blade, (ROTC cadets and midshipmen)
These societies are open to the traditional liberal arts disciplines, and may be department-specific. Some are grouped by discipline subheader.
- Alpha Kappa Delta, ΑΚΔ (sociology), color: Teal
- Alpha Upsilon Alpha, ΑΥΑ (reading and language arts)
- Chi Delta Phi, ΧΔΦ (women's literary, later co-ed)
- Chi Sigma Iota, ΧΣΙ (counseling)
- Delta Epsilon Chi, ΔΕΧ (divinity, national honor society of the Association for Biblical Higher Education)
- Eta Sigma Phi, ΗΣΦ (classics)
- Kappa Omicron Nu, ΚΟΝ (human sciences), colors: Burgundy and Cream
- Lambda Alpha, ΛΑ (anthropology)
- Lambda Iota Tau, ΛΙΤ (literature)
- Phi Alpha Theta, ΦΑΘ (history)
- Phi Beta Kappa, ΦΒΚ (undergraduate arts and sciences), colors: Pink and Sky blue
- Phi Sigma Tau, ΦΣΤ (philosophy)
- Phi Upsilon Omicron, ΦΥΟ (Family and consumer science), colors: Violet, Gold and Cream
- Pi Alpha Alpha, ΠΑΑ (public administration)
- Pi Gamma Mu, ΠΓΜ (social sciences)
- Pi Sigma Alpha, ΠΣΑ (political science)
- Psi Chi, ΨΧ (psychology), colors: Navy blue and Platinum
- Sigma Iota Rho, ΣΙΡ (international relations)
- Sigma Tau Delta, ΣΤΔ (English)
- Theta Alpha Kappa, ΘΑΚ, (Religious Studies/Theology/Philosophy)
- Theta Chi Beta, ΘΧΒ (religious studies)
- Alpha Iota Delta, ΑΙΔ (decision sciences)
- Alpha Mu Alpha, ΑΜΑ (marketing), color: Red
- Beta Alpha Psi, ΒΑΨ (accounting and finance)
- Beta Gamma Sigma, ΒΓΣ (AACSB accredited business programs), colors: Gold and Yale Blue
- Delta Mu Delta, ΔΜΔ (ACBSP accredited business programs)
- Eta Sigma Delta, ΗΣΔ (International Hospitality Management Honor Society, ICHRIE)
- Mu Kappa Tau, ΜΚΤ (marketing)
- Omega Rho, ΩΡ (operations research, management science)
- Omicron Delta Epsilon, ΟΔΕ (economics), colors: Blue and Gold
- Sigma Beta Delta, ΣΒΔ (business, management and administration)
- Kappa Delta Pi, ΚΔΠ (education), colors: Jade Green and Violet
- Pi Lambda Theta, ΠΛΘ (education)
- Pi Omega Pi, ΠΩΠ (business education)
- Phi Beta Delta, ΦΒΔ (international education)
- Eta Sigma Gamma, ΗΣΓ (health education)
- Alpha Psi Omega, ΑΨΩ (theatre)
- Chi Tau Epsilon, ΧΤΕ (dance)
- Delta Phi Delta, ΔΦΔ (art)
- Delta Psi Omega, ΔΨΩ (theatre)
- Kappa Pi, ΚΠ (art)
- Kappa Kappa Psi, ΚΚΨ (music - band)
- Mu Beta Psi, ΜΒΨ (music)
- Pi Kappa Lambda, ΠΚΛ (music)
- Pi Nu Epsilon, ΠΝΕ (music)
- Tau Beta Sigma, ΤΒΣ (music - band)
- Theta Alpha Phi, ΘΑΦ (theatre)
Journalism and communications
- Kappa Tau Alpha, ΚΤΑ (journalism/mass communication), colors: Light blue and Gold
- Lambda Pi Eta, ΛΠΗ (communication)
- Society for Collegiate Journalists, (SCJ) (journalism)
- Alpha Mu Gamma, ΑΜΓ (foreign languages), color: Gold
- Delta Phi Alpha, ΔΦΑ - (German), colors: Black, Red and Gold
- Pi Delta Phi, ΠΔΦ (French), colors: Blue, White and Red
- Sigma Delta Pi, ΣΔΠ (Spanish and Portuguese), colors: Red and Gold
- Phi Sigma Iota, ΦΣΙ (modern foreign languages, Classics, linguistics, philology, comparative literature, bilingual education, second language acquisition), colors: Purple and White
- The Order of Barristers (law)
- Order of the Coif (law)
- Phi Delta Phi, ΦΔΦ, (law), colors: Garnet and Pearl Blue
- Alpha Phi Sigma, ΑΦΣ, (Criminal Justice, law)
- Lambda Epsilon Chi, ΛΕΧ, (Paralegal)
These societies are open to students in the STEM disciplines, and may be department-specific. Some are grouped by discipline subheader.
