The financial figures alone are quite daunting: LendEDU recently reported that the average four-year college bill for the 2013-2014 school year will run around $88,000 for out-of-state students to attend a public school, or close to $36,000 for in-state residents. Add books, housing and food, plus misc. fees, and it’s easy to understand why finding scholarship money to help pay for it all is such an appealing option for students.
However, students need to be very careful of ID theft when applying for scholarships. It's not uncommon for shady businesses to falsely promise too-good-to-be-true scholarships that never materialize, college bound students should educate themselves about these financial aid scams that can ultimately lead to heartbreak and headache.
As Go College notes, there are plenty of red flags that should alert college students that the scholarship company they are looking into could very well be a scam:
Never Pay to Apply
A scholarship company that charges money for the privilege of applying is not a legitimate program. Even if the amount they are asking for is pretty small—like maybe $5 or so—keep in mind that real programs never ask applicants to pay to be considered.
Never Fall for the “Guarantee” Line
Are you visiting a scholarship program website that promises or guarantees that you will get funding? If so, stop and spend your time looking into other more reputable programs. Honest and upstanding scholarship programs cannot guarantee money for anyone, no matter how outstanding of an applicant they may be.
Never Pay to be “Matched” With a Program
Scholarship applicants who are promised that they will be “matched” with the best funding options—only after paying a fee—are setting themselves up for disappointment. You don’t have to pay anyone your hard-earned money to learn which scholarship programs are best for you; this is research that you can easily do on your own.
Never Give Out Too Much Personal Information
If a scholarship program is asking you for all sorts of personal information, you should definitely be wary about the validity of the company. Identity theft is unfortunately very real concern for college applicants, so steer clear of applications that ask for your bank account number or other highly personal information. For example, dishonest companies might tell you that they need your checking account number so that they can deposit your scholarship funds directly, but this is most certainly a scam and one that you should definitely avoid.
Never Trust a Shady-Looking Site
Any alleged scholarship website that looks funky or is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors should be avoided like 2-week old chicken pot pie. Valid scholarship application programs look professional and organized and are free of typos.
Never Leave Your Scholarship Application Programs Open
As Student Aid reminds us, once any valid and legitimate student aid or scholarship program applications are completed, college students should close their browser. Old applications that are no longer needed should be shredded and disposed of, not stuck away in a box where someone can find them.
There are plenty of honest and professional scholarship programs out there. As a college bound student, you just have to take the time to research each one to be sure it is not a scam, and remember the old adage that if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.