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Money map or treasure chest?

"Free money for college can sound enticing, but students need to be wary of offers that are too good to be true".


Some warning signs, and where you can find legitimate help

WSJ, By Cheryl Winokur MunkJan. 2, 2020 3:25 pm ET

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-avoid-college-scholarship-scams-11577996713


The Federal Trade Commission received 725 consumer complaints in 2018 related to scholarships and educational grants. This was down a little from 770 complaints in 2017 and 972 in 2016—a somewhat encouraging sign. A good portion of this drop-off could be attributed to various campaigns to raise public awareness about scholarship scams, as well as the College Scholarship Fraud Prevention Act of 2000, which increased penalties for perpetrators.

Keep in mind, though, that these figures reflect only what consumers report to the regulator, so the actual number of fraudulent incidents could be higher. And even if scholarship scams aren’t as prevalent as they once were, they continue to ensnare some students, says Robert C. Ballard, president and chief executive of Scholarship America, a nonprofit scholarship provider.

“It only takes a few to make it worthwhile for the scammers. As long as there are people who are biting, it’s going to continue,” says Mr. Ballard, who also serves on the board of the National Scholarship Providers Association.


WHERE TO SEARCH

There are many ways students can look online for free money for college beyond opportunities made available through their local high school. Here is a sampling of several comprehensive and free search engines recommended by college counselors. Keep in mind that some of these resources may share students’ information with third parties, so those who are concerned should check the privacy policy of each site.

CareerOneStop: Sponsored by the Labor Department, this site allows students to search more than 8,000 scholarships, fellowships, grants and other financial-aid opportunities.

Cappex: College applicants can search for scholarships using criteria such as application deadline and minimum award amount. Cappex also has CollegeGreenlight, a resource for first-generation and underrepresented students, with access to $11 billion in merit aid scholarships by ethnicity, gender, college major and state.

Edvisors: Its Scholarship Matcher tool asks for students’ year in school, GPA, state, gender and ethnic background to match them with possible scholarship opportunities.

Fastweb: This database includes 1.5 million college scholarships totaling more than $3.4 billion. Users can get information on them by creating a free profile. The tool can also help students find relevant internships and part-time jobs.

Going Merry: This site matches students with scholarships and then helps them apply directly. Its database contains thousands of scholarships, both national and local, and financial aid from colleges, worth $20 billion in total. Students can also bulk-apply for multiple scholarships, which share similar essay prompts, using one application.

College Board: Students find scholarships, financial aid and internships from more than 2,200 programs, totaling nearly $6 billion. The College Board itself now offers $5 million in scholarships each year, beginning with the class of 2020. It is open to all students and it doesn’t require an essay, application or minimum GPA. Instead, it rewards students for completing key steps along the path to college with a chance to earn scholarships.

Scholarship America: Students can browse through offerings of scholarship programs according to availability and location.

Scholarships.com: Students can search more than 3.7 million college scholarships and grants totaling about $19 billion in financial aid. Students can register to be matched to opportunities they qualify for, or peruse thousands of the most popular awards within select categories.

Scholar Snapp: Students can create a profile to search for scholarship information and links to applications. Information, including contact details, teacher recommendations, video uploads, essays and more, can be used from one application to another. Students can get basic information on affiliated scholarship providers without signing in.

Unigo: Students can complete a scholarship profile to obtain personalized results or they can search through Unigo’s full scholarship directory to find basic information about scholarships in a variety of categories

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Ms. Winokur Munk is a writer in West Orange, N.J. She can be reached at reports@wsj.com.


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