- Beta Beta Beta, ΒΒΒ (biology), colors: Blood red and Leaf green
- Beta Kappa Chi, ΒΚΧ (natural sciences/mathematics)
- Chi Beta Phi, ΧΒΦ (science and mathematics)
- Chi Epsilon Pi, ΧΕΠ (meteorology)
- Gamma Theta Upsilon, ΓΘΥ (geography)
- Iota Sigma Pi, ΙΣΠ (chemistry and related fields, women's)
- Phi Lambda Upsilon, ΦΛΥ (chemistry)
- Phi Sigma, ΦΣ (biological sciences)
- Phi Tau Sigma, ΦΤΣ (Food Science and Technology)
- Pi Epsilon, ΠΕ (environmental sciences)
- Sigma Gamma Epsilon, ΣΓΕ (geology/Earth sciences), colors: Gold, Blue, and Silver
- Sigma Lambda Chi, ΣΛΧ (construction management technology)
- Sigma Pi Sigma, ΣΠΣ (physics), colors: Forest Green and Ivory
- Sigma Xi, ΣΞ (Research in Science and Engineering), colors: Blue and Gold
- Sigma Zeta, ΣΖ (natural sciences/mathematics/computer science)
- Alpha Mu, ΑΜ, (Agricultural Systems Management)
- Delta Tau Alpha, ΔΤΑ, (Honor Society of Agriculture)
- Gamma Sigma Delta, ΓΣΔ, (Honor Society of Agriculture) colors: Sand and Forest Green
- Pi Alpha Xi, ΠΑΞ (horticulture), colors: Nile green and Cerulean blue
- Xi Sigma Pi, ΞΣΠ (forestry), colors: Green and Gray
- Sigma Lambda Alpha, ΣΛΑ (landscape architecture), colors: Gold and Green
- Tau Sigma Delta, ΤΣΔ (architecture), colors: White and Gold
Within the larger group of STEM disciplines, these societies serve engineering disciplines.
- Alpha Epsilon, ΑΕ (agricultural/food/biological engineering)
- Alpha Eta Mu Beta, ΑΗΜΒ (biomedical engineering)
- Alpha Nu Sigma, ΑΝΣ (nuclear engineering)
- Alpha Pi Mu, ΑΠΜ (industrial engineering)
- Alpha Sigma Mu, ΑΣΜ (metallurgy/materials engineering)
- Chi Epsilon, ΧΕ (civil engineering), colors: Purple and White
- Eta Kappa Nu, ΗΚΝ (electrical engineering, computer engineering), colors: Navy blue and Scarlet
- Omega Chi Epsilon, ΩΧΕ (chemical engineering), colors: Maroon and White
- Phi Alpha Epsilon, ΦΑΕ (architectural engineering)
- Pi Epsilon Tau, ΠΕΤ (petroleum engineering and related fields), colors: Gold and Black
- Pi Tau Sigma, ΠΤΣ (mechanical engineering), colors: Teal and Maroon
- Rho Beta Epsilon, PBE (robotics), colors: Crimson, Gold, and Black
- Sigma Gamma Tau, ΣΓΤ (aerospace engineering)
- Tau Alpha Pi, ΤΑΠ (engineering technology)
- Tau Beta Pi, ΤΒΠ (engineering, all types), colors: Brown and White
- Upsilon Pi Epsilon, ΥΠΕ (computer science/computer engineering)
This section includes all health care related fields, including veterinary science.
