Recently I overheard a conversation between a high school senior and her adult mentor. I was on my way to a meeting but the content of their conversation literally stopped me in my tracks. The 12th grader was excited because she had come across a “reasonably priced” service that would assist her on her Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for a mere $300. I tried to contain my combined feeling of shock, anger and disgust as I asked, “What are they going to do for you?” She happily replied that this service was “cool” because she would submit her financial information to the “counselors” and they would file her official FAFSA. She continued by telling me that they are even going to send her a list of scholarships that she would be eligible for and, as a bonus, they were going to send her reminders each year when it was time to file the FAFSA. Looking back, I wonder if the student could tell how crestfallen I was that she had thrown $300 out of the window.
Unfortunately, this young lady is not alone. Many students spend money unnecessarily hoping to get help with the college admissions process. There are three areas that I have observed college-bound students needlessly spending funds:
1. Paying for help with the FAFSA – It’s not called the FREE Application for Federal Student Aid by mistake. Many school systems and some non-profit organizations even sponsor events where families can get help with the FAFSA by trained individuals.
2. Paying for help to find scholarships – Some of the so-called scholarship search systems provide nothing more than what could be discovered by doing a Google search.
3. Paying for expensive enrichment activities – Some companies send out very official-looking envelopes that contain ”exclusive” and/or “special invitation”offers for students. Almost always the implication is that participating in this activity will help your student get into college. While these opportunities may be valid in and of themselves, the value that they hold in the college admissions process is doubtful. Check out what I have had to say about this in a previous blog post.
The bottom line is to be careful. Do your research before spending your money.
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