We received a letter from the high school that our daughter is eligible for a membership in NSHSS (National Society of High School Scholars). Is this worth the money? Should we do it?
No, it is not really that prestigious or exclusive—everyone you know got the same invitation letter. No, it isn’t really a honor—invitations were sent out to most students regardless of actual achievements. And no, you shouldn’t pay money for it because everyone in the field of higher education know this is really a scam.
Why do these “honor programs” exist?
So why is the National Society of High School Scholars or the Who’s Who of American High School Students letter an annual source of frustration for me and others who help teens and their families with college admission? These companies (and others like them) do an excellent job of marketing to the hopes and fears of parents.
“Acceptance” letters often come on fancy letterhead with gold seals and extra inserts proclaiming the prestige and opportunity of their offer. Who doesn’t want their child to be recognized? And too often parents and students want to jump at any opportunity to stand out when it comes to college admission.
Unfortunately these “awards” are no more than a purchased database of high school names and addresses looking to sell their accolades.
Can I list this as an award / honor on my college applications?
You shouldn’t. Colleges are not impressed with “awards” you have bought yourself.
Colleges want to see what you have DONE. If you have earned recognition for doing something, it is worth noting on your applications. But Who’s Who or NSHSS don’t ask you to DO anything other than pay for the privilege.
But what about the benefits they mention?
If you are looking for scholarships, conferences, discounts from business partners, or any of the other benefits, you can get them elsewhere. Search for scholarships online that don’t require a $75 membership fee to apply. (In fact, one sure sign of a scholarship scam is asking for money in order to apply.) There are dozens of youth conferences to help motivate, inspire, and challenge students in a variety of fields. And your local health club or Costco will have business partners willing to offer you discounts.
How to spot scams targeting teens and their families.
Next time you get an email or letter in the mail announcing an “opportunity,” here are a few ways to spot the scam:
- If it is an honor or award, has my child done something specific to earn this honor? (writing a winning essay, competing in a national event, completing the requirements for an organizational award, etc.)
- Have other neighbors or friends received the same communication? It can’t be exclusive or prestigious if a majority of students receive it.
- Is payment required? You should NEVER have to pay to apply for or receive a scholarship. Membership in some national organizations may involve a registration fee, but most have a local chapter representative who you can ask (i.e. the debate coach who represents your chapter of the National Speech & Debate Association or the NHS sponsor who represents your chapter of the National Honor Society.)
- Is this a recognized organization? It can be hard to keep up, so when in doubt, check the National Association of Secondary Principals’ list of activities and contests that offer actual academic value. These programs have to demonstrate some benefit to participating students.
- Are you considering it solely to “look good to colleges”? There is no silver bullet for admission—no single activity, club, or award that will help you get in. Students should pursue interests and talents. This may be the most genuine way to avoid scams.
So you can throw the NSHSS letter in the trash. You aren’t missing a thing.
Colleges are not impressed. In fact, listing one of these “buy your own award” items on a college application or resume may backfire. Instead of looking accomplished, you look like the fool who got scammed into thinking this marketing ploy was a real achievement.
NSHSS is proud to announce the winners of the NSHSS Ambassador Awards 2016! This $1,000 scholarship is awarded to NSHSS Ambassadors who have gone above and beyond their duties to represented NSHSS and help build a positive global community.
NSHSS Ambassador Award Winners 2016
Jorge Alvarez, Winter Haven, FL
Haines City Senior High School IB
Jorge is a mentor for Talon Robotics, which is the largest summer enrichment program in Florida. Talon Robotics is sponsored by Polk State College and affords middle and high school students the opportunity to gain and refine their skills in robotics. Many of Jorge’s students have received scholarships to further their STEM experiences. Jorge also assists his mentees in preparing for the annual intra-county robotics competition. Jorge’s mentees won the 2015 Intra-County LEGO Robotics Competition—receiving a grant that allowed the Winter Haven campus of Talon Robotics to educate more students. Jorge is a member of Young American Dreamers (YAD), which has allowed him to pursue multiple community service opportunities. Jorge is a published poet in the Polk County Council of Teachers of English Poetry Anthology, and he has received the Rotary Youth Leadership Award. Jorge has also served as president of the Astronomy Club and vice president of the IB East Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS) Club.
Ambrielle August, Conyers, GA
Rockdale Magnet School for Science & Technology
Kennesaw State University
When Ambrielle ponders on the years of hard work and dedication her academic, social, environmental and spiritual goals will require, she is encouraged to continue with an even greater passion. Ambrielle realizes the amount of work necessary for all leaders to succeed, and she is inspired to continue to work toward to her goals. Ambrielle led the National Beta Club in its sock fundraiser for children from Latin American countries. She reads to elementary school students, and she has also volunteered to restore the senior court yard at her school. Ambrielle has interned with Rockdale Emergency Relief and she regularly donates food and clothing to families in need. Ambrielle has presented research on bacterial growth and pathogens on teen smart phone surfaces and the effect of visually appealing packaging on children’s food choices. She also won the Rockdale County High School Outstanding Artist Award and 1st runner-up in the 2014 Miss Rockdale County High School Pageant.
