During my readings this week, I came across an interesting article about private scholarships and the impact they may have on your personal data. James Hayes, the Associate Director of Financial Aid at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, wrote the article. I thought it was important to give you an insider’s perspective on how private scholarships can be used.
A Private Scholarship View by James Hayes
I have worked for over 25+ years in financial aid, private colleges, community colleges, and public universities. Along the way I get to see every gimmick and con. In recent years I have seen a new one that is creative in it preys on our desire to get free money for college. I have had marketers try and persuade me to place links on my schools web site for scholarships and or scholarship searches.
That can’t be bad?
The bell went off as the marketer trying to get me to place the scholarship search on my web site was overly aggressive and pushy. One offered a free book on financial literacy. The Bellmore library was great as it allowed me to get online with some of the business resources to look up the company.
Here is how it works: A media marketing company sets up a web site to collect data. There is some registration and collection of data including personal contact information. They have a great sounding name. They might even say they specialize in certain types of scholarships. There might be a “scholarship” that has no real criteria but is more of a raffle. The company gives this away at random from time to time to stay legitimate. The data is sold to various entities who then come back to you to solicit various products. Some have re-direct links to sponsor products the web site gets paid for re-direct or sales.
There are legitimate scholarships and searches.
What to do?
1) Never pay for a scholarship search.
3) If a school lists a web resource do not assume the school checked it out for you.
4) Opt out of sharing your data.
5) If it sounds too good to be true, it is. A $10,000 scholarship that has no real criteria to get it, too good to be true and a raffle that may or may not be given out.
6) Check with your college about potential scholarships, deadlines, criteria, and applications.
7) Check with fraternal organizations your family belongs to, clubs, unions, work, etc. These local awards are often more obtainable.
8) Do not provide contact methods that provide solicitors an opportunity to sell you products and or services. Use an e-mail created expressly for the purpose of a scholarship search. Do not use a primary phone contact you use. Using disposable phone # for this purpose allows privacy.
9) In reality a real scholarship search does not need you to register to provide you with a list of potential scholarships.
10 Ask yourself: If a company is collecting all my personal information and has no visible method of income how is it able to provide a scholarship and or stay in business.
Mr. Hayes identifies some of the risks associated with trying to find private scholarships. Another important issue that parents and students do not often understand is that private scholarships can reduce your need based financial aid dollar for dollar. It will depend on the total need of the family and other institutional need based aid that the student receives. It is important to find the best ways to lower your out of pocket cost but there is a cost benefit to doing that. I hope this perspective is helpful.