Scholarship scams

Prospective college students often look to scholarships as a way to lessen the financial burden on parents and to avoid taking out student loans. Unfortunately, scam artists know how stressful paying for college can be and they’ve tailored scholarship scams to separate eager students and their families from their money.

Stay safe. Be Informed.

  • Know who you’re dealing with. It may be a search company that is offering to help locate scholarships for which you may be eligible, rather than a foundation that actually awards scholarships. Most foundations don’t charge a fee to apply for a scholarship; if they do, it is very small. Scholarship search companies always charge for their services.
  • Beware of search services that guarantee you’ll receive scholarship money. No search service can control the decisions of scholarship sponsors.
  • Get the details in writing. A search service should be willing to give you a written explanation of exactly how it works.
  • Make sure you understand the refund policy. The company should explain upfront whether you can get your money back if you don’t receive a scholarship and what you have to do to qualify for a refund. Some fraudulent search services set difficult requirements, such as obtaining letters of rejection from each scholarship listing, to make it virtually impossible to get a refund.
  • Do your own scholarship search. A search service may provide information that is outdated or doesn’t apply to you. You may be better off finding scholarships yourself. Ask your high school guidance counselor and college financial aid offices for help. Another good source of information is College Parents of America.

Find Fraud Alerts related to this scam here.


For More Information about scholarship scams and other resources you can use, visit, the U.S. Department of Education’s site for free information on preparing for and funding education beyond high school. You can complete the FAFSA here, and learn about other FAFSA filing options here. You also can call 1-800-4-FED-AID.

If you think you’ve been scammed, file a report via: