Has your college bound child recently been the recipient of a glowing congratulatory letter for academic achievements and invited to attend a conference or seminar sponsored by The National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF)? At first, a gush of pride comes as you think, "Wow my child aroused the notice of this big organization!" and some representative Dr. Doshi, MD – seemingly - wrote it. We are all looking to get support for our college bound child's best efforts and are prone to want to believe these things, and they are aware of the timing of this as a strong marketing method.
Sadly this is just another modern day scheme by an opportunist company seeking to make bucks off of you at a time when you need to spend your money wisely. This is a new age of spam where your child can now be marketed to as well. Once your child checks off certain boxes on an SAT form that's how you start getting these things. I am also suspicious of mailing lists that get generated from flyers and literature from colleges. My daughter gets more mail now than any of us, especially now that credit is dried up and all those low interest credit card offers no longer fill our mailbox. Poetry organizations are another one that I'm suspicious of. The tell tale sign is hidden costs at the end of the process.
Are the NYFL offers a type of "Nigerian scam"? No. They actually run these seminars. Will your child get something out of it? Doubtful. You're not doing anything that will improve their college resume I can tell you. What colleges are looking for are important extracurricular activities such as research, mentorship programs or even worthwhile jobs to show them that the student has something else on the ball besides good grades and SAT scores. These things won't cost you anything and in some cases, the students can actually earn some spending money for themselves. In the words of one recent college advisor, "We are looking for someone who has something different going on, someone whom WE want to have here as part of our school." If you have $2000-$3000 to blow on some seminar, be my guest. But I would challenge anyone to provide proof that attending such events has any benefit towards the college selection process or a student's academic goals.
The best explanation of the scheme is featured on Jim Skamarakas' blog (ironic name in this case…) located here: http://skamarakas.com/jim/2008/03/04/nylf-working-to-steal-parents-money-again-in-2008. Here is an excerpt of a blogger response to it:
I noticed your site a while back but hesitated to reply. Let me just state for the record the I worked for Envision EMI and their ubsidiaries NYLF, CYLC, etc. And, I must say, everything you have been saying……..is true. They're whores for money and are run at the top by 2 people with no business acumen. They employ over 200 full-time staff to extract every available cent out of any parent who has high aspirations for their son or daughter. Its quite slick marketing and looks very impre ssive, I know. But frankly, most of what they say are lies or half-truths.
Undoubtedly, this blog will attract trolls who claim, "they went to the seminar and it was great!" the "NYLF is legitimate" etc,.They did the same on Jim's blog. All I can say is bring it on! You will ultimately spur me to gather signatures and allies (for example other parents who fell for these offers) to make schools review their partnerships and the organizations they allow themselves to be associated with. Personally, I would like to see a public official take up this fight to control the actions of NYLF because clearly they are misrepresenting how they obtain your child's information and sending a blanket form letter - with a clear intent to make parents and children believe that a teacher or high grades made them part of a special "nominated" group. This is merely a demographic marketing selection to sell a product: a costly seminar. Schools have some culpability in this as well, frankly.
My thanks to Jim for telling it like it is and taking a stand on it. If you are still debating this question ask yourself, why would such an organization, supposedly send you this invitation (several times - be prepared for it)indicating your child was nominated when in fact your child was just signed into a mailing list by checking an SAT box? They will claim that teachers can nominate and provide an online form for them to do so as proof. This is merely the smoke screen to cover themselves. But do you really think a teacher would be so foolish to sign a child up without the child's or your consent--breaking the most basic rules of email opt-in procedures and courtesy? And on top of that, referring them to some organization whose sole function is to sell costly seminars for $2500 or more and burdening parents with such a decision? C'mon get real.