Scams are everywhere these days. And college finances are a tempting target of unscrupulous companies. Luckily, you can avoid them. Here are some helpful tips:
FAFSA is free
This is important. FAFSA stands for “FREE Application for Federal Student Aid.” It costs nothing to fill it out on your own and submit it. It’s one of the few truly free things about college. So, whenever possible, fill it out yourself. There are a lot of questions to answer, and you may have to work to find some of the information you’ll need, but it’s still free. Give yourself plenty of time to do it, read it carefully, and be ready to have very honest conversations with your family about money.
If it’s not free, stay away
Seriously, if you don’t have to pay for something, then don’t. If a company is asking for your personal and payment information before even starting the work, then beware. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, just this past week, issued a complaint against a company that charged a yearly fee for preparing the form, allegedly without telling people they would be charged. You shouldn’t need to pay a processing fee to submit a free application. And be just as cautious of “you’ve already been selected for a scholarship” the same way you would “you may already be a winner.” Stay away from it. Use your common sense, be cautious, and you’ll be able to avoid a lot of scams easily.
Do your research
You’ll need to research and ask your family about some items on the FAFSA, especially the financial information. Start learning about financial literacy through resources like ionLearn. High school guidance counselors and college financial aid offices can also help. They’re used to answering questions and want students to succeed. If you absolutely have to use a third party service to fill it out, research them. Get their references and check them. Read the fine print. Ask about refund policies. However, there are enough established student resources out there that you really shouldn’t need to pay for the help.
The FAFSA may feel long, complex, or maybe frustrating or confusing the first time you look at it. It can also be a way to get the best financial aid possible and it’s free. Take your time and if you get confused, ask for help or look up some free resources. Congratulate yourself for completing your FASFA, and for saving your money for after you get to college.
For information about the beneficial student loan management tools from iontution.com, we invite you to watch this short overview. Check out ionManage. Like what you see? Sign up for your account here!
Tom Wray is all about the research, getting it right, and making it relevant. He’s got solid journalistic experience in all forms of content delivery – and he’s got his keyboard humming with what’s up and important for students, college admins, parents, employers and news junkies.