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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You don't have to pay to play

A few weeks ago, we got invited to a college fair in the suburb of a small city in the south. The invitation came from a yahoo email address and no one recognized the name of the group behind it. The fair was being held at a golf club and the letter said there would be a $10,000 "scholarship" given out, raffle style, to one of the attendees. To have a table at the fair, all we had to do was pay $1,180.

Needless to say, we declined.

The person behind that yahoo email address has been pretty persistent and has continued to email us, wondering how we could pass up on this opportunity.

Around the same time, we got anther invitation to a fair, this time costing us close to $900. The students invited to attend were ones who paid $45 to belong to some scholars society. You probably know these groups...they sound impressive, but I could nominate CavDog for membership and they'd happily cash the check and add him to the rolls.

I asked around about whether people were seeing a rise in the number of these fairs and a colleague in Ohio reported back that their local TV station sponsored a college day and wanted $1,000 for a table that their fair and $17,000 from colleges that wanted to co-sponsor (no report on whether anyone took them up on that offer).

In case you didn't know, those costs are insane. Most college fairs are free to both the colleges and the students. There are a few, mostly those held in giant convention centers, that cost a little bit on the college's side, but the fees are no where near those I described above.

It's no secret that there are a lot of people out there who are willing to help you with your college search for a fee. Some of the help these people give is great, but there are people out there who are hoping to make some money off the fear and anxiety that surrounds this process. I want you to know and I want you to make sure your friends know that they don't have to "pay to play".

Students and parents should not be paying a fee to attend college fairs or information sessions. We hear about events with admission fees every year (especially events about financial aid and scholarships), but it seems as though the number of them is growing. Stay away from them.