Scholarship Scams And How to Avoid Them

Scholarship Scams And How to Avoid Them

With over 300,000 people in America googling 'scholarships' every year, the demand for scholarships is high - and so is the risk of falling victim to a scholarship scam. With "opportunity for all" being our mantra, we want to make sure students are protected. These are our go-to's for sussing out the real opportunities.

Red Flags

There are several warning signs with scholarship scams. If you come across one of these red flags, file a complaint to one of the bodies outlined in the next section.

Never apply to a scholarship with an application fee. The whole point of a scholarship is to help students pay for their education, not make money from them. If they are asking you for money, they aren't legit.

Do not apply to a scholarship with money-back offers of guarantees. They should award money when someone has won a scholarship, not when they're applying.

If a scholarship claims to provide 'exclusive information' it's shady. A real scholarship program won't bait you into applying for any other reason than to help you pay for school.

The most obvious sign of a scholarship scam is an application that requests credit card or banking information. DO NOT VOLUNTEER YOUR FINANCIAL INFORMATION like social security numbers under any circumstances. No one needs access to your finances to help you pay for school.

Common Scams

'Phishing' and 'Pharming' scams are two of the most common internet scams.

Phishing scams are unsolicited emails from sources pretending to be a reputable company that encourage you to reveal personal information, likely passwords, credit card numbers, and account numbers. These emails will bear a logo of your bank or credit card company to trick you.

Pharming scams are like phishing scams, except scammers will drive you to a bogus website that mimics a legitimate one to get you to volunteer your personal and financial information. Both scams can come in the form of emails so be sure that you set your spam filters for your inbox.

See Something, Say Something

If you come across any of the examples listed, alert authorities so that other financial aid-seeking students or anyone does not fall victim to a scam. There are a few official bodies to whom you can report suspicious activity.

National Fraud Information Center (NCIF)

Visit their website, www.fraud.org to file a complaint online

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Go to www.ftc.gov/scholarshipscams to file a complaint online or write to:

Federal Trade Commission Consumer

Response Center

600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20580

State Attorney General's Office

You can also file complaints with the Protection Division in your state. Visit www.naag.org to find your state Attorney General's Office.

US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS)

Use this body to report mail fraud at postalinspectors.uspis.gov, or call the Crime Hotline at 877-876-2455 or write to:

Criminal Investigations Service Center

222 S. Riverside Plaza, Ste. 1250

Chicago, IL 60606-6100

Better Business Bureau

File an online complaint about a business at www.bbb.org or all 703-276-0100

How Scholly Protects You

We want you to win so we bring you the best scholarships possible. We base our quality assistance on three central tenets:

1. We never add sweepstakes scholarships to our database. These kinds of scholarships have many applicants and decrease you chances of actually winning.

2. We do not house scholarships that require membership in an organization or program. Our motto is 'Opportunity for All' which means we want scholarships that are open to the public.

3. Scholarships that require users to sign up for a product or service as a part of the application process are also not added to our database. We want you to focus on what's important here, and that is getting money for school.

Scholarships can change lives, but so can scholarship scams. Be sure you're changing your life for the better, with Scholly.

FAFSA: Your First Step to Financial Aid

FAFSA: Your First Step to Financial Aid

If you're looking for money for college, then you need to start with FAFSA.

What is FAFSA?

FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The federal government uses the application to see if you qualify for federal assistance for college. Federal student aid can include grants, scholarship, work-study jobs, and loans. Most colleges and universities use FAFSA as the application to their own financial aid programs. Private colleges often have additional financial aid forms - like the CSS Profile - when determining financial aid packages.

What is FAFSA’s role in the financial aid process?

Since 2016, students can file the FAFSA as early as October 1st. The deadline for the 2018-2019 year is June 30th, but it's advisable to file far earlier than that to increase your chances of receiving federal aid. Also, the earlier you file, the sooner the government determines your aid, and the sooner you can plan for the future.

From your FAFSA, the federal government calculates your EFC. Your EFC is your Expected Family Contribution and what the government believes you and your family should be able to pay towards your tuition. The school of your choice will then try to provide further financial aid based on your EFC.

Warning: EFC's are often much higher than families can afford as the federal government does not consider consumer debt in their calculations.

How can I apply?

If you are a dependent, you and your parents should gather some important information needed to file your FAFSA:

  • Social Security Number

  • Current bank and brokerage statements

  • Driver's license (if you have one)

  • Current mortgage and investment records (if applicable)

  • Alien registration card (for non-US citizens)

  • Current federal tax return (use estimates if parents have not filed yet)

  • Current untaxed income records (if applicable)

  • Current W2 and 1099 forms plus other records of income

  • Parents' current income tax return (if you're a dependent)

Now head to www.fafsa.ed.gov to create a profile. From there you can download the FAFSA forms or complete them on the web, electronically sign your application, check your FAFSA's status, correct errors, add more colleges and universities to your application, and renew your application for coming school years. Print the FAFSA summary and confirmation page once you submit it.

