Watch out for the scholarship police

If you are competing for private college scholarships, you need to worry about more than getting your scholarship applications just right.

A new survey of members of the National Scholarship Providers Association, whose members award more than $1 billion in prize money each year, reveals that a significant number of these scholarship organizations are researching applicants online. And they are primarily looking for reasons not to award you a scholarship.

According to the survey, which was conducted by the NSPA and Fastweb, the scholarship search engine, about a quarter of scholarship providers are using search engines and/or social media sites to check up on applicants.

Why Scholarship Providers Snoop

Here are the top reasons that private scholarship providers cited for researching award candidates:

Among the scholarship providers using social media web sites to screen applicants, 92% of them turn to Facebook and a quarter use LinkedIn or YouTube. Just 8% use Twitter.

Scholarship providers don't play big brother with all their applicants: 92% of the survey responders said they only use online tools to screen their finalists. Just 8% screen everybody.

Protecting Your Scholarship Chances

Mark Kantrowitz, Fastweb's publisher, provides these tips for improving students' online presence:

1. Google your name and look for inappropriate material in the first 10 pages of search results. Whenever possible, correct the content of problem pages that turn up.

2. Use an appropriate email address. Nothing provocative.

3. Review your Facebook account and remove inappropriate and immature content. Also delete questionable posts by others on your wall.

4. Ask an adult to review your Facebook pages to help you identify problem content.

Private scholarship image courtesy of flickr user juggernautco.