Tom is an all-star. He has offers to attend prestigious leadership conferences and invitations to join academic honor societies. Last week, he received several anxious emails from colleges and universities reminding him that his application was due in a matter of days.
In fact, Tom has even had application deadlines extended or waived. And he’s been offered opportunities to apply for exclusive scholarships not generally open to the public. But his policy so far has been to ignore all appeals.
Because Tom is a cat. Admittedly, Tom is a very talented mouser and an utterly adorable tabby. He does have his own email account, however, which I check regularly for him. Nevertheless, he’s a cat.
And his goal is to one day earn a spot on the Wikipedia list of “animals with fraudulent diplomas.”
Evidently, Tom is not the only feline investigator trying to get a handle on the seamier side of online education-related scams. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Colby Nolan is a housecat belonging to one of Pennsylvania’s deputy attorney generals, who happened to be investigating diploma mills. Colby’s MBA became the source of a law suit against Trinity Southern University.
- Henrietta Goldacre obtained a diploma in nutrition from the American Association of Nutritional Consultants. Although the cat is no longer with us, his owner keeps her certificate on display in a restroom.
- Dave Catermanis was awarded a degree in communications at York University. According to Wikipedia, the small black cat (one of a litter of 7 kittens) is currently enrolled in medical school.
- Kitty O’Malley (AKA Spanky) worked undercover for the Florida-based Ledger and obtained a high school diploma from Washington High Academy. Sadly, the diploma was insufficient for her to gain admission to local colleges.
- Oreo Collins is a “tuxedo cat” whose claim to fame was her diploma from Jefferson High School Online. The sting was an investigation initiated by the Central Georgia Better Business Bureau.
- Zoe D. Katze obtained several “well-known” hypnotherapy certifications and became the subject of an article by the American Bar Association and starred in a news report by CBS News.
There are dogs on the list, but Tom isn’t as impressed.
The moral of the story is be careful about offers that are too good to be true—quickie admissions, scholarships with fees attached, honors you didn’t really earn, or expensive leadership programs.
And watch out for “phishing” expeditions where websites ask for detailed personal information to support college search or financial aid. You never know where some of this information will end up. At a minimum, you’ll find your email box filled with spam. I know because I read Tom’s mail for him.