We are a reader-supported education publication. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission to help us keep providing content.
Sadly, there are a lot of scammers out there – and some are trying to prey on students looking for scholarships to pay for school. If you’re applying for financial aid, it’s possible you’ll run into scams like this at some point. The good news is that most scholarship scams have certain red flags and signs that show they’re more interested in getting money than in giving it.
Here’s what to look out for to avoid scholarship scams.
Signs of a Scholarship Scam
These are a few red flags to keep you away from scams during your scholarship search:
1. Asking You for Money for Scholarships
With scholarships, the money is supposed to go to you — not the other way around. If someone’s asking you for money to help find scholarships, run the other way. Instead, look for legitimate, current and free scholarship listings like our options on Classrooms.
2. Guaranteeing Scholarships
Nobody can guarantee you’ll get a scholarship. If someone’s asking you for cash and promising that you’re guaranteed to get a scholarship, they’re not being honest. What they may be guaranteeing you is the exciting chance to go into debt with private student loans — not exactly what you had in mind when you started applying for scholarships.
3. Promising Secret Scholarships
There’s no such thing as a secret scholarship. The organizations and donors who run scholarships want people to apply, which means they advertise. Some are more skillful marketers than others, but there’s really no such thing as a secret scholarship no one else knows about. If the scholarship opportunity you’re looking into isn’t listed, it might not be legitimate.
4. Pulling the Old Bait and Switch
The bait and switch scam is a common con in which the scammer will offer you one outcome and then switch it out to give you something else. With scholarships, it looks a little something like this — you sign up for a free service, webinar or educational opportunity to learn more about securing scholarships. However, when you actually get the material and information, it’s not about getting scholarships at all — it’s usually a pitch for an expensive service or high-interest personal student loan. Don’t fall for these tactics.
When applying for scholarships, there’s a few ways you can stay safe from scams. Always be sure to:
- Rely on legitimate scholarship searches.
- Carefully research the donor or foundation behind the scholarship. Are they legitimate?
- Check for reviews of the company and scholarship. What experiences do other students have with them?
- Check to see if anyone has written a negative review of the scholarship through the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission or National Consumer League’s Fraud Center.
It is possible to avoid scammers and land some sweet scholarships — it just takes a little bit of effort.