“Congratulations on being nominated to attend the National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C.”, reads the fancy script on the expensive feeling card complete with gold seal. The card promises “lifetime advantage” and valuable resume padding. It’s hard to miss the words “elite”, “distinguished,” and “select.”
The letter is a marketing scam. These particular leadership conferences won’t enhance your college applications any more or less than that art club you joined but never attended, say the Miami college counselors at International College Counselors
Your child will meet other kids who are interested in government, attend workshops, hear speakers, and sightsee, but getting invited isn’t an “honor”. College admissions officers and college advisors are aware that attendance for most students depends on their ability to pay.
Solicitations for programs like these begin filling mailboxes, virtual and real, as soon as students reach middle school, and continue coming through college. Dozens of messages may be sent from one program, reminding you of enrollment deadlines and offering testimonials from participants and fundraising tips.
According to the New York Times, The company that organized the conference, a direct-mail powerhouse called the Congressional Youth Leadership Council, runs an alphabet soup of such conferences that it says are attended by 50,000 students a year. It solicits recommendations from teachers and alumni of previous conferences, and it culls names from mailing lists, for which the council paid $263,000 in 2006 alone.
Other companies in this business include: the National Student Leadership Conference, People to People Ambassador Programs, Leadership Classroom, Envision, and the Congressional Youth Leadership Council.