As one college counselor put it, "I actually hate this question because I want to believe that good people are doing good work..." However, the sad reality is that college scholarship scams are real. This week, our experts weigh in on the most common types of scholarship scams and the best ways for you to avoid them.
"What are the most common scholarship scams? How do I avoid them?"
-- Estelle Meskin -- Certified Educational Planner - EstelleMeskin.com"Don't Pay to Play: Tips to Avoid Scholarship Scams" Never ever pay to apply for a scholarship! Each scholarship application should be free. You may need to send official test scores and transcripts-that is okay. The number one scam is FAFSA.com. It plays on the official name of federal financial aid, but it asks you to pay at the end. Only use http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/ for financial aid. Avoid any site that asks for a payment.
-- Rebecca Joseph - Executive Director & Founder - Get Me To College"If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Usually Is" There are a lot of "do's" and "don'ts" when it comes to searching for scholarships. Don't fall for lines such as "thousands of dollars in scholarships go unclaimed". Don't pay anyone to find scholarships for you or pay someone who promises to find you financial aid you couldn't get on your own. Don't apply for any scholarship that requires you to pay a fee--even if it is just a few dollars. Do check legitimate sources--the best place to start is your own high school's guidance department. Do check local civic groups. Do check reputable websites. And if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.
-- Janet Rosier - Independent College Admissions Consultant - Janet Rosier's Educational Resources"Scholarships Should Pay YOU!" Scholarship scams abound. There's a company right now that -- somehow -- gets your family's name and address and tells you that you have an appointment for a free financial-aid/scholarship consulting appointment. When you arrive, you and your parent(s) are pressured into buying a high-priced service, one that may cost as much as $2,500 to help you find money that you could find for yourself for free. Don't fall for it! No scholarship worth any money at all should cost you a dime to obtain. Go to www.fastweb.com, www.scholarships.com, and www.finaid.org for legitimate information about scholarships and financial aid. Your guidance counselor will also have lots of information about community, religious, and civic scholarships for which you may be eligible, and the College Board publishes a great resource called The Scholarship Handbook, which can help you find obscure scholarships you may not find anywhere else. Looking into all of these resources -- and following through with your applications -- that's all you need to do. Period.
-- Mary Beth Fry - Director of College Counseling - Savannah Country Day School"The "Free Seminar" Scholarship Scam" Occasionally students and their parents will receive an attractive invitation to a free seminar (or interview) with a trained financial aid consultant who will promise show them the secrets of becoming eligible for financial aid. While there are many legitimate consultants who can show you how to increase your success in the scholarship search, there are many who only want to sell you other financial instruments that have little to do with financial aid. With the resources that you have in this workshop you can do your own research. Beware of big promises.
-- Jim Overton - Founder - College Consultants of South Carolina