The Committee recognizes that many students seek scholarships to attend postsecondary schools. To date, there are well over a half million scholarships advertised. Due to the large number and widely varied application requirements, the National Committee on Student Contests, Programs, and Activities does not review individual scholarship programs.

The Committee does encourage students and parents to be smart consumers when considering applying for scholarships and recommends that they refer to the Scholarship Warning Signs developed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and found on the FTC website.

Because an increasing number of students are using the Internet to search and apply for scholarships, the Committee suggest that the following FTC guidelines be used to evaluate such services and reminds administrators, parents, and students that a common practice for scams involves the use of high pressure sales tactics.

Warning Signs

  • Consumers are guaranteed a scholarship or their money back. Guarantees usually include requirements that effectively prevent consumers from qualifying to receive any refunds.
  • The service claims itself as the “only” source for certain information. There are a number of free scholarship lists available in schools and on the Internet.
  • Consumers are asked to provide credit card, checking, or bank account numbers to hold a scholarship. Giving out financial information may lead to an unauthorized bank account withdrawal.
  • Credible scholarships and grants require students to complete the application process. 
  • The service indicates that a scholarship will cost money. While some scholarship programs do assess a small processing fee for applications, holding fees may signal other intent on the part of the service.
  • The student receives notice of winning an unsolicited scholarship. Parents should always research to determine if the scholarship sponsor is legitimate before applying or sending money for any unsolicited scholarship.

Many students and parents are turning to scholarship search services to assist in their efforts to secure financial assistance. According to the FTC, the increased use of these services has also led to more incidents of scams that promise search assistance. The Committee recommends that students and parents considering registration to a scholarship search service should consider those that do not charge for services. It is also recommended that parents and students consider search services that maintain websites, which refrain from alcohol, tobacco and firearm advertising, and provide a clear explanation of policies regarding the use of personal directory information (such as name, address, email, date of birth, gender, and country of citizenship) that a number of scholarship search companies collect and sell. Parents should read and understand the company’s procedures for opting out on the release of student information before completing the registration process.