Free Scholarship Applications Only: 4 Exceptions

Let's cover some ground quickly. I'm telling you to only use free scholarship applications, with very few exceptions. I'll explain the exceptions, but remember to think:

What happens to my application fee?

You want to think about this to see if you can find a real reason the scholarship charges.

Here are four real answers, with the exceptions list after that:

1. The Fake Scholarship: It isn't a real scholarship; it’s a scam to collect a bunch of money. Or, in a slightly more legal scenario, to collect money and give little back. Sounds more like a raffle, right?

If you like raffles, go ahead, but consider this. You can find several variations of this type of scam. The oversize scholarship check, for instance, where you send back the extra but the original check bounces. Or where you have to pay a redemption fee to get the scholarship check. Or an advance fee loan to get a really great interest rate.

All scams, some nearly legal, some not, all unethical, and none offer free scholarship applications. If you apply for free, what have you lost? Stick to free apps unless you fit into the categories after this list.

2. Scholarship Application Submission: Paying for a scholarship application could be paying the person or group that told you about the award in the first place. For example, they take the fee, and then fill out the application for you. In this case, you are just paying for someone to do a bad job of submitting you for an award.

You are better off doing it yourself. You know your strengths, and you can express your real experiences better. If you need help writing an essay, that’s a different story. Getting someone to review and coach your writing is not paying to apply for a scholarship.

3. The Scholarship Finder Fee: Paying a person or service to find scholarships that fit your background. Then you fill out the free scholarship applications. While sometimes useful, you often don’t get a great selection of awards.

In the worst version, your consultant will give you a great list of scholarships, to be sure, but the same list will go to anyone who pays the large fee.

And, you could have found most of them yourself through a free scholarship search, such as the one at my college scholarship searches page or at Fastweb or a number of others.

Before you waste your money, do the free scholarship searches online to see what you come up with yourself. I can tell you that thousands of organizations offer scholarships, and you will qualify to apply to some. Nearly all are free to submit an application.

4. The Legitimate Scholarship Application that requires a fee: Due to some difficulty or requirement in how a scholarship foundation processes an application, some organizations really do need a small fee. Only a few types of real scholarships have this requirement, so take a look at my list of exceptions below.

Exceptions to Always Using Free Scholarship Applications

An Exception to The Exceptions List

First, and not part of the list, let me separate out the college applications. When you apply for college, you will have to pay for the application. $40, $50, $120, to evaluate thousands of applications, colleges have to employ people to read them, file them, and then send out letters and packets to you lucky ones that get in. To go to a university, you will have to fork over a few Jacksons, even a Benjamin or two.

Along with applying for college, many entrance applications will also double as scholarship applications. But the scholarships from the school only come to you if you get in. I’m not talking about these fees – they are legitimate, and you will need to pay your share to get in. Don’t expect free scholarship applications in this category.

Exceptions to The Rule: When to Pay for a Scholarship Application

Now, the list of exceptions, or when it is okay to pay to apply for a scholarship.

1. Legitimate but Poor Charities: I have looked for and found charities with very small budgets. While most still use free scholarship applications, they may ask for an application fee to help keep their doors open. Check them out before you do it, and remember it goes to a good cause. In general, you won’t run into many of these. Unfortunately, the scammers ruin it for the good charities just starting out.

2. Talent Scholarships: Sometimes, a scholarship requires a sample of your talent. The organization may have to mail or store these, or return them to you after consideration. To cover costs, they may charge you a small fee.

3. Study Abroad Programs: While this falls in the same group as applying to get into college, some programs don’t have a fee, while others do. If you plan to study abroad, and I recommend it highly, you will have to pay a fee.

Just think of all the things you can do, though. Make friends, see pyramids, climb mountains, go to plays, ride the train cross country and see it all. I think you’ll like it.

4. Contests: Similar to talent scholarships, contest will have a fee. I just read about a small satellite competition with a $125 fee. Why? Because you have to attend and present a paper at their conference to participate in the competition. Writing competitions often have a fee as well.

Also, pageants fall into this category. Miss Florida, Miss Nappanee Apple Blossom, Miss Draper…Plan on fees for entering pageants.

You’ll also find that science fairs have an application fee. Since they have to gather all of your experiments into one room to judge them, they will have to rent a large hall, using up the donations that would otherwise go to scholarships.

What If You Aren't Sure...

I’m sure you can find a few that don’t fit these categories, but in general, these will help you evaluate your scholarship applications.

While you can stick to just free scholarship applications, sometimes a fee makes sense. If you find a situation that seems strange, do some research. Look up the organization. See if you can find last year’s winners, or what state the group operates in to check on their status with the attorney general.

In some cases, you won’t want to go ahead. In some, you’ll see that the organization has been around for 40 years, and awards thousands in scholarships every year. With some caution and some research, you can weed out most of the bad apples.

Keep applying to the free ones, and finish that education.

Places to Apply for Money - Free Download

To help you along with your search for college money for tuition, I have written up some free reports on grants and financial aid. Take a look - they are easy to use and may help you find more money for college.

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