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Are Academic Societies Worth Joining?

Is networking worth the cost of joining an honors society?

An+invitation+to+the+National+Society+of+Leadereshi%5B+and+Success
An invitation to the National Society of Leadereshi[ and Success

An invitation to the National Society of Leadereshi[ and Success

J. Aaron Delgado

J. Aaron Delgado

An invitation to the National Society of Leadereshi[ and Success

Miguel Arriola, Intern

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It seems likely that many students who encounter some sort of academic honor society might wonder whether or not it’s worth joining.  After all, joining does require time and effort in terms of learning about its benefits and taking advantage of them.  Plus, there are fees.  Assuming one already has enough to do and or doesn’t have much spending cash, even if only in the short term, why make the commitment of spare time and resources?

Well, if one looks at one organization called the Golden Key International Honor Society, the picture may be a bit mixed.  Joining requires a one time payment of around 95 dollars.  On the positive side, the logo on the website indicates the organization’s 40 year history with the founding year of 1977.  Members are said to perform over 200 thousand hours of community service around the world annually and are described as, “…making plans and changing lives…” in leadership roles.  Networking opportunities abound, and these can lead to internships and career building jobs.  The organization claims it is the largest collegiate honor society.  At the same time, it boasts some measure of exclusivity in that membership is initiated only through invitation for the top 15 percent of students.  Twelve million undergraduate and graduate students have been recognized for intellectual achievements, and the organization has given out 10 million dollars worth of scholarships.  Additionally, members receive offers for discounts on various products and services including things like admission to museums, event tickets, and even Valentine’s Day flower orders.

These things sound good.  Academic recognition, networking, traveling opportunities, and even discounts?  Still though, is it worth it?  Do these things really materialize?  Certainly one’s inbox does receive numerous emails with announcements and discounts.  However, a cursory online search of opinions on the usefulness of joining Golden Key reveals that many believe the organization to be less than useful for promoting their academic or professional careers.  In some cases it is suspected of being an outright scam.  On Reddit, many people have written that they did not find membership to be particularly bountiful in terms of growth opportunities and that one is better off trying to get jobs or internships on their own.  Others said it is useful in cases where one needs to acquire more extra-curricular activities.  How active a given local branch is varies from place to place, with some places hosting more functions and networking opportunities than others.  When opinions are positive, they usually indicate that members excel within the society based on the time they invest in participating in its functions.

Membership in an academic honor society can indeed be very useful in developing an academic or professional career.  Like the Career Center and ASI’s fledgling program Life After College, the aim of these societies is to connect students with growth opportunities and like-minded individuals who are able to open doors for those with the academic ability to step through them.  The fees that are required may be of a one time nature, or they may be in the form of yearly dues of around 50 dollars as in the case of Phi Alpha Theta, the History Department’s own honor society here at CSULA.  Either way, the amount of money needed is generally not too much if one is not counting every last penny.  As mentioned, there is certainly a wide variation of experiences regarding Golden Key ranging from success to disappointment.  In the end however, it seems that whether or not a given student finds joining an academic honor society useful depends in large part on how much time and effort the student puts into participating in events and following up on announcements and opportunities.  This depends on that person’s personal situation.  In some cases, the person may be putting nearly as much time into participating in society functions as he or she would be in a regular job or internship.  This can make it less worth it for some students.  However, even if one doesn’t intend to dedicate much time to society events and functions, being a member is unlikely to hurt one’s chances, and every little bit helps when it comes to academic and professional success.  The one time that it does work for a given student could be the only time that is necessary for he or she to get ahead in life.

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Are Academic Societies Worth Joining?