Two weeks ago on this blog I talked about what I do to get high school and college students excited about applying for college scholarships.
(That post included a great list of excellent scholarships students can apply for, so if you missed that one—be sure to go back and check it out now.)
Today I want to breathe a quiet word of caution into all that fire and enthusiasm.
Every year an estimated 350,000 students and parent are cheated by scholarship scams—despite the Federal Trade Commission’s best efforts to shut these scams down.
Here, courtesy of finaid.org, are the top 8 ways to instantly recognize a scholarship scam.
1. Don’t be fooled by fancy-sounding names.
Finaid.org says: “There are dozens of scams based on imitations of legitimate foundations, scholarship sponsors, lenders, and scholarship search services. They may even have official-sounding names, using such words as ‘National’, ‘Federal’, ‘Federation’, ‘Division’, ‘Foundation’, and ‘Administration’, or a governmental-looking seal to fool you into thinking that they are federal agencies or grant-giving foundations.”
2. Beware of scholarships that ask you to give them money.
Finaid.org says: “If a scholarship program requires an application, redemption, or handling fee, even an innocuously low one like $5 or $10, don’t waste your money. More than 99.9% of legitimate scholarship sponsors do not require an application fee. Likewise, be wary of loan programs that require the up-front payment of origination, guarantee, or other fees. All federal, state, and private education loan programs deduct loan fees from the disbursement check. No legit program requires the fees in advance.”
3. If they seem to “guarantee” that you’ll win money, immediately smell a rat.
Finaid.org says: “No sponsor will guarantee that you will win the award, and scholarship search services cannot guarantee that you will win an award. Loose eligibility restrictions and high success rates are another warning sign; scholarship sponsors do not hand out awards to students just for breathing.”
4. Be on the lookout for a fishy return address and no legitimate phone number.
Finaid.org says: “Many scholarship scams use a mail drop for a return address (sometimes disguised as a ‘Suite’), and many do not include a telephone number for inquiries. If no telephone number is listed, call directory assistance to see if they have a listing. A Washington, DC address does not mean that the organization is a federal agency. Many scams also seem to originate from Florida or California.”
5. Be skeptical if you’re made to feel rushed.
Finaid.org says: “Be careful if the announcement has a deadline in only a few weeks and encourages you to respond quickly.” With the exception of need-based financial aid, most legitimate scholarship awards are not given on a “first-come, first served basis.”
6. Watch out for phrases such as “free money,” “billions in unclaimed aid,” and “win your fair share,” as well as:
• “You can’t get this information anywhere else”
• “I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold the scholarship”
• “You have been selected by a national foundation to receive a scholarship”
• “You’re a finalist in (a scholarship contest you didn’t apply for)”
• “The money has already been reserved for you”
• “Listen to what others are saying about us”
These phrases pop up over and over again in scholarship scams.
7. Never give out your private financial information to get a scholarship.
Finaid.org says: “Don’t give out your bank account numbers or credit card numbers over the phone or online, especially to an unsolicited offer that needs the information for ‘verification purposes.'”
I add to that: Don’t give out your social security number in exchange for free money for college, EXCEPT for on the official FAFSA financial aid application form that you will fill out every year that you will have a child in college the following fall.
8. If you are wondering whether an offer is a scam or not, do this.
Finaid.org says: “If you suspect a scam, bring a copy of all literature and correspondence to your school’s financial aid office. If you’re still in high school, ask your guidance counselor or the financial aid administrator at a local college for advice.”
You can also “call your local Better Business Bureau (BBB), State Bureau of Consumer Protection, and the State Attorney General’s Office. Report the offer to the National Fraud Information Center at 1-800-876-7060.”
Below, learn the fastest, easiest way to fill out large numbers of scholarship applications.
Take my 3-hour video class MAKE THEM SAY WOW: How to Write One Brilliant Scholarship Application Essay and Use it Over and Over Again
Learn about all the debt-free college strategies that have nothing to do with scholarships in my book:
It’s a reference book, so nobody reads the whole thing cover to cover. Pick out what you need to read in it using the fast-paced, 10-minute video instructions here.
You can see more than 100 reviews of it on Amazon at:
(Tell your friends.)
You can see why financial advising professionals love LAUNCH, here.
You can see the top 9 questions parents are asking me about LAUNCH, here.
Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1–3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.
And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it—especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.
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What about you?
Have you seen an advertisement for a “scholarship” that contains one of the elements above? Where was that? Warn the rest of us! Comment below, or LIKE Jeannie Burlowski Author on Facebook, find this post on that page, and let’s talk about it there.
Who is Jeannie Burlowski?
Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26, their parents, and the professionals who serve them. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free, ready to move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, Parents Magazine, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.