Golden Key Intnl Honour Society -- worth it?
August 24, 2005 4:06 PM   Subscribe

Is the Golden Key International Honour Society an elaborate scam?

I received an envelope from my university (UBC in Vancouver, Canada) containing an invitation to join the "Golden Key Honour Society", which is open to students who are in the top 15% of their program. Further, there are letters of endorsement from the president of my university, and some corporate noses from IBM and Scotiabank. Joining entitles me to their exclusive job board and some scholarships.

The catch: they want CDN $80 (just under USD $70) for me to join.

Now, virtually none of their scholarships apply to my discipline. A quick goggle search revealed an article written in my school paper, that reports, among other things:

...Golden Key's submission to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), obtained by the Ubyssey, shows 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.

And in this recent investigation of Golden Key's spendings, the Ubyssey discovered the organisation would not provide the Atlanta Better Business Bureau with its financial statements. According to Valerie Maclean, general manager of the Vancouver Better Business Bureau, this is a secretive tactic highly unusual for a non-profit organisation.


The society spent $1,822,837 (US) on salaries and other employee benefits. executive director, James Lewis, received $247,600 (US) in compensation.

Anyways, my question is this: I don't expect to benefit from their scholarships, which are mostly for business students anyways, nor their job board. I don't need the ego boost. However, does membership look good for graduate admissions? If it improves my chances of getting into graduate schools, I don't mind paying $80.

They also have various deals with banks, etc. and they speak suggestively of deals for members. Any info on that?

What do you think?
posted by ori to Education (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Short answer: Yes, it's a scam.

I never gained anything from my membership and I was on the admissions board for graduate school at a VERY good university in one of the science departments and let me tell you - we don't give one shit about that. Grades are very important, though, so it's good that yours were good enough for Golden Key.

The one thing that might have helped me a few years back is I may have received a discount on my car insurance, but I'm not sure if it was belonging to Golden Key that got me that, or just my GPA.
posted by Moral Animal at 4:12 PM on August 24, 2005

Moral Animal is exactly right. I never got anything for my Golden Key membership so I consider it a complete waste of money. Not that it was my money at the time, but still...

Congrats on the good grades, though! Actually learning something, plus good grades, is what gets you into grad school.
posted by gemmy at 4:27 PM on August 24, 2005

From what I've heard, the only honor society membership that will help you get into grad school is Phi Beta Kappa. It's always been a US-only society but it looks like (pdf file) your school may get the first-ever Canadian branch this year. PBK is highly selective and emphasizes classic liberal studies, having studied multiple languages and taken some hard science courses would greatly improve your chances of being offered admission, if that's what you want.
posted by cali at 4:33 PM on August 24, 2005

You're exceedingly unlikely to see any material benefit from joining Golden Key, ΦΒΚ, or any other general-purpose honor society.

But it might make you feel good, or, more likely, make your parents happy to see it. To the extent that you're buying that, it's not a scam (just a somewhat silly purchase).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:45 PM on August 24, 2005

Geico offers a discount for GKHS members. It's a small discount, 8% I think, but when your car insurance is as expensive as mine (over $100/month) the membership pays for itself in under a year.
posted by elisabeth r at 4:59 PM on August 24, 2005

Cali: you are overestimating PBK. I am a member and I took no languages and no hard science. Just a high GPA in a poli. sci. major is all it took. (I imagine different chapters are more selective than others.)
posted by Mid at 5:00 PM on August 24, 2005

Connections. That is what it is all about. In retrospect, having graduated from a major university in May, being part of the Golden Key/PBK/etc would have come in use not for my job applications, grad school applications, or any other kind of application. No, I am slowly learning it is all about connections, and while it may be a scam for being anything worthwhile on your resume (I think that's already been well covered here), being a member of the Golden Key can prove useful IF the chapter at your school actually has meetings and people with connections are a part of it. If those with connections are affilitaed with the Golden Key around you, I say join for that reason alone and snooze up to them!
posted by jmd82 at 5:19 PM on August 24, 2005

Mid: I think each chapter sets its own policies, but that's good to know.
posted by cali at 5:31 PM on August 24, 2005

Don't bother. I got nothing out of mine. At some universities there are chapters you can get super involved in while you're in school like any other activity (they have meetings and all that nonsense), so if you're looking to meet new people or are lacking in the extracurriculars it *might* be worth thinking about.

As for the discounts on insurance and other things...whenever golden key has been an available discount, there were also 2 or 3 other discounts I qualified for so don't let that be the main reason you join either.
posted by awegz at 5:40 PM on August 24, 2005

Phi Beta Kappa can be useful in getting positions at liberal arts universities where someone likes to brag about many professors being Phi Beta Kappa. There's also the off-chance someone on a hiring/admissions committee was PBK and had a good time as an undergrad.

Never heard anything of the sort about Golden Key. Don't waste the money.
posted by ontic at 6:34 PM on August 24, 2005

I'm a member of both Phi Beta Kappa and Golden Key, and they are both bullshit. At least Phi Beta Kappa still sends me their preposterous, stuffy newsletter from time to time. Golden Key never sent me a damn thing.

It doesn't matter whether you're going into academia or a job. Once you take the next step and get some research or work experience, THAT's what's going to matter. If you think membership in one of these honor societies will get you to that first next step, go for it. I don't think they matter, personally.

As far as networking goes, I've done a lot more networking on the back of my school affiliations. I've never done any networking on the back of one of these societies. They're just window dressing.
posted by nyterrant at 6:58 PM on August 24, 2005

You are purchasing a line for your resume, and that is all. Do it if your resume is empty (like mine was when i was 19), otherwise ignore the letter. Being able to put something extra under "Honors" can be a good thing for some people, even if its just space filler.
posted by gatorae at 8:48 PM on August 24, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips. I think I'm going to keep my money.
posted by ori at 9:16 PM on August 24, 2005

The best thing to improve your admissions to graduate school are to have good reccomendations. Have any of your professors been saying, "You know, you really should go to graduate school"? Because those are the best people to ask - if they are serious, they will really go to bat for you.

It's basically marks and reccomendations (and not spelling, since I can't remember whether reccomendation has one or two c's) - plus your subject test and/or writing sample, if the program asks. Every department/discipline differs, of course.

Scholarships and being on a high marks list are the best honours for your CV.
posted by jb at 6:29 PM on August 26, 2005

« Older Help me and my fiancee deal with her untreated BPD...   |   Good restaurants in Santa Barbara? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.