College Payoff: Beware of Certain Sites During Free Money Search

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CLEVELAND-- 18-year-old Derrick Simpson is a man with a plan. He graduates from Cleveland's School of the Arts in just a few weeks and the rest of his life is all mapped out.

"I have to go to college. I have to be successful. That's what I tell myself every day, like I just have to go," he told FOX 8’s Lorrie Taylor.

Simpson insisted he also has to pay his own way, or as much of it as he can. He's applying for scholarships and grant money the way some people apply for full time employment.

"I feel that it's my education, so I should be responsible for at least the majority of the amount," he said.

Simpson said his guidance counselor, Tess Clarke, has warned him and his classmates, to beware of fee-based websites that can be mistaken for the Department of Education's internet page.

FAFSA is the government’s site. It’s where aspiring college students can go to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, without spending money to apply.

"You should never have to pay to apply for any scholarship or to submit any paperwork for scholarship,” said Clarke. “That's a very important thing for everyone to know."

Clarke told Taylor that guidance counselors are an important resource in protecting a student during their scholarship search. At the School of the Arts, kids are given access to a database where scholarships are screened for legitimacy.

It's advice Simpson said he appreciates, as the clock winds down on his personal deadline for finding scholarship money without a hassle.

CLICK for a link to FAFSA.

CLICK to read more on Lorrie Taylor's college series.