National Honor Society students are often lauded for “making a difference,” given their significant service and leadership in school and community activities. But how do you—the adviser—make a difference?

In addition to the considerable time and energy you spend managing your chapter and assuring membership integrity, your role might be likened to the young boy on the beach in Loren Eiseley’s “The Star Thrower.” As the tale goes, a man questions a boy throwing starfish into the ocean. The boy explains, “The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves. … When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.” The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.” The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

Now with the NHS Scholarship application period open, you have a chance to make a difference for “that one.” In order for an application to be complete, all applicants need a recommendation from an adviser, principal, and one other faculty member.

The 2016–17 NHS Scholarship national winner Gavin Arneson might feel like that starfish. He shared, “I never believed I would be the national scholarship winner. I was hoping for the top 500. But my recommenders never doubted what I could achieve, and they reflected this in their recommendations. … They went the extra mile to not only write a recommendation, but to know who I am, to understand my goals … to offer a unique perspective on the kind of person I am. Their effort has truly made the biggest difference in the trajectory of my entire life.”

Tips for Advisers

In anticipation of preparing NHS Scholarship recommendations, consider this guidance:

  • Before writing the recommendation, talk to the applicant. Ask for his or her resume and essay.
  • Paint a picture of the student with unique or firsthand interactions. Aim to provide insight that won’t be apparent from details the student will have already shared.
  • Be sure the student has your email address; he or she will need it when completing their portion of the application.
  • International Scholarship and Tuition Services (ISTS) will send you an email with a link for your recommendation. If you’re expecting a recommendation request and don’t get it, check your junk folder.
  • Keep your own deadline in mind-all recommendations are due by February 5, 2018.

Tips for Students

Here are some pointers to share with your NHS seniors who may be applying:

  • Let your adviser know to anticipate a recommendation request well in advance of the deadline.
  • Applicants must document their three most significant service projects or activities, detailing their involvement and the project’s impact on others.
  • Upon first reference of an organization, spell it out. An acronym can be used in latter references.
  • Time management is critical. Plan to complete the application before the deadline. (You never know when your computer will crash, your neighborhood’s power will fail due to a winter storm, or you’ll come down with the flu.)
  • The deadline for student applications is January 30, 2018. Students are responsible for checking on their application’s status to ensure all recommendations have been submitted.
  • And from Gavin himself: “Finish the application!”

Your turn: How many starfish will you save?