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Apply for a Scholarship, Avoid a Scam

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

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When it comes to the cost of an education – be it for college, vocational school, or a program to earn a certification -- there’s always one thing that a guidance counselor or career coach will remind you and your family to do when it comes to paying for it all.

And the advice is, be sure to apply for as many scholarships and grants as you can. After all, it’s estimated that nearly $100 million in scholarships go unclaimed each year, and $2 billion in student grants go unclaimed. That’s good news, as there are a LOT of scholarships and grant money that’s available annually from trusted sources so long as you’re willing to put the work in to apply – and the only roadblock, more often than not, is a lack of applicants. On a side note, there are some unique opportunities (that are legit actual scholarships) to help make your education more affordable that might surprise you.

It’s good information, too, as this is the time of year when a lot of people are applying for school; maybe that’s why February is Financial Aid Awareness Month.

Because with all of the money that’s out there, cybercriminals are using the opportunity to rely on a variety of scams to steal a student’s identity or money, or that of a family member. In 2022, in an article in Forbes, it was reported that scammers were estimated to have stolen $5 billion from Americans in student loan-related scams.

Often times, cybercriminals will try and convince you that they’ll “help” you get financial aid, or a scholarship and it begins with a social media post, email or, even, a letter in the mail. As one example, it takes on the appearance of an invitation, suggesting that you’ve been selected for a particular scholarship or financial aid package. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there are six signs of a scam involving the phrases they often use. If they hear any of these phrases or a variation of it, walk away.

Here are a few key steps to follow, including:

  • Fill out the free FAFSA form to apply for financial aid.
  • Never pay anyone to fill out or process your FAFSA.
  • Talk with a guidance counselor (if you’re in high school) or the financial aid office (if you’re planning to attend a college or vocational school) about your financial aid and scholarship options.
  • Never pay at a seminar on how to get financial aid or scholarships. Especially if they pressure you to pay.
  • Do your research before you pay anyone for help with financial aid or scholarships.
  • Share these ideas with others who are looking for financial aid, too. You can help them avoid a scam.

As with any cybercrime, if you believe you’ve been the victim of a scam – or you want to report the details of a scam that could potentially impact someone, contact the FTC at:, or, if you’re here in Indiana, visit the Indiana Cyber Hub website and go to the Report a Cyber Incident page.

It’s been said that “knowledge is power” and there’s something satisfying about being able to learn a new set of skills that could help improve your quality of life. And regardless of the path you choose to follow, be sure to keep in mind that there are plenty of free resources out there so that no one gets in your way!