White mouse and keyboard with big red button saying get me out of here

Scholarship Scams: What to Look For

Don't shy away from applying for legitimate scholarships because you're worried about being scammed. Read our tips for how to spot a scholarship scam.

Let’s face it: the cost of living is on the rise. We’re paying more these days for just about everything, from food to utilities to clothing. Most everyone can agree on the importance of a college education, but funding it can often be tricky, prompting even the most level-headed student to become desperate. Do not, under any circumstances, let the desperation get the better of you, though. There are still plenty of legitimate ways for you to fund your education. You can search thousands of scholarships on sites like this one and FindTuition.com, our sister site.

Of course, these sites aren’t the only places to find legitimate scholarships. Don’t be afraid to do all the research you can; just brush up on your awareness of scholarship scams. The following are some tell-tale signs a prospective scholarship is less than reputable.

Scholarship scams warning signs 

The scholarship requires an application fee

No matter how upstanding the organization awarding the scholarship appears at first glance, if they’re asking for money up front with your application, be wary. You should never have to give money to get money for scholarships.

Related: Scholarship FAQ: The Biggest Myths and Facts

The scholarship is "guaranteed"

There are no guarantees in life, and the realm of scholarships is no exception to this rule. Be instantly suspicious if anyone tries to tell you that you’re guaranteed financial assistance.

The “free seminar” scam

You may come across opportunities for “free” seminars providing scholarship information. They will proclaim that “you can’t get this information anywhere else” and will only provide it to you after you’ve paid a fee. There are two big problems with this situation. For one, you can always get the information somewhere else. The internet is a great resource for finding information about scholarships, and it can connect you with specific people who can answer your questions. Also, don’t underestimate the knowledge of your school counselor. They are there to help you and may have scholarship information you will find useful.

The second problem with this situation goes back to the first point illustrated here: you should not have to pay to get the information, when there are plenty of free resources out there.

Related: 5 Common Tricks Fraudsters Are Using to Target Students

“We’ll do the work for you”

Few people enjoy filling out scholarship applications and writing essays for them, but it’s a necessary evil. If anyone—an organization, consultant, individual, or other—offers to do the work for you, stay away. Nothing worthwhile in life comes without a little elbow grease on your part.

You’ve been selected as a finalist for a contest you never entered

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Ignore any messages such as this. Always do your own scholarship search and complete your own applications.

Related: Scholarships 101: Getting Free Money for College

What to do if you suspect scholarship fraud

If you come across a scholarship you believe to be a scam, or you’re a victim of scholarship fraud, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FDC) or go to Fraud.org. 

Want more content on the scholarship search? Find it in our Scholarships, Grants, and Loans section!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo

$10,000

Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Priscilla Yeboah

Priscilla Yeboah

None

Throughout my search for colleges I was afraid and timid, but I finally found the college that was fit for me, and luckily, I got accepted. One of the most influential things that’s helped me a lot was the articles and advice on CollegeXpress. It’s helped me a lot and benefited me as a senior to make the right choices in life. Thank you!

Elizabeth Stafford

Elizabeth Stafford

High School Class of 2021

As a UK student moving to California due to my dad's job in the military, when I first signed up for CollegeXpress a few months ago, the college process ahead seemed daunting and incredibly stressful. That all changed after I started to explore what this website had to offer. Not only was I helped by the vast array of resources available to me, but through being a CollegeXpress member, there have been so many more benefits. There have been emails with college tips—all of which I found incredibly helpful—as well as invitations to events and notifications of scholarships that'll make college possible for me. Overall, I'm very grateful to CollegeXpress for all of these things and more. Not only have they helped me grow my understanding of the college process, but they've also helped me to grow as a person, giving me new skills that I can take with me through life.

Keaun Brown

Keaun Brown

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2020

As I transition to furthering my education, I can say with certainty that it simply wouldn’t be possible without the help of generous organizations such as CollegeXpress. Those who initially founded CX had no idea their platform would give a plethora of information to a first-generation homeless kid native to the ghettos of over half a dozen states. Everyone at CX and Carnegie Dartlet gave me a chance at a future when the statistics said I had none. And for that, I thank them.

Michael

Michael

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress showed me that Western New England University was a great match for me both with curriculum and location. CollegeXpress is an excellent resource both future and current college students.

Rayan Hamdan

Rayan Hamdan

None

I joined CollegeXpress just a few months ago. I had been struggling with severe anxiety, causing me to not be able to tour schools and make sure a college would be perfect for me. I came across CollegeXpress one day when I was searching for colleges online, and it completely changed the game. I was easily able to choose colleges that would suit me, and I also entered a few giveaways! Thank you so much!

College Matches