Graduating with honors doesn't just mean you get a special rope for your graduation robe. Completing an honors program shows maturity and readiness for college and helps you develop good study habits. Depending on your school, you can graduate with honors through the National Honor Society, Advanced Placement classes or the International Baccalaureate program. Check with your school to see what you have to do to graduate with honors.

Types

The most widely recognized high-school honors society is the National Honor Society (NHS). According to the NHS website, the society recognizes students based on their excellence in scholarship, leadership, service and character. Taking advanced placement (AP) classes is another way to graduate high school with honors. AP courses are college-level courses and exams that you take while still in high school. AP courses and exams help prepare students for college and help them succeed in college classes. The International Baccalaureate (IB) program is offered as a high-school diploma program in some schools. A student in an IB program takes classes that are different from classes taken by other high-school students.

Benefits

Students in NHS are eligible for dozens of college scholarships. The NHS awards the Principal's Leadership Award, a scholarship worth between $1,000 and $12,000, to NHS members every year. The NHS also provides access to exchange programs with other NHS members for enhanced learning. If you take AP courses in high school, you will earn college credit. If you take enough AP courses in high school, you may be able to graduate college early. AP courses can provide you with advanced placement in college, so you can opt out of several entry-level classes. Plus, according to the College Board website, 31 percent of American colleges and universities take AP experience into consideration when determining what kind of scholarships to award a prospective student. A high-school student in the IB program has the benefit of being recognized by universities around the world, such as Oxford, University of British Columbia and Harvard.

Considerations

Graduating with honors isn't for everyone. In each program, you must meet certain obligations. In order to be eligible for the NHS, you must have a GPA of at least a 3.0, a "B" or 85 percent average, or your school's equivalent. You must have volunteered in your school or community, or plan to do so. Some schools have more qualifications that a prospective NHS member must meet. In many NHS chapters, students must also commit to a "semester of service," such as tutoring young students, cleaning up parks or another service project. If you're thinking about taking an AP course, remember that it will be a college-level course---more difficult than a high-school course. If you are home schooled, or if your high school doesn't offer AP courses, you can take courses through independent study. In most school systems, a student must be invited into (or test into) the IB program. An international board of examiners assesses the student's work. Not only will an IB schedule of courses be more difficult than traditional high school courses, but the IB program also requires students to do community service, according to the program's motto: "creativity, action, service."

Effects

Graduating high school with honors can influence your life beyond college. The NHS challenges students to develop personally and academically through active involvement in extracurricular activities and community service. Both AP courses and the IB program teach students responsibility and the value of a good education.

Size

If you're thinking about graduating with honors, you're not alone. The NHS website estimates that more than 1 million students participate in NHS and NJHS activities.

Many students participate in AP courses, even if the courses are not offered through their schools, and there are more than 30 courses available to students.

The IB program is worldwide. There are more than 706,000 IB students at 2,595 schools in 134 countries around the world.

All these students recognize the importance of educating themselves to the best of their ability. Graduating with honors simply means that you've decided to take your education into your own hands.