Ball State does not advise you to pay for scholarship search services. Each year, the U.S. Department of Education receives numerous complaints from students and parents who did not receive the information they expected from a paid scholarship search service.
Ball State does not evaluate private scholarship search services. If you decide to use one of these services, you should check its reputation by contacting the Better Business Bureau, a school guidance counselor, or a state attorney general’s office.
Additionally, investigate the organization yourself before making a commitment:
- Ask for names of three or four local families who have used its services recently.
- Ask how many students have used the service and how many of them received scholarships as a result.
- Find out about the service’s refund policy.
- Get everything in writing.
- Read all the fine print before signing anything.
Questionable Tactics to Monitor
Some services will tell you that millions of dollars in student aid go unclaimed every year. The large figures you may hear or read about usually represent an estimated national total of employee benefits or member benefits. Usually, such benefits are available only to the employees (and their families) of a specific company, or to the members of a specific union or other organization.
Some claim that you can't get the same information anywhere else. Many services make you pay to get information you could have received for free from a college financial aid office, state education agency, local library, the U.S. Department of Education, or the Internet. Remember that you can find out about student aid without paying a fee to a search service.
Others request your credit card or bank account number to hold student financial aid for you. Search services do not, in most cases, provide any awards directly to applicants, apply on behalf of applicants, or act as a disbursing agent for financial aid providers. You should never give out a credit card or bank account number unless you know the company or organization you are giving it to is legitimate.
Others try to get you to send them money by claiming that you are a finalist in a scholarship contest. Most sources of financial aid have application deadlines and eligibility criteria; they do not, generally, operate like a sweepstakes.
Scholarship seminars frequently end with one-on-one meetings in which a salesperson pressures the student to "buy now or lose out on this opportunity." Legitimate services don't use such pressure tactics.
The Scholarship Fraud Prevention Act created a fraud-awareness partnership between the U.S. Department of Education and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). For more information about scholarship scams or to report a scam, call the FTC toll-free at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357).