In fact, if anyone asks you to submit sensitive information, I’d advise skipping that scholarship altogether, because I know of no reason why a reputable program would be asking for your sensitive personal information.
First, let me clarify what I mean by “sensitive personal information.” I’m talking about things like your Social Security number, your driver’s license number, bank account information, passwords, logins, etc. I’m not talking about basic contact information like name, physical address, email address, and basic things such as that. After all, if you’re lucky enough to actually win the scholarship, the committee needs a way to notify you, and if you don’t provide any contact information, you’ll never find out you won and you’ll never get your money!
Back to the issue of sensitive information: You’d be amazed at how many people enclose their Social Security Number with their essay. I have no idea why that is, nor do I have any idea why a reputable scholarship program would ask for it. If you win a big monetary scholarship, then they may need it for tax purposes later – and if you get to that point, they can ask you after you win. Identity theft is rampant, and a valid SSN is the jackpot for an identity thief, especially if it comes along with the owner’s name, address, and other vital information.
Some of our applicants have gone even further. I remember two in particular – one who provided her parents’ full tax return (complete with both parents’ Social Security numbers, names, addresses, employers, incomes… the whole nine yards), and one gentleman from Africa who included his bank account number.
I’ll give both these students the benefit of the doubt and say that SURELY, at one point before sending this info, each paused for at least a moment and thought, “should I really be sending this?” And they likely went ahead and sent the info because of one thing: they trusted the committee not to abuse it. And certainly in our case, they were right to do so. However, mail gets lost, and mail gets stolen. And those who steal mail do it for two reasons: a) to steal money and checks that are in the mail, and b) to steal the personal information within the mail in order to do heavy-duty financial damage later.
Bottom line: Don’t send your SSN or any other sensitive information in a scholarship application. Doing so puts you at high risk for little reward.