The Last Ship out of Debt: Scholarships


Billy Ferguson/Fourth Estate

When looking for scholarships, here’s some do’s and don’ts


Today, you’re going unlock the secret to financial aid: scholarships. You might already have one or two scholarships for leadership or sport-based. But there’s so more scholarships out there. They aren’t exactly hiding, but you do need to know where to look.

Visit the scholarship portal

Apply to GMU’s scholarships first. To apply, visit the scholarship portal at and fill out the general application. This includes a mini-essay, a resume upload and various questions to see what you qualify for. A word of caution: some of Mason’s scholarships, like the Mary Roberts Rinehart scholarship, aren’t active anymore but remain posted on their website. Beyond what Mason offers, ask your clubs and organizations if they have any scholarships, too.  

External Scholarship options

Check external scholarship sites like Chegg, and Nitro. These sites offer custom search engines and categories. Chegg even allows you to make a user account with a resume and user information, allowing for a more personalized experience. Take caution though. Unlike Mason’s scholarship portal, these scholarships aren’t always vetted. Double check with the offer’s website before throwing your information out there.

You can also see what your school district has to offer. Even elementary schools can offer scholarships to their alumni years later.  Whether you’re a Fairfax native or consider Beijing your hometown, there’s a scholarship out there.

Fake Scholarships

You may be looking for scholarships, but fake scholarships are looking for you. It’s common knowledge that college students are drowning in debt, with scholarships being one of the few lifelines. Sometimes, when you try to reach out and grab that extra grand, you’ll get pulled under. Here are a few warning flags that you’ll lose more money than you’ll make.

  • Don’t ever give sensitive information, like your social security number (SSN), credit card information or bank account number. Most scholarships will send you a check or, if it is a Mason one, will place it directly in your account.
  • Don’t fall for the “check scam”. Basically, you’ll be sent a check with a little extra money than what you won. This is the “processing fee”, or so the scammers say. The scam occurs when you cash the check and send the processing fees back to the organization. The check bounces, leaving you on the hook for money you never had.
  • If a deal seems too good, it is. There’s no such thing as an “instant win” scholarship (“You’re our 100th visitor!”) or winning without applying first.

A final note: always check. There’s funds and awards to be gained, but you must be careful about who you give your information to. Get on the “Scholar Ship”, just don’t forget to look out for pirates.