Once you file your FAFSA, you should receive your SAR electronically in 1-3 days - or 2-3 weeks if you made a paper filing. Your SAR is your Student Aid Report. It's a summation of the information you entered in your FAFSA and indicates your potential federal student aid and EFC. Your SAR also tells you if you are eligible for a Federal Pell Grant - even more free money! If you find any errors in your SAR, do not panic! Make corrections online using your FSA ID (created when filling out FAFSA) and report the errors to your financial aid office. If you never receive an SAR, call 1-800-433-3243 (1-800-4-FED-AID) or visit www.studentaid.ed.gov.

Next Steps

Your prospective colleges will send you an award letter once they review your SAR and confirm your eligibility for student aid. You do not have to accept all the aid they offer - some of which may come in the form of loans - but declining one form aid will not increase your other forms of aid. This is where we come in.

Use Scholly to help you fill in any gaps between the aid you are offered and what your family can actually afford. If you want to avoid student debt, then scholarships are your best bet. There are countless scholarship programs wanting to help you go to school - and we've already found them for you on Scholly.

Schools With The Best Financial Aid Packages That Aren't Stanford

Schools With The Best Financial Aid Packages That Aren't Stanford

With college tuition increasing every year, the demand for scholarships, financial aid, and student loans is higher than ever. However, what so many students don’t know is that schools with the highest tuition can often be the most affordable. Take Stanford for instance; the school is famous for having an amazing financial aid package, but with an acceptance rate lower than 5%, we can’t all go there. No fear! We found some schools, including Stanford, for whom pricy can mean affordable. Here are our top picks.

1. Princeton will fully fund all of the costs to attend (tuition, fees, room and board) for families with an annual income under $65,000. On average, Princeton reports awarding over $53,000 to members of their Class of 2022, leaving a cost of $13,600 for families. Each of the other Ivy League schools - Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, and Yale - offer similar aid packages based upon families’ demonstrated needs.

2. MIT also uses “need-blind” admissions, meaning they don’t consider your family income during their admissions process. This is important for college-bound students to understand; never shy from applying to a school because of tuition! Even though MIT costs over $70,000 per year, 72% of its students graduate debt-free, and families earning under $90,000 a year pay absolutely nothing.

3. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Opportunity Vanderbilt is the university’s commitment to providing no-loan financial aid with no financial cutoffs or thresholds. Students with financial need are provided grants and scholarships to cover their cost of attendance through Vanderbilt’s extensive fundraising and donor support.

4. Franklin & Marshall is a small, historic college in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Called a model “that more colleges need to follow” by PBS’ TheNewsHour, F&M’s student recruitment strategy has diversified the student body across race and social class by awarding $56 million in financial aid each year. Some of that could help you!

5. Part of the Claremont Colleges Consortium, Pomona College serves around 1700 students just outside of Los Angeles. Like other need-blind schools, the vast majority of Pomona’s students receive grants and scholarships to attend. Student loans are not a part of Pomona’s aid package, but are an option to help cover immediate financial needs. The average cost of attending Pomona after aid is only $15,000.

6. University of Virginia provides need-based aid to eligible students and several merit-based opportunities for others seeking to apply. Merit awards are based on a student’s success or experiences - not on financial need or income level. Students are encouraged to apply for both need-based and merit awards, if applicable. At UVA and most other schools, completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the first step for determining need-based assistance.

7. Students at Bowdoin in Maine can “just focus on being a student.” Bowdoin provides grants up to the full cost of attendance, and also bundles student employment grants into their packages. When students work in research labs or offices on campus, they are able to build their resumes, manage their time, and learn how to be a team leader, all while earning additional money for school.

8. Last but certainly not least is Stanford. If any of the 1700 new students on campus each year have an annual family income of $125,000 or less, they get a free ride. Families earning $65,000 or less a year also have their room and board covered. For other students with not as much need, Stanford bundles federal and institutional awards to reduce debt, often making Stanford more affordable than colleges with lower tuition costs.

These schools are just some of the many that are working aggressively to make college less of a financial burden. Note that at many universities, financial aid programs apply only to U.S. citizens. Other schools have made strides to support undocumented students, and some have also extended their financial aid benefits to international students. However, be sure to read through everything closely when you do your research.  

These schools are also difficult to get into – and the competition gets tougher every year. Your best shot being accepted to a highly selective, need-blind college is to stand out. Do well in high school, join organizations and leadership activities that you enjoy, and work hard.

If you’re looking for other ways to pay for your education, scholarships are your best bet. It’s free money and we’ve already found them for you on Scholly.

Writing College Essays: Five Myths You Need to Know

Writing College Essays: Five Myths You Need to Know

The college application process is stressful. From deciding on your dream school, prepping for the SAT or ACT, to finishing all those applications, the task can feel near impossible. It's not - and neither is writing a college essay that works. To help our college-bound high school seniors, let's debunk some myths surrounding writing a persuasive college essay.

Myth #1: "I have to write the greatest essay in the world."

Every student wants to stand out, but you don't have to write the Iliad or the Odyssey to do so. The college essay is your opportunity to showcase your achievements and contributions. However, what most people don't realize is that they overindulge and exaggerate when talking about themselves. Admissions offices can read right through self-praise - what they are looking for is authenticity. Emphasize achievements or lessons you have learned that highlight your best traits. Tell a story about your experiences. What have they taught you? The truth sounds a lot better than you think.

