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Friday, March 3, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 108

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Web site offers scholarships to registered users

By Juliana Coutinho
Daily Cougar Staff

The chances of winning a $10,000 scholarship might be better than you think -- and the money may be a few clicks of the mouse away.

The Web site FreeScholarships.com is drawing $10,000 daily for educational expenses at no charge to those who register at the site and participate in its activities.

In addition to the daily $10,000, participants have the chance to win $25,000 every month -- the next drawing will be held Monday -- and $50,000 quarterly, with a drawing scheduled for April 1.

The money can be used by the participant, a friend or a relative to pay for tuition, books and loans from preschool to graduate school. Participants must be U.S. citizens older than 13.

Damon Derrick of Mauriceville, a town located about 100 miles east of Houston, was the second $10,000 winner.

"The day I signed up was the day I won," Derrick, 17, said. "My family and I are really happy about this money, which will be put into an account and saved for college."

Derrick, a junior at Little Cypress High School, plans to attend UH or Lamar University in Beaumont and become a businessman or an orthodontist.

The software company MathSoft Inc. launched FreeScholarships.com on Feb. 3. The site had to be taken offline for more than two weeks due to heavy traffic, said Kathy Kessel, the site's executive vice president of marketing, but it has since gone back up with new equipment to handle the rush.

"FreeScholarships.com provides a realistic way to get money for school," Kessel said. "Most people don't qualify for financial aid based on need, academic or athletic merit, but they still need help to finance their education."

In light of recent high-publicity hacking attacks on computer systems worldwide, the company wanted to ensure its 30,000 registered members' information was safe.

"We hired a specialized company to craft and develop privacy policy on the site and audit it on a regular basis," Kessel said.

To enter the daily drawings, contestants need to visit the site daily because the odds of winning are reset after each drawing. A registered member may increase his or her chances of winning by answering surveys and polls, clicking on advertisements, referring friends or playing an onsite game.

Money for the scholarships is provided by companies, most of them e-businesses. Prize money is sent directly to recipients' schools or banks (in the case of loan payments) to ensure that it is used for education.

Robert Sheridan, director of scholarships and financial aid at UH, urged students to be careful when entering Web contests.

"Explore all kinds of possibilities when it comes to applying for scholarships, but always pay attention to the safety issues," Sheridan said. "When someone starts to ask for credit card and Social Security numbers, you need to be cautious."

Nevertheless, Sheridan said FreeScholarships.com seems to be legitimate. "I am telling my daughter about this one," he said.

And don't try to tell Derrick it was a bad idea to check the site out.

"I had never expected to win money so easily," he said. "I even thought it was another one of those mails: ‘You just won $10,000!' I called the company and I had really won. It was an incredible feeling."
 

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