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This article was originally published at http://www.logicfever.com/weblog/2002_07.php and is reproduced here without permission under the Fair Use Doctrine. Copyright © 2003 Todd Pangburn

Academic Scam
By Todd Pangburn

I recently received a letter telling me I had been nominated for membership in The National Society of Collegiate Scholars. The letter further informs me that this is a great honor and I should be proud of myself for earning entrance into such a selective and prestigious organization. It then mentions that all I have to do fill out the "Calligrapher's Proof Sheet" enclosed, "calligrapher's" because they used a fancy font on my name when they printed it out, and pay the nominal $60 lifetime membership fee. Please excuse me if I'm not flattered.

So why do I afford this illustrious nomination? Was it because my professors picked me out as an exceptionally bright student? No. Was it because I wrote a shining application essay and won my way into the Society? No. I'm getting these letters because some computer program went through and sorted out all the students with a GPA above a certain number. Anyone with a GPA above their chosen amount gets in, and the Society provides no real extra services to the students other than some words to put on your resume. Now, if the words "Member of The National Society of Collegiate Scholars" on one's resume only mean "I have a GPA higher than 3.5," and you already have your GPA on your resume, then your membership in this Society is completely unnecessary.

I've seen these things time and time again, they go by all types of phony official-sounding names and they all run the same racket, but just to see if this one was different I read over some of their material. So what do I get for this low, low price of $60? Well I get a pretty certificated of membership, and I get to attend a prestigious commencement ceremony. The ceremony itself is a waste of time; its only purpose is to give you your certificate and shake your hand. I wouldn't mind missing out on a handshake if they saved me time by just sending my certificate in the mail.

Their pamphlet, decorated with a huge '@' symbol watermark (for reasons unimaginable to me), details the other "advantages" of membership. It tells you that you can get scholarships through the society, but there is no reason you should have to be a member to get the scholarships. If scholarships were to help the people who cannot pay for college, then why would one have to pay $60 dollars to have access to scholarships?

But wait there is also the possibilities for leadership within the Society. In other words if you would like to work menial jobs in their district office for them, for free, they are happy to oblige. Well there must be some opportunities for leadership somewhere, right? Let me ask you this, "How can someone lead if they have no followers?" Maybe there would be opportunities for leadership if there were weekly meetings, but there aren't because of the unfortunate fact that no one ever shows up. No one, not even the members, care about the organization. You cannot lead unless there are people interested in following you.

Finally they claim that they do service for the community. I've seen these things before, if they do more than one service project in a year it is a miracle. The members are not involved, and often opt out of service because they are already doing the same program with another organization. Plus if people wanted to do service work, why wouldn't they just join some free organization devoted fully to service.

These Societies serve no purpose to their members, and don't represent any kind of actual achievement. The only purpose I can see them serving is the employment of a handful of administrators not motivated enough to do anything worthwhile with their lives. I don't see any difference between these organizations and a common scam.

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