As students and their families prepare to complete financial aid and scholarship forms for college, the Iowa College Student Aid Commission (Iowa College Aid) wants students to be aware that they never have to pay for help filing the FAFSA or for searching for and applying for scholarships.
Recently, companies have been contacting Iowa students and families requesting that they pay a fee in for the company to aid the student in receiving scholarships and financial aid packages. Some organizations claim students must pay an amount up front for the organization to “process” their scholarships and grants. Students and their families should be wary of any organization that requires payment for financial aid services.
“Unfortunately, there are still companies who prey on Iowa families,” said Karen Misjak, executive director of the Iowa College Student Aid Commission. “Any promise made by a company claiming to guarantee scholarships for a fee should immediately raise a red flag. A reputable company will never require a fee payment to confirm eligibility for a scholarship. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Misjak recommends that families be suspicious of claims such as:
- · “We promise to find you college scholarships or your money back.”
- · “You are guaranteed to get this scholarship.”
- · “You can’t find this information anywhere else.”
- · “You just need to pay a nominal processing fee.”
- · “Give us your credit card number and we will do all of the work.”
- · “Act now or lose out on this opportunity.”
- · “You’ve been selected” or “You are a finalist” in contests you didn’t know existed. If you haven’t applied, you can’t be selected.
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Additionally, Misjak warns that students and parents should never provide bank account information to an unknown company or person making such claims. “We have heard from families in the past who were invited to attend a “free” financial aid seminar, but once there were pressured into paying the company fees to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and to guarantee grants and scholarships.”
There are many free scholarship search tools available for students; a good starting point can be
high school counselors as well as the scholarship search available at www.IHaveAPlanIowa.gov. There are also links and other scholarship information available at Iowa College Aid’s website, www.IowaCollegeAid.gov. For specific questions or to report a questionable offer, students and families may call Iowa College Aid at