Friday, May 4, 2007

The National Dean's List

Two letters came in the mail today from an outfit calling itself The National Dean's List. Putting one and one together allows me to conclude that being on this dean's list is a deeply dubious honor.

The first letter is for me:



It would be nice to think that my college achievements are wowing this organization, almost thirty years after I graduated. But something else is going on. The second letter begins:



There is no one at our house named "Leddy Fine"; that name is simply my last name and my wife Elaine's last name (yes, I kept my name when we married). But we have a magazine subscription for "Leddy Fine" (the result of a clerical error), from a collegiate subscription service, one of those companies offering discounts for students and faculty. We have another subscription, in my name, from the same service. "Leddy Fine," like "Michael Leddy," is simply a name from a mailing list.

The National Dean's List thus seems to be little more than spam-marketing with a letterhead. There's a catch of course: to see your name in print, you need to buy a copy of the book ($69.95, or $84.95 "with my name in gold on the cover").

If I were a genuine high-achieving college student, I might not have reason to doubt the claims on the NDL website. For instance:

Being selected for nomination to The National Dean's List is an honor bestowed on outstanding college students by the professors, coaches and teachers who know their work best.

Every year, professors, deans and leaders of civic and community service organizations affiliated with post secondary institutions are invited to nominate outstanding students who have achieved "Dean's List" honors, or comparable academic achievement, have a "B+" average or are in the upper 10% of their classes.
But I'm no longer a high-achieving college student, and "Leddy Fine" never even shows up for classes, so I can only conclude that the National Dean's List is about as selective as a telephone book.

Update, May 5, 2007: There's more on the National Dean's List in this post: The National Dean's List again.

Update, November 9, 2007: A reader has informed me that the National Dean's List is no more. From the company website:
Educational Communications, Inc. has ceased all operations, including discontinuation of its publications for Who's Who Among American High School Students, Who's Who Among America's Teachers, and The National Dean's List, as well as the Educational Communications Scholarship Foundation.
The Internet Archive shows that Educational Communications, Inc. — or at least its website — was still functioning as of August 2007. Some quick Google searching turns up no details on the company's demise.

I feel sorry for the clerical workers, printers, and bindery workers whose lives will be altered by the demise of Educational Communications, Inc. But I'll still say good riddance to this company. It's mail from outfits such as EC, Inc. that can lead a student to mistake, say, a letter of invitation from Phi Beta Kappa for yet another sham honor. And it's the Internet that allows anyone with an online connection to look around and ask questions. (Type "national dean's list" into Google and see what happens.)
Related reading
Phi Beta What? (Wall Street Journal)

Related posts
Is this honor society legitimate?
The National Dean's List again
The National Dean's List is dead

comments: 28

Matthew said...

I agree 1/2 of 1% is inaccurate according to your numbers, but it is still 1% of all college students.

Michael Leddy said...

But consider: how many letters must be sent out to get those 158,000 replies?

Whatever the answer, those "nominated" for the National Dean's List are sometimes, as my experience attests, not college students but names on mailing lists.

Matthew said...

so what how many letters go out, just becuase you get nominated doesn't mean you are in the book. you still have to send in your GPA, because they only except a B+ average. Even if they send out three times the letters it is still only 3% of all college students, I would have no shame in being considered among the top 3% in the nation.

Matthew said...

In 2004-2005 National Dean’s List had 245,000 nominations, and published 179,000 students. If there was approximately 17.1 million college students that is 1.4% of all college students nominated and 1% of all college students were published.

Michael Leddy said...

If you read the 10-K form, it becomes clear that the word "nomination" is not being used in accord with its ordinary meaning. The letters "nominating" me (30 years out of college) and a non-existent person came with order forms for the NDL book. I doubt that they'd be asking for money if it weren't already certain that the names were to be included.

I wonder too -- does the NDL have any way to verify the information someone sends? Are schools willing to release info about activities and grades to this organization?

As I said in this post, if I were a high-achieving college student, I might not be skeptical about the NDL. Being named to it would probably feel like a confirmation of the work I'd done.

Matthew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew said...

When you send in your information you have to include a transcript from the school you are currently attending, and you also have to remember the NDL is not the ones “nominating” you it is a school or organization, so if there are mistakes on the nominations that is the fault of the organization that nominated you.

That is also why NDL asks for transcripts and have an acceptance process that takes around three months to get back to you. You can also check out the contributing editors and scholarship committee, they consist of administration from colleges like Duke, University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, and U.S Naval academy.

The administrations from these schools that help with NDL obviously think highly of this academic achievement. Sometimes mistakes happen, and all I’m saying is don’t knock a good organization because you happen to be one of the handfuls of mistakes that happen each year.

If you really what to know if anyone gets in, you should go to you local university library and see who really gets accepted to the book (I’m sure you won’t see any 2.5 gpa’s or students that have not attended college for 30 years).

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, there are people from reputable institutions listed as contributing editors and as members of a scholarship committee.

