Watch out for scholarship scams

scholarship scams“We can help your kids find scholarship dollars.” Those magic words from a new tenant in my husband’s office building sounded good. With two off to college next fall, we are searching for free money. I had read about admissions and scholarship coaches who help students work through applications, and those coaches came with a hefty price tag. Besides, our twins have already been accepted at their number one choice, so we don’t need admission help. This fellow said nothing about admissions, just scholarships, and he said we didn’t pay him until the kids actually won the awards. Sounded too good to be true, and it was.

I set up an appointment, but I was a little leery when every email from him had a grammatical error in it. Still, I went to the meeting. Fifteen minutes later, I knew we were the victims of bait and switch. He hadn’t even mentioned scholarships; he just tried to sell us an annuity.

I have nothing against annuities, and the man certainly wasn’t doing anything illegal. It wasn’t exactly a scam, but it was definitely misrepresentation. When he finally stopped talking long enough for me to ask a question, I pinned him down about scholarships. And what did he say? He suggested the kids apply for merit scholarships at their university. Wow! Why didn’t we think of that?

When I told him we had already taken care of that angle, he said, “Well, I can’t help you there.”

He does keep calling us, even though we have politely told him no, thank you, and this is not the solution we’re looking for. His offer might be a way to pay for college for some folks, but we just don’t see it as a good investment. Of course, what is really irritating is his misrepresentation as a college funding expert with the inside scoop on scholarships. I have the feeling there are a lot more like him out there. Watch out!

Our twins are now on the downhill slide. There are only a few months of high school left, and they are definitely suffering from “senioritis.” Yes, they’re keeping their grades up fine, but their hearts sure aren’t in it. And as for me, I have a crying spell every time I think about graduation.

budget-for-collegeWe were a little amazed last year when we suddenly realized college costs more than just tuition. There’s food, books, the occasional “I’m broke” SOS, and of course, a place to live. Our kids will be attending a university that has 24,000 students and only 2,800 on-campus beds. Living off campus is a way of life for most of the students. While this might not work for every college, our university is in a small town where the college IS the town. And there is an absolutely great university transportation system, which is free by the way.

So, we decided to invest in the college housing market. Instead of paying dorm or apartment rent each month, we’ll be building equity. We purchased a three bedroom, three bath condominium for the twins to live in. They’ve already found a roommate for next fall. As we researched the pros and cons of this, we discovered more and more parents are doing this. It’s a viable alternative to sending money down the dorm/apartment drain.

The twins have finally started applying for scholarships. (Perhaps the threat of Mom and Dad putting that condo right back on the market had something to do with that.) Just before Christmas we received the news that our son has won a $14,000 merit scholarship from his college. Grandma has kicked in for the first year for both of them, and that money is now earning interest in a money market certificate. We figure we have three of eight years completely paid for now.

What’s next? More scholarship applications and more essays! But we’re staying away from that fellow in my husband’s business.

By Jane


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