How to Search for College Scholarships Safely
Privacy and college experts have this advice for scholarship seekers who want to avoid becoming a target for marketers:
- Set up a scholarship email address. Create a new email address from one of the free service such as Gmail that you’ll use as the contact information for scholarship applications. “If your public ‘throwaway’ address gets spammed enough to become annoying, you can simply kill it off, and start a new one,” recommends the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
- Beware of the easy scholarships: The easier it is to apply to – in other words, if there’s no requirement for an essay or grade information or a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – the more likely it is that the scholarship is a marketing tool for a company seeking information about teenagers and their parents. If you’re interested, go ahead and apply, but be aware that you’re trading your information for a lottery ticket.
- File a complaint with the FTC if you find a scholarship search engine or contest you think is misleading.
- Try out scholarship search tools that don’t collect or sell personal information. Start with you high school counselor or college financial aid office, suggests Jill Desjean, a policy analyst with the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. Ask around your community: Chambers of Commerce, churches, civic organizations and parents’ employers can also be helpful, Desjean adds. There are a few web sites that allow you to search for scholarships without requiring personal information, such as Collegedata.com and Money.com.