College is expensive, and becomes more so each year as the population of aspiring, high-achieving students graduating from high school grows. Its not surprising that a number of families rely on private, state or federal financial aid in order to achieve their college dreams.
In association with this, unfortunately, is a rise in financial aid scammers – individuals who prey on students and families overwhelmed by the costs and complexity of Financial Aid, and who frequently promise great results only to disappear with the wind.
Here are some tips to avoid Financial Aid scams:
1) If it sounds too good to be true…. A lot of financial aid scammers will guarantee results, regardless of the family’s financial situation or the student’s scholarship acumen. The simple fact is that most Financial Aid is awarded on based on those two factors, and guaranteeing funds blindly usually means that the provider is scamming you.
2) Being asked for banking information. Although college Financial Aid teams need to know your financial situation, they don’t need your specific banking details (account numbers, credit card numbers, etc) to qualify you. Being asked for this critical and confidential information is a red flag.
3) Being offered the “inside track”. Similar to the first point, if a financial aid advisor says that they have exclusive access to the Financial Aid department of a college, or they have information that only they can give you, you should be cautious. Financial Aid information is generally very publically and prominently made available by institutions. Although advisors and consultants may have good relationships with Financial Aid departments, that doesn’t imply that they have exclusive access to any financial opportunities.
4) Check third party credentials. If the advisor or consultant does not offer any credible associations with certifying organizations, be warned. The best Financial Aid consultants are active members of associations that have strict guidelines for their members, including the Higher Education Consultants Association and the Independent Educational Consultants Association
The Financial Aid process for college admissions can be daunting, but it should always be transparent and, if laborious, at least risk-free for applicants. Having an experienced guide for the Financial Aid process can make the process easier and less stressful. Be sure to work with a consultant who has a proven track record and promises only what is ethical and reasonable to deliver – experience, guidance, and hands-on advice to achieve your college dreams!