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Beware: Scholarship and Financial Aid Scams

Scholarships and financial aid do not require upfront fees. While there are legitimate companies who will help guide you through the financial aid and college application process for a fee, disreputable companies may ask you for money up front and provide nothing in return. Red flags to watch out for include the following:

  • A “money-back guarantee” to secure a scholarship. Don’t believe it. Unscrupulous companies attach conditions that make it impossible to get the refund.

  • "Secret scholarships." If a company claims to have inside knowledge of scholarship money, they’re lying. Information on scholarships is available freely to the public. Ask your librarian or school counselor.

  • Telling students they’ve been selected as “finalists” for awards. If they ask for an up-front fee, head for the nearest exit.

  • Asking for a student’s checking account to “confirm eligibility.” If they want bank account information or your credit card number to confirm or reserve a scholarship, it’s a scam.

  • Quoting a relatively small “monthly” or “weekly” fee. Then asking for authorization to debit your checking account for an unspecified length of time. Ongoing fees are a sure sign of a scam.

  • Unsolicited offers. Whether it’s an e-mail, phone call, or it arrived in your mailbox, if you didn’t request the information, ignore the offer.


Learn more about education scams to avoid.

Financial Aid for College: Many State Applications Are Due Soon

The federal government offers more than $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds to students each year. To see if you qualify for aid, you must complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly called the FAFSA.

Many states and colleges use your FAFSA data to determine your eligibility for state and school aid, and some private financial aid providers may use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for their aid.

Check the application deadlines for your stateMany state deadlines occur in early 2014. Also check the deadlines for your college. 

Get more information about financial aid for college or career school.

These five reasons for filling out the FAFSA from Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan will leave you with no excuse not to take the time to apply for financial aid.

You can apply for federal student aid even if you haven’t filed your taxes. Find out how.