But in other respects, the invitations that came in the mail differ from what you describe. There is no request for a transcript. There are though bubbles to choose from to indicate GPA: 4.0, 3.6-3.9, 3.3-3.5, and "other." That information is listed as "Not For Publication." There's no indication that any further material is needed: "Your biography will be published pending receipt of this form and final review."

I have to point out again that no organization nominated me: my name and the name of the non-existent person also chosen for the NDL come from the mailing list for a collegiate magazine service. Mailing lists seem to be one way the NDL gets names. As the 10-k states, "We obtain nominations for our achievement publications from a wide variety of commercial and non-commercial sources." Using a mailing list to bestow academic honors seems to me the mark of a pretty dubious venture. You may disagree.

Matthew said...

One thing I noticed that differs on my application, is that mine states that I have been nominated and the organization that nominated me. The one you have displayed say "you have been invited for nomination" and they don't tell you the organization that choose you for nomination.

The organization that nominated me is a well respected honor society that is acknowledged for scholarships by universities like Columbia in N.Y., Harvard, University of Michigan, and many more.

I was accepted to the NDL and I have in no way felt scammed, as far as the NDL helping me later, I don't need to worry about that. I'm already receiving scholarships, so the NDL is just more bragging rights.

Matthew said...

I do not disagree getting a nomination from a mailing list sounds fishy, but I think if anything you have come across a well designed scam that is not the doing of the NDL.

Legitimate honors should not cost the recipient money. Therefore, there are no financial responsibilities whatsoever contingent upon recognition in The National Dean's List®.

The National Dean's List sponsors the largest Free Book Program conducted by any publisher in any field. The books are provided, free of charge, to all participating youth organizations, public libraries, four-year colleges and universities.

How is national recognition achieved for Dean's List students?


The National Dean's List is made available free of charge to all participating colleges, universities, and the 1,000 largest public libraries in the country. This unique complimentary distribution provides honored students with meaningful national recognition and the opportunity to view the book conveniently, without cost.

If you have not contacted them with you concerns, meybe that should have been the first step.

If your questions or concerns were not addressed in this web site, you may call our Service Representatives at:

1-877-843-9946 or Fax your questions to (512) 447-1687.

Or, write us at:

The National Dean's List
7211 Circle S Road
Austin, TX 78745

Michael Leddy said...

This'll be my last comment on this post:

The letters that came to my house are not from an organization claiming to be the National Dean's List. They are from the National Dean's List, with the same address and phone number that Matthew has posted in his comment.

The parts of the letters that I scanned are at the very top of the page. The letters go on to say "You have been selected, as indicated above, to receive honorary award recognition" and state that the recipient is eligible for scholarships. There is no nominating organization named. The names, again, are from a magazine subscription service. That to my mind immediately sets the NDL apart from Phi Beta Kappa, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and other honor societies.

The 10-K for the company behind the National Dean's List is worth reading. I think it provides much more detail about the National Dean's List than a phone call to the company would elicit.

I hope that the divergent viewpoints available here help readers of this post make up their own minds about whether the National Dean's List is something that has merit.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you know this, but I tried going to the website today, www.thenationaldeanslist.com and it says:

Educational Communications, Inc. has ceased all operations, including discontinuation of its publications for Who’s Who Among American High School Students, Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, and The National Dean’s List, as well as the Educational Communications Scholarship Foundation.

If you have any questions about the status of any order, you can call 877-843-9946.

Could it be that you were right all along and they got shut down?

I found a card that they sent me earlier this year, to find out that it's all a scam is a bummer. I thought this was a credible institution...

Michael Leddy said...

I didn't know about that — thanks for sharing the news, Anon. I would like to know what happened, but some quick Google searching shows no news items about the company's fate.

As I wrote in one of my earlier comments, if I were a good student, I'd have no reason to doubt a letter of invitation. I'm sorry that you, or any student, has to have the experience of a sham honor.

Anonymous said...

I know that PTK is completely legit and they seemed to think of NDL as an honor. Also, they have on their site, listings of people who have been awarded scholarships by NDL. And also their involvement with NDL. http://www.ptk.org/breakingnews/oct07/041.htm

As to NDL being shut down, yes the site is gone, but they are still honoring the scholarships and listings. If the company was a scam, at least they were offering scholarships to people who may need the help. Is that really as bad as you think? Just because something gets shut down does not mean that it is automatically a sham. It means that a business or organization no longer has the funding to continue. And why does it have no funding? Because people feel the need to turn others away from it. If the scholarships helped, why look a gift horse in the mouth? Why not be appreciative of the help? If you are already out of college, then you may be a mistake in the mailing, so what-look at email inboxes, talk about spam - but every so often something is useful. If that is so, you may know someone who could use the help - pass it along. So what if you can't put it on your transcript (or you wouldn't want to), it was still a chance for a scholarship. Money matters right? That's what everyone is saying - that the company was all about money. But they also gave away money in scholarships.

