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Is Alpha Chi worth anything?
January 28, 2011 6:09 AM   Subscribe

Is membership in the Alpha Chi honor society worth anything?

Our big-brained daughter received an invitation to join the Alpha Chi honor society. She's, of course, happy that her hard work (straight A student) is being recognized. Me, on the other hand, being a complete cynic, see an "honor society" that requires a fee ($42 one-time) to be...scammy. Other than vague offerings to compete for scholarship money, I'm not seeing any real advantage to membership.

How would my fellow MeFites advise my daughter? Are you a member of Alpha Chi? If so, has membership ever amounted to more than a purchased bullet-point on your resume?
posted by Thorzdad to Education (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I tend toward utilitarianism, so the real thing to consider is whether your $42 is doing good, I think.

As for honor societies...I was a member of a whole mess of them in both high school and my undergraduate career. I doubt any of them really amounted to much of anything in terms of getting into college or graduate school. Toward the end of undergrad, I turned down induction into a couple in order to save money, in fact. However, earlier on, even though it was useless, practically-speaking, to be a member, boy did I feel like hot stuff, particularly in high school.

So is it probably going to sway a hiring and/or admissions decision? Nah. But if it will make your daughter happy...I'd say spend the $42.
posted by Rallon at 6:21 AM on January 28, 2011


In general, not worthwhile. The only Greek honor societies that are always useful on a resume are Phi Beta Kappa and a couple of discipline-specific societies (like Beta Alpha Psi for accounting).

Exception: class-rank-based societies that allow one to note one's class standing parenthetically (as the qualification for membership) when, for whatever reason (such as grade inflation, grade deflation, or an odd grading system) your stated GPA doesn't immediately imply a high class rank.
posted by MattD at 6:27 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bottom line: if it's just $42 and it will make your daughter happy, why not?

That said, I'm in a profession with a lot of "big-brained" people, and I've never seen Alpha Chi on a resume--out of probably hundreds candidates including some Rhodes Scholars, Fulbrights, Supreme Court clerks, and other luminaries (which I, sadly am not). Phi Beta Kappa, I see all the time. I suppose Phi Beta Kappa is nice to see (I list it on my resume), but I've never given it much weight when interviewing candidates.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:30 AM on January 28, 2011


Exception: class-rank-based societies that allow one to note one's class standing parenthetically...
Well, supposedly, Alpha Chi is limited to the top 10% of students at an institution (based on grade average). Of course, once you spread that across the nation, that's not exactly a small group.

Thanks.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:39 AM on January 28, 2011


Alpha Chi is a bit of a scam. For obvious reasons it is rare than an honor requiring the recipient to pay a fee is regarded as worth mentioning on an Academic C.V. See, for example, the proliferation of vanity Who's Who publications vs. the more legitimate Who's Who publications.
posted by jardinier at 6:47 AM on January 28, 2011


Membership in an ACHS member society carries with it a tangible acknowledgment of merit for Federal employment. As long as the applicant meets the requirements as described in the job announcement, honor society membership may fulfill one of the requirements for entrance at the GS-7 level in numerous professional and technical occupations in the Federal Service.

This from their benefits page is inflated. While it's true, having a 3.0 or higher GPA will have the same effect, and at all but the hardest grading schools, everyone in the top 10% of class rank and eligible for election to this honor society will have a 3.0 or higher or they'd have eligibility based on class rank.
posted by Jahaza at 7:02 AM on January 28, 2011


For obvious reasons it is rare than an honor requiring the recipient to pay a fee is regarded as worth mentioning on an Academic C.V.

That's kind of a ridiculous statement to make. I haven't come across a single honor society that doesn't come with an initiation fee--including the previously-mentioned Phi Beta Kappa, which is well-regarded and could hardly be considered a scam.

It's only $42, your daughter will likely get a certificate and badge for the fee, and this kind of reinforcement/acknowledgment of her hard work is a Good Thing. Don't worry about prestige.
posted by litnerd at 7:06 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't speak to Alpha Chi specifically, but I did join Phi Eta Sigma, an honor society which only high-ranking freshmen are invited to join, when I was so invited. I've had no interaction with it since. I've never bothered listing it on my résumé, even when I was fresh out of school and looking for my first "real" job. In fact, I had to Google "freshman honor society" now just to remember its name. Based on my (lack of) experience with Phi Eta Sigma, I declined to join any other honor societies to which I was invited.

OTOH, I also belong to a professional fraternity which I have been very active in and means a great deal to me. But despite some superficial similarities (Greek-letter names; as MattD notes, some honor societies are discipline-specific, as are professional fraternities), honor societies and professional fraternities should not be confused, as they have distinctly different characters and purposes. And of course, neither of those two should be confused with social fraternities and sororities.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:03 AM on January 28, 2011


I'll agree with the sentiment that membership alone probably won't do much on a resume. But does the society have an active branch on campus? I mean, do they elect officers each year and put on events and such? Because if you get involved and end up taking on one of those officer positions, it's a sign of leadership. I'm a member of Tau Beta Pi, which was founded to be Phi Beta Kappa for engineers, but which I've generally found doesn't have quite the same name recognition. Still, though, I was treasurer of my campus chapter one year, and I've found that to be a useful talking point in interviews.
posted by sigmagalator at 9:04 AM on January 28, 2011


"That's kind of a ridiculous statement to make. I haven't come across a single honor society that doesn't come with an initiation fee--including the previously-mentioned Phi Beta Kappa, which is well-regarded and could hardly be considered a scam."

As I said, it's rare. But what's common are the masses of vanity books, societies and awards trying to get money and more out of young people who are desperate to add something to their C.V. There's no harm in doing research into these things, as the poster is by asking. For example, regarding this particular society, it's worth noting that their headquarters are at a private Christian college in Arkansas consistently ranked in the top "conservative" colleges, and their motto is taken from John 8:32. I take no issue with that and think that Christians are lovely people. And if this fits with OPs daughters idea of a society she would like to join, there's no harm and as noted it might make her feel good. But I'd maintain there's also no advantage to membership above that.
posted by jardinier at 12:53 PM on January 28, 2011


As a person who has read literally thousands of resumes and decided to interview a few hundred, I can truthfully say that I've never bothered to read any "honor society" references. Totally worthless and not a reflection on the quality of the prospective employee.

I also ignore degrees, so ... maybe I'm not the most typical hiring manager.
posted by Invoke at 4:44 PM on January 28, 2011


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