Myth #2: "I'm not creative."

You don't have to be creative to write a successful college essay; but you have to be personable. Don't regurgitate the same answers for every application. Admissions offices can tell when an application has been recycled. Add your own flair to each essay. Whether that be in your tone, content, or writing style, be sure to do something unique with each essay so that your reader remembers it.

Myth #3: "I should limit my number of applications because college applications are expensive."

You're right, applying to college gets expensive - but just like scholarships, there is money out there for applying to college too! If applying to college is out of your budget, contact the admissions office of the school you're applying to. They can give you forms to apply for a fee waiver. The process may seem cumbersome, but a free application will be worth it.

Myth #4: "I can wait until tomorrow."

Just do it now. Are you one of those people who writes something ingenious at the last minute? Your brain actually works better when you exercise it. That exercise will make your ingenuity a habit instead of something that saves you when you're under pressure. Your college essay does not have to be perfect the first time. Prioritize consistency over the grandiose last-minute essays and the result will be a well-written and concise articulation of why your dream school needs you.

Myth #5: "I have to know what I want to study."

No, you really don't. If you know what you want to study, good for you! However, having your mind made up about your future has no sway on your ability to write a persuasive college essay. A large part of college is figuring out what you want to do - that's why you're going. So when you write, talk about your interests and passions to showcase your potential. Try adding how you think the school will help you hone these interests. That way, your application will be unique and tailored to the school.

See? Writing college essays isn't as intimidating as it may seem. Keep these myth busters in mind the next time you're stressed about the college application process and you'll be good to go. Remember to always run your essays through a proofreading service like Scholly Editor for the finishing touches!

Need help paying for college after you get in? Get matched to scholarships instantly when you build a profile on Scholly.

How to Apply to Scholarships

How to Apply to Scholarships


We know applying to scholarships can be daunting. There are so many to choose from and knowing how and when to start can be tricky. Strong applications require work, but the win is worth it. At Scholly, we are always looking to help our users win as many scholarships as possible. Here is our formula for success:

APPLY ASAP.

The early bird gets the worm with scholarships. If you're looking for scholarships for any school year, start your search the summer before that school year. Fall is a popular time for scholarships looking to sponsor students, especially prospective college students. No matter your grade, you'll want to get organized over the summer to be ready for applications opening from mid-August throughout the semester.

APPLY OFTEN.

Scholarships are available all year round and we add scholarships to our database daily. Make sure you're checking Scholly regularly so you don't miss free money opportunities. Our platform supports high school, college, and graduate students so you can use Scholly throughout your academic career. We also have in-app tools to help you organize your applications. Make an application timetable to help you knock out your applications consistently and on time.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.

Scholarship panels are made up of people and people are subjective. Research the organization sponsoring the scholarship before applying. If it's a non-profit, what's their mission? If it's a company, what's their culture? Look into the organization's work to see which values they champion. Can you highlight experiences or awards that speak to these values? Understanding judges will guide how you communicate with them and gives you an edge over applicants who haven't done research.

FIT THE PART.

Now you know who you're trying to win over, you can tailor your application to them. Speak to the characteristics the program is looking for in an application. If the essay topic is open-ended, choose one that tells your fullest story. An important thing to remember is that we are all humans who share similar wants and insecurities. Tell a relatable story. You want the person reading your application to think, "I feel that" or "I've been there before". Run your essays through Scholly Editor to refine your writing.

TRUST THE PROCESS.

You won't win every scholarship you apply to. While this is frustrating, it does not mean you should give up. A scholarship, i.e. free money, is always a better option than a loan. Even if you have a great financial aid package, scholarships can provide spending money. If you don't win a scholarship, ask for feedback so you can keep improving your applications. For every scholarship you don’t win, there is another one out there waiting for you to claim it.

Eager to get started? Find and apply for scholarships now!

How to Get More Scholarship Matches on Scholly

How to Get More Scholarship Matches on Scholly

Student life moves fast. You're getting that degree, exploring your interests, joining new organizations, working part-time, volunteering, and crossing things off of your bucket list. But while you're maintaining your busy schedule, you may be leaving money on the table - literally.

If you don't take a moment to update your Scholly profile, there will be scholarship matches out there that won't find you. For example, tutoring kids at a community center isn't just a great way to make a difference, but can also get you more scholarship matches from programs looking to sponsor students involved in their communities. Just think: what has changed in my life recently? Maybe your GPA has improved, or you joined a new club, or even changed your major!

At Scholly we are constantly adding scholarships to our database to bring our users the best opportunities out there. We've added 160 scholarships in September and the month isn't even over! Try to make monthly updates to your profile, especially if your activities are shifting. Keep adding your latest accolades, skills, and interests. No matter what happens in your life, personal or school related, programs want to know.

We've just hit fall and scholarship programs are hunting for their next generation of awardees. Do yourself a favor and go back and tick all the boxes that tell your fullest story. The result could be thousands of dollars saved on your education.

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