Motar Board - National College Senior Honor Society

Membership Selection

You know that Mortar Board stands out from any other honor society. It is not a club or just another honorary. It is more than just an honor that you can list on a resume (although you should put Mortar Board on your resume for your lifetime!). Membership in our Society is about service to your alma mater through Mortar Board.

How can your chapter really fulfill that vision unless you select the best and brightest leaders to carry on that work? Even a single “off” year for recruitment and selection can have a significant effect on the traditions you – and all of the classes before you – have worked so hard to put in place.

Think of yourselves as stewards of your chapter. You work to build upon existing traditions. But you are also “holding” the legacy of the chapter for the classes that will follow you. A successful selection is one of the most important ways you steward your chapter.

We are here to help you with the time-honored tradition that has existed since the inception of Mortar Board! If you have questions or concerns at any time, contact your section coordinator or the National Office.


Membership Fees

A Mortar Board member pays a membership fee one time. Each candidate’s membership fee makes it possible for Mortar Board to exist as a national society and provide services to chapters. It is the price a candidate pays for the honor of lifetime membership in the most prestigious and time-honored national senior honor society. Each chapter must monitor payment of individual members and submit its chapter conference fee to the Mortar Board National Office:

Membership fee: $80
Continuing senior fee: $40
Local dues: vary by chapter
Chapter conference fee: $350

Best Practices

Plan – Planning is such an essential part of this process. You got a great start on your planning with your CAP. Now you can start to solidify your strategies and the specific steps you will take throughout selection.

Engage – Engage your chapter members in this process. Talk to them about their own selection. Why was it important? What are the great things you have experienced together so far? Build enthusiasm for your chapter’s legacy. You will need your entire membership involved in this process, so get them involved early – within the first two months.

Reach out – You will find TONS of great tips on how to recruit members in the Membership Selection Handbook. Just keep in mind that recruitment is not limited to students. The faculty and staff on your campus can be a great resource for you. They know the stellar students in their departments and classrooms. Just think about how great it would feel to be nominated for membership by a professor or dean whom you admire.

Formulate – Don’t worry, this doesn’t really involve math. This is all about your chapter determining who its ideal candidates really are. Of course, you will select based on our Society’s ideals of scholarship, leadership and service. But take the time to discuss, as a group, what that means to your chapter. Find helpful discussion questions and topics in the Membership Selection Handbook.

Elect – This is when you will really get down to business. Find the steps and procedures to make your selection run smoothly in the Membership Selection Handbook. Choose a date for your chapter’s selection meeting. Make sure to give everyone ample notice of the date and time of selection, as all members must be present. Remember that selection is absolutely, 100% confidential. Results must not be discussed outside of your chapter.

Check – Now that you’ve selected your members, you will need to fill out a Candidate Request (CR) and submit it to the National Office. This is a vital step in the process! You may not tap new members until your CR is approved by the National Office. For the sake of everyone’s sanity, you should turn it in at least two weeks prior to your tapping.

Tap – Tapping is SO MUCH FUN! You will get to see the excitement and surprise on your new members’ faces when you arrive to tap them. Tapping is not the same as initiation, but is a step that occurs after a candidate applies and has been selected, but before formal initiation. It is a way to publicly (and memorably) let candidates know that they have been chosen to become Mortar Boards. The phrase “tapping” comes from literally tapping a new member gently on the head or shoulder with a mortarboard to signify selection for membership. Tapping is a great way to be visible on your campus. Make your tapping worthy of your chapter and of Mortar Board! Collect each candidate’s membership fee prior to initiation. A candidate is not a member of Mortar Board until you have reported on the Official Membership Report (OMR) and the membership fee is received in the National Office.

Identifying Eligible Candidates

Ask your registrar for a list of eligible students. If the registrar’s office cannot provide you with these names, it may be able to send out an email message to these students on your behalf. The easiest and most cost-effective way to contact prospective members is via email.

Ask faculty and staff for nominations. Faculty and staff are a valuable resource for you. Actively publicize your selection season to them. Send them emails or put notices in the faculty and departmental newsletters. Make it easy for them to find a nomination form.

Word of mouth. Word of mouth can be one of the most powerful and effective ways to recruit new members. People listen to people they trust. Ask your members and advisors to put the word out to their personal networks. Make presentations to other student organizations. Are there Mortar Board alumni on your campus? Get them involved in your recruitment.

Think about who should be in Mortar Board and nominate them yourself. Your members know who should be in the next class of Mortar Board, so learn about them and nominate them! Don’t be a shrinking violet.

General publicity. Fliers, chalking, banners and information sessions are all important parts of publicizing Mortar Board to the juniors who should have the chance to be considered for membership in our Society.

Nominations Process

Historically nomination to Mortar Board came from the members of the Society or from faculty, staff and other students. A nomination process remains important for many Mortar Board chapters as it is a superior way to extend the reach of the Society and ensure that all eligible scholar-leaders are considered for membership. 

Here you will find a sample nomination /self-nomination online form or print form and accompanying language that could be shared through a mass distribution to faculty, staff and student leaders on your campus. These materials are intended for the use of Mortar Board chapters only and may not be used without express, written permission by any nonmember.


Is my chapter REQUIRED to use the Selection by Consensus model? You are strongly encouraged to do so.. This model is recommended as a valid and comprehensive model that is fairest to all candidates and that sets Mortar Board apart from any other organization in the way that candidates for membership are considered and vetted. Mortar Board does allow variations of this model to be practiced. Your chapter must outline how you plan to conduct selection on your Chapter Action Plan and submit it to your section coordinator and the National Office for approval. At this stage, the National Office will be able to tell you if your process meets national standards. Remember to adhere to the selection principles and Mortar Board ideals outlined the Membership Selection Handbook when you are deciding how to conduct your selection process.

