Mail scam targets susceptible students

Dorothy O'Connor

The letter comes in the mail one day, adorned with an official-looking seal which reads “National Academy of Future Scientist and Technologists.” It congratulates you on your academic skill, and invites you to the Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders. It tells you what an honor it is to be nominated, and if you attend, offers “copies of your award certificate and letters confirming your selection and attendance for you to share with the colleges and universities of your choice.” It finally concludes with Buzz Aldrin’s signature.

It sounds like the chance of a lifetime. However, if you are thinking of attending, you might want to do some research first.

An internet search for the National Academy of Future Scientist and Technologists, the National society of High School scholars or the National Student Leadership Conference quickly turns up several online chat rooms, nearly all of which give the same answer: it’s probably not worth it.

These conferences are expensive. The Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders has a tuition fee of $985, and $1585 including its overnight program. Although they promise a lot, they don’t always deliver. According to the New York Times, in 2009, a conference in Washington DC run by the Congressional Youth Leadership Council promised a view of the presidential inauguration. However, a lawsuit was filed by one New York father whose daughter, though attending the conference, ended up watching the inauguration on television.

These programs also claim attendance looks good to colleges, but this is untrue. Jane S. Gaben, a former college admissions worker from New York, wrote of the National Student Leadership Conference: “Would participating in this program be exciting for your son? Probably so. Will participating add a line to his resume that will make a real impact on his college applications? The company organizing the program would like you to think so, but the real answer is: no.”

Marlene Barlow, Director of Admissions at Bucks Community college said, “I never advocate for agencies whose membership requires dues. Personally, a student’s grades and school activities and affiliations outside the school (volunteer/athletic) are more meaningful than membership in these.”

If you receive a letter from one of these groups, or another with a similar name, consider carefully before making any decisions.