It’s a numbers game—The more scholarships you apply for, the greater your chances of winning, so apply to all the credible and applicable scholarships that you can find. But, keep an eye out! Some “scholarship applications” are actually scams, attempting to steal your money or your personal information.
To avoid scholarship scams, watch out for these warning signs:
- An unintelligible or incomplete answer to any of your questions. Many scammers attempt to offer confusing or evasive answers to hide the illegitimacy of their scholarship.
- Any rude or pushy responses. You should never feel pressured, bullied, or rushed during a scholarship application process.
- Grammatically incoherent or vague information about the organization or the scholarship. Again, many swindlers use this tactic to hide the fact that the scholarship they offer is a scam.
- A residential address. An organization offering a scholarship should supply easy access to their contact information, and if they offer an address, it should belong to an office building or business park, not a residential neighborhood.
- An application fee. No scholarship should require a fee to apply for the scholarship or to accept it.
- A scholarship without eligibility requirements. Almost all scholarships require some type of qualifications, even if they are silly, like a scholarship awarded to a student with the most creative lego creation. Although legitimate scholarships that are open to everyone do exist, many open scholarships are scams.
- An award guarantee. A guarantee of winning a scholarship defeats the purpose of selecting the most deserving student for the award, so an award guarantee actually guarantees a scam.
- Services that match you to the best fitting scholarships. Organizations that offer to locate scholarships that apply to you are selling their services for what you can easily accomplish for free, and they sometimes sell your personal information to third parties.
- A request for your bank account information or social security number. FAFSA is the ONLY financial aid-related website that should ask for your social security number.
- The keywords, “sweepstakes,” “random selection,” “guarantee,” “immediately,” or “drawing.” These are some of the most common words you might find in scam scholarships.
- A weekly or monthly awarded scholarship. Few organizations have enough money to award that many scholarships that frequently.
How to Find Credible Scholarships:
Look up scholarships on Fastweb.com and CollegeBoard.org. If the scholarship appears on either of these websites, this does not certify that the scholarship is legitimate, but it is a good sign. Both of these websites list plenty of reputable scholarship opportunities.
There are four main sources of credible scholarships:
External Scholarships. These are scholarships that any outside organization offers to students. Use the warning signs above to verify these.
School-based scholarships. These are scholarships offered by the school that you either will or currently do attend. Some of these scholarships might be automatically applied once you submit FAFSA, but some require an extra application process.
Federal awards and grants. These are provided by the government and will be awarded to you based on your FAFSA application.
State scholarships and grants. These might require an additional application besides your FAFSA application.
If a scholarship seems off or too good to be true, ask for someone else’s opinion or skip that scholarship. As long as you avoid “scholarships” with the warning signs above, you should not have difficulty finding plenty of credible scholarships for which you qualify.