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How to Avoid Scholarship Scams

A scholarship is a great way to save some money on fees. Take care to avoid getting conned by scholarship scammers.

Mahesh Ramani
How to Avoid Scholarship scams

Remember - scholarships are usually adjusted with the tuition fees that you are required to pay. No scholarship awarding agency will ask you for your personal bank account details.

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Based on studies conducted in the USA in mid-2012; it was found that gullible students and their parents lost almost US $5 million annually to scholarship scams. The value is sure to have gone up since then. With the number of Indian students choosing to apply for programmes in universities in the USA, the UK, Australia and Singapore steadily increasing; scholarship scams have been reported in India as well. This article will give you tips on how you can avoid falling into the trap of a scholarship scam.

Processing Fee Scam:

When someone says that you can get up to Rs. 25 lakhs as scholarship money and you just have to pay Rs. 1000 as application processing fee; it appears to be a small price to pay for a large amount. Do remember, genuine scholarships awarding agencies will not ask you to pay an upfront fee to process the scholarship application.

The Sales Meet:

Disguised as seminars with some tea or coffee and snacks thrown in for good measure, some groups assure that you will receive a scholarship if you apply through them. These are tested ‘sales techniques’ in which these unscrupulous people try to win your confidence. They might even offer you souvenirs like pens, key-chains, etc., with their branding. Then they will aim to secure a ‘small fee’ from you. Again a clear case of scammers evolving with the times! Never ever sign any official-looking document or share your bank details with such people.    

Share your Bank Details:

Remember - scholarships are usually adjusted with the tuition fees that you are required to pay. No scholarship awarding agency will ask you for your personal bank account details. If someone asks for such details, it is a warning alert - just run away!

Assured Scholarship for a Fee:

Then there are advertisements, which assure you of ‘guaranteed scholarships’ for a small ‘processing fee’. No one can guarantee scholarships. Scholarships are awarded based on academic merit or skills and proficiency in sports or the arts. If someone claims that they can secure a scholarship for you for a fee/commission then rest assured it is a scam.

Apply Now for a Bigger Scholarship:

There are deadlines to apply for scholarships and that is perfectly legal. But if someone says if you apply by a specific date, you will get a bigger share of the scholarship; something is very wrong! Everyone has an equal chance at securing a scholarship; applicants are rewarded based on their abilities.

Online Adverts:

These are the irritating pop-ups that appear when you are browsing the internet with the promise of a pre-approved scholarship. How can any scholarship be approved in advance is something that you need to ask yourself. Scammers are using emails to target students with fantastic promises and attractive pictures. Some make sweeping claims like - ‘The longest running scholarship offered in …’or ‘Over 10 million U.S. dollars given in scholarships so far, did you apply?’ These are alluring and designed to extract money from you. Do not fall prey to such adverts!

Identifying Genuine Scholarships:

  • Apply directly at the institution where you aspire to study. Most institutions offer a list of recognised and genuine scholarships. Pick a relevant scholarship from the list and apply.
  • Institutions like the Tata Group have been offering scholarships to meritorious students for some time now. Apply for scholarships offered by respected institutions and charitable organisations.
  • Organisations like the U.S. Embassy and the British Council regularly offer fellowships and scholarships. The Fulbright Award and Nehru Chevening Scholarships are trusted names. 
  • Visit the Education UK website for information on scholarships available for study in the UK.
  • When in doubt, contact the awarding institution directly for more information on scholarships. A genuine organisation should help you with your queries.

Exercise discretion and caution; do your research thoroughly and then apply for a scholarship. As stated earlier no genuine scholarship awarding agency will ask you to pay money for anything. So be careful and do not get conned by scammers and dubious scholarship granting agencies.

Do you know someone who was tricked and fell prey to scholarship fraud? Share their experiences in the ‘Comments’ section below.

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