Tapping is the way current members notify new members they have been selected for Mortar Board! This is a Mortar Board tradition dating back over a century and is best done in a public setting.

The History of Tapping

Mortar Board’s tradition of tapping dates back further than the birth of the national organization, beginning as long ago as 1892 when the Der Hexenkreis chapter at Cornell University was founded as a secret society for women. Then, new members were tapped in the middle of the night. Chapter members dressed entirely in black, complete with hoods covering all but their eyes, surrounded the bed of a selected member. They awakened the new member by uttering a Latin invitation in unison, and then they initiated her. When Cornell joined with the University of Michigan, Swarthmore College, and The Ohio State University to create Mortar Board, the university’s rich tapping traditions passed on to the other chapters. Each chapter had its own unique methods and adaptations, which have evolved greatly over the years. Ohio State continued the late-night method well into the 1950s, sending black-robed members by candlelight into the homes of surprised candidates. Many chapters passed physical items, such as flowers or candles, to new initiates as a part of their tapping ceremony. For instance, Florida State University’s members bore lighted torches, presenting them to newly chosen members, while Northern Arizona University chose a different route by presenting red roses. Many chapters continued to hold their tappings in secret, while others opted for public places where all could see. Some were held during banquets or large meetings, while others were held during classes. Some schools, such as Indiana University, recognized their new members at both a secret and a public tapping. 


Today, tapping ceremonies vary significantly from one campus to the next. Most chapters tap members at a public place among peers (such as in a classroom), while some chapters prefer a more personal notification. As recently as 1996, Cornell University still practiced a version of their traditional tapping ceremony, waking members sometime after midnight and taking them to a special meeting place for fellowship and a brief orientation. Some of the most vivid memories members have are how they were tapped, illustrating how this meaningful tradition has shaped a century of members, and will continue to create profound memories for years to come.

Making Tapping Memorable

Tapping must always be done in person, unless physically impossible. Letters, emails, and phone calls tend to be impersonal, especially for an honor as high as Mortar Board. Tapping happens differently on each campus, but one common thread is that it is a very memorable, visible event. Today, some chapters tap members in their classes or during meetings for co-curricular organizations and others gather their new members in the middle of the night for a special welcome meeting. Dressing in caps and gowns and carrying lighted candles, chapter members “tap” new members in numerous places, often providing them with a scroll including information about a formal orientation meeting. Some chapters have even gotten creative, tapping students studying abroad using YouTube videos. Official tapping should be done by physically “tapping” the members with a slight tap on the head or shoulder with a mortarboard. Be sure to check with your campus administration or faculty before you make any plans for tapping – respect for university policies is of the utmost importance.

Tapping Tips

If you hope to tap during a class, contact the instructor for approval prior to tapping. If you are unable to enter a new member’s classroom to tap them, coordinate the tapping for a meeting of another student organization. Often, it is useful for an advisor or alumni member to go with your tapping team into the classroom. Even if you have prepared the faculty member ahead of time that their class might be interrupted, you may find that the presence of an older campus or community figure will lend credibility and significance. 


On one Mortar Board campus, the university president participates in tapping! On the membership application, have Mortar Board candidates write their own 200-word biographies (later, these biographies can be read during each candidate’s tapping and initiation) and include a class schedule to help facilitate tapping. 


Clearly coordinate the tapping process with your chapter members; assign current members to new members to be certain that no candidate gets overlooked or tapped twice. Allow for a one-week period to tap new members to ensure that you will have plenty of time to tap everyone. Keep a master tapping list in a private area on campus, such as a chapter mailbox or Google Drive, that current members can mark once they have tapped each member—this way everyone is aware of who has and has not been tapped to prevent duplicate tappings and early congratulations (if you wish to congratulate a new member, be sure to check the tapping master list first; you don’t want to spoil the surprise). Some chapters, such as the one at Purdue University, sing a special song as they tap a newly selected candidate. To learn the song, search for Purdue Mortar Board Tapping on YouTube. Add a special touch to the tapping by giving new members congratulatory tokens such as flowers, candles, medallions, or scrolled information on the orientation or initiation. Present the new member being tapped with a “tapping packet” containing all the information she or he needs to know about Mortar Board (this should include orientation information, an initiation invitation, chapter history, and a list of chapter events through the end of the year). Dress in cap and gown when tapping new members. If a gown is unavailable, try to at least wear a mortarboard cap so you can use it to lightly “tap” the new member on the shoulder.

Sample Script for Tapping

Hello, I’m Jane Smith, a member of the Gold and Silver chapter of Mortar Board at Blank University. Mortar Board is the premier national honor society whose members are selected for excellence in scholarship, leadership, and service. I am pleased to announce that a member of your class has been selected for membership in Mortar Board: Lacey Hamilton. Lacey, will you please come to the front of the classroom? Lacey is a junior from Lakeland, Wisconsin, majoring in chemical engineering. She is vice president of the Campus Equestrian Club, secretary of Campus Democrats, and a leader in the Chemical Engineering Society. We wish to tap Lacey to Mortar Board on the basis of her high achievement and dedication to her campus and community. Please join me in congratulating Lacey on her invitation to be a part of Mortar Board. Thank you.