- Alpha Epsilon Delta, ΑΕΔ (pre-medical), colors: Red and Violet
- Alpha Omega Alpha, ΑΩΑ (medical students and physicians), Forest Green, Gold and White
- Beta Sigma Kappa, ΒΣΚ (Optometry)
- Delta Omega, ΔΩ (public health)
- Iota Tau Alpha, ΙΤΑ (Athletic Training)
- Nu Rho Psi, ΝΡΨ (Neuroscience)
- Phi Zeta, ΦΖ (veterinary medicine)
- Pi Delta, ΠΔ (podiatry)
- Pi Theta Epsilon, ΠΘΕ (occupational therapy)
- Rho Chi, ΡΧ (pharmacy), colors: Purple and White
- Sigma Theta Tau, ΣΘΤ (nursing), colors: Orchid and White
- Sigma Phi Alpha, ΣΦΑ (dental hygiene)
- Sigma Phi Omega, ΣΦΩ, (Gerontology)
- Sigma Sigma Phi, ΣΣΦ (osteopathic medicine) or (medicine)
- Upsilon Phi Delta, ΥΦΔ (health administration)
- Beta Phi Mu, ΒΦΜ (library science/information science/information technology)
- Epsilon Pi Tau, ΕΠΤ (technology)
- Gamma Nu Eta, ΓΝΗ (information technology)
- Order of the Sword & Shield, ΟΣΣ (homeland security, intelligence, emergency management, and all protective studies)
- Upsilon Pi Epsilon, ΥΠΕ (computer information systems, computer science)
- Kappa Mu Epsilon, ΚΜΕ (mathematics)
- Mu Alpha Theta, ΜΑΘ (mathematics, high school and two-year colleges)
- Mu Sigma Rho, ΜΣΡ (statistics)
- Pi Mu Epsilon, ΠΜΕ (mathematics)
Local honor societies
Some universities have their own independent, open honor societies, which are not affiliated with any national or international organization. Such organizations typically recognize students who have succeeded academically irrespective of their field of study. These include:
- Activities Honorary Society at University of Illinois at Chicago
- Aquinas Honor Society at University of St. Thomas
- Bisonhead at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
- Burning Spear Society at Florida State University
- Cap and Skull at Rutgers University
- FHC Society at The College of William & Mary
- Florida Blue Key at University of Florida
- Friar Society at the University of Texas at Austin
- Iron Arrow Honor Society at the University of Miami
- Lion's Paw at the Pennsylvania State University
- Matteo Ricci Society at Fordham University
- Owl and Key at the University of Utah
- Phalanx Honor Society at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, also at Clarkson University. Separate groups?
- Plumb Bob at the University of Minnesota
- Quill and Dagger at Cornell University
- Raven Society at the University of Virginia
- Society of Innocents at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
- Skull and Bones (Penn State) at the Pennsylvania State University
- Skull and Dagger at University of Southern California
- Sphinx Head at Cornell University
- Dean William Tate Society at the University of Georgia
- Texnikoi Engineering Honorary at Ohio State University
- Tiger Brotherhood (Clemson University) at the Clemson University
- White Key Society at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Certificate, vocational, technical, and workforce education
Two-year colleges and community colleges
- Alpha Beta Gamma, ΑΒΓ (business at two-year colleges)
- Alpha Gamma Sigma, ΑΓΣ (California community colleges)
- Beta Chi, ΒΧ (criminal justice at two-year colleges)
- Kappa Beta Delta, ΚΒΔ (business at Community Colleges)
- Phi Rho Pi, ΦΡΠ (forensics at two-year colleges)
- Phi Theta Kappa, ΦΘΚ (All academic fields at community and junior colleges)
- Psi Beta, ΨΒ (psychology at two-year colleges)
- Sigma Kappa Delta, ΣΚΔ (English at community and junior colleges)
- Sigma Zeta, ΣΖ (natural sciences/mathematics/computer science - Associate membership available for community and junior colleges)
Secondary school societies
Commonly referred to as high school societies.
- California Scholarship Federation
- Cum Laude Society (general)
- German National Honor Society-Delta Epsilon Phi (Deutsche Ehrenverbindung) (German)
- International Thespian Society (theatre), colors: Blue and Gold
- Key Club
- Mu Alpha Theta, ΜΑΘ (mathematics)
- National Art Honor Society (visual arts)
- National Beta Club
- National Forensic League (public speaking), colors: Red and Silver
- National Honor Society (high school general)
- National Honorary Beta Club (high school general)
- National Honorary Junior Beta Club (middle school general)
- National Junior Honor Society (middle school general)
- Quill and Scroll (journalism)
- Science National Honor Society (science)
- Société Honoraire de Français (French)
- Spanish National Honor Society (Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica) (Spanish)
- Technology Student Association (STEM), colors: Red blue White
- Tri-M Music Honor Society (music), colors: Pink
- Order of the Arrow, National BSA Honor Society
- Tribe of Mic-O-Say, Heart of America Council and Pony Express Council
- Firecrafter, Crossroads of America Council
This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2007)
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