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Don’t Be Fooled: ” You have been selected . . .”

Congratulations! You have been selected to attend the Student International Affairs Summit this summer in Washington, D.C. You were nominated because of your excellent academic record and leadership potential. This opportunity could give you an admissions edge when it comes time to apply for college. Three hundred congressional leaders have endorsed this program. And blah, blah, blah . . . 

Have you received these type of ego-stroking solicitations in the mail? If so, beware! They are misleading at best and criminal at worst.

Years ago, marketing companies realized they could profit from parental pride and anxiety. When our parents were students, they may have received letters from Who’s Who Among American High School Students. My proud grandparents received a letter about my mom. They responded and bought a book that included my mother’s seventeen year-old resume. They even mentioned it in a Christmas letter. The company is now bankrupt.

Nothing has changed. The same type of marketing company that fooled my grandparents is fooling families across our country, and it is a multi-million dollar industry.

One of the most reputable programs is the People to People program. President Eisenhower established it in 1956 to promote world peace through cultural exchange. The invitation promises that the trip will set middle and high school students “apart on college applications.” The cost for the program is steep. It averages $5,000-8,000 per child. Its promises and costs caught the attention of Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller. He said, “ They seem to be marketing these trips based on people receiving an honor or earning it, when that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t an honor; it was more of a commercial solicitation to take the trip.” The truth is that CBS news discovered that the letters weren’t even coming from People to People. A travel agency paid millions of dollars in licensing fees for exclusive use of People to People’s name.

Other programs that are under investigation include The National Young Leaders Conference that profits over $40 million a year. The National Honor Roll Society should never be confused with the National Honor Society—a legitimate organization that honors academic excellence. State attorney generals continue to pursue these disreputable organizations, but please be careful when you open your mailbox. Flattery is the food of fools.

Written by Maddie Vaziri’16


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