Be wary of awards and honor societies that just empty your pockets

Post By: COYD Staff

It is common knowledge that awards, honors, and recognitions are an important part of the college application. Students know this. Guidance counselors know this. Colleges look for this. Unfortunately, because it is so well-known, there are several people out there who have made a business out of it. These businesses are known as vanity publications. Vanity publications are essentially publications which take random names off mailing lists or e-mail addresses harvested from websites and send letters which state that these names have been handpicked by a selection committee to be in a publication with other well-known dignitaries and distinguished leaders. Those who are suckered into this hoax are usually stuck with a subscription/membership fee, a charge for the listing, and/or an inflated price for buying the publication. There is no guarantee that the publication will be distributed beyond the people purchasing the publication. High school students are one of the primary targets. With competition for college admission increases, students are tricked into buying these publications so that they can use these “honors” on their college application. Please be careful and do your due diligence before you accept an award that is asking you for money.

The Better Business Bureau suggests the following tips to distinguish between a real award from a vanity one:

1. Before agreeing to anything, check with your local library. The public library will stock well-known and useful general biographical directories and can advise you about its knowledge of the volume in question. Also, the reputation of professional and business directories may be checked with relevant trade associations. For student directories, check with your local school.

2. Ask questions. A reputable publisher will be willing to tell you who subscribes to its publication and the number of volumes published in past years.

3. If the subscribers to the directory are mainly limited to those whose names appear in it, you can logically infer that it is, in fact, a “vanity publication” for the self-aggrandizement of those listed.

4. For students, keep in mind, that listing your name in a directory will not guarantee college acceptance, nor will it ensure financial aid for you to attend college. Admissions counselors and scholarship committees evaluate students on the basis of their school records, test scores and other factors.

5. Contact your BBB for a reliability report on the company.
In addition to vanity publications, I would suggest students to carefully research and study honor societies as well, even the well-known ones. These days honor societies include hundreds and thousands of students and don’t offer much value. Many of them claim to give monetary scholarships but compared to the number of students in these societies, they provide very few monetary scholarships. With the advent of online scholarship websites like Fastweb and, there isn’t a need to participate in an honor society in order to get access to scholarship opportunities.

Our advice is do your homework. Don’t just join things because everybody else is doing it. Do a cost/benefit analysis before paying to join any club, honor society, or award publication. To see a full list of scholarship websites, go to a previous posting titled “Good Scholarship Websites”.


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  1. Tweets that mention Be wary of awards and honor societies that just empty your pockets | College Admission | College Of Your Dreams Blog -- - May 26., 2010

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