Samira Barnes, Montclair, NJ
Montclair High School
Samira is grateful for the array of opportunities that have been afforded to her through her membership in NSHSS. She explains that becoming an NSHSS Ambassador only increased the benefits she had already received as an NSHSS member. Samira has networked with NSHSS members from all around the world. She enjoys wearing her NSHSS Ambassador t-shirt and answering questions from students inquiring about NSHSS and her role as an NSHSS Ambassador. Samira is a member of the National Honor Society. She is also a tutor, and she has served as captain of the track and field team for three consecutive years.
Jalia Carlton-Carew, Lithonia, GA
Arabia Mountain High School
University of California, Santa Barbara
Jalia became an NSHSS Ambassador as a sophomore. She has remained in the top 10% of her class and worked to excel in her extracurricular activities. Jalia was the winner of the 2015 “The Meaning of St. Patrick’s Day” essay competition—relating her Sierra Leonean lineage to the Irish culture. Jalia was invited to read her essay to the Prime Minister of Ireland, the Governor, and members of Congress. The Prime Minister of Ireland inquired of copies of Jalia’s essay to be shared with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and former speaker of the House John Boehner. Jalia is a member of the 2015 Disney Dreamer Academy. She holds leadership positions in Beta Club, the Debate Team and Toastmasters. Jalia plans to continue her involvement with NSHSS during her college studies.
McKenna Christian, Fort Collins, CO
Fort Collins High School
University of San Diego
McKenna founded her own handmade greeting card business, Kenna’s Kards for the Cure, which donations a percentage of its proceeds to support women diagnosed with breast cancer. The Lydia Dody Breast Cancer Support Center awarded McKenna as the 2013 Hope Lives! Champion of Hope. Witnessing extreme poverty in India first hand during a month-long trip on religious studies, McKenna founded her school’s Amnesty International Club once she returned home. McKenna is a member of the National Honor Society, and she volunteers with the Humane Society. A competitive ice hockey player, McKenna became the assistant captain of two ice hockey teams mostly consisting of male players. She served as the Young Entrepreneur Guest Speaker at the Blue Ocean Entrepreneurship Event at Colorado State University in 2015. McKenna placed 3rd in the 2013 Colorado State DECA Entrepreneurship Competition, and she is the founder of a household organization service, OME (Organized Mind & Environment).
Shelby DeLille, Recife, Brazil
Alpha Omega Academy
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Shelby has worked to improve the lives of women and children living in poverty in Brazil. She serves as a translator, and she explains that she introduces NSHSS to others in her international online school community. Shelby believes that investing in youth will end destructive cycles of poverty and violence and create Brazil’s future leaders. Once Shelby became an NSHSS Ambassador, she gave an online presentation to inform other students about NSHSS. Shelby’s principal asked her to also present her NSHSS presentation to teachers and administrators of Alpha Omega Academy. Shelby is the president of the National Honor Society. She is a writer and editor for her school’s newsletter, and she leads bible study as a local non-governmental organization.
Andrea Jouvin, Samborondon, Ecuador
Unidad Educativa Bilingüe Delta
The Harvard Model United Nations in Lima, Peru, is one of the extracurricular activities Andrea has found to be most fulfilling. She explains that the experience required extensive research and hard work. As a high school junior, Andrea appreciated the professional environment and working with both lawyers and law school students. Andrea is also a committed volunteer and she encourages local youth to pursue their educational goals. Andrea is a member of the Debate Team, a volunteer for a home housing teen moms, and an organizer for the school Olympics.
Anthony Mastromarini, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
De La Salle College "Oaklands"
Anthony is one of two Lasallian Ambassadors at his high school. He represents his school and Canada at international conferences, spearheads local service initiatives and writes articles for the newspaper. Anthony is the founder of the Lasallian Youth Leadership Initiative. He has worked with a local parish committee to establish a program allowing his high school to provide temporary housing for Syrian refugees. Anthony aspires to pursue a career in the medical field. He is hoping to publish his research and increase public awareness of “the etiology, pathophysiology, risk factors, genetic implication, progression, and medicinal treatments of Alzheimer’s disease.” Anthony is a National Student Leadership Conference Delegate, a Children’s Aid Foundation Event volunteer, and a peer tutor. He also plays hockey and soccer.
Andrew Palacios, Staten Island, NY
Brooklyn Technical High School
City College of New York
Andrew served as an inclusion junior counselor at the Staten Island Jewish Community Center Camp (JCC) for three years. He believes that mentoring and developing children at a young age builds positive self-esteem and reinforces good behavior. Andrew is the founder and president of the St. Jude’s Club. He is the event co-chair for Relay for Life, and he serves as the club team council chairperson for the National Honor Society. Andrew is also a member of the Math Team.
Grace Showalter, Fort Wayne, IN
Homestead High School
Grace organized a Relay for Life team consisting her friends, fellow NSHSS member, and students interested in joining NSHSS. Grace created a Polar Plunge team, with team members plunging in water during the cold winter month of February, to benefit Special Olympics. Grace’s younger brother looks forward to becoming an NSHSS member, and he provides his assistance during Grace’s community service activities. Grace is involved in Student Government and Key Club. She is also an intern at Black Pine Animal Sanctuary, and she owns a pet care business.