Avoid Scholarship Scams

Be sure to watch for the following signs of a scam as you begin your scholarship search online.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but it should provide you with a good idea of what to avoid. Please be sure to check each scholarship by visiting the particular institution's website and verifying the existence of the scholarship as well as the guidelines.

  • Application, handling, processing or any other fees - scholarships should cost you no more than internet access or postage.
  • Money-back guarantees - you should not have to pay to apply for a scholarship, so they should not be able to give your money back.
  • Guaranteed receipt of a scholarship or grant - unfortunately, winning a scholarship is never guaranteed.
  • Sweepstakes or lottery style scholarship opportunities.
  • Requiring credit or bank account information.
  • Requiring large applications, including personal information, to be filled out before any scholarships can be viewed.
  • Phrases such as "We do all the work," or "We have influence with the scholarship sponsors."
  • Extremely high success rates or large amounts of hype.
  • Not providing the name or direct contact information of the actual institution offering the scholarship.
  • Excessive spelling, grammar, or formatting errors.
  • Email addresses not connected in some way with the scholarship described.
  • Scholarships from Federal Agencies that cannot be substantiated by that agency's direct website.
  • Extreme pressure to apply for the scholarship "Right Now," rather than by the deadline.
  • No deadline or other specific application information provided.
  • Contact and notification by phone with no email, address, or other form of written documentation being exchanged.
  • Unsolicited scholarship awards or opportunities - to avoid this, keep track of all the scholarships you apply for. If you are awarded a scholarship you did not apply for, it is most likely a scam.
  • Inability to provide past scholarship recipients - all scholarship donors must be able to produce a viable list of previous recipients.


More Scholarship Scam Information

Report Scams
How to Investigate Suspicious Offers
Scholarship Fraud Prevention Act of 2000


Ashe, Greg. Business Wire. 2000. "An Education In Scholarship Scams." (http://www.thefreelibrary.com/FEATURE%2FConsumer+Feature%3B+An+Education+in+Scholarship+Scams.-a065254030).

Federal Trade Commission. 2012. "Scholarship and Financial Aid Scams" (http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0082-scholarship-and-financial-aid-scams).

Kantrowitz, Mark., Pub. FinAid Page, LLC. 2004. “Protecting Yourself From Scholarship Scams.”

Kantrowitz, Mark., Pub. FinAid Page, LLC. 2004. “Common Scholarship Scams.”

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