Beware of Scholarship Traps!


Copyright Roxanne Ocampo 2017

          We’re right smack in the middle of scholarship season and students are asking me, “How many scholarship services should I register with?” and “How do I know which scholarships are credible and which are bogus?”  It’s easy to sort the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Just follow these tips to navigate bogus scholarship traps.

          Rule 1:  Be Wary of Clearinghouses.  “Clearinghouses” are those online organizations that brag about having hundreds or thousands of scholarships.  Their website name tends to be very generic, unaffiliated with a particular program or organization.  Rather than focusing on one particular student demographic or profile, they market to the masses.   For example, these websites claim to have scholarships for all students.  In fact, they will say they have millions, if not billions of dollars in scholarships.  All you need to do is register with their service and they will “match” you up with scholarships that are just right for you!  #suspect

Sometimes they will offer an enticing contest or sweepstakes, compelling you to register.  For example, they will have a “No Essay Scholarship” or a $10,000 sweepstakes.  These lottery-type contests do not require academic or merit based criteria.  Instead, you simply register and submit your “entry” and you might win the big prize!  Bottom line:  I’ve NEVER known a single student who has won a scholarship from one of these clearinghouse type sites.  #TooGoodToBeTrue

          Rule 2:  Never Divulge Confidential DataNever submit personal, confidential information about yourself and/or your family on scholarship sites.  With very few exceptions, most sites will never ask you for this information.  Legitimate organizations that require this type of information are national organizations with a solid (historical) reputation including the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the Ronald McDonald House Charities. #BeLegit

          Rule 3:  Don’t Pay for a Scholarship Service.  Some sites ask students to pay a fee to get access to their scholarship database, or claim they will help “match” students with great scholarships.  Never, ever pay or subscribe to a scholarship service.  That’s it – plain and simple. #CommonSense

          Now that you know the 3 rules, what other things can you do to avoid scholarship traps?

First, always type in the URL for the desired scholarship website, versus following links that may take you to a scam site.

Second, look at their site.  The first thing you’ll notice is that they have many paid advertisers prominently displayed on their home page.  This tells you that they are not a charitable organization whose mission is to provide scholarship funding for deserving students.  Instead, they are a for-profit business and their revenue is generated through sources such as paid advertisements.  They deal in volume:  quantity over quality.  Their strategy is to advertise a large volume of scholarships in hopes that they may lure a large pool of “customers” (you). #SuckerPunch

The next thing you will notice is that you must register with their site in order to view their scholarship listings.  Many of these sites will block the user from moving (or viewing) additional pages until they have registered and supplied their personal information.  They may call this process a “registration,” “user account,” or “profile.”  However, keep in mind there are legitimate scholarship sites that also require students to create an account.  Therefore, you cannot determine whether a scholarship site is legitimate based solely on whether or not you are required to create an account. #NothingForFree

Finally – these clearinghouses typically drive students to product offerings through clever marketing tactics. For example, they will broadcast enticing headlines for “helpful articles” covering a myriad of interesting college-related topics.  Beware! Once you click on that interesting article, you will efficiently be directed to another page where additional vendors will aggressively market their product offerings.  Some of the products are student loans, college exam preparation programs, or other fee-related services. #SlickMarketing


Don’t get stuck in the scholarship trap!  If you’d like more tips on scholarship strategies, see my 2017 article 5 Tips to Win Scholarships Learn how to write effective scholarship essays with my book, Nailed It! Quetzal Mama'sToolkit for Extraordinary Essays.

Posted February 12th, 2015 by Quetzal Mama



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