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Study abroad : Before you leave

Scholarship scams! Beware!

Every year many of students looking to study abroad are targeted by unscrupulous people looking to scam those unaware. We want to give you a few tips that might help you to identify those fraudulent situations.


Every year many international organisations, universities, charities and other funding bodies join the international effort to provide resources for those who most need it. But as the need for funding to study increases, so will opportunities for scams, mainly in the context of the internet. Hotcourses Abroad wants to warn you on those risks on the web.

As costs for funding increase, the need for scholarships and bursaries is greater everywhere. International organisations have been committed to the challenge of providing to brilliant pupils that seek to pursue education abroad. In many cases the first point of contact is via internet as general info, application details and other requirements are posted online.

However, increasingly in America, there are reports of ‘scammers’ that pose as scholarship providers. Each year around $1 million is lost to people to fall for these scams. U.S. News & World Report warns international students applying for scholarships in the United States never to pay when searching or applying for scholarships.

“If a scholarship search engine or application asks you for a credit card or other financial information before you can use it, stay away,” added the report.

As we do not want anyone to fall for this due to lack of information, please keep the following tips in mind: 

  • Having to pay

Legitimate scholarships providers will never charge you for your right to apply to a scholarship. If words like ‘cost’, ‘purchase’, ‘redemption’, ‘fee’ and ‘payment’ are lurking around the description of the scholarship, then chances are it’s not real. Contests and sweepstakes should be read carefully. Also, ignore any emails that promise you funding in exchange for a cheque or