Maximize your financial aid dollars: What to seek out and what to avoid
Among young people who did not finish college, nearly seven in 10 have no idea what FAFSA is, according to a 2011 survey. This not only undercuts their ability to pay for, and complete, college. It also makes them vulnerable to scamming and other malicious acts.
In addition to our new FAFSA training module for counselors and advisers, this FAFSA season, we focus on what resources NOT to use.
While companies scamming America’s neediest families out of much-needed dollars are often caught and punished, new scams arise every year cash in on families’ monetary woes.
The Federal Trade Commision has recognized this pattern, and published a list of tips to avoid scams. For instance, the following list of key phrases that should set off any student or parent’s scam-o-meter:
- "You can't get this information anywhere else."
- "I just need your credit card or bank account number."
- "We'll do all the work. You just pay a processing fee."
- "Scholarships will cost some money."
And for scholarships generally:
- “The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back."
- "You've been selected" by a "national foundation" to receive a scholarship – or "You're a finalist" in a contest you never entered.
Best practice is to encourage students to run all invitations to apply for scholarships or financial aid services by their counselor. You should also remind students and their families as often as possible never to pay for any financial aid or scholarship services.
Another type of FAFSA scam may not cost money up front, but will cost much in the long run! Identity theft is on the rise, and after last year’s data retrieval tool hack, we know that hackers and thieves have identified families’ search for financial aid as a potential goldmine.
The FAFSA website provides a comprehensive list of potential scams to avoid, as well as helpful tips to avoid identity theft. These include navigating to fafsa.gov directly rather than from a hyperlink, and avoiding any scholarship applications that request your FAFSA pin.
It’s important to arm students and parents with the knowledge to guard their wallets against financial aid vultures. We know our amazing Texas counselors are doing great work to protect their students.
Don't forget to check out our new FAFSA module! See below for a quick video!