Between school and college applications your student is already doing a LOT of writing. Unfortunately, when they apply for scholarships it seems like more essays are required.
As a result, you may start looking for scholarships without essays. The problem is that not all of these no-essay scholarships are legitimate, and many of them put your student’s data at risk – or up for sale.
Here’s what you need to know about scholarships without essays.
It’s Often A Sweepstakes
If your student doesn’t have to write an essay, have a minimum GPA, or be pursuing a specific degree, you’re probably looking at a random-draw sweepstakes.
This isn’t to say that your student can’t win the money, but it does mean that the odds are often very small. After all, if it’s easy to enter, tens of thousands of students will do so!
Providing personal information in order to have a minute chance at a random draw for some cash isn’t often a good trade, especially considering how the information may be used.
Get Ready For Marketing
It’s essential that you create a separate email address for entering scholarships without essays. The reason is that many of these awards exist for the sole purpose of getting an audience for marketing emails. You may find that trying to unsubscribe doesn’t stop the deluge.
If you do choose to enter these types of contests, make sure you look for ones that are from reputable brands or retailers.
Also, be aware that many of the organizations that offer these scholarships sell your student’s information to other businesses or schools in order to raise money for the award and profit from the experience.
This means that the mailing address, email address, and phone number you provide will become fair game for a wide variety of marketing efforts. Think carefully about whether this is worth it before you enter.
Legitimate Scholarships Without Essays
There are some scholarships that do not require essays that are legitimate and are not simply a marketing effort. However, these contests will have some other standard that replaces the essay as a criterion for winning.
For instance, if you see a no-essay scholarship that requires one or more of the following, it’s more likely to be legitimate:
- A video essay or presentation
- A creative presentation or project
- Portfolios of past work related to a particular field
- Minimum GPA or test scores with supporting documentation
- Short-answer questions
- Recommendation letters
Even if these are part of the requirements, you still have to do your due diligence. Genuine scholarship offers always have a goal behind them. Perhaps the organization wants to help students from a particular area, field, or socioeconomic background.
If there’s no mission behind it and no strong requirements to apply, you’re probably looking at a marketing sweepstakes with a cash prize – or a scam.
Doing research into the organization can give you the confidence that it’s a real scholarship and not a scam or a marketing ploy.
How Student’s Data Can Be Used
The world of personal data use and sale has become increasingly complex and unnerving. It seems like you have to provide personal information more and more online, and knowing how it will be used is vital.
Even data shared with organizations that seem harmless, like college planning and questionnaires that come with the PSAT or SAT, can be collected and sold for marketing purposes.
Remember that all surveys are voluntary, and that you have a right to look a survey over before your student fills it out. Let your child know that their data is always at risk of being sold and that they should talk to you before they fill out any questionnaires, even if they are for more information about college.
Unfortunately, there is no federal law that regulates consumer data brokers, and privacy laws are aimed at schools, not their vendors.
Families looking for scholarships are especially vulnerable, since they are likely to grasp at any straw to increase their chances of getting money.
However, the New York Times article cited above mentioned that the site Scholarships.com asks students for their name, birth date, race, religion, home address and citizenship status and whether they have “impairments” like H.I.V., depression or a “relative w/Alzheimer’s.”
They then sell this information through their subsidiary, American Student Marketing.
That’s a lot of information being sold to a wide variety of companies. Your student should skip any questions that seem invasive or off-topic when it comes to applying for no-essay scholarships. If these questions are required, it’s probably best to skip the “scholarship” entirely.
Get Real Funding For College
The truth that many families don’t realize is that the biggest source of college funding is actually the school itself. You need to find schools that are generous with aid to families in your situation.
Want to save time and find the right schools for your student? Take a look at our College Data Spreadsheet .
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