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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

When an Honor isn't an Honor

It's the time of year when letters start arriving in mailboxes with news that students have been nominated to join fabulous, exclusive organizations. The arrival of the letters coincides with filling out applications, which isn't a huge surprise. Some students may be looking at the honors or activities sections of their applications thinking that an extra item or two might make their list look nice. Or, the anxiety of applying to colleges might make the student susceptible to the flattery that comes from some impressive sounding groups.

Many of these groups solicit "nominations" from your peers or teachers. For some high school students, the nomination is often related to having taken the SAT, which sells mailing lists of student names to colleges and others. If you were somehow able to sign your baby sister up for the SAT, you might be able to get her into one of these things, too.

Even I have gotten the letters. This one came back in 2011 and I shared it on the blog then, but plenty have come since then...

Are these organizations legitimate? Yes, insofar that they exist and have members who pay fees for programs and conferences. However, admission folks aren't really impressed by expensive certificates or conferences. No one has ever excited told me "and they're part of the International Consortium of Future Publicists!" when they've been telling me about an applicant.

If you thinking about paying for one of those honors, don't do it because you think it will look good on an application. If you think the experience will be beneficial to you in another way, go for it. Just don't do it thinking it will have an effect on your application.

By the way, I just checked up on the organization that sent me the above letter. The website from the letter is dead, but they are still around. I don't think I'll be joining, though.

I dug that picture from 2011 up because someone recently shared a link to an old New York Times article about expensive leadership conferences. It's worth a read.