So, this summer I got a letter in the mail from this Golden Key Honour Society asking me to join. At first it seemed like a pretty legitimate group, but the more I read the more I felt like it was a bit of a scam. There were a couple red flags that made me skeptical of the authenticity of this society.
First of all, they require you to achieve grades that put you in the top 15% of your faculty, but joining once means you are in for life. To my knowledge, there are no yearly fees and no other parameters. Basically, if you do well in your first year of University, you could fail the rest of your courses you would still have membership to this society. Most legitimate academic societies reevaluate your eligibility every year.
Moreover, a quick google search showed me that this group has had money issues in the past. The Wikipedia article has a section entitled “Controversy,” where it describes some shady dealings:
“Concerns were raised over a decade ago about the apparently large gap between the amount of money spent on salaries and the amount spent on giving out scholarships. Articles in theUniversity of British Columbia student newspaper the Ubyssey claimed to have examined the society’s finances and scholarship practices. Although the society claimed to “return 75 per cent of each membership as benefits and services to local chapters and their members [while the] other 25 per cent is used for administrative expenses,” the Ubyssey found that in 1997 salaries, management and general expenses totalled $2,997,827, almost 47 per cent of the $6,430,054 in total expenditures. A second article found that Golden Key spent just $289,461 (US dollars) on scholarships, less than 5 per cent of their total expenditures for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1997. The society now claims to spend approximately $1,000,000 annually on scholarships and awards, though it is unclear whether this allocation has remained proportional since then. ”
However the fact that made me extremely skeptical of this society was the fact that you have to pay $90 to enter. It’s unclear what this money is put toward, except for the vague notion that “scholarships” are given out by this society. This fee is not mentioned anywhere in the welcome letter, and I was surprised when I saw the amount mentioned.
The Honour Key Society does have a UBC chapter though, so that adds an amount of credibility to it’s name. When I saw their booth at Imagine Day, I wanted to ask some questions about how it would actually add value to my resume, but the girl manning the booth wasn’t even a part of the society! I found that a bit strange, and to be honest I wondered if she was only there to gain acceptance into the society. If that was the case, I could hardly expect any impartial views.
I’m not saying whether you should or should not join this society, however, I’d just tell you to be careful. Make sure you do some research on this group before you decide to join. I wouldn’t want anyone to get scammed out of $90, and I also wouldn’t want people to miss out of valuable experiences because of this!
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