Congratulations — you’ve decided to go to nursing school! You know it’s going to be a lot of hard work, but you also know it’s going to be even more rewarding. Financial aid and scholarships are a great place to get started because they can help trim down a hefty tuition bill — after all, who doesn’t want free money to help them get through school? Scholarships and financial aid can help students both young and old make ends meet while they further their education, and in today’s tough world, nothing could be more important.
There are plenty of scholarships and financial aid programs available for aspiring nursing students of all ages, but unfortunately, there are also plenty of scams. Sketchy companies seek to defraud students who are looking for a helping hand, and students can walk away losing thousands of dollars with little recourse. Start your nursing career on the right track by steering clear of financial aid and scholarship programs that won’t do anything but hurt you and make getting your degree even more difficult. Here’s how to spot the scammers and tell them to take a hike.
Be on the Lookout for Pick-Up Lines
Just like a bad date, scammers use pick-up lines to try to get students to sign up for their “scholarships” or “financial aid programs”. They’ll say what students want to hear and pretend to be an altruistic third party just trying to help you get through school, but in reality, they have unsavory ulterior motives and that’s usually to get money out of you. Run for the hills if you hear these popular — but usually false – pick-up lines.
- “This scholarship is guaranteed, or you’ll get your money back!” No, it’s not. Because none are.
- “Just give me your credit card or bank account number, and we’ll be able to hold the scholarship for you.” Scholarship information doesn’t cost money and no legitimate scholarship will ever ask you to pay for anything.
- “This information isn’t available anywhere else, so act now!” Information about legitimate scholarships is widely available — again, for free.
- “Just pay a one-time fee and we’ll apply to scholarships for you.” There’s no sanctioned company that will apply for scholarships, grants, or financial aid for you. It’s no fun, but you have to do the legwork yourself.
- “You’re missing out on the millions of dollars of scholarship money that go unclaimed every year!” False. Almost every scholarship is claimed and paid out.
- “There’s an application fee”. Applying to a legitimate scholarship is free. Period.
Some of these claims will trigger your radar immediately, while others sound great. Who wants to spend days filling out scholarship and financial aid applications when they can just pay someone else to do it for them? Of course, it ends up being too good to be true.
Other Warning Signs of Potential Financial Aid & Scholarship Scams
There are several other red flags you should be aware of when scouting financial aid programs, nursing school grants, and scholarships:
- Everyone is eligible to claim the scholarship or grant money. Scholarships are granted to individuals who best meet the fund’s criteria, and even financial aid must be qualified for.
- The agency to which you are applying can influence scholarship sponsors to select you. Scholarships are given to individuals based on their applications and whether or not they meet certain criteria — legitimate scholarship sponsors cannot be influenced in any way.
- High chances of success. Scholarship “sponsors” that claim high success rates are likely scams.
- Requesting a lot of personal information. If applying to the scholarship starts to get creepy, listen to your gut and throw the application in the trash. Most legitimate scholarships don’t need to know your social or previous addresses.
- The return address is a residential address or a drop box. Scholarships and financial aid and grant programs should all have company addresses.
- Claims that they are a federal agency or are endorsed by a similar type of agency. Always check claims of federal involvement or endorsement. If they are sanctioned, information on them will be readily available.
Sometimes fake scholarship or financial aid programs will sound really “gimmicky” and you’ll know right away that it’s not something you want to get involved with. Others may sound more kosher, leading you to believe they are genuine. Unless you know with complete certainty that the institution you’re working with is legitimate, everyone should be suspect.
Active Steps to Protect Yourself
There are a number of ways you can actively protect yourself as you search for scholarships, grants, and financial aid programs to help fund your nursing career.
- Don’t give out too much personal information. Your name and mailing address should suffice. Consider opening a post office box for an added layer of protection.
- If you didn’t contact them first, throw it out. Unsolicited offers are almost always scams.
- Don’t send any money, or at least, don’t send money without getting terms in writing first. Most scholarships aren’t going to have a fee. If one does, make sure you read the fine print first.
- Don’t respond to pressured offers. Sponsors that use gimmicks like “this offer expires soon” or “time is running out, so apply now” are just that — gimmicks.
- Research. Always do your due diligence on any program that you want to apply for. You should be able to verify who the company is, where they are located, and how to get in touch with them easily on a neutral website.
- Record everything. Don’t throw papers away that you think you don’t need — sure, you may end up with a miles-thick folder of nursing scholarship and grant information, but you may just run into a situation where you need the proof.
Going to nursing school can feel overwhelming and even scary, regardless of whether you’re starting fresh out of high school or have made a decision to better your life by going back to school. Having to sort through bogus grants, financial aid programs, and scholarships to find the real ones can be maddening — but rest assured, it won’t be like finding a needle in a haystack.
Legitimate scholarships are readily available and easy to find. If you have to dig, it’s probably a scam. Trust your instincts — after all, your instincts did lead you to decide on an awesome career! If something smells fishy, move on to the next thing. With time, effort, and keen senses, you’ll be on the right path to getting the help you need for your nursing education.