The Tapping Song

Some chapters tap using the traditional tapping song. This can be sung or played.

Tapping Song

Ideas for Tapping from Other Chapters

Coming Soon!

Orientation for New Members

Familiarizing your new members with Mortar Board by way of an orientation is vital to the success of your chapter as well as the national organization. Not only is it helpful, but it is also required. According to the Bylaws of Mortar Board Inc. and Chapter Minimum Standards, each chapter must hold an orientation prior to initiation.

Who Does Orientation?

The outgoing president is responsible for seeing that orientation occurs. However, many chapters delegate this responsibility to a membership chair or committee, which coordinates selection, tapping, orientation, initiation, officer elections, and chapter transition. Each of these facets is equally important. 

The national office also holds biweekly orientation/info sessions you may invite your new members to if holding a campus orientation is too difficult or if any students cannot attend the campus orientation.

Slide Deck for Orientation

If your chapter does not have a slide deck for orientation, you may use this generic one. Feel free to add in chapter slides so new members understand both the national organization and the local chapter.

Orientation/Info Session Slide Deck

Suggested Orientation Agenda

  • Provide a link to the Member Guide to members at the start of the orientation
    • Use it as a workbook and resource throughout the meeting, so that they can follow along to learn about the national organization. 
  • Icebreaker
    • Play team-building and “get-to-know-you” exercises to bring the group together.  
  • National orientation 
    • Purpose – Review the purpose of the organization as found in Article II of the Bylaws. 
    • History – Refer to the Member Guide and tell the story of how Mortar Board began and has evolved. Mortar Board celebrated its centennial in 2018! 
    • We are student-governed. Explain the organizational chart for Mortar Board as seen in the Member Guide and cover the Bylaws and National Conference.
    • Duties of National Council and Region Coordinators 
    • National Office and available services, including official merchandise items
    • National project – “Reading is Leading” 
    • National Foundation – purpose and fellowships 
    • Publications: Forum, Social Media, Membership Selection Handbook 
  • Local chapter 
    • History and traditions 
    • Activities and programs 
    • Job descriptions of officers 
    • Meet the advisor(s) 
    • Area alumni and alumni interaction 
  • Advantages of membership 
    • Academic recognition by your college or university 
    • Fellowships for postgraduate study 
    • Discounts on insurance with Geico 
    • Discounts and member offers from national partners 
    • Instant pay increase for federal government positions 
    • Career development via Mortar Board’s LinkedIn group 
    • National network through social media community 
    • Discounts on recognition pieces by Church Hill Classics 
    • Post-graduate opportunities and discounts 
    • An alumni connection to other talented scholars, leaders, and service-minded individuals 
    • Professional and Personal Development programs (Career Development, Financial Wellness, Alumni Social Hours, and more) 
  • Expectations of membership 
    • Commitment to active participation 
    • Support of chapter achievement of its goals 
    • Adherence to local and national constitutions and other policies, including the Bylaws 
    • Financial obligations: membership fee paid prior to initiation and local dues, if applicable, obtain current contact information 
    • Be sure to get all contact information (summer, permanent and fall mailing addresses; email address; phone; etc.) for each member, especially chapter officers 
  • Initiation procedures 
    • Date, time, and place 
    • Guests invited and welcomed 
    • Dress code (if applicable)


When Mortar Board was formed as a national society in 1918, representatives from the founding chapters explicitly selected a special set of events to make up the initiation ceremony. While it is important to make your own chapter ceremony unique, it is also important to follow the rich traditions of Mortar Board when initiating newly selected members. The complete text for the ceremony is included in the Initiation Ceremony booklet.


  • Locate caps and gowns if you are using them 
  • Distribute copies of the initiation ceremony to all those with speaking parts. 
  • Practice the ceremony, the songs, and the speaking parts. 
  • Make rain plans if you are having an outdoor event. 
  • Invite faculty, administrators, and families. 
  • Consider having a special speaker, such as a local alum, honorary member, or university administrator. 
  • Invite your section coordinator or other National Leaders. 
  • Invite local alumni and have an alum initiate the outgoing members as alumni. 
  • Prepare refreshments to be served following the ceremony.

Initiation Script

Ceremony Resources

Certificates, Pins, and Membership Payments

Membership Payments

Mortar Board has a one-time, lifetime national membership dues of $80. Chapters may add chapter dues to help fund local programming and initiatives; local dues amounts may vary.

Click here for information on accepting membership and paying dues


Mortar Board never wants financial limitations to be a barrier to membership. Each chapter is allowed one gift membership, which waives the national fees of a student in need. Additional gift memberships may be available; contact the National Office.

If your members need to spread their membership dues over a few months, they are welcome to use our payment plan option. Students select which payment works for them – two months at $40, four months at $20, or five months at $16.

Click here to submit your payment plan request.

Certificates and Pins

Each new member will receive their official membership certificate and Mortar Board pin during initiation. Members should only receive their certificate and pin if they have formally accepted membership (through payment or gift membership).


The request for certificates and pins are completed by the National Office once the Candidate Request form is received. Printing the formal certificates takes time, therefore, it is important to submit the Candidate Request at least two weeks prior to Initiation.