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How to Keep Your Personal Information Safe When Applying for Scholarships

by Tim Brunicardi on September 21, 2018

What struggling college student couldn’t use some extra money, especially if those funds come via a scholarship?

However, while applying for scholarships might seem like an ideal way to secure the money you need to finance your education, many times seeking out cash awards comes with a certain amount of risk, especially when applying for them online.

Many times data collected from students during the scholarship sign-up process can end up being shared with or sold to outside marketing-based sources. As a result, applicants can end up being the unwelcome recipients of consumer/service-oriented ads and emails.

So in order to spare yourself from becoming an unwilling marketing tool, take the following steps when applying for scholarships online:

  • stock-laptopUse a separate email account. Set up a free, new email account and use this address on any scholarship applications you fill out. This way if you do get bombarded with unwanted spam at least it will not end up in your regular email account.
  • Watch for fees. Don’t fill out any applications that charge you any kind of sign-up fee. Offers such as this are usually outright money-making scams geared to take advantage of naïve students.
  • Be weary if they ask for personal information. Beware of scholarship applications that ask for sensitive information such as your social security number. If you have filled out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) then any legitimate businesses/nonprofits that are offering scholarships will already have easy access to that kind of personal information.
  • Be cautious of the payment method. Forego applying for scholarships that intend to deposit the award directly into your personal bank account. Traditionally, awards such as these are given directly to the college the student is attending. So, offers that deviate from this format should be considered questionable.
  • Do some research.  Research the business/nonprofit that’s offering the scholarship you’re interested in. If you uncover any information that looks suspicious, maybe you should think twice before filling out the application.
  • Look for a privacy policy. Resist filling out applications that don’t openly display the privacy policy of the business/nonprofit offering the scholarship. Therefore, if what they plan to do with your personal information isn’t clearly explained, it might be best to pass up the offer altogether.
  • Reach out to the business if things are unclear. Just in case it isn’t made clear what a business/nonprofit plans to do with your personal information, contact them yourself. Ask them what their privacy and security policies are and if they keep, or destroy, the information they’ve gathered after the scholarship deadline has passed. How they choose to respond to your questions will be a clear indicator of how sincere their offer really is.
  • Announcing the award recipient. Make sure it specifies how the recipient of the scholarship will be determined. Any offers that don’t openly provide what their judging process entails should be second guessed.advisor
  • Review their anti-spam policy. Find out if the business/nonprofit has an anti-spam policy. If they don’t, perhaps you should consider exploring other scholarship opportunities.
  • Seek advice from an academic advisor. Ask your academic advisor, or someone in your school’s financial aid office to help you seek out a search tool that doesn’t collect, or plan to sell, your personal information.
  • Search for scholarships through other sites. Check out some websites like Collegedata.com or Money.com that allow you to look for scholarships without supplying any personal information beforehand.

If you’re a Hocking College student seeking information on financial aid or scholarships, contact the following Financial Aid Department representatives:

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