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Secret societies can have ceremonial initiations, secret signs of recognition (gestures, handshakes, passwords), formal secrets, (the 'true' name of the society, a motto, or a society history); but, college fraternities or "social fraternities" have the same, and some of these elements can also be a part of literary societies, singing groups, editorial boards, and honorary and pre-professional groups.
Some secret societies have kept their membership secret, for example Seven Society and Gridiron, and some have not, like Skull and Bones (the Yale societies had published their membership lists in the yearbooks and the Yale Daily News).
Today, the selection process is not quite as formal, but is still public.
Formal tapping days used to exist at Berkeley, and still exist in a much more formal setting at Missouri.
Most class societies are restricted to the senior class, and are therefore also called senior societies on many campuses.
There is no strict rule on the categorization of secret societies.
Virtually all the oldest honoraries were once clearly secret societies, and to the extent that they are distinct now is at least ambiguous.
Some collegiate secret societies are referred to as 'class societies', which restrict membership to one class year.
An especially difficult problem is the degree to which any one society is an actual society or is simply an honorary designation.
Phi Beta Kappa, for example, was a true secret society, until after its secrets were divulged, the society continued on.
On a publicly announced evening, Yale undergraduates would assemble informally in the College Yard.
Current members of Yale's secret societies would walk through the crowd and literally tap a prospective member on the shoulder and then walk with him up to the tapped man's dorm room.