How to Safely Apply and Search For Scholarships Online

Student to apply for scholarships online.

  • Scholarships are a great way to save money on college tuition and fees.
  • When you apply for scholarships online, look for red flags including: required payments, “guaranteed” awards, sales seminars, and unsecured websites.
  • Using reputable databases can help students and their families avoid scholarship scams.

Scholarships are a great way to make college more affordable for thousands of students in the United States. However, when it comes to money, students and families need to be aware of scams and red flags that could end up hurting them in the long run and even result in identity theft in serious cases. If you’re applying to scholarships online or offline, make sure you are aware of these 4 tips that will help you avoid scams, save time, and apply for awards you qualify for.

1. Don’t Pay for Scholarship Search Tools

Scholarship search tools and databases are a great way to find awards you qualify for without doing all the legwork yourself. However, there are dozens of free databases for you to use. Students should never need to pay to use one of these resources, to complete their profile, or to view an award the service says they qualify for.

2. Avoid Scholarship Scams

Knowing what to look for when you apply online for scholarships can help you avoid scams and red flags. Students should:

  • Never pay to apply for a scholarship or for processing fees at a later date.
  • Never pay to have someone complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or give out their FSA ID to a third party.
  • Not apply to awards if the award is “guaranteed”.
  • Avoid databases or sources that say “You can’t get this information anywhere else”.
  • Not provide credit card or bank account information.
  • Be wary of organizations that state the student is a finalist for an award they never applied for or other unsolicited offers.
  • Never pay money at a scholarship “seminar” – these are disguised sales pitches.
  • Ask questions about awards that seem too good to be true.
  • Avoid unsecure websites.
  • Avoid “limited time” awards (not the same thing as a deadline).
  • Not apply to awards that don’t supply contact information.

If you fall victim to a scholarship scam, the organization should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

3. Verify Awards

If you’re unsure about a particular award, try reaching out or researching the organization. You might be able to find other students’ experiences with the group or award. If you contact the organization, they should answer your questions. If they avoid you or give non-committal answers, this should be a red flag.

While dated websites and out-of-date copyrights aren’t always scams, applicants should be wary of these organizations and research to ensure the award is legit.

If the student is unable to easily find contact information for an award, the scholarship could be a scam and should probably be avoided.

4. Use Reputable Scholarship Databases and Resources

Reputable scholarship databases and resources will never charge you for using their service. Databases will connect you with awards you qualify for once you enter your information for free. If a resource requests your financial information, FSA ID, or money to use the service, avoid it.

These databases can highlight a scholarship’s:

  • Award amounts
  • Contact information
  • Organization details
  • Qualifying requirements
  • Required application materials
  • Essay questions (if needed)
  • Deadlines
  • Award dates
  • Number of awards available
  • Submission link

College Raptor’s Scholarship Search tool is a database that students can use to identify and apply for legitimate scholarships. Students using this tool can enter their personal information, achievements, goals, and other details to be presented with a tailored list that highlights awards and scholarship opportunities students should consider applying for.

Students looking to get free cash to attend college should also look into their state’s grants for school and federal government resources including the FAFSA. By using our database and these financial aid resources, students can rest assured they are avoiding scholarship scams. In addition, high school guidance counselors can help their students identify local awards they qualify for and are legitimate sources of money.

Before you apply for scholarships online, students should always take steps to make sure the award is legit. By researching the organization and individual award, applicants can be sure they are not falling victim to a scam and aren’t wasting their time on applying for an award that doesn’t exist.

Want to save time on your scholarship application processes and avoid scams? What better way to do it than with College Raptor’s own Scholarship Search tool. Start today for free!