Must all candidates submit an application or nomination form to be considered for membership? No. Many chapters use nomination forms and applications to aid in evaluating and selecting members. Because selection to Mortar Board is an honor that is given, failure to complete or submit a nomination form or faculty recommendation CANNOT be a reason for not considering a candidate.

Since Mortar Board members are busy people, should the new member selection process be carried out in as short a time as possible? It takes time and care to do a thorough job of selecting new members. The Membership Selection Handbook and other helpful membership resources are available online all year long so chapters can start early or work at their own pace. Your chapter should discuss the selection principles thoroughly and should practice the process before you hold your selection meeting. Your selection should take as long as necessary to do a good job and select the fullest and most representative, worthy class possible. Would you have wanted the class before you to have hurried or been careless and missed you?

Is using a high grade point average as the chapter minimum standard a good way to limit the candidate eligibility pool and upgrade the quality of the chapter? The scholarship requirement is the minimum grade point average representing the upper 35 percent of the junior class or a B average, whichever is higher on your campus. With the annual consent of the National Office, a chapter may raise its scholarship requirement. Limiting the candidate pool is not considered a valid reason for approving a GPA standard above the minimum. Keep in mind that raising the grade point average standard may eliminate potential members who are well-balanced in scholarship, leadership and service in favor of high academic performance. It also may systematically favor some groups or majors that tend to have high averages. That is unfair to other students. Sometimes the best leaders are NOT those with a 4.0. It’s the BALANCE of scholarship, leadership and serve you are striving to find.

Is the best way to promote Mortar Board membership to mail to each academically eligible candidate? Mailing information to eligible candidates is a good way to spread the word about Mortar Board, but since no list is completely accurate, your chapter should use more than one methods. Try campus media, information tables, open houses, fliers, banners, displays (especially during Mortar Board Week), faculty/staff nominations and email to announce that membership selection is approaching. Your chapter may decide that specialized approaches are needed to reach certain groups of students (for example, students abroad, commuting students and nontraditional students). The best way is a combination of methods to be sure that all eligible students are reached. Please make special efforts to publicize to students who are away from campus.

If I know a student under consideration would not be a good member or is misrepresenting herself/himself, should I say something at the selection meeting? During the selection meeting, all members are charged with confidential, affirmative appraisal of candidates. However, to maintain standards of scholarship, leadership and service, objective and constructive evaluation is allowed. Consult with your advisor before or during the selection meeting to craft a way to express your concerns effectively to the chapter. Selection by consensus often works its way out

If you can’t pay the membership fee, can you still join Mortar Board? Yes. Mortar Board provides each chapter one gift initiation fee in case of financial need. A gift membership may be awarded to one initiate or divided among several.

Can juniors studying off campus and those who are graduating midyear be considered for Mortar Board? Yes. Academically eligible juniors who are enrolled but are off campus are part of the candidate pool and should receive consideration. The Membership Selection Handbook, the Bylaws and your “people resources” (advisors, National Office and national leadership) can advise your chapter on questions related to these categories. However, members who will be away from campus are discouraged from holding an office.

Are all chapters encouraged to select an honorary member each year? Yes and no. Each chapter is allowed and encouraged to tap as many as three honorary members in an academic year as long as prior approval to tap them has been given by the National Office. Honorary membership may be conferred on a person who has made a significant contribution toward Mortar Board’s purpose at the college/university and has developed national or regional acclaim. An honorary member is expected to serve along with the class in which she/he was selected.

May new members be tapped immediately after selection? No. Your chapter’s candidate request (CR) must be approved by the National Office before tapping can occur. Please allow adequate time for the National Office to approve your list before you plan to begin tapping. Under no circumstances may tapping proceed before approval of the candidate list.

What is tapping? Some of the most vivid memories Mortar Board alumni have are how they were tapped. This rich tradition began as long ago as 1892, years before Mortar Board’s official founding. The phrase “tapping” comes from the tradition that members were (and many still are) literally “tapped” gently on the head or shoulder with the mortarboard of a current member to signify that they have been selected for membership. Tapping is not the same as initiation. Tapping is a step that occurs after a candidate applies and has been selected and before each been formally initiated. It is simply a way to publicly (and memorably) let a candidate know that she/he has been chosen to become a Mortar Board member. Today, tapping ceremonies vary from campus to campus, and they continue to create memorable excitement for new candidates. It is an important to welcome candidates into Mortar Board with pride.

How do I report our selected candidates to the Mortar Board National Office? Candidates should be reported at least two weeks before tapping on the latest version of the Candidate Request (CR) available in the report form section of this website. Complete and easy-to-follow instructions are included on the form. Once candidates have been approved by the National Office, chapters may tap new candidates and implement their orientation and initiation ceremony plans.

How will my chapter receive membership pins, certificates and membership booklets? Do I have to order them? Once your chapter's Candidate Request is approved, a package containing all of the necessary materials for tapping, initiation and orientation will be shipped to your chapter's primary mailing address, typically the senior advisors. This package contains: Mortar Board brochures, merchandise brochures, Initiation Ceremony Booklet, The Bylaws of Mortar Board, Inc., the Society's official governing documents, membership certificates for each selected member, with names printed as they were reported to the National Office on the CR, and Official Mortar Board pins for each new initiate.