2018-07-05 / News

School district issues warning to college applicants

Most scholarship information available free of charge
By Paula K. Schmidt
810-452-2647 • pschmidt@mihomepaper.com

GRAND BLANC — Paying for College is daunting for many Grand Blanc students and parents, but do your research before paying anyone else to help you find aid. Grand Blanc Schools has received word that some of our families are receiving letters offering services to help you find ways to pay for college. The administration asks you to beware of any unsolicited contact from private companies. Companies may be contacting our students and parents by phone, email or through the mail. Similar companies have been charging people excessive amounts of money to provide information which can likely be found for free.

Most genuine sources of assistance are going to come from government agencies, Grand Blanc High School staff, or the colleges themselves, and don’t cost a penny. The federal government says to be wary if what the seller is offering seems to be good to be true. These companies often use high-pressure tactics, and create urgency to sign on the dotted line. They may offer services for free and then ask for money after contact has been made. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) website says companies tap into the anxiety parents feel about paying for college, and make urgent statements like, "Buy now or miss this opportunity." They may invite you to a “free” seminar where they claim if you leave without buying the service, you will have to pay more or not be able to receive services.

The US Department of Education website states, “Remember, the ‘opportunity’ is a chance to pay for information you could find yourself for free.” There is a vast amount of free information out there, and it takes just a little effort in this online age to access a host of organizations and scholarship applications on your own. One of the most crucial things you can do is to fill out the FAFSA by the deadline given by your State and Federal agencies. FAFSA applications usually begin acceptance in October of the year prior to graduation. The State of Michigan deadline for fall was March 1 and the Federal deadline is June 30 this year. Changes can be made until September. If you’ve missed the state deadline, it is still a good idea to fill out the application. Even if you aren’t sure what your plans are, it is a good idea to fill out the application. The process is free and is often a prerequisite for other state and local scholarships.

The State of Michigan Department of Education has a State Higher Education Agency with a website that lists scholarship opportunities and other valuable information. The site states the following: “High school seniors should be ready to start their scholarship applications in the fall. High school underclassmen should research scholarship opportunities and begin assembling application components so that they can prepare their scholarship applications in the fall of their senior year.”

The US Department of Education lists the following recommended free resources for advice:

• The financial aid office at a college or career school

• A high school or TRIO counselor (Department of Education)

• The U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool

• Your state grant agency

• Your library’s reference section

• Foundations, religious or community organizations, local businesses, or civic groups

• Organizations (including professional associations) related to your field of interest

• Ethnicity-based organizations

• Your employer or your parents’ employers

Some scholarship deadlines are as early as a year before college starts, so if you’re in high school now, you should be researching and applying for scholarships during the summer between your junior and senior years.

Here are some places to get started: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/scams#dont-pay-for-help https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/trio/index.html?exp=5 http://www.geneseeisd.org/892/Genesee-County-Educational-Foundation

If you aren’t at the stage of getting ready for college just yet, talk to your high school counselor during the school year about what career paths you are considering and what options there are to save some money now. There are many opportunities to earn college credit while still in high school that will save some money later on, as well as trades programs that will give you a sound foundation for a great career after high school. — P.S.

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