Michael Leddy said...

A corporation whose "nominations" come from magazine-subscription lists (among other sources) is a matter of something other than "a mistake in the mailing." To my mind, it doesn't make a difference if some of the profits are returned in the form of scholarships, as those profits come from selling over-priced books to gullible students and their families. And giving scholarships furthers the company's business interests by making the NDL look legitimate, so for me it doesn't redeem this company at all.

Anonymous said...

This is terrible. I also fell in the trap and all I have left is a pretty book and the hassle of having to delete the entry from résumé.
In any case, I could not find Phi Kappa Phi at the ACHS site. I am hoping this one is legitimate... does anyone know?

Michael Leddy said...

Phi Kappa Phi is legit. As I noted in this post, Phi Beta Kappa is also missing from the ACHS site. I suspect that the older, more venerable honor societies want to steer clear of all others.

I'd suggest though that you look at the PKP website, do a little reading, and talk to some faculty. Better than taking my word for it. : )

js069 said...

A few years ago I got a letter from the NDL saying I was nominated, not invited but nominated. I was young and wanted to impress so I applied and went through the process, sent in transcripts thinking I'd be disqualified because my GPA was a 2.5. HA! I got accepted, and even bought the stupid book.I keep it on my bookshelf to remind me never to judge a book, or scam, by its cover. A month ago my daughter got a letter from the Whos Who registry. Needless to say, my gifted daughter smelled the scam quickly. However, I am proud to say she is a member of the Duke University TIP talent search program. Anyone want to tell me if that is legit?

Michael Leddy said...

If that's a program adminstered by Duke, I would think it's legit. : )

Thanks for your cautionary tale, JS069.

Anonymous said...

Oh my God I guess I was robbed. When I was at Community College with a 4.0GPA I paid the money without checking out the website.

Anonymous said...

i too got a letter. i had over a 3.0, it may have been a 3.2. i never wanted to send the money in and would feel very ashamed if i was to claim it on a resume, or even bring it up bragging to someone. i'm very glad i didn't! i'm very glad they shut down. so what if they gave a few thousand dollars to a couple of people? like the author said, they got that money from scamming naive parents who just want to believe their child's doing good in college even if they aren't! they'll believe what they want to believe and pay anything they wanted! all they did was sell hope to some people and embarrass those that believed it! i feel the few scholarships they did give were probably low dollar and only to a few to cover their scammer tracks! and it almost sounded like that matthew guy was a representative to the company. maybe he was just flooding expose site like many scammer businesses do? we may never know...

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, Anon. and Anon., for sharing your experiences here. It stings to be cheated. I hope that everyone reading and commenting encourages others to look carefully at all such organizations to make sure that they’re genuine.

nancy said...

Well, I did get nominated by Who's Who Among Students In American Universities & Colleges, The National Deans List, Who's Who Among American High School Students, and All-American Scholar. I was not invited, I was actually nominted by a teacher/professor or the college and it was based on my gpa.

Michael Leddy said...

Being recognized for your accomplishments is great. But the business practices of this organization make the honor that membership confers pretty dubious. At any rate, the National Dean’s List is still defunct.

Matrixman said...

Thank you for posting this topic!

Anonymous said...

I know my comment is a very, very late one, but here it goes. I think the National Dean's List (NDL) WAS legit and non-legit. It was legit because I know that when the NDL still existed, Phi Theta Kappa (the legit honor society for community colleges) automatically nominated its members to the NDL. But, I also felt it was non-legit in the sense that it didn't provide meaningful services besides the random $250 scholarships. I am in a few legit honor societies (but NOT Phi Beta Kappa...darn!) and they all provide services such as networking, learning conferences, group discount for insurances, magazines, test preps, etc. I don't recall NDL provided any of that. Now that I think about it, NDL wasn't giving me a new honor. It was honoring the fact that I became a Phi Theta Kappa member, which already costed me the lifetime membership with the society. Memberships in the honor societies are enough in their own right. *Sigh* should've skipped on those NDL books, LOL. Perhaps the reason why the NDL company ceased to function is that quite a few people share my sentiment? Hope my comment helps :)

Michael Leddy said...

I can’t agree with your reasoning: that a legitimate organization works with some other organization doesn’t mean that the other one is legitimate too. (Bernard Madoff made a fortune on the trust of legitimate organizations investing with him.) That a non-existent person and I were both invited for membership says everything about the NDL, which got the names from a magazine subscription service. At any rate, the NDL, like General Franco, is still dead.

Anonymous said...

Ahh, in my defense, I was young. My dealing with the NDL was in 2000. Now I definitely ask more questions and do more research. I will only give out biographical information only on a needed basis. There is no need for me to "brag" about my achievement anymore because I know what I have done. Your Madoff example is a good one. On the other hand, I am glad that I learned my lesson with the NDL, not Madoff!! Not shedding a tear for the NDL....and lesson learned!