An investigation into NSHSS: Were students scammed?


Photo courtesy of Ethan Leifman

Ethan Leifman

On the day I came home from sleepaway camp, my mother let me know I had been accepted as a member of the National Honor Society (NHS). I was moderately happy: I had applied to NHS in the spring and was excited to be in the club. My mom grudgingly let me know that she had paid the 75 dollar acceptance fee. I thought nothing of this until the second week of school, when I was told the whole thing was a scam by NHS Coordinator Jonathan Shea. “It’s NHS, not NSHSS,” I was told. My mother was horrified after realizing she had spent 75 dollars on a scam. I was appalled that someone would go to such great lengths to scam kids. Their constant emails to me, their website, and even the certificate they sent me were all so official! But was it? All this called for an investigation.

The National Society of High School Scholars was founded in 2002 by Claes Nobel (of the Nobel Prize family) and James W. Lewis, whose greatest listed accomplishments include being named to the 2015 Global Diversity List, sponsored by The Economist. Upon going to the list’s website, not only did it appear to be shoddily constructed on, a free and easy way to make websites, but it also did it not appear to have any type of connection to The Economist, and only had awards starting from 2016!

NSHSS claims to hold numerous events year-round throughout the DMV. These include college tours, CIA STEM camps, and member events at local universities such as Johns Hopkins. There is no tab on their website for upcoming events, only past ones.

My mom was far from the only person who had been fooled by these emails—some of my classmates had been too. “I was suspicious at first since there were two S’s, but I looked through the website and of course they made it seem legit,” said junior Lilian Alten, who also paid for membership. “It’s so sad that they made this scam, but also that so many would fall for it and they would make a lot of money,” Alten said. “It’s fake.” She does not plan on attending NSHSS events.

Junior Nico Bosquet was less annoyed, though he did note that his mother was frustrated when she learned his father had paid for NSHSS without consulting her. “I think my dad just saw it and did not really think about it being a scam because it claimed to help with college,” he said.

NSHSS isn’t just acquiring data from DCPS schools. When I posted on my Snapchat asking people to let me know if they paid for NSHSS, the second most popular response after “YOU’RE SWEET” was “me”—but from people who live in Maryland.

Now, you may be getting the impression that NSHSS is a complete sham, but that’s not the full story. The organization does offer legitimate scholarships and awards, and works in association with numerous universities and professors, as well as companies like Aflac (the insurance company with the duck commercial). However, as multiple college advice and parenting websites note, there are plenty of other ways to get scholarships—ways which don’t have a $75 entrance fee. While NSHSS sends application letters to many students, it is quite possible they simply acquired data from school directories and databases. This is especially likely in the case of Wilson, as the school does not have an NSHSS chapter.

I thought, that with this hard-earned (or more hard-bought) award I should at least be able to include it on my college application. After consulting with college advice websites, I learned how wrong I was. “Colleges are not impressed with ‘awards’ you bought yourself,” according to

“I don’t believe NSHSS is a scam in the classic sense of the word, when someone takes your money and runs. But it seems as if it might not be worth the money, time and trouble,” according to, another popular parenting website.

I and many of my classmates bought ourselves an award that will get us nowhere in life. Unfortunately, there are no refunds.