Beware of Financial Aid Scams


A few years ago a close family member contacted me for assistance with completing his Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). We discussed the differences between loans and gift aid (e.g. grants). In the coming weeks, we exchanged text messages and he asked me, “Are you sure FAFSA is free? I have completed my form and in order to be eligible for financial aid it reads that I have to submit my credit card information.”

I immediately called him and asked what website he was on. I informed him that the FAFSA has always been free and if there is a fee it’s a scam. Over the years, I have also come across websites seeking individual’s social security number and payment information to apply for scholarships. The FAFSA is free, hence the first word, “FREE” Application for Federal Student Aid, and organizations that award legitimate scholarships will not ask you to pay to apply.

Please read scholarship applications closely to avoid scams. Also, the only place online to submit your FAFSA is through: .

Remember to submit your FAFSA as soon as possible for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions.

Happy New Year!

~Dr. O




It’s Late, But Not Too Late!




The summer is coming to a halt, and it’s almost time to return to campus for the Fall 2016 semester. I remember returning home for summers to enjoy time with family and reconnect with friends from high school. My best friend attended college out-of-state, so the summer was our time to have fun before going back to our jobs—school!

Many students today are busy and multitask various responsibilities. Those who do not lounge the summer away pursue internships, full-time employment, volunteer, and/or enroll in summer courses. Therefore, I understand why individuals miss scholarship deadlines although they have a desire to reduce their reliance on student loans. It is important to apply for scholarships early, however, if you did not for whatever reason, do not fret. Below are some opportunities that may interest you.

***Scholarships with Upcoming Deadlines***





Also, feel free to get a jump-start and search for scholarship opportunities for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Stay tuned and feel free to leave questions or comments below.

~Dr. O


I Won!


Yup, I won, and you can too!

I am a member of a fitness group that provides many resources including online challenges, recipes, and healthy eating tips. Last week, I entered a challenge and answered the following question posted  by the group administrator.

How many steps did I have for this week (5 days)? 

Fitbit walking trackers encourage their consumers to start with 10,000 steps/day, and the group administrator who has been participating in these challenges for a while can double this amount. So, I doubled the fitbit starting point and added an additional 5,000 steps to arrive at my guess of 105,000 steps.

A few days later, I was notified that I had won the challenge and I could pick up my prize at the local fitness class where we meet three times weekly. I was immediately happy because I love winning prizes. Later, I went back to the discussion forum to review the responses and see how close I came to the actual number. As I perused the forum, I noticed that I was the only one who participated—I won by default! Which was OK with me. There are over 200 group members and I was the only one to submit an answer for this challenge.

When I reflect on my experience of being the only participant in the challenge it made me think of the advice I provide through this blog. When submitting my guess I did not know if I was going to win, but I knew I was going to offer an educated guess based on what I knew about step tracking, the administrator, and fitness. Regardless of the outcome and the number of applicants,  I was a contender because I put in some work before I entered my submission.

Through Become A Debt-Free Scholar I encourage individuals to search everywhere for financial aid resources and to submit their best application packet. In previous posts, I mentioned how I have heard students express that they do not want to write or that they pass by scholarship opportunities because they think they’re not a competitive candidate. I always say, if you meet the requirements—apply! You never know the composition of the applicant pool.

I understand that winning a fitness challenge and earning a scholarship result in two different outcomes, but the processes are similar. Both have eligibility requirements, a submission deadline, review period, and the announcement of a decision. So, the next time you may want to turn away from a scholarship that you qualify to apply for, think of my experience and how I was the only one to participate in a challenge, and won!

“If you’re not actively involved in getting what you want, you don’t really want it.”

-Peter McWilliams, Author

Feel free to contact me if you have questions. Make sure to check back for scholarship search tips and announcements.

~Dr. O