The whole point of scholarships, grants, and financial aid is to get help paying for college tuition. Despite this fundamental concept, some people are pressured into paying large fees to private “aid consultants” in the hope that they’ll get their investment back and more. Chances are, these consultants will just take your money and give you information that could have been obtained directly from a free source.

Recognize the Signs of a Scholarship Scam: The Federal Trade Commission lists these signs and suggests that students beware when they hear the following claims:

  • “The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.” Some scholarships like the Bright Futures Scholarship are guaranteed for students who meet all of the required eligibility criteria, but there isn’t a fee. Real financial aid programs simply don’t cost money!
  • “You can’t get this information anywhere else.” This just isn’t true. Trust me, it is almost definitely on Google, a scholarship search site, maybe even in your high school or college financial aid office.
  • “I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship.” Don’t give away personally identifiable information. Any reputable award would be willing to write a check to the college or university; some might even send a check directly to the student. If they refuse to pay you without your banking info, forget it! This is a sure sign of a scammer who wants your money.
  • “We’ll do all the work.” Even if its true its a dishonest way to chase tuition. You might be able to find someone willing to write your essays and applications, but how will they capture your unique voice? How will you handle the interview when you don’t know how you got there?
  • “The scholarship will cost some money.” Scholarships cost time and work, but application fees should be a big warning flag. There are some cases where a small application fee is appropriate, but usually it is only standard for lengthier writing contests. For example, if you’re submitting a 20-page fiction sample or an act out of a screenplay, a $5-$10 fee is quite fair if they are returning a critique of the work even if you don’t win.
  • “You’ve been selected by a ‘national foundation’ to receive a scholarship” or “You’re a finalist” in a contest you never entered. – This is usually the sales pitch that comes before an attempt to get your personal or financial data.

Search for Scholarships, free:,, and all provide excellent information at not cost, and we’re working on our own free scholarship search as well. The key to success here is actually investing the time to use these tools, find the awards that most closely match the student’s personal characteristics, and writing out the applications with care and attention to detail. Its better to apply for a few awards specific to the student’s special skill or interest than it is to apply for every single sweepstakes and content you can find.

37 Responses to “Signs of a Scholarship Scam”

  1. ousman ahmed ousman
    May 17th, 2008 at 5:11 am

    I am an international student from chad in africa.I am willingly and greatly interested to studying .studying is one of the important and relevant things in my studying life. I would like you to know the situation in africa. I was grown in a large family, and you know the situation like doesn’t allow me to study in a good institution like study at good univerty is not easy for the poor man like me.but I count on your undergraduate scholarship that which would be very helpful and even more necessary for me. .please give me one chance to study in your institution. I hope on your good will and cound on on your repectful responsability.I waiting your reply.

  2. Thanks for the information. It’s scary that the scam artists are going every channels to try to steal people’s private information.

  3. Forex Trading Machine Review
    July 23rd, 2008 at 6:06 am

    I have a friend that was scammed and had his identity stolen. Most scam artists steal the identities of students submitting resumes.

  4. In your article, you specified only private student loans/scholarships only, so I will delve into this after mentioning this: the U.S. government has a direct loans programs (FFDSLP), which through lenders, gives students loans in the form of a check. This money can then be used for whatever is necessary to fund your education. The rates on these loans are extrememly attractive to students. A comparison of all these types of loans can be found at At the same website, a comparison and contact for all lenders of private student loans is also available. I used the site and had a ton of lenders contact me in a few days, with so many offers, I virtually had banks negotiating through me with other banks on who could offer better terms. My guidance counselor told me to do this, so today I can’t thank him enough.
    Private student loans can carry higher interest rates than federal loans, but with your great standing before applying for the loan, you will easily be able to find loan terms similar, if not, better than the federal government offerings. Choosing a company that would “be best” really comes down to dollars and cents…compare the loan rates, repayment terms, and the amount of money necessary to repay in the future on a monthly basis and an overall basis. Basically, any bank will offer a hassle-free process if this what you are looking for as well. Hope this is helpful, but I know for me personally, it worked like a charm and still does every semester I need a new loan.

