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?” — Samantha Davis, Queens, NY
A: The One Thing Never to Do to Acquire a College Scholarship
What is the one thing, to pay an organization to ‘be considered’ to win a college scholarship. Acquiring scholarship money takes time, not invested money. Thanks to two terrific web sites, FinAid – The Guide to Financial Aid and Fastweb - Largest Free scholarship search site every family has an easy place to go locate most (not all) available scholarship options. In addition, always compete the FAFSA application and if any of the colleges the student is applying to uses the CSS Form, then complete that as well.
Ellen Fisher — Founder & Independent College Advisor - College4U
A: Don't Pay for Any Scholarship Search Service
The most common scam is a service (online or in person) that offers to conduct a scholarship search for a fee. There are plenty of places that offer free scholarship searches (collegenet.com, your local high school guidance office, meritaid.com, etc.) that contain a complete inventory of posted scholarships. Lots of students don't take the time to do a scholarship search or apply for small scholarships - take the time to apply for appropriate scholarships (ones for which you're qualified based on your interests or background), and you will likely be awarded.
Ken Huus - Dean of Admissions - Sweet Briar College
A: The Most Common Scholarship Scams - A List
The scams: “Pay $x to get a list of scholarships.” “Come to a presentation.” "Give us personal information for a chance to apply for a scholarship." “You have been nominated” for an award and you have a chance to purchase a book with your name. “You are guaranteed to get a scholarship.” How to Avoid Them: *Never, Ever pay to apply for a scholarship. *Never attend a seminar that is for the purpose of receiving scholarships. *Do not apply for any scholarships that involve a purchase of any kind. *Google the name of the scholarship followed by the word “scam”. *Look up the scholarship on the Better Business Office web site, the Federal Trade Commission or consumer affairs office from the state of affiliation. *Be wary of awards where you are notified that you have been selected or nominated to participate. *Check with your counselor. *”If it sounds too good to be true, it is.” Use fastweb.com, collegeboard.com and scholarships.com before researching other sites.
Scott White - Director of Guidance - Montclair High School
A: Beware of "Pay to Play!"
The most common scholarship scam is one where the "expert" says pay me now and I guarantee you will receive financial aid. Most often all they can guarantee are the federal loans that any student who fills out a FAFSA is eligible for. So you are paying for something that is available for free. My advice, ask for references from any financial consultant and call the references. Also check them out on the web--Google them and see if online reviews come up.
Chris Hooker-Haring - Dean of Admission & Financial Aid - Muhlenberg College
A: Look Before You Leap at Scholarships!
Know that the best scholarship leads come from guidance counselors and qualified educational consultants. Generally any company claiming scholarship information asking for money should not be trusted. Legitimate scholarships can be found through private corporations, community organizations, non-profits and the colleges. There are excellent free scholarship databases available on the web. Call the source before you apply to check on credentials. Good Luck!
Jeannie Borin - Founder & President - College Connections
The Unigo Expert Network is a group of top education experts from across the US answering questions submitted by students and parents about college admissions and succeeding after high school.