There are so many scholarships out there, but how do you know what scholarships are legitimate? Large and well-known companies and organizations are typically safe, but what about the smaller organizations that are not household names? Many of us worry about identity theft, so we want to make sure our information is safe. Plus, no ones wants to spend time applying for a scholarship if no one will win. Therefore, here are some things to consider before applying for that scholarship that might seem too good to be true.
Application fee. Scholarship providers do not charge an application fee. Sometimes a scholarship website will mask the application fee as a way to only get legitimate applicants. Or, they may say the application fee is for “handling.” Real scholarship providers set aside a set amount of money they want to give away as a scholarship to a student and don’t need any money to award the scholarship. If the scholarship is asking for an application fee, be weary. Even if the application fee is a small amount and not a large loss for you, think about it like this: If the scholarship application fee is $5 and they receive 1,000 applications for a $500 scholarship, where does the rest of the money go? The person running the scam will probably pocket the money.
Buy something to be considered. Just like the application fee, requiring an applicant to purchase something to be considered for a scholarship is probably a scam. They are probably just trying to get people to buy their product. Note: There are some organizations that ask for students to sign-up for a free profile to be considered for a scholarship. There are many websites that offer great information and an entry into a nice scholarship if students sign-up. This type of scholarship does not need to be ignored. Instead, students should follow their gut feeling when considering whether to apply or not.
You’ve won without applying. We have all heard stories about individuals being scammed out of large amounts of money. This can happen with students and their families as well. Many students will need some sort of financial help to attend college, and scammers know this. If someone calls or emails saying you have won a scholarship you did not apply, it is probably a scam.
Unclear eligibility requirements. A real scholarship will have some sort of eligibility requirements. Even if the requirements are not very specific, a legitimate scholarship will outline requirements. If it is open to everyone, or doesn’t give any requirements, it might be a scam.
Contact Information. The internet has made it easier for scammers. Anyone can create a website and publish whatever they want. A scholarship scam may not provide contact information on their website. If students have questions about the scholarship or the organization, some sort of contact information should be made available. If only an online scholarship form is available with no contact information available anywhere, it may be a scam.
Have your questions been answered? If you have any questions about the scholarship or the organization offering the scholarship, you should be able to ask and get an answer. If your email or phone call goes unanswered, that is a red flag. If they do reply to your email or phone call, but only give incomplete information, that could be a red flag as well. A real scholarship provider will be upfront and honest when answering your questions, and they will be very professional. If you get anything less when contacting a scholarship provider, it could be a scam.
Require too much personal information. Most scholarships will need a student’s name, address, and some other information. The scholarship provider may be investing in your education, so they will want to get to know you. However, there are some items that are just too personal to provide to a scholarship provider, or anyone for that matter. If the scholarship is asking for information on bank accounts, credit card numbers, or social security numbers, it is probably a scam to steal money or identity information.
Spelling or grammar errors. A real scholarship will not have spelling or grammar errors on their websites or application materials. Since a scholarship is such a serious matter, the scholarship provider will want to make sure that their opportunity comes across as professional. If spelling or grammar errors are found throughout a scholarship website, it may have been a fast creation in hopes to scam students.
Something just doesn’t feel right. Sometimes we have a gut feeling about things, and a scholarship might feel too good to be true. If it doesn’t feel right, it could be a scam. Students and families should follow their gut feeling when deciding to apply for a scholarship or not.
If you do find a scholarship that you think might be a scam, report it. While you did not fall for the scam, there might be other students who will. There are ways to report a scam. Visit FinAid.org for a full list of ways to report a scam so others may not fall victim to the scammers.