Avoiding Scholarship Scams

Raising money for college while avoiding common scholarship scams


When you are looking to raise money for college, you can be in a somewhat vulnerable position. After all, when you want something, it’s not long before a scammer can come along and promise to deliver.
As such, there are many common scholarship scams out there that aim to take advantage of well-intended students who are simply looking for ways to pay for college. Fortunately, many of these scholarship scams have similar and recognizable traits. Indeed, spotting scholarship scams might be the first valuable lesson a college-bound student ever learns.

Advance Payment Scholarship Scams

The point of getting a scholarship is to get free money. That is why it is such an attractive option when raising money for college. Still, many common scholarships scams try to present their services for a fee. Some of the more visible offers include the following:
Application Fees – Scholarship providers are in the business of giving you money. As such, they have no need to ask you for application fees or other expenses. These expenses are all accounted for before money is ever awarded. The Application Fee is one of the most common scholarship scams, deceiving thousands of students every year. Advance Fee Loans – Many college loans offer affordable interest rates. Some, however, offer some rates that are almost too good to be true. All they ask is that you pay a small fee before you receive the loans. In these common scholarship scams, the loan never materializes. Legitimate education loan providers will deduct their fees from the disbursement rather than asking you to pay anything. Other Award-Related Fees – To reiterate on this, you should never be asked for money to learn more about an award, to apply for an award, or to have an award dispersed. Remember, you are raising money for college, not spending it.

The “We Apply For You” Scholarship Scams

As many people are wising up to the above mentioned tactics, newer scholarship scams are popping up that promise to do all of the scholarship applications for you. Of course, this service is not free, which makes the fee seem more legitimate. It is not. To be frank, if you want scholarships, you have to put in the time. You have to find them. You have to apply. You have to write the essays. You have to get your own recommendation letters.
Further, if you have worked hard to get into college, why would you ever hand over the responsibility of earning scholarships to someone else? The reality is, if having someone else do your scholarship searching even sounds like a decent idea when raising money for college, perhaps you should re-examine your readiness for college.

Lack of Professional Appearance

When one is in the business of giving away money, the level of checks and balances involved is substantial. While you are raising money for college, if you come across scholarship offers with spelling errors, no telephone numbers, award notifications by telephone rather than in writing, verbally abusive representatives, suspicious return addresses, and other characteristics that differ from recognized legitimate financial aid providers, these are likely scholarship scams.

Time-Sensitive Scholarship Scams

Some common scholarship scams claim to offer college scholarships and grants on a first-come-first-serve basis. This is simply not how scholarship and grant awards work. If you have already begun looking for ways to pay for college, you know how competitive scholarships can be. This is because these awards are often based on selection criteria that take numerous factors into account, including, but not limited to:
  • Family Income
  • Academic Achievement
  • Cultural Background
  • Community Service
  • Handicaps or Disabilities
  • Religious Affiliations
If an organization awards you a grant or scholarship, it is likely because your unique situation matches a favorable combination in their award criteria. Organizations that come off as a cash free-for-all should be viewed as scholarship scams when you are raising money for college.

Unsolicited Offers: A Hallmark of Scholarship Scams

As just mentioned, competition for scholarships can be fierce. Every year, millions of students are competing for the same pool of college grant and scholarship money. Put yourself in the shoes of a scholarship provider for a moment. If you received dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of scholarships applications in a day, do you think it would be necessary to go out offering these scholarships to even more people? Probably not. Odds are that you would have your hands full handling applications from the many intelligent and well-qualified applicants who have shown the initiative to find you.
Common scholarship scams like this work because they are often accompanied by offers that seem too good to be true. That’s because they usually are. If you are suspicious about these unsolicited offers, or any of the other scholarship scams highlighted in this article, get a second opinion. Your high school guidance counselor would be a valuable resource, as would a financial aid advisor at any of the schools you are considering. Many of these people have been trained in spotting many common scholarship scams. When you are raising money for college, they want to help. Your success reflects well on all those who help along the way.

Trust Your Instincts to Avoid Common Scholarship Scams

In conclusion, when you are raising money for college, you want to feel completely comfortable with your grant, scholarship, and loan providers. Trust your instincts. If you have even the slightest reservation about a scholarship source, it is best to walk away. When the potential downside of a questionable scholarship award could result in your inability to attend college, no amount of caution is too much.