Golden Key


10-Year Member
5-Year Member
Nov 17, 2008
Greetings all,

It's been quite a while since I've been on here, but I came upon an opportunity that I know very little about, and this site is a wealth of opinions. I just received a letter inviting me to join the Golden Key International Honor Society. It sounds pretty prestigious, but most of what it offers are things USNA already provides. I ask only because it costs $80 to join. For a youngster, that is a good chunk of my pay. If anyone has heard of Golden Key, or is part of it, please let me know what you think.

Thank you,
Geoff DeSena
Geoff, Our Youngster received that invite this past summer. She quickly chose to decline when she called and found out about the fee. It doesn't look to be an outright scam but more along the lines of paying to put your name in one of the Who's Who books. Golden Key does offer some scholarships to it's members but it appears to be a fraction of the money it takes in. Most seems to be spent on conferences so the fees of many go to pay for the perks of a few. I had not heard of it prior to this summer. Maybe others have a different experience with it.
If you have to pay for the "honor" it's usually not an "honor".
Thank you for your responses. I will take it as enough of an honor to have been offered, but I just don't see where it will benefit me other than to get my name on a list.
If you have to pay for the "honor" it's usually not an "honor".

So then in your opinion none of the following Honor societies are an "honor" as all require a initiation/membership dues:

Phi Kappa Phi - The Nations oldest and most selective Honor Society for All disciplines. No GPA requirement it is competitive with one required to be in the top 7.5% of your Jr. Class (USNA has a chapter - elects students both during 2nd Class spring and 1st Class spring)

Tau Beta Pi - The Nations oldest Engineering Honor Society, Second oldest Honor Society behind Phi Kappa Phi, Also a competitve invitation with one required to be in the top 8% of the Engineering Student body Jr year, 5% Sr year (USNA has a Chapter - not sure when USNA elects membership as my Mid was not an engineering major)

Phi Beta Kappa- Academic Honor Society for Humanities and Sciences - again competitive, allows for up to 10% of the graduating class to be elected for membership (USNA does not have a chapter)

The problem with Golden Key is it is not that prestigious and it does not elect students in a competitive manner, only requiring a certain GPA. The only reason to want to pursue Golden Key is if you are in the top few percentage and will be looking for scholarship money for graduate school - just another source to which source one could apply. If one is looking at the UK Scholarship Program/Foreign Graduate opportunities scholarship money is essential to be granted graduate study abroad by USN.
profmom's nailed this one. but honor and $$ have no disparity, as she's noted. They all have initiation fees AND lifelong dues if you wanna stay active ...
There are two separate questions here. The first is whether the OP should pay the money and join Golden Key because it's a good organization to which to belong. That depends on what the group/society offers and whether membership is worth the cost of those benefits to the OP.

The second issue is whether being a member of Golden Key will help you with USNA admissions. I've seen no evidence to suggest it would. It sounds more like "Who's Who" than National Honor Society. However, given that I've never heard of it (hence the reason I dont think it will help), I could be wrong about that.
Golden Key is a College level Honor Society. The question posed was from a current youngster as opposed to a student applying to the Academy. I believe another poster stated that if you are looking at grad school immediately after USNA, then I personally would join as I believe there have been Mids who have received some scholarship money.

Talk to some of the current members or the chapter advisor...
Golden Key is a College level Honor Society. The question posed was from a current youngster as opposed to a student applying to the Academy. I believe another poster stated that if you are looking at grad school immediately after USNA, then I personally would join as I believe there have been Mids who have received some scholarship money.

Talk to some of the current members or the chapter advisor...

I stand corrected!
Why does one need scholarship money for grad school after the Academy? Doesn't the Navy pay 100% of cost plus your Ensign pay and housing allowance? (All in exchange for 3 or 4 more years committment!)
Only if they are sending you to school. Many officers and enlisted personnel pursue undergrad and grad degrees on their own time.
An aside on grad program funding

osdad, post-grad opportunities, programs and costs for officers from any commissioning source can be a complicated thread on its own, whether just after commissioning or during the career. Lots of variations.

