The Lowdown on Scholarship Lotteries
Maybe you’ve seen this before. A website that advertises free money if you visit, play an online game, or enter yourself in a lottery. Some of these sites are specifically geared toward scholarships for school, while others just offer large cash prizes for students and non-students alike.
Unlike scholarships, winners in scholarship lotteries are usually chosen by chance—you don’t have to write an essay or fill out an application. But your chances of winning are low. Your chances of getting cash could be as little as 1 in 10,000, or lower.
Several scholarship lottery businesses that attempted to live on advertising revenue alone have gone bankrupt in the past decade. However, there are still scholarship lotteries offered by some education lenders. These scholarships are typically much smaller than what you’d have found with an early scholarship lottery; around $1,000 per student, and up to 100 awards granted every year.
Here are a few places where you can still win lottery scholarships to fund your education.
Wells Fargo runs the CollegeSTEPS Scholarship Sweepstakes, which automatically enrolls students who apply into a drawing for a $1,000 scholarship. The scholarships are given to 20 students per year, with four scholarships reserved for students in Western states. To apply, you have to enroll in the CollegeSTEPS program, which sends you free tips on college enrollment by email.
This education lender offers a total of 15 $1,000 scholarships per year. You don’t have to sign up with SunTrust’s loan programs to enter, but you do have to agree to allow them to use your image for advertising. Scholarships are awarded once every two weeks, and you have to re-apply to each drawing to be considered on an ongoing basis.
Next Step Magazine
This magazine holds drawings for one $1,000 scholarship per month from July to May, as well as one $10,000 drawing per year. You can only apply if you are already enrolled in college or will be within the next three years. If you sign up, the magazine may take that as permission to send you advertisements.
This college search portal offers one $2,000 scholarship each quarter to US high school seniors or those planning to go to graduate school. If you sign up, the company may pass your name and contact information to colleges and companies for marketing purposes.
State-run lottery scholarships
When your government talks about lottery scholarships, it probably means something very different—a scholarship that’s funded by revenue from the state lottery program. These scholarships typically have GPA or other scholarship requirements, and depending on your state, they might be given based on your financial need.
There are legitimate scholarship lotteries out there. Many will use your information for marketing purposes, but for some students, the trade-offs are worth it. However, there are also scholarship scams out there. Here are a few warning signs that the scholarship lottery you’re considering is a scam.
It asks for money
Never pay any money to enter a scholarship lottery. Some companies will try to sell you books, lists or seminars that claim to educate you on the best ways to find free money for your education. This information is rarely worth paying for—you can find out most of what you need to know online with a little time and research.
It claims you’re a finalist in a contest you never entered
You’ve probably received emails that tell you you’ve won money or you’re a finalist in a random competition you don’t remember signing up for. These are misleading sales tactics. Real scholarship lotteries won’t tell you that you won unless you actually did.
It guarantees you’ll win something
There are no guarantees when it comes to real scholarships. Even legitimate scholarship lotteries have low chances of winning, and other scholarships often have strict criteria related to merit, financial need or other qualifications.
It’s not easy finding free money for college. Scholarship lotteries provide a small amount of aid to a small amount of students. Still, you may get lucky. Bear in mind that most companies offering scholarships do it for a reason that benefits them—either it gives them good press or it allows them to collect your information for marketing purposes. Still, if you’re aware of the trade-offs, you might consider it worth your time to enter.
FinAid: Scholarship Lotteries
Arkansas.gov: Frequently Asked Questions About the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery
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