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How To Recognize Scholarship Scams

Con artists try to find angles in any and every niche possible. Sadly, one of those niches is scholarships, and the scams can sometimes detract from the truly outstanding and helpful scholarships that are available to students of all ages. Here are some ways to spot a scholarship scam.

An Up-Front Fee

Specific requirements must always be met in order to obtain a scholarship of any kind. A certain grade point average is usually a prerequisite, and then other qualifying factors are taken into account, like gender or ethnicity. But none of those factors should be the payment of any kind of fee, not even an application fee. Don’t be fooled by very low fees of just a few dollars, either. A scammer won’t necessarily charge a huge amount—that can get them caught more quickly. By charging just two or three dollars per application, they can still make a lot of money because more people will apply if the fee isn’t prohibitive. Do your homework and find the many free scholarships available.

Promises To Do The Work

Many scholarships require students to perform some sort of task in order to win them. It may be writing an essay, passing a test, participating in an academic competition, or just pursuing a particular course of study. Legitimate scholarship programs require the students to perform the work themselves in order to be eligible. If you run across a program offering to write that essay, or so whatever else is necessary for a particular scholarship, it should be a red flag. Allowing someone else to do the work could get you or your child disqualified, not to mention, this work won’t be performed for free. There will usually be a fee of some sort involved. Don’t fall for it.

You’ve Won a Scholarship—That You Never Applied For

As wonderful as it would be for someone to show up and simply hand you or your child a scholarship to a great program or school, it just doesn’t happen that way. Scholarships must be applied for, or are the result of contests that require actual entry. No scholarship magically materializes for anyone. If you receive any sort of correspondence saying you’ve won a scholarship and all you have to do is claim it, be wary.

Claims of Exclusivity

Information for legitimate scholarships is freely available, from schools, in educational publications, and on the Internet. There are no secret scholarships out there that are only made available to a select group of people, or, as you might guess, those who pay for the information. Any scholarship program that says the information they have is exclusive, and unavailable anywhere else, is running a scholarship scam. Save your money and stick with the free resources.

If you’re still unsure of a scholarship offer you receive either via e-mail or regular mail, talk to a counselor at the educational institution you or your child attends. They will be able to look up the program that contacted you, and tell you whether it’s legitimate or not. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or do a little research on your own. It can end up saving you a lot of money.

This article was brought to you by Susan Taylor. Susan is a former English teacher, writer and stay at home mom who knows the challenges students face in today’s education system. If you would like to reach Susan, please feel free to drop her a line at

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One Response to “How To Recognize Scholarship Scams”

  1. Sharon says:

    Thanks for the tips. The one of a person winning a scholarship they never even applied for is the most ridiculous one in my opinion. I have gotten emails like that and they were just too much to believe.