For purposes of this thread, and from my Navy knowlege, yes, there are some IGEP (Immediate Graduate Education Programs) that require the applying 1/C midshipman out of USNA to produce 50% of the funds (grants, scholarships) for certain programs, such as Cambridge, Oxford, Trinity. This is based on what I know of some '09 and '10 sponsor daughters who were approved to apply for these programs; they had a lot of legwork to do to raise the matching funds. Others, such as Naval Postgraduate School and USUHS (military med school), are fully paid for by government funds. There are Tuition Aid programs for those officers and enlisted personnel who have a full-time "day job" on active duty. They take college courses and post-grad courses at night or on the weekends in Navy-approved majors or degree areas, and submit costs for partial reimbursement by Tuition Aid. There are other full-time grad programs, such as CNO Intern, Naval War College (which also has online and homeport seminar programs for those not able to go full-time), Naval Academy Company Officer Master's program, other professional and staff colleges, and a few more cats and dogs. I won't even address the JAG or other staff officer opportunities, or the VGEP program at USNA.

The majority of line officers gain their post-grad degrees during their first shore tour after initial sea duty. It really doesn't matter when, but it's prudent to have one in hand before the O-5 promotion board pops up. Many officers have career paths such that it's difficult for them to spend 2 years ashore as a full-time post-grad student. If they are hot-runners, the Navy ensures they have an opportunity. We had a sponsor daughter, Surface Warfare, who came ashore for her first shore tour as an instructor at a school in her own community - very good duty. She started working on the Naval War College online post-grad courses, but was plucked out of the tour after 1 year and sent to Iraq on a one-year IA (individual augmentation) tour on a joint staff. Earned rave reviews there for her work, adding to her already stellar record, and the Navy excused her from her 3rd year as an instructor and sent her to grad school full-time on a one-year program at a prestigious civilian school, Navy's nickel. She's now headed for the XO/CO pipeline.

Most of the time, yes, they also receive O-1 pay and allowances. I do know of a few programs, such as the Law Education Program (LEP), where some of the approved applicants from the Fleet and Corps get the full school ride and retain pay and allowances on active duty status, and some get the ride but are placed on inactive reserve and receive a small stipend, but not full pay and allowances. Ditto for some med school programs for officers applying to laterally transfer, in terms of USUHS being a full ride with pay and allowances, but the civilian schools are full ride but IRR status - I defer to KP2001 on that, as much changes with the needs of the Navy. If the Navy needs more of something, more dollars get authorized.

So, bringing it back to Golden Key, for those few mids who are approved for IGEP out of USNA and who choose to go that route, it could be a source for matching grant money, though I don't have specific knowledge of that.
VGEP (Voluntary Graduate Education Program) is also relevant to this discussion.

It sends about 20 Mids/yr to pursue a graduate degree @ a DC-area school beginning in the 2nd semester of their 1/C year. Mids then stay in the area for another year or so to finish, earning Ensign or 2nd Lt pay, before beginning active duty. USNA pays around $11,000, colleges offer a scholarship/discount, and Mids pay the rest (which varies by school, U of MD charging lower tuition than, say, Georgetown).

Mids must be accepted for VGEP by USNA, then be accepted @ their university of choice. My Mid didn't get a Gold Key scholarship but said he was glad to have Gold Key to fill in one of the extra-curricular blanks, believing it might make more sense to an admissions officer than some of his USNA achievements and leadership assignments. I don't know if he was right, but he begins a master's program in about 3 months.
golden key is not to be confused with any number of legitimate honor societies. It's a money-making gig. Much like many of the Who's Who scams. Join the group, buy the products. plaques, certificates, volumes w/ YOUR name in print, etc. there are a gazillion of these ...why? they make money on the "back" or our egoes. lol don't confuse golden key with Phi Beta Kappa, NHS in HS, Kappa Mu Epsilon for mathematicians, ODK, etc. etc.
Golden Key is legitimate. Maybe not as big a deal as some of the other Honor Societies found at USNA but it does have a USNA Chapter as opposed to getting an invite in the mail from a publishing company putting out a book called Who's Who....
Golden Key's harmless, but there are 2 rather notable pieces of evidence that might lead one to question the organization's legitimacy as a meaningful order of merit.

1. Google it ...under Golden Key scam. Pages of responses and opinions concluding that if not an outright financial scam and ease of entry in order to generate said income. When the theme of baloney continues to rise to the top, one needs to consider it as possible.

2. While many know of it ...few know anything about it. We've heard from none that got one of those alleged scholarships. Buyers (and that's what they are seeking) beware.

Our egoes make us so susceptible to flattery. :rolleyes:

"So think I'm pretty AND smart? Sure, I'll go out with you. And sure, I'll pay." :eek: