The Scholarship System: 6 Steps on How to Win College Scholarships and Secure Financial Aid

How to Tell if a Scholarship is a SCAM or Not


Finding scholarships that pertain to YOU is one of the biggest challenges students and parents face in the scholarship process. To make it even more difficult, there are now companies out there that put out fake scholarship applications simply to collect your information and sell it.

Today, we are going to cover how to tell the difference between a legitimate scholarship and a fake one.

Perhaps you’ve applied to those scholarships that have little to no requirements and take 5 minutes maximum to fill out. They have monthly ‘drawings’ and will announce who the winner is each month so you are told to keep applying over and over (a.k.a. just enter your information). These, unfortunately, sound too good to be true because they are too good to be true.

But DON’T FEEL BAD! We’ve all been there.

When I started applying for scholarships, I fell, and I fell hard. I spent an entire junior year entering my information to the ‘sweepstake’ scholarships, as I like to call them. Little did I know, I was actually just giving out my information so that companies could spam me.

Though it probably doesn’t need to be said, I no longer use that email.

So how can you tell the difference between a legitimate scholarship that is worth your time and a scam that is just trying to get your information?

Assessing a Scholarship: Is it a scam or not?

Legitimate scholarships:

  1. Require essays or at least a few short-answer responses
  2. Require additional support such as transcripts, SAT/ACT scores and recommendation letters
  3. Most have minimum G.P.A requirements – though there are some exceptions to this
  4. Are rewarded once or twice per year

Scholarships that are most likely a scam:

  1. One 100 characters or less for your ‘essay’
  2. Commonly use the term ‘sweepstakes’, ‘drawing’, or ‘random selection’
  3. Have zero requirements aside from entering your basic information
  4. Ask for your social security number (FAFSA [a government site] is the only legitimate site that should ask for this)
  5. Are rewarded weekly or monthly

Want helping finding legitimate scholarships? Sign up for our next free webinar here. We cover the exact strategies to uncover hidden scholarships with the least competition (and that are legit.)


Still on the fence?

If you still aren’t sure whether or not the scholarship is legitimate, try Googling the company. Trust your intuition – if there isn’t much about the company, it could possibly be a scam. If the only results about the company are for the scholarship and/or sweepstakes, it is most likely a scam.

Test Your Knowledge

See how well you do by choosing whether or not the scholarship below is legitimate. When finished, check your answers against the key down below.

 #1 Is this "scholarship" worth your time?


#2 Is this "scholarship" worth your time?

#3 Is this "scholarship" worth your time?

If you want more information on The Scholarship System or the scholarship process, here are a few options:

We also have some related articles to help you and your child further with securing free scholarship dollars for college:

Answer Key:
1. Though it may not be a scam (they may actually give out money now and then), it is NOT a scholarship. This is simply a drawing and isn’t worth your time.
2. This is legitimate. You can tell by the requirements listed.
3. This is actually a real scholarship though the chances of winning one of these is at least one in thousands, if not one in millions. I would say any time it says ‘Enter to win’, it’s not legitimate or it’s not worth your time.  I did this to show you that there is indeed a gray area but you can decide what you think is worth or time or not.