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Avoiding Financial Aid or Scholarship Scams


You'll find scholarships are a great source of money for college and they are not all based on need or high academic standing. Your local high school is often the best single source of information on scholarships. There is need for caution on scholarships, however.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and consumer groups caution students about paying for services from scholarship search organizations because many free services are available. Be an educated consumer, check out free services first.

Financial Aid

If you have to pay to get money for financial aid, it is probably a scam. Every year students and parents are cheated out of more than $100 million dollars. According to the Federal Trade Commission, common signs of a scam which you should watch out for include:

  • Companies or organizations using names such as “National,” “Federal,” “Foundation,” or “Administration,”

  • There is a scholarship application fee.

  • This scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.

  • You can’t get this information anywhere else.

  • May I have your credit card number, social security number, ATM pin number, or bank account number to hold this scholarship?

  • We’ll do ALL the work for you.

  • This scholarship may cost you some money.

  • You’ve been selected by a foundation to receive a scholarship,” or “You’re a finalist” in a contest in which you NEVER entered.

The Federal Trade Commission says many legitimate companies advertise that they can get students access to lists of scholarships in exchange for an advance fee. Other legitimate services charge an advance fee to compare a student's profile with a database of scholarship opportunities and provide a list of awards for which a student may qualify. And, there are scholarship search engines on the World Wide Web. The difference: Legitimate companies never guarantee or promise scholarships or grants. (FTC Consumer Alert)

Consumer Protections and Trade Schools

Finding Reliable Resources

Fortunately, there are good resources to help pay for college and not get scammed. Remember, you don’t have to do it alone! College fairs are an excellent source of free information. The people in your life including high school counselors, school staff, scholarship advisors, adults, and friends. You’ll also find many informative websites about financial aid and free publications are available from schools and libraries.