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 guidance 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
April 9, 2020
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities quickly transitioned from in-person instruction to online learning, inadvertently overlooking the needs of students with disabilities and "placing them on the backburner 'en masse.'" While eductors have been transferring two months' worth of lesson plans to digital format, disabled students have been left without adequate digital accessibility to succeed in the unprecedented and current remote learning environment. [...]
April 7, 2020
by Izzy Hall
Higher education has long been seen as a pillar in American life, as an essential element of our economic system and society. But the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the underlying health conditions of this cultural institution. Many colleges and universities have been struggling to meet the needs of students while also keeping themselves above water financially. While we hope that our lives will return to normal when this crisis is over, it is hard to imagine that higher education will ever be the same. [...]
April 2, 2020
by Izzy Hall
Just as schools have closed their doors due to coronavirus, charities and non-profit organizations have had to shutter down. While they might suspend board meetings, community fundraisers or award ceremonies, chances are they haven't shut down their scholarship offerings - in fact, many non-profits have extended their scholarship application windows from mid- or late March into April, May or even June. If you've been applying for scholarships this spring and missed out on some March or early April deadlines, check your account - you may find that some scholarships have had their due dates pushed back, giving you more time to submit an application. [...]