I received a letter in the mail from my oldest son's middle school regarding his "nomination" to be included in the listing of the United States Achievement Academy, and then would be eligible for one of their scholarships. Of course we are very proud that he is a high achiever and has always done very well in school, and of course we want him to have the chance for winning scholarships,
When I did a little online research, what I found was appalling. This organization is really just a way for the Student Marketing Group to gather information about students for marketing lists which are then sold to other groups for targeting and marketing purposes. The letter looks very official, and I'm sure the school had good intentions. I have to think that they didn't know that this is a scam.
The parent has to sign a waiver for the student to have their name included in a national yearbook, which they then sell to the parents and grandparents for $60.00 or more, after they have tried to upsell with adding your picture for an additional fee. Not only that but they have the student fill out a bio survey and that information is what goes into the marketing database. There is a membership fee, the amount of which is not listed on the website, but I assume you have to be a member (thus having to pay the fee) in order to be eligible for their scholarships. They have one $10,000 scholarship and then 400 different grants (the amount of which, I'm sure is nominal). There is a list of the 2007-2008 winners on their website. Only one student from our state is listed as having won (hmm, how many were nominated, and what is the selection process?) The United States Achievement Academy is a .com website, which means they are not a non-profit organization.
After finding all this information, I notified the school about my findings and while the counselor seemed shocked, had no idea she says, she also almost seemed irritated with me. Perhaps those fancy PhD holding administration types don't like a little housewife telling them something of this magnitude is going on and they have no idea. She says she checked their website. Obviously she didn't check anything else. All she told me was that we didn't have to sign the permission form and send it in, and possibly we were jeopardizing his chances for a future scholarship. Whatever.
I also found out that the National Honor Roll is a similar type scam. Who would have thought? It is just disgusting how this is allowed to go on. My child isn't in high school yet but I am sure we haven't seen the last of these groups. Please research before you sign or send in information to companies, even if they seem legitimate. It doesn't hurt to check. I always remember that my parents told me that you don't get something for nothing. In today's world that is more true than ever.