Scholarships are a great way to relieve your financial burdens while you pursue education for a career that interests you, but you need to be very careful when you apply for them. You need to decide for yourself what seems like a good offer and not fall prey to many shady individuals looking for vulnerable targets. There’s probably something suitable for you out there, but be prepared to do extensive research and to provide proof of your achievements so far. Most of all, you need to be realistic and keep your eyes open for some warning signs listed here:
- Unrealistic Promises
If you get contacted by someone who claims they can make sure you’ll get a scholarship by a third party, this is an overestimation at best or even an outright lie. Scholarships are awarded to students who meet certain requirements, that vary for different organizations and it’s better you invest your time into finding applications that you can realistically fulfill. If someone claims using their services is a guaranteed way to obtain a scholarship, they’re just wasting your time or trying to scam you. No legitimate organization will award you money to everyone who asks for it, so if you see something like ‘’open for all’’, ‘’money guaranteed’’, ‘’everyone gets it’’ it’s best to move on.
- Unsolicited Offers
To put it simple, would you offer money to strangers on the street? If you receive an offer from an organization you never heard of and they claim you’ve won their scholarship, all your alarms must go off. In today’s age it’s easy to get emails or phone numbers of thousands of students who aspire to get scholarships and try to lure them to provide sensitive information or even money in hope of winning a scholarship. Just ignore offers from organizations you never heard of.
- Fear-Inducing Rhetoric
If an organization claims that using their services it the only way for you to receive financial aid, something is probably wrong. If they claim they have “special connections” or “inside info” and that you don’t stand a chance if you don’t cooperate with them, it’s a scam. It’s understandable that you’d want to increase your chances of getting a scholarship, but you can’t rely on shortcuts. Be extremely careful if they give unrealistically short application deadlines, because all serious organizations will give you enough time to prepare a well thought out application.
- One-Way Communication
“Don’t call us, we’ll call you” is something you’ll never hear from a legitimate organization. Every organization you want to apply with needs to have a phone number, headquarters, board of directors, etc. Just because someone puts a Washington, D.C. address and an official looking name it doesn’t mean they’re legitimate. If an organization is mentioned nowhere except on their own website or if you can’t find any previous winners of their scholarships, keep looking for something better.
- Asking for Too Much Data
You need to be on the lookout for flags related to identity theft. If you’re applying with a serious organization they won’t ask for your credit card or bank account information, social security number or driver’s license. If you get an offer via email or a letter telling you that you’ve won a scholarship but you need to call them to confirm, be skeptical. Never disclose sensitive information over the phone. Criminals could completely clear out your bank account with that data or apply for bank loans on your name and then disappear with the money.
- Asking for Money
This is the ultimate red flag. Under no circumstances ever will you be required to pay to apply for a scholarship. Even if it’s just a small amount of money for a so-called processing fee, it’s a warning sign. That’s simply not what serious funding organizations do. Also, you won’t need to purchase any other product or service or make a donation. You’re applying for financial aid; it makes absolutely no sense for someone to ask money from you during that process. Don’t even consider services that claim they’ll improve your application if you pay them, they’ll probably overcharge you to slightly reword your application and provide you with generic content that every serious organization immediately refuses. The best advice we can offer you is not to be gullible or greedy, you can get a scholarship yourself, but you need to devote some time and planning into the application process.