Applying to college can be a stressful time, but it can also be fun. Receiving a big, fat white envelope in the mail is exciting. It’s fun knowing you’ve been selected and you are special. But beware, like the saying all that glitters is not gold, not every piece of mail is as important as it may seem. These pieces of mail may be marketing scams specifically targeting high schoolers.
There are three types of scams to look out for:
1. Private Honor Societies
Your school may have a National Honors Society club, but what about all these random honor societies that send you mail? Are they legitimate?
A red flag that should come up immediately is, how did they get your information? Well, as stated in our previous video, these honors societies have bought your data from the College Board. They usually aren’t competitive, and they usually require a membership fee or make you shell out thousands of dollars to attend their weekend summit.
These “pay to play” national honor societies will not hurt your college application, but many college admission officers have gone on the record saying they won’t help. These honor societies are for-profit organizations hoping to make a quick buck off of a naïve student.
Any honor society run by your governor, state, or a university, are legit and are worth being a part of. However, any honor society that sends you a fat envelope telling you that you’ve been selected as long as you pay thousands of dollars to them, is not.
2. Scholarship Scams
If you receive a scholarship opportunity that asks you to pay a fee, DISCARD! Over 99% of legitimate scholarships do not charge fees.
In addition, any scholarship that claims you will receive money if you apply by a certain date, tear that envelope up! Scholarships are competitive, in fact, only about 4% of students receive scholarship money from private organizations. So if a scholarship is guaranteeing you money, it’s probably a scam. This doesn’t mean you can’t receive a scholarship other ways; the majority of financial aid comes from the government, your state, or an institution. Receiving a scholarship is possible, just difficult.
Also, be careful of scholarships that require you to send your social security number before you’ve been awarded anything. You should never nonchalantly send personal financial information to a shady scholarship, especially one that doesn’t have a website or phone number.
3. Fishy Loan Programs
Hoax loan programs will require you to pay upfront. However, if you are receiving a loan, you should never have to pay money to obtain it. So if there is a loan program that wants you to open up your wallet, run away.
An Envelope Is Just an Envelope
Envelopes are just big pieces of paper, and they don’t always mean anything.
There are a lot of wonderful and trustworthy organizations out there that will help boost your college resume and allow you to apply for coveted scholarships. But for every handful of great opportunities, there is a bad seed lurking, asking you to write a big check and receive nothing from it.