It’s crunch time for scholarships and you may be tempted to apply for anything and everything that you can find. Although it is a great idea to apply for a variety of scholarships, you should always take a moment to see if a scholarship is legitimate before sending in your personal information. How can you tell a real scholarship from a fake? Here are some clues that you may be dealing with a scholarship scam.
- “It only costs $(X amount) to apply for our scholarships!” You may come across individual scholarships or scholarship searches that will offer you college money for the low, low price of …not free. Run away from these scholarships! There are plenty of scholarships and scholarship searches out there that are completely free. Never apply for any scholarship that requires you to pay them first. There’s a good chance that they’d take your money and you’d never see a dime in return.
- “You’re guaranteed to win!” and/or “You’ve already won (even though you never applied)!” If a scholarship opportunity seems too good to be true, it probably is. The vast majority of scholarships require some sort of competitive application process, so beware of any scholarship that ‘guarantees’ that you’ll win before you even apply. It is true that some scholarships do not have applications, but it is usually easy to tell a real scholarship from a fake in this situation—just consider the source. If you’ve received this information from your college or your school counselor, I recommend that you still research it and ask questions, but it’s probably legitimate. If you get an email from an organization you’ve never heard of saying ‘You’ve won!’ – ignore it and find a real scholarship to apply for. If you dig deeper into these ‘too good to be true’ scholarship opportunities, it’s extremely likely that these organizations are trying to use the promise of a scholarship to gather your personal information. Speaking of which…
- You want me to give you WHAT information? Before you submit any scholarship application, look at what types of information that they ask you to provide. Some examples of information gathered by legitimate scholarships are: Full name, address, phone number, email address, the high school and/or college that you’re attending, citizenship/residency status, and financial information from your FAFSA. If a scholarship asks for bank account information, do not apply! If an application asks for your social security number, heavily research the organization and the scholarship itself before you consider applying. Most scholarships are moving away from requesting your SSN, but a few legitimate scholarships do still request it. Never give out your social security number without verifying how it will be used!
- Missing Sponsor Contact Information. One good way to research a scholarship is by contacting the provider directly. Most scholarships should provide a contact email address and/or phone number in case you have questions. If you are unable to find any way to contact this organization, it may be a good idea to avoid applying. Additionally, if you try contacting the scholarship provider and the contact information is invalid or you receive no reply, take that as a sign to find a different scholarship.
Last, if you’ve considered all this information and you’re still not sure whether a scholarship is real or fake, reach out to a trusted adult and ask! Scholarship applications are time consuming as it is, so it’s best to leave the fake scholarships behind and focus your energy on the real ones. Good luck, and happy scholarship season!