Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and applying for scholarships can be time-consuming, but it can help pay for college or reduce your student loans.

You may have received offers from individuals or companies to find scholarships or complete the FAFSA for a fee. HESC urges students and families to be aware of the paid services.

Be aware of these common FAFSA and scholarship myths and scams:

Scam: We have the secret formula for getting more federal aid.
The key to receiving federal financial aid is to complete the FAFSA. Remember, the first word in FAFSA is “free.” You don’t have to pay for a service to prepare the FAFSA for you. There are no secret formulas or sources of college aid, and the amount of aid you’ll receive is based on your financial need.

Scam: We guarantee to get you scholarship aid – we’ll do all the work.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Remembering this adage can help you determine whether or not to use a scholarship-finding service. Most scholarship search services match your profile to publicly available scholarship sources. No legitimate scholarship sponsor can guarantee you will win an award.

Myth: Only “A” students get scholarships.
Students with higher grades can compete for academic scholarships, but many scholarship committees look for more than grades. Some scholarship requirements may include involvement in community or extracurricular activities; others may require a particular skill or talent.

Myth: You need tons of community service and extracurricular activities to get scholarships.
Not every scholarship requires extracurricular activities, and each scholarship’s criteria are different. While some may value community service and volunteer work, others may prioritize certain skills, achievements, goals, or leadership roles.

Scam: We need your credit card to “hold” your scholarship. Trustworthy scholarships will not ask you for your credit card number. This is a red flag…do not give your credit card information to anyone you don’t trust. You may be setting yourself up for an unauthorized charge or, worse yet, for identity theft.

Myth: Only the neediest students get scholarships.
While many scholarships are based on financial need, many others are based on merit, academic interest, essays, or audition. 

Myth: Scholarships will reduce the amount of financial aid I’ll receive.
You must report all scholarships or financial gifts you will be using for college when applying for financial aid. Receiving scholarships may change the amount of need-based financial aid you receive. They may also reduce your need for loans. Often, a scholarship has little effect on your total financial aid package.

You can learn more about scholarship myths and scams by visiting the Federal Trade Commission Scholarship Scams Website.