Tips to protect yourself from scholarship scams

By Veronica Craker

Stock image of a woman typing on a laptop

When considering applying for a scholarship, it’s crucial to be aware of scammers trying to take advantage of you. It’s unfortunate, but some scammers will try to take advantage of students who are looking for financial assistance. They make false promises of grants or scholarships and ask for upfront fees that never lead to funds. These scammers pretend to be from the government, universities, or nonprofits, using official-sounding terms like “National” or “Federal” to seem legitimate. They might claim you have won a scholarship but need to pay a one-time “processing fee” or pressure you into applying for a “guaranteed” scholarship with an application fee. Sadly, you end up paying but never receiving the promised money. Another trick involves receiving a check for the scholarship but being asked to send back money for taxes or fees. Beware of fake checks that leave you empty-handed.

To avoid being a victim of scholarship scams, remember the following tips:

  1. There is no fee when filling out the FAFSA and WAFSA. In the U.S., the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the only application that determines eligibility for all federal programs, and you can complete and submit it for free. The Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WAFSA) allows eligible students to apply for state-based grants and scholarships to support their educational pursuits.
  2. Be cautious of unsolicited offers! Winning a scholarship or grant without applying is unlikely. If you receive a message claiming you’ve won, ask how they obtained your name and verify the source before taking any further action.
  3. Beware of overpayment. Remember, a check can bounce even after your bank allows you to withdraw cash from the deposit. Keep in mind that a check can bounce even if your bank lets you withdraw cash. Even if a bank representative says the check has “cleared,” it could still turn out to be fake weeks later. The bottom line is that you’ll be responsible for any funds withdrawn. If you’re seeking a genuine scholarship, contact your school counselor and remember these helpful tips!

Soon, Washington State Opportunity Scholarship will begin accepting applications for the Career & Technical Scholarship (CTS). The Baccalaureate Scholarship (BaS) and Graduate Scholarship (GRD) will open in early 2024.

Interested in applying? Visit the WSOS applications page for more information.