If your child is a junior in high school, now is a great time to start looking for college scholarships. The deadline for awards are months away, giving you and your child a head start on applications, essays and other requirements for those awards.
Billions of dollars’ worth of scholarships are awarded each year to college-bound students. Some are based on financial need; others are based on a student’s interests, academic and extracurricular achievements, ethnicity, religious affiliation or a family’s relationship with a certain union, company or other group. Weeding through the numerous types of scholarship offers can be overwhelming, leading some parents and students to seek help from scholarship services. The Better Business Bureau warns consumer to be careful. Despite their elaborate claims and professional images, many are scams.
Legitimate scholarship services tell students and their families up-front what they can and cannot do for them. Typically, they provide students with lists of scholarships, compare their profiles with available scholarships, and provide lists of scholarship awards for which they qualify.
Fraudulent scholarship search services will promise to help you maximize your eligibility for financial aid at a cost of several hundred to several thousand dollars. Some services take your money and never look for anything on your behalf; others provide a list of scholarships for which your child isnot eligible. Although some services will come up with a list of scholarships that your child does qualify for, the list is usually culled from information you can get yourself for free.
There are many kinds of scholarship scams. The most common scam is a seminar scam, where you get a letter inviting you to a free financial aid seminar, which turns out to be little more than a high-pressure sales pitch. Sometimes, the promoters will offer to come to your home and meet with you one on one. Scholarship scams can be hard to spot because promoters often imitate legitimate government agencies, grant-giving foundations, education lenders or scholarship matching services. They may use words like “national,” “federal,” “foundation,” and “administration” in their titles.
The scholarship service may make statements like these: