Scholarships are a great way to pay for college without racking up student loans. In addition to funding your college career, they also look good on your curriculum vitae as a demonstration of scholastic aptitude and determination.
Colleges and universities offer a variety of scholarships, both for scholastic effort and based on financial need. Beyond the university, there are plenty of opportunities for scholarships as well. Corporations and scholastic programs love the publicity and potential recruitment that scholarships offer. Though there are many legitimate scholarship programs outside of the university, there are also those seeking to scam aspiring students to earn a profit. Separating the scams from legitimate scholarship offers is important for any aspiring college student.
Never provide your financial information for a scholarship.
As with many scams, if they ask for financial information, do not provide it. That is a major red flag. No legitimate scholarship will ask for checking account information or any personal banking info. Legitimate scholarships either send you a check or deal with your university of choice. They will not ask for bank account or routing numbers.
Paying for scholarship information.
Another red flag is if you have to pay for information or applications, such as the FAFSA. Legitimate scholarships are great publicity for companies and organizations. If a scholarship is asking for money upfront, it IS a scam. Guarantees are also a red flag. Whether they guarantee you’ll receive funds or a refund on your application fee –is itself a red flag- nothing about a scholarship is guaranteed. If a scholarship promises a refund, it is not legitimate.
Personal information about yourself for unsolicited scholarships.
The same is true for random messages stating you have been selected. Scholarships do not seek you out, you apply to them. The only exception to this is if you receive a notification from a university you applied to.
Depending on your grades and high school extracurricular activities, you might be eligible for certain scholarships through your selected school. If a university states you are eligible, it is legitimate. If, on the other hand, you receive random emails or letters in the mail about you receiving scholarship money you did not apply for, it is suspect, and you should not provide them with any personal information.
Scholarship invitations for sales pitches.
Scholarship seminars are yet another flag to be cautious about. In most cases, they do not provide scholarship or financial aid assistance. Instead, they are often sales pitches where someone pressures you into purchasing a product, which doesn’t help you receive an actual, legitimate scholarship. If you receive an invitation to such a seminar, do not accept it.
Paying for college can be a daunting task, and under such pressure, the desire to apply for every and any scholarship is understandable. Feel free to do so if you have the time and qualifications, but make sure you don’t fall for scams. Otherwise, you may end up in more trouble than just having to pay for college. Know the warning signs, know what information not to provide, and if you aren’t sure, don’t risk the possibility of fraud. There are plenty of legitimate, actual scholarships available. There is no reason to risk applying to shady ones.