Unfortunately, scholarship scams always look like legitimate scholarship opportunities. Individuals and organizations suspected of perpetuating scholarship scams are held accountable under the Scholarship Fraud Prevention Act of 2000 and convictions carry stiff financial penalties as well as jail time.
Although scholarship scams are illegal, they are common. Scams are so widespread that the Federal Trade Commission’s website includes a page dedicated to how to spot and report scholarship scams.
To protect yourself, it is important to know how legitimate scholarship programs work. Legitimate scholarships are always free. There are no application or processing fees. Under no circumstances should a scholarship provider ask for your credit card or bank account information. If this happens, the scholarship is a scam. Also, although scholarship search services help you find scholarships, they cannot complete the applications for you.
Any service that charges a fee to complete your applications is a scam.
Scholarship services that charge fees for information you "can't get anywhere else." Free scholarship lists are available from your school counselor, the library and free services like Scholarships.com. Do not pay someone to do the work for you.
Paid services that have guarantees. Read the fine print. If there is any kind of money back guarantee, there will be conditions. There is no such thing as “no strings attached”. If there is a refund policy, get it in writing before you pay anything.
Scholarship programs that have an entrance fee. Before you send money to apply for the scholarship, look closely at all details, even if the fee is reasonable. Low fees do not make a scholarship service or program legitimate. Remember, free money should be free.
Promises from a service that you’ll have easy access to "unclaimed" scholarship money. Ignore the myth of unclaimed funds and the companies that advertise huge amounts of unclaimed money. There are very few unusual scholarships that are specific enough to have unclaimed money.
An organization that guarantees you will win a scholarship by paying a fee. Do not believe a promise of guaranteed funds. No one can guarantee that you will win a college scholarship or grant. Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
An organization that "sounds like" a non-profit, but has no traceable history. Don't be fooled by official-sounding names and logos. Make sure the foundation, organization or program is legitimate.
A company that claims it will "handle all your scholarship applications" for you. Resist high-pressure tactics like "We'll do all the work for you." Don't be fooled. There's no way around it, you must apply for scholarships or grants yourself.
Requests for banking or credit card information to "process your application.” Do not give out your credit card, bank or checking account numbers to anyone who claims they need it for you to be eligible for a contest, or access to "exclusive" scholarship information. Remember, scholarships are for you to win money, not for people to take money from you.
Latest College & Financial Aid News
August 17, 2022
College is just around the corner, but you still have plenty of time to win scholarships for high school seniors. Now is the best time to start applying because it is your last chance to qualify for awards available only to high school students. Scholarships are one of the best ways to pay for college because you don’t have to pay them back. [...]
August 5, 2022
College is a big commitment and burnout is easy if you don’t pace yourself. That said, taking a semester off is a normal thing to do while pursuing your degree. Whether you need a quick break for personal reasons or exciting opportunities, like a once-in-a-lifetime trip or work experience, here’s what you need to know about your scholarship money before taking time off. [...]
July 26, 2022
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid — more commonly known as FAFSA is the key to funding your college education. Not only can the FAFSA connect you to grants, scholarships, and work-study opportunities, but filling out the form is also the first step to applying for federal student loans. Even though filling out the FAFSA is simple and straightforward, several misconceptions still fly around it. Here are the top FAFSA myths you need to stop believing. [...]