Start Scholarship Hunt Early, Beware of Scams
If you're heading off to college, you're going to need money. That's a simple fact. What may be less clear-cut is how to finance your higher-education pursuit. Depending on your situation, some combination of student loans, self-income and parental savings will fit the bill (or hopefully, a good part of it). But there's another source of income any college aspirant can and should consider: scholarships.
Don't worry if you aren’t a valedictorian or a Division I champion. Plenty of awards are based on upon a person’s age, residence, interests, cultural background or unique skills. The key is to know where to look.
The Scholarship Hunt
It’s useful to begin the scholarship search with a conversation. Consider sitting down with your high school or university counselor, or any other expert who can help you track down opportunities.
Remember, it’s better to start your quest sooner rather than later. Make a calendar of scholarship deadlines and figure out which ones are most important to you. Some scholarships require your standardized test scores or your (or your family’s) financial situation, so be sure you’ve taken your ACT or SATs during the spring of your junior year or fall of your senior year, and prepare all necessary financial data before you begin filing out applications.
Before you set course, however, there is one last thing you should know.
Unfortunately, broke college students aren’t the only ones looking for money as the school year approaches. According to Finaid.org, several hundred thousand students and parents are defrauded by scholarship scams each year, collectively losing upwards of $100 million annually. The golden rule for avoiding unsavory offers: Don’t pay money to get money—even if the scholarship sounds legitimate. According to Finaid.org, “Scam operations often imitate legitimate government agencies, grant-giving foundations, education lenders and scholarship matching services, using official-sounding names containing words like ‘National,’ ‘Federal,’ ‘Foundation,’ or ‘Administration.’”
Common scams include:
• Scholarships that never actually surface.
• Scholarships for profit, loans requiring an “up-front” fee (the loan never materializes).
• The scholarship prize (You’ve won! But you have to pay us first...)
• “Guaranteed” scholarship search services that charge a fee.
• “Free” seminars that are actually sales pitches for services that cost money.
But don’t let the opportunists dissuade you from fishing out legitimate opportunities. If you’re investing in college, do everything you can to stretch your dollars. Starting out with more money is a wise strategy.
A high credit score often equals savings on loans and credit cards.
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