As the 2013-2014 financial aid season dawns near, students and families are reminded to be smart about financial aid. What do we mean by this? Well, let’s just say that some so-called “financial aid” is too good to be true.
It’s unfortunate for us to have to tell to to be wary of financial aid. Of course it isn’t all bad, in fact the right aid can make the difference between affording college and not affording it. The problem lies in scams that bogus companies attempt to pull on naïve families. They promise large sums of college aid without any intention of helping you to get it. Beware of the following schemes:
• Exclusive scholarship info. Sadly enough, companies exist out there on the web that will promise students exclusive scholarship information and/or database services for a fee. It’s best to pass this one up because a quick Google search will yield page upon page of free scholarship information, including award names, payout amount and general requirements. Additionally, some seemingly-legitimate scholarships ask you to pay a fee to apply. Rethink it.
• You’re a finalist! Don’t remember applying for a certain scholarship, but you got an email saying you’re on the shortlist to receive it? Trash the message. In all likelihood, the offer is really about getting money from your pocket. Yeah, the deal here is to get you to pay to “reserve” your award. The tough part about these is that good scammers use official sounding names with such words as “Federal” or “Foundation” to sound legitimate.
• The "infomercial.” We’ve all seen ads on TV that encourage us to “Act now to take advantage of such-and-such offer!” Well, if you’ve not noticed, we get them in our email now and on various website banner ads. Ploys for students to act quickly for a pay financial aid service or a financial aid workshop are just that. That sense of urgency employed is essentially a scam company’s way of saying “Please cough up your cash!”
• Pay first, ask questions later. At Go Financial Aid, we try to equip you with as much information about us and the financial aid process before letting you decide whether or not to hire us for consulting purposes. Companies that send you messages simply claiming to be able help get you financial aid without any other service or pricing information are really just trying to get your money. Be especially cautious of the absence of a satisfaction guarantee, which promises a refund if the services provided were inadequate, as you want to feel like the company has your best interest in mind.
• Don’t File the AFSA. What’s wrong with that acronym? The application we most associate with financial aid is, of course, the FAFSA. This application is the FREE Application for Federal Student Aid. Many websites exist that claim to be able to file your FAFSA, for a minimal fee. That’s just wrong. Never put your trust in any FAFSA submission service except fafsa.org.
It’s easy to allow the glitter of big promises to blind us. But let’s face it: this is your education and there’s no room to take risks in financial aid! Many established services do exist to provide financial aid solutions to students and families; it just requires time and caution to find them. Financial aid can be won by anyone, however, by following the right steps!