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Most scholarships require you to write an essay, but others function more like a lottery system — both for good and bad. Your odds of winning a no-essay scholarship are low, but since there’s no barrier to entry, you might as well apply and see what happens. At worst, you could end up on an email list and start receiving spam. At best, you end up with free money. Just be on the lookout for scams.
Why Skip the Essay?
There’s no way around it: College is expensive. Many students can’t afford to get a higher education without financial aid. Even with grants and scholarships, the average net price of attending a public college for just one year was $14,200 in 2019.
Thankfully, charitable organizations and private donors set aside money in the form of scholarships for deserving students. Unlike a loan, students don’t have to pay the money back, so it’s a big help for college hopefuls in need of assistance.
The catch is that the scholarship application process can be cumbersome, especially when applying for multiple scholarships. This leads many students to wonder if they can bypass the dreaded essay portion of the application. After all, it’s a time-consuming process, especially for high school students already swamped with coursework.
The good news is that there are reputable no-essay scholarships that award students simply for filling out a form. Thousands of people are likely applying, so the odds of winning are low. However, someone will actually win, and it could be you.
How to Find Legitimate No-Essay Scholarships
Scammers commonly prey on people who need money. High school students also have a limited window of time to apply for college, creating the perfect opportunity for someone to take advantage of their desperation.
But don’t apply for that no-essay scholarship just yet. First, look closely for these red flags:
- A website riddled with typos
- An application fee — scholarships should never charge you money to apply.
- Asking for your bank account info or Social Security number
- No website or record of past winners to demonstrate legitimacy
- A “guarantee” that you’ll get money
- Anyone who contacts you directly and claims you’re pre-qualified for a scholarship
- Limited info about the organization
Scholarship scams typically steal people’s data, but some of them even make off with money after securing a bank account number or passwords.
Remember: The only scholarships that go unclaimed are those that can’t be awarded. They typically have extremely strict selection criteria, such as only awarding scholarships to students with a specific last name or who live in a certain area. There’s no secret stash of scholarship money that won’t get awarded if you don’t apply.
Try to apply for scholarships on reputable websites that work directly with scholarship providers. These websites vet organizations and verify that the scholarships are legitimate. Additionally, they take the money from the provider and hold onto it for safekeeping until someone wins it. Use free scholarship matching services to search for legitimate scholarships online.
Your college or high school guidance counselors, academic counselors and financial aid office can help as well. Ask them about local scholarships specific to your school.
Once you’ve found some legitimate no-essay scholarships, create a separate email account to apply for them. Even if they’re from reputable organizations, you might still find your inbox inundated with promotional offers, newsletters, or other junk mail.
No-Essay Scholarships Are Worth a Shot
If you’re short on time or struggle with writing, applying for no-essay scholarships is better than doing nothing. In fact, even if you have applied for traditional scholarships already, you can take advantage of the chance to earn free money. There’s nothing to lose.
Just be sure to watch for scams and create a separate email account for sending out the applications, or you might end up getting more than you bargained for.