By Luanne Kadlub
As another school year comes to a close, many high school and college students (and their parents) are busy investigating options for college financial aid for the coming fall. The Free Application for Student Assistance, federal aid program better known simply as FAFSA, should be the first place to go for assistance. It doesn’t cost a dime.
Many families, however, choose to explore additional options for financial aid. In this case, Better Business Serving Northern Colorado and Wyoming advises:
Beware of companies and scholarship foundations that charge an application fee, even if the fee is minimal or the foundation claims the fee is to only encourage serious students to apply. If the scholarship service claims students who don’t receive a scholarship will be refunded, the business will often disappear or make it incredibly difficult to qualify for a refund. Legitimate scholarship programs do not charge an application fee.
Be wary if the scholarship service claims it will apply on your behalf. A legitimate scholarship will require the applicant to submit his or her own application, essay and/or letters of recommendation.
Avoid scholarship services that claim you are guaranteed to receive scholarship money. Legitimate scholarship-matching services have no control over who the scholarship foundation chooses to win the grant.
Be wary of letters or phone calls stating you have been selected or are a finalist for a scholarship for which you never applied. Authentic scholarships do not send students unsolicited offers. Be careful not to give out personal information, banking information, or write a check to businesses that are unfamiliar or suspicious.
Disregard offers that claim “everyone is eligible.”Scholarship programs look for ideal candidates that fit their specific criteria, which often includes the student’s GPA, career interests, athletic involvement, or volunteer work.
Avoid lenders that charge an upfront fee. If you are searching for an educational loan be aware that authentic lenders do not charge an upfront application fee, rather they deduct their processing fees from the check before the student receives the loan.
If you decide to attend an informational seminar on scholarships and financial aid, be aware this is most likely a sales pitch for scholarship services. While at the seminar do not be pressured into paying for services on the spot. Instead, take time to research the organization and see if you can find the same services for free. Do not make a purchase if the representative does not directly and fully answer your questions.
Start With Trust. For more consumer tips and information, visit bbb.org.