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Research before applying for college scholarships

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.

Weeding through the numerous types of scholarship offers can be overwhelming, leading some parents and students to seek help from scholarship services. The BBB warns consumers to be careful. Here are some tell-tale signs to look and listen for with potential scholarship scams:

“The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.”
“You can’t get this information anywhere else.”
“I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship.”
“We’ll do all the work. You just pay a processing fee.”
“The scholarship will cost money.”
“You’ve been selected” by a “national foundation” to receive a scholarship – or “You’re a finalist” in a contest you never entered.

Here are steps to take if you attend a seminar on financial aid or scholarships:

Take your time. Avoid high-pressure sales pitches that require you to buy now or risk losing out on an opportunity. Don’t be rushed into paying at the seminar.

Investigate. Do your homework and talk to a guidance counselor or college financial aid advisor. Legitimate companies are willing to share information about their services.

Be wary of “success stories.” Use caution with these stories or testimonials of extraordinary success. Overstated claims can be a good tip-off to a scam. Ask for references and ask about their dealings with the service.

How much is charged? Ask what you have to pay, what services will be performed and the company’s refund policy. Make sure to get this information in writing.

The FTC says many legitimate companies advertise that they can get students access to lists of scholarships in exchange for an advance fee. Other legitimate services charge an advance fee to compare a student’s profile with a database of scholarship opportunities and provide a list of awards for which a student may qualify. And, there are online scholarship search engines. The difference: Legitimate companies never guarantee or promise scholarships or grants.

A good resource to check eligibility for all programs is the free application for federal student aid, also known as FAFSA. This is a form you complete and submit for free.

If you have questions, please contact the Mid-Missouri BBB at or 573-886-8965.

Article Topic Follows: News

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