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Honor Societies

Association Of College Honor Societies

The Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS) is a visibly cohesive community of national and international honor societies, individually and collaboratively exhibiting excellence in scholarship, service, programs, and governance. A coordinating agency for these societies in chartering chapters in accredited colleges and universities, the association sets a high priority on maintaining high standards, defining the honor society movement, and developing criteria for judging the credibility and legitimacy of honor societies.


During the first quarter of the twentieth century, higher education witnessed a sporadic evolution of honor societies, resulting in proliferation, duplication, and low standards. In October 1925, six credible honor societies, seeing the urgent need to define and enhance the honor society movement, organized the Association of College Honor Societies. Other legitimate societies soon affiliated, beginning an expanding membership that as of 2001 included sixty-seven societies.

More than seventy-five years of dedication to excellence have produced a highly respected professional organization that gives continuous attention to developing high standards and a process of assuring that members are in compliance with the association's bylaws. The Association of College Honor Societies is the nation's only certifying agency for college and university honor societies.


By certifying the quality of member societies, ACHS affirms that elections to honor society membership should represent superior academic achievement. Standards set by the association require membership participation in society governance in electing officers and board members, setting authority in organizational affairs, and keeping bylaws current. To provide guidelines for its diverse membership, the association has classified honor societies into distinctive groups and has set standards for societies in each group to follow in establishing their membership and induction requirements of scholarly achievement and leadership. For general honor societies, scholarship recognition represents the highest 20 percent of the college class no earlier than the fifth semester, or seventh quarter. For honoring leadership, these societies choose from the highest 35 percent, while specialized societies, representing particular fields, induct students who rank in the highest 35 percent of the college class and have completed three semesters, or five quarters. All these societies may elect superior graduate students.

Association members are academic honor societies, as opposed to college professional and social fraternities. Honor societies recognize superior scholarship and/or leadership achievement either in broad academic disciplines or in departmental fields, including undergraduate and/or graduate levels. According to ACHS bylaws, character and specified eligibility are the sole criteria for membership in an honor society. Membership recruitment is by written invitation and conducted by campus chapters–without applying social pressures such as solicitation or "rushing" to enlist initiates. Likewise, association societies must function without preferences to gender, race, or religion.


The association publishes the ACHS Handbook, which contains the association's bylaws, society profiles, a list of certified societies, and general information. Annual meetings offer opportunities to review standards, discuss issues of concern in higher education and the honors community, and provide guidance in society governance, operations, and campus activities. Information is available to all members through minutes, special studies, committee reports, or the ACHS website.

Recognition of the association at the national level is evident in the increasing collaboration with university administrators, faculty, educational associations, and other groups. Significant attention is seen in the use of the association's classification of honor societies in Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities, and in an action by the U.S. Civil Service Commission on April 13, 1973, stating that honor society membership meets one requirement for the civil service GS-7 level.


Meeting annually, a council of sixty-seven affiliate societies governs the association with one vote per society to be cast by each society's official representative. Between meetings, the executive committee conducts all business of the association and administers the policies, programs, and activities formulated by the council. The executive committee comprises the president, the vice president/president-elect, the secretary-treasurer, the immediate past president, and two members-at-large, elected from the council and representing general and specialized honor societies.

Annual dues from member societies provide the chief source of revenue, while other limited income may derive from vendor participation, annual meetings, and occasional grants.


ANSON, JACK, and MARCHENASI, ROBERT, JR. 1991. Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities, 20th edition. Indianapolis, IN: Baird's Manual Foundation, Inc.

ASSOCIATION OF COLLEGE HONOR SOCIETIES. 2001. ACHS Handbook 1998–2001. East Lansing, MI: Association of College Honor Societies.

WARREN, JOHN W., and DOROTHY I. MITSTIFER. 2000. "Prelude to the New Millennium: Promoting Honor for Seventy-five Years." Speech given at ACHS 75th Anniversary Celebration. East Lansing, MI: Association of College Honor Societies.




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