  5. SIR


  7. When starting our scholarship we made sure we had all the legalities covered and that in no way did it come across as a scam. Many students already can’t afford a college education so they certainly don’t need to be taken advantage of!

    Nice group of blog postings about scholarships!

  8. my grandson got a letter from the united states achievement academy, stating that his teacher nominated him for the us achievment academy national yearbook, which it states that he is eligible for one of 400 grants (400 usaa national education grants, plus the $10,000.dr. george a. stevens founders’ award)
    could you tell me if this award is actually through the united states and for real, or is it another organization getting peoples hopes up and just trying to take money.

    John: I did a little research on this USAA and it doesn’t look good. Apparently, they make most of their money upselling the students – asking them to spend $60 to get a book with their name in it or asking for even more money to include a picture of the student. While they may offer some legitimate scholarships and grants as well, I would recommend to not send them a penny!

    College is expensive enough, never send money to someone who claims they will get you a scholarship or financial aid. Free money for college students is out there, so focus on finding that!

  9. Larry Daughenbaugh
    March 18th, 2010 at 6:06 am

    Thanks so much for posting. I am a teacher who repeatedly receives a request to nominate students. I was suspicious, but wondering if I was depriving students of a financial opportunity. I will not nominate, because of your and other posts.

  10. My grandson just received a letter (with his name on it) from his teacher. So did EVERYONE in his class.
    Curiously it says in the second paragraph “Because only a relative handful of students anywhere in the United States qualify for this honor….”
    “Handfuls” are getting pretty BIG!!!!!

  11. Hello, I am a student who applied for this scholarship, and I wanted to say that it IS legitimate. A friend of mine, who did not purchase the $60 book but simply applied, won one of the grants (not the $10,000 one). I think they are honest because you are still eligible even if you didn’t purchase anything.

  12. I am really amazed to know that there is a possibility of scholarship scams.Only through this kind of blogs one cam know about the newer things happening around the world.i am very much honoured to visited this blog.

  13. In my point of view If you can’t get a straight answer from a sponsor regarding the application, what will be done with your information or other questions, proceed with caution.

  14. I believe The scholarship is available to anyone who applies. Scholarships are award for reasons, whether it be merit or need, there is a reason for the person receiving it. If the scholarship says it is for anyone, it’s not a scholarship.

  15. My point of view It costs money to apply. Applications taken by legitimate scholarships are done for free. It should not cost more than a stamp to mail it in.

  16. I just received one of these from my son’s school and was immediately suspicious. I googled it, which led me to several articles and blogs such as yours.

    While I don’t think any major harm is being done here I do think the surreptitious way they are going about it is concerning. My first thought is that the teacher or school might get a cut like they do with the dozens of other fundraisers we get.

    There is a New York Times article on this topic dating back to 1988 that I will be sending to the teacher who nominated him. Maybe she will be a little less gullible next time around.

  17. Sorry, I meant to add that it was a United States Achievement Academy offer.

  18. I received a scholarship award from an organization called “United States Scholarship to Africa”. I applied with $100 last year, this year I they published our names on the result page. More so they sent me a mail requesting me to pay $750 within 30 days for hostel and library fees before any more information. Do you know any idea of such scholarship program from African People in US to help African students?

  19. My daughter was nominated by the high school counselor for a chance to receive a $10,000. scholarship, and because it came from the school, I believed it to be legitimate. After filling out their application and sending a check for $59. for a copy of the USAA All American Scholar yearbook back in February ’09, I received another application for almost the exact same thing. Both were sent by Dr. George A. Stevens. A week ago a third letter arrived explaining that only those with a GPA of 3.3 or higher would be considered. Just today I was about to submit the “News Release Letter” to our local newspaper when I realized her GPA was only 3.15 so I called and spoke to someone who assured me she needed only a 3.0 to enter. Here are the things that made me suspicious. The first letter stated that only one $10,000 scholarship would be awarded. When the second letter came I contacted them. They are clever in scamming people through their schools. I submitted their application but did not purchase another yearbook that varied slightly in wording, but did include $6. for processing fee. On their website today it stated a GPA of 3.8 or higher and that “four” $10,000 awards would be given. Tomarrow I will be going to the paper and hopefully they will print this travesty.

