Scholarship Scams: How to Avoid Common Pitfalls


If you’re looking for scholarships, you’ve probably already realized that there are a lot of scams out there. Scholarship scams differ from legitimate scholarship programs in that they have no affiliation with any colleges or universities, require an upfront fee before applying for a scholarship (which is usually non-refundable), and do not provide any information about how the money will be given to recipients. These types of programs also tend to use very aggressive sales tactics and false promises; for example, claiming that anyone can win a scholarship without providing any details about how much money you might receive from them. If you suspect that something may be fishy about an organization offering a scholarship program, keep reading!

Be wary of scholarship scams.

Be wary of scholarship scams.

There are many legitimate scholarships out there, but it’s important to be skeptical of any scholarship that asks you to pay money up front or provide personal information such as your Social Security number and credit card numbers.

If a scholarship sweepstakes or contest solicits your bank account number and other sensitive financial information, it may be a scam.

Beware of scholarship search engines.

Beware of scholarship search engines. While it may be tempting to use a free online service that promises to find scholarships for you, these types of sites can actually be scams. If a website asks for money upfront or asks you to sign up for credit cards or other financial products, steer clear!

If it sounds too good to be true…it probably is!

Be sure you are eligible for the scholarships you apply for.

Be sure you are eligible for the scholarships you apply for.

Be aware of the requirements for each scholarship and make sure that your application meets them all. If it does not, do not waste your time applying.

Learn about the organization offering a scholarship before applying.

When you’re looking for scholarships, it’s important to do your homework. The first step is learning about the organization that is offering the scholarship and whether they have any history of fraud or deceit. If you can’t find any information about them online, check out their Facebook page or email them directly (with a polite subject line). You may also want to look up reviews for this organization–and don’t forget to ask other people who have applied for a scholarship from this organization!

Avoid making decisions based on emotions.

Avoid making decisions based on emotions.

The excitement of a new opportunity can be contagious, but it’s important to keep your head out of the clouds and make sure that you’re making an informed decision before accepting any scholarship or award offer. You don’t want to be caught up in the moment and end up accepting something that isn’t right for you. Asking questions about the scholarship and its requirements will help ensure that this doesn’t happen!

If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t–and saying no is okay! If a scholarship doesn’t seem like it’s right for you or if there are too many strings attached, consider declining politely (and then move on).


With so many scholarships available and so many organizations offering them, it can be tempting to apply for everything. However, it’s important that you do your research before applying for any scholarship. Make sure you understand what the organization is all about and whether or not they have a track record of awarding money to students similar to yourself. If in doubt about whether or not an opportunity is legitimate, ask around! Your friends may know someone who was scammed by one of these fake organizations or might even have had personal experience themselves.

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