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Let’s be adult here and face this issue head on. Scam. It’s an ugly word. But it’s been in the press a lot lately. Every scholarship site and government site has a warning about fee-based scholarship services. “If you have to pay money to get money, it’s probably a scam,” they warn ominously. “Spend the time, not the money” is another one that really sounds good until you think of services you pay someone to perform because you don’t have time. Think yard work. Filing taxes. Hair styling. House painting. Car repairs. Fast food. And the list goes on. You often have someone else do the job, whether it’s preparing your will or washing your car, because that someone can do it better and faster than you can do it yourself. In other words, you turn to someone with expertise, and you get results with minimal time invested. Don’t think that all scholarship search services that charge a fee are a scam, because they are not. There are legitimate services out there that will save you time and really help you find scholarships for college, you just need to know what to look for so that you don’t get scammed by one of the bad fee-based services.

The best way to avoid being the victim of a scholarship scam is to remember the old adage: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If a scholarship search service promises you a scholarship, run the other way. If someone insists that for $5 or $30 or $50, he will guarantee you a scholarship, it is definitely a scam. Yes, there are lots of scholarship dollars available, but the truth is that no one can secure a scholarship for you but you. Only the prospective student can do the work of filling out forms, sending transcripts, and writing essays. A legitimate scholarship search service provides information that is current and accurate; it does not provide scholarships.

A legitimate scholarship search service is an information source. The company will have invested the resources to explore and compile scholarship data from all over the map. A good scholarship search service has a team of research specialists that constantly updates award information. What good is 1998’s award information to a 2005 high school graduate? So when looking for a valid, trustworthy scholarship search company, verify that the information you are getting is current. Look for a service that compiles their own database of awards and ensures up-to-date data.

Look for a scholarship search service that has a privacy policy and does not sell your personal information. Do not become part of a spamming list! When you fill out a profile with a scholarship search service, the service collects and stores your very personal information; such collecting of profile information is necessary for accurate scholarship matching. Make sure you read the privacy policy for any service you use so you know what happens to that personal information once you enter it into the website. Some websites actually make money by selling your information to third parties that want to advertise to you. Be very careful about giving out your personal information to companies without credible, clearly stated privacy policies – the last thing you need is an email inbox full of spam and a mailbox full of unwanted solicitations.

It costs money to operate a scholarship service. It is a simple fact that someone has to pay. Perhaps it is advertisers. Perhaps it is customers. Make sure you know who is paying for the service so you can adequately assess the quality of the product. If you, the customer, the consumer, are paying, then chances are good that the service is structured with your needs and goals uppermost. That is why some well-researched, fee-based scholarship search services makes sense. The service exists to serve the customer, without whom there is no service. Consider another old adage: You can’t get something for nothing….unless it isn’t worth anything.

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