After a good rest — and fueled by coffee of course — the Dream Team is refreshed, recharged, and rejuvenated. So without further ado, let’s get back to being the fun resource of inspiration, education, and guidance for saving and earning your way to financing your dreams that you know and love.
Graduating high school can be as exciting as it is terrifying. You have big plans for the future. Whether you plan to give Steve Jobs a run for his money in the tech world or want to change the real world one smile at a time as a dentist or dental hygienist, many dreams begin with a college education.
Which leads to the terrifying question: How on earth are you going to pay for those dreams? Mother Jones says college tuition nearly doubled between 1990 and 2010. This means that when most parents were beginning their children’s college funds, they were planning to pay half the tuition that is now necessary to get their children through college.
Between books, supplies, tuition, room, and food, the price tag can add up quickly to be a figure that is unfathomable. Many students in your shoes turn to student loans and scholarships to help cover the required costs.
Unfortunately, because there is great need for these things, there are also plenty of people unscrupulous enough to prey on those needs with student loan and scholarship scams aplenty.
Here are six tips to help you to avoid falling for the student loan and scholarship scams out there, and find the funds you need to go the distance on your dreams for the future.
1) Avoid agencies that guarantee scholarships.
Finance News Today warns that unless the organization is the one offering the scholarship, there’s no possible way to guarantee you’ll be the one awarded the prize. If you’re convinced this is the safest way to go for your money, at least make sure that you get the guarantee in writing before you give them any money. Keep in mind, that it may require costly legal work to get your money back despite the money back guarantee — if you ever get it back at all.
2) Don’t pay a fee to apply for scholarships.
Legitimate college scholarships that require an application fee are few and far between. Chances are, you’ll be able to find other options so that it won’t be a huge loss on your part to skip those altogether — unless it’s some organization that is widely known and respected and there is some degree of prestige or honor associated with receiving the scholarship. Most of the time, however, it’s in your best interest to avoid fee-based programs — especially since there are so many free programs you can consider instead.
3) Avoid programs that require free seminar attendance.
These seminars are often little more than an opportunity for scammers to hold a bunch of young adults captive hoping to collect the funds they need for college hostage. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends that if you do attend these seminars that you follow these simple rules for getting out without being scammed.
4) Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into making an on-the-spot purchase.
Investigate the organization offering the seminar ahead of time to ensure they are legitimate.Listen to phenomenal success stories with a grain of salt. These organizations ride high on the emotional, and often slightly exaggerated stories, of their past successes. Don’t make any purchases if your answers aren’t being answered quickly and satisfactorily. Find out the facts related to fees and financial arrangements before you sign on the dotted lines.
5) Start with free sources of scholarship and student loan information.
Most colleges and universities have entire departments dedicated to helping students locate and navigate the federal student loan , college-specific loans, grants, and scholarship process. They have a vested interest in making the admission and payment process as simple and seamless for students as possible. The university is the first place you should turn in order to get the facts, without unnecessary fees, regarding your college funding options.
6) Safeguard your identity.
Unless you want to want to go through all the trials and tribulations that Jason Bateman’s character had to endure when Melissa McCarthy’s character stole his identity in the flick Identity Thief , always keep the safety of your identity in the forefront of your mind.
StudentAid.gov also recommends that students safeguard their personal, as well as financial, information when filling out applications and such for scholarships and loans. Scams are not always about getting money from you at the moment. Identity theft is another common goal of people running these scam operations.
One last word of advice most financial advisors recommend: Even when it comes to legitimate funding sources for student loans and scholarships, the most important thing to remember is that student loans must be repaid. Avoid getting overburdened with loans and work to get scholarships, whenever possible to keep your debt upon graduation as low as possible.
The less debt you have upon graduation, after all, the better able you’ll be to chase those dreams that led you to college in the first place. Or, if those dreams have changed over the course of your college education, to embrace new dreams and make plans accordingly.