Kids these days have it tough. It’s no longer enough to get put your nose to the grindstone, get good grades and apply for the right school. A competitive student is participating in a variety of extracurricular activities ranging from soccer to chess to public speaking club.
This trend doesn’t seem to be holding up any time soon, and companies are beginning to capitalize, or prey, on this desire to have an edge amongst peers. One such organization is the National Academy for Future Scientists and Technologists (NAFST).
The NAFST claims to offer young adults the opportunity to brush shoulders with the intellectual elite, network with high achieving peers, and open up doors to the future. Taken from their welcome page:
“Science and technology touch every single area of modern life: from food and health, robotics, energy, and environment, to entertainment, from individual curiosity and fundamental science to international cooperation and competition. Our shared future depends on you.
‘Your teachers will be winners of the Nobel Prize.’
This Congress will open your eyes, thoughts, and feelings through mentorship from the greatest minds in science and technology. You will hear and feel the meaning of success and failure, and gain the force to keep on going when others say it can’t be done. You will see astonishing discoveries and amazing inventions. You will forge friendships with new collaborators and join a community of leadership. You will gain the knowledge and acquire the skills you need to set your course and stay on track to reach your goals.”
We weren’t able to verify their claim that “Your teachers will be winners of the Nobel Prize”, having a look at their past speakers shows that while they aren’t necessarily Nobel prize winners, they definitely seem to be successful intellectuals who have won some sort of recognition.
Is the National Academy for Future Scientists and Technologists legit?
On the surface the National Association for Future Scientists and Technologists definitely has an impressive set of credentials and is involved in member communities. A closer examination reveals that something fishy might be going on. We’ll take a look at it in the following review of the NAFST.
On their website they proudly sport a handful of credentials and memberships:
- School Counselor Association (ASCA)
- National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)
- National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
- STEM Education Coalition
- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA)
- The Society of Torch and Laurel
For example, on the partners page of the Society of Torch and Laurel (one of the organizations that has accredited the NAFST) they cite their partners as the National Academy for Future Scientists and Technologists as well as the National Academy for Future Physicians and Medical Scientists. These two partners seemed suspiciously similar.
I took this and ran an IP address check on the servers hosting these three websites. To my surprise all three came back hosted on the same IP address (22.214.171.124). This would be an outrageously improbable coincidence, and I’m confident enough that these are absolutely owned by the same person/company.
From what I’ve been able to gather what’s happening is that the founder, Steve Loflin, has created a web of “Future Professionals Organizations” all giving and receiving their credibility amongst each other. This raises some big red flags from a legitimacy point of view, especially considering the high fees charged for their “certificates” that they hawk to vulnerable soon-to-be graduates. You can read the AMA with Steve Loflin where he is asked about the legitimacy of his organization and gives his defense.
The NAFST existed since 1994, meaning you can have some peace of mind knowing it isn’t a complete fly by night operation.
There are many reports online of students receiving an “exclusive invite” from the NAFST or other programs to join their elite group. The fancy red envelope that they send their three-page sales pitch and supporting docs in hardly looks like a typical spam mailer.
While I’m definitely a bit skeptical of the whole operation, I do see some value to the NAFST program. Having the opportunity to see successful intellectuals speak and interact with other students in that environment could be a positive experience developing a new passion. With that said, I think it largely depends on how big of a deal the cost is to you. If it’s a matter of the NAFST program or spending that money developing interests and experiences organically through clubs and by giving access to the right supplies, equipment, and learning materials, I’d choose the latter.
A few questions about the NAFST:
Is the National Association of Future Scientists and Technologists worth the money?
Will you be scraping together limited resources to pay for this? It’s really important to remember that the hundreds of dollars that you spend on this certificate could otherwise be spent buying supplies and equipment for a hobby — one that could develop in to real skills, interests, and experiences. The certificate is sort of a shortcut to actually engaging in a topic and developing skills.
Is the National Association of Future Scientists and Technologists a scam?
I don’t think it’s fair to say that the NAFST is an outright scam. It could be an easy resume booster for a student who is otherwise completely lacking experiences and extracurricular activities. With that said, because these certificates are available to anyone who’s willing to pay-to-play, colleges are very aware of the game and the reputation of these certificates reflects that amongst university recruiters.
What are some examples of the best extracurricular activities?
There are so many extracurricular opportunities available to kids now days. You aren’t limited to sports and chess now days. The best experiences involve pushing through boundaries to learn a real skill that doesn’t come easily. It shows that despite not having a lot of history or experience, a student is eager to learn and engage in the community.
Want to be a 3D printing whiz? Libraries and schools are creating free 3D-printing labs at an insane pace. Want to create the next Facebook? Programming is free and can be picked up in a matter of months by studying the various online resources like Codecademy combined with Youtube videos and Facebook groups for questions. Really, there’s no limit to what a kid can learn on the side now days. It just takes the motivation to get out of your comfort zone and learn something new.
For some inspiration on more extracurricular activity examples check out this great list of extracurricular activities by PrepScholar.