  20. After speaking with a friend about this whole ordeal, she reassured me that this particular organization “The USAA ALL-AMERICAN SCHOLARSHIP FOUNDATION” is legitimate. She told me her child had been recognized through the school and the only cost was if you wanted a copy of the yearbook. Which is completely optional. She was able to provide me with physical evidence of this fact. Perhaps my previous comments were out of line and I owe Dr. George A. Stevens and his entire Academy an apology. Please forgive me and any harm I may have caused. Sincerely yours, Liah

  21. Well, check out the math – figure how many books they sell, times $60 ( or more for pics) and then figure how many scholarships they give out. I’ve requested that information – let’s see if I get it. I’m a teacher, and I DON’T nominate for this award.

  22. Gentlemen I am a student Mohammed Abdul Rahim and me my friend Ahmed Ali live in Sudan and have completed high school and now we want to enter the university has completed I want to study medicine, and he wanted to study engineering, but we want to study English first, then we want to bring to the university and our family is very poor We need financial aid to study and live and stay and travel costs, please help us
    This is a picture of my testimony
    Article 100 of the class
    57 neighborhoods
    England 60
    Islamic education 67
    Chemistry 60
    Physics 51
    57 specialized math
    Arabic language 62

    This secondary school certificate and pictures on behalf of the Mohammad Abdel Rahim Ahmed

  23. No one should have to pay for a scholarship, that’s the point of ‘A Scholarship’ is’nt it?

  24. Im glad I discovered this blog, I couldnt obtain any knowledge on this subject prior to. I also run a niche site and in case you are ever interested in doing a bit of guest writing for me you should feel free to let me know, i’m always look for people to check out my blog site. Please stop by and leave a comment sometime!

  25. Just got my samsung delve yesterday and gotta say i am lovin it. I’ve currently browsed this website very a bit and i am truly applying my samsung delve like a modem to form this lol. I am a U.S. cellular client and we have a single of thier aircards for net but i think this cell phone is faster, I did do the signal strenght hack also and seems to be workin rather well.

  26. For more tips on how to spot a scholarship scam, click “Scholarship & Loans” on the left.

  27. why are my tax dollars going to students that aren’t US citizens?

  28. Great tips. With the US education system so far behind the curve (globally), the federal government should be sending a lot more kids through on paid tickets.

    And to All American’s point, we need to fill up colleges with US students. If we run out of US kids, then look over the border.


  29. NONE of these real scholarships for American Schools should be going to foreigners. Sorry you were born in the wrong country. Not our fault. Get over it.

  30. i really want to continue ma education in the united state if they offer me a free scholar ship.i am from Eritrea.i don’t have money that is why i want free scholar ship.thanks for every thing

  31. Md Sharique Anwar
    July 21st, 2011 at 12:59 am

    Sir, i want money for bds course fee in india,i am studying in svs institute of dental science,mahboobnagar,hyderabad, india sir please help me sir

  32. About the comment “The scholarship will cost some money.” If someone is paying an advisor or consultant, I agree with this comment. Proof of grades for official school transcripts cost a few dollars as well as other needed materials. It does cost money, but not a whole lot. If you are worried you may be charged in excess, then ask for a print out of the expense incurred upon your behalf.

  33. I had received a letter from the USAA National Sciences Award. Also from the Who’s Who Among All American Scholars. I ordered a yearbook from both and I completely regret ever making that decision. I submitted my application for the yearbooks and that was in 8th grade last year!!! Well I am a freshman and just started my 2nd semester. I have tried emailing them but it said the address was invalid or some crap like that. (-_-) did anyone actually receive a yearbook at all?!! Thanks 🙂

  34. Am glad to hear of scholarship program and im directing my eye to bright future with my sisters and brothers, We have tried to make ends meet but indeed our dreams are still in our hands.My humble requet is to help us with financial support from you.I will be grateful for your positive consideration.


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