How to avoid financial aid scams

Posted on June 6th, 2014

Applying for scholarships, grants and other forms of financial aid to help pay for college can be overwhelming for many students and families.

And with the cost of college rising rapidly, there’s no shortage of students applying.

The internet has made this a lot easier, but not all financial aid websites are created equal.

Tess Clarke, a guidance counselor at Cleveland’s School of the Arts, warns all of her students to be on the lookout for financial aid scams.

According to Clarke, students need to watch out for fee-based websites that can be mistaken for the U.S. Department of Education’s website, Many fake sites have similar URLs, which can trick parents and students into thinking they’re legitimate.

Some of these websites ask for payment when you submit the FAFSA, the form that’s necessary to received financial aid from the government. But it’s called the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) for a reason–it does not cost anything to submit.

Some scholarship websites also ask students for payment when submitting an application as well, but Clarke says that a scholarship application should never cost you money.

You should never have to pay to apply for any scholarship or to submit any paperwork for scholarship.

That’s a very important thing for everyone to know.

We agree with Clarke–students and families must be diligent when applying for college and financial aid to avoid falling prey to one of these scams.

Luckily, there are plenty of free scholarship search engines that make it easy to search for legitimate scholarships, including Zinch, ScholarshipExperts, and

And if you’re in high school, asking your guidance counselor for good scholarship resources is always a good idea. School counselors can often recommend local or smaller scholarships that aren’t necessarily listed online.

For more help applying for financial aid, check out our list of verified financial aid websites, our financial aid glossary, and our tips on making college affordable.

Category: Financial Aid

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