|This article relies on references to primary sources. (December 2012)|
The National Honor Society (NHS) is a recognition program for high school students in grades 10 through 12 in the United States and in several other countries. NHS honors those students who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of scholarship, leadership, service, and character.
In 1921, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) officially established the National Honor Society. Under the leadership of Dr. Edward Rynearson, principal of Fifth Avenue High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the organization grew from the original Alpha Chapter at the Fifth Avenue School to more than 1,000 chapters by 1930.
Based on the NHS constitution, four purposes are said to guide NHS chapters. They are:
- to create enthusiasm for scholarship
- to stimulate a desire to render service
- to promote leadership
- to develop character in the students of secondary schools
These purposes are supposed to translate into the criteria used for membership selection in each local chapter.
NHS is sponsored and supervised by NASSP, which appoints a National Council, the controlling body of NHS. In addition, National Council members serve as the selection committee for the NHS Scholarship, which has been administered annually in schools with NHS chapters since 1921.
It is estimated that over one million students participate in NHS and NJHS. Chapters are found in Chile, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, many US Territories, Canada, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, El Salvador, and Turkey.
A student is nominated based on academic achievement. After filling out an application, the student may be selected or denied. Once selected, a student is awarded membership in the local chapter at an induction ceremony. With induction, each member assumes obligations as outlined by the chapter and the national constitution. The chapter must conduct a service project for the school or community and see to the development of an individual service project for each member. Chapters may choose to sponsor fundraising projects or otherwise involve themselves with the school to reach the chapter’s goals. In addition, regular meetings of the chapter are held to conduct chapter business.
Selection criteria 
The NHS National Council establishes the national standards for every NHS chapter. Local chapters create their own bylaws that must comply with the NHS national constitution.
Any student in grades 10, 11 or 12 in a school that has both an official charter of and an up-to-date affiliation with the national office of NHS, is eligible for consideration for membership in NHS. All membership selection is handled through the local school chapter.
The NHS chapter establishes guidelines for selection that are based upon a student’s performance in the areas of scholarship, service, leadership, and character. Specific standards for these four criteria may vary from one school to the next. Such variations are accepted as long as they do not fall outside the parameters set by the National Council of NHS.
All chapters are required to record and publish the criteria and general procedures used in their local selection processes. Final selection is made by a vote of the five-member Faculty Council, a selection committee appointed by the principal. The NHS adviser supervises the selection process and maintains copies of the local procedures.
- National Honor Society
- National Junior Honor Society
- National Elementary Honor Society
- National Association of Secondary School Principals
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