Brandt: Honor is earned, not bought

The National Society of Collegiate Scholars sells membership to its honor society.

Joe Brandt

Joe BrandtThe tradition of “you have already won!” is far from dead. It lives here at Temple, preying on the desire to be the most special snowflake in the whole wide world. 

The National Society of Collegiate Scholars has been sending letters to students in the Top 10 percent of their class, informing them of their membership in an allegedly prestigious honors society that provides scholarship and networking opportunities, as well as discounts from national businesses. Membership is not granted until one pays $95 in dues, which are really not worth it.

“You should feel proud of this prestigious national recognition of your outstanding work here at Temple University,” a letter read.

The letter claimed my admittance came after “a careful review by the NSCS Admissions Committee.” Without a meeting, they must have based the decision off of my grades. How did they know I was in the Top 10 percent?

“The Office of the University Registrar does not release any academic data to any on- or off-campus student organizations,” University Registrar Bhavesh Bambhrolia said in an email.

However, the Registrar’s Office, when prompted, can provide lists of students who fit certain criteria – such as the necessary grade point average to be in the NSCS – if the students in question have not opted out of inclusion in the Cherry & White Directory.  The only information provided is what appears in the directory.

Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, this sharing of information is perfectly legal. So that settles that: Unless you opt out of the directory by submitting a special request to TU Help to do so, the NSCS will find you.

Once they find you, the organization will lure you in with myriad discounts from its corporate sponsors, including Geico and Barnes & Noble, institutions to which many students have already poured a few hundred dollars of their parents’ money.

When one accepts admission to the NSCS, a “press release” is printed, to “allow the media in your local area to cover this important event,” according to the letter. This same point is reiterated on the website. They’re serious.

The inflated recognition from the press release will surely bring swells of pride in the heart of an already proud parent who always wanted to see his or her child’s face at the bottom of a trashcan at the Inquirer. Any frugal parent who loves to shop – Hi, Mom – gets antsy thinking about the possibility of saving money here and there. It’s like having a coupon book that’s exclusive to the thousands upon thousands of parents who have smart kids that made their folks cough up the dough for the fee.

The fundamental problem with NSCS is that it is a business deal for an “honor.” It harks back to Monopoly’s popular “Chance” card that reads: “You’ve been elected chairman of the board!” and requires paying $50 to each player. It’s a modern example of Monopoly’s sentiment that honor is bought, not earned. That’s not an honor society that I want to be a part of.

I am sure there are some people who have benefited from the NSCS and are happy with their investment. I do not see myself as one of them. Ninety-five dollars can pay for pizza, Mosaic books, public transportation fees or a nice dinner for your loving parents, who want to see you succeed. Put the money there instead and keep businesses out of academics.

Joe Brandt can be reached at or on Twitter @JBrandt_TU. 

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