Katy at UBC

My second year at UBC!

Katy at UBC header image 2

Golden Key Honour Society: Scam?

September 20th, 2011 by Katy

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,[11] 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!



Tags: 11 Comments

Leave A Comment

11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lillienne Sep 20, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    As far as societies go, I suppose that Golden Key is legit. I joined in my second year after much debate and conferring with my parents as to whether this was worth a $90 risk. I can’t say it’s been worth it, though.

    Once you’re in, you’re on a permanent mailing list and they send you newsletters every now and then about scholarships and so on that you can apply for. I only ever applied for one such scholarship, but after realising that these are open to so many people across the country/continent/globe that it’s highly unlikely I would ever get any of them, gave up. (On another note, I got nominated for more awards through my department that actually paid off my tuition for a year and then some. Now that was real and sincerely appreciated.)

    Now and then they tell you about graduate school info sessions and so on, but these aren’t any more useful than the ones departments hold and I’ve got nothing else out of it.

    Unimpressively, I received another letter this month from Golden Key on UBC letterhead inviting me to join this prestigious group for life. So much for keeping records as to who’s already joined.

    Also very irritatingly, someone clearly didn’t BCC the mailing list this past weekend, as my inbox has since been flooded with emails from students who keep saying, ‘Remove me! Stop spamming me! Stop hitting reply all!’ and hitting reply all.

    Long comment short, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you desperately want to put it on your resume. Which I don’t, because it doesn’t really feel that impressive to buy a name.

  • 2 Katy Sep 20, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    Thanks for your reply. What you said about a slim chance of ever getting a scholarship is exactly true. Golden Key has, “over 400 chapters at colleges and universities in eight countries.” The amount of students in that pool is ridiculous!

  • 3 Eastwood Sep 20, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    You can still put it onto your CV, if you’d like, without having joined the group (e.g., “Invited into GK being top 15%, etc.”). Here’s a more detailed description of that recent email incident: http://zeroratio.wordpress.com/2011/09/18/golden-key-ubc-gets-more-activity-than-ever/

  • 4 Katy Sep 20, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Haha I just read that blog post. It’s interesting to see how many people regret joining the society – that email situation seems to have gotten way out of control!

  • 5 Lillienne Sep 21, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    Wow, I wish I had Eastwood’s forethought when I was 19. That would have been the simplest solution of all.

  • 6 zeroratio Sep 25, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Thanks for the referral, Eastwood! And interesting piece, Katy. I am considering sending a link to this blog post to the GK mailing list, to which I am sure will create a big stir.
    Hm… to stir or not to stir…

  • 7 Sherry Feb 9, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Wow…how unfortunate for you…my daughter was inducted into the society this year. I personally saw the scholarships awarded to students from UBC. Also, the amount of community service they do in their communities is astounding. Yes, perhaps more research from you would have delivered a much more positive result. Also, great writing scholarships and the like are awarded year round to members. Lastly, the speakers at the induction ceremony where outstanding, a PHD honor professor from UBC and two other individuals who are making a huge difference in this world. Google them, you’ll be amazed.

  • 8 Katy Feb 9, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Congrats on your daughter’s grades! As with any honour society, you get what you put in, and I think my efforts would be better served elsewhere. Another commenter said that I could always put, “received invitation to Golden Key Honour Society” on my resume, so that’s a plus.

  • 9 Dave Barber Aug 30, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    In my experience, the membership fee just buys you a line of resume fodder.

    I paid my dues and got my certificate. If there were any chapter activities or scholarships, I never heard about them.

    After graduating I got some credit card offers explaining how a Golden Key credit card would really impress the clerk at the convenience store.

    I’ve never been able to look up my membership information on the GK web site, even though the folks at the HQ have assured me that everything is working properly.

    Keep your money.

  • 10 Lee Sep 5, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    I agree on Katy’s last line “I also wouldn’t want people to miss out of valuable experiences because of this!”. I have done much research on this society as well and the verdict is it really depends on how active your chapter is and how active you are in looking out for the internship, scholarship, leadership and service opportunities they offer.

    When I was doing my research, I realized a lot of the negative comments were from those who have not actually joined and so I was a little skeptical of how much they actually know about the organization and the work they do. I also went to the Information booth that Katy had mentioned about and I remember that there were alumni students who are still a part of Golden Key manning the booth (so perhaps this solves the mystery that Katy has mentioned…) I asked them about specific examples of their activities and they were able to actually speak about them- their conferences, regional summits, scholarships, workshops etc. The girl who I spoke to also showed me video clips and links of their activities, which proves to me their high activity level. To top it off, they even held a regional summit (conference) here in Vancouver where members had the opportunity to visit invaluable workshops, volunteer to run the event and meet potential employers! Perhaps these big events are partially where the money flows too besides the scholarships that they offer. And to update the Wikipedia issue, I find it seems to be biased in terms of where the passage is cut off because immediately above and below it are these passages:

    “In non-profit corporations’ fund usage, it is the recommended practice for a 65%/35% ratio to exist comparing “programs” to G&A and fundraising. Golden Key’s ratio for 2008 was 84/16, in 2009 88/12 and in 2010 85/12; thus the Society is currently utilizing its funds in a way that is well above and beyond the “recommended practice.” Golden Key publishes its annual reports every year in August and makes them available online. In addition, Golden Key is a certified member of the Association of College Honor Societies. ACHS is the nation’s only certifying agency for college/university honor societies. Golden Key is one of 63 organizations that have met the high standards of ACHS.”


    “Each local chapter receives funding from Golden Key headquarters and may use this money as they see fit to run various events and community service projects. A variable amount (minimum $100) of additional funds are allocated for in-house chapter cash scholarships. The amount given for these local scholarships is based on the number of members inducted, which is then distributed by the local chapter in accordance with their determined criteria. Some criteria may include active participation in chapter service projects and meeting attendance. Most chapters divide their available chapter scholarships into three awards: one each for Sophomore, Junior and Senior students.”

    So to say the least, I know that if one were to join the society with UBC, I can confidently say that you won’t be scammed/cheated as their high activity level means they are actively sourcing opportunities for their members! And if you junk mail their emails-well then enough said, no wonder you *think* they don’t do anything or offer any opportunities! So to those of you who have received an invitation, I highly recommend you really think about your decision to reject because all I can say is you don’t know how much you are missing out!

  • 11 John D. Sep 19, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Scam. Posts above are from the scammers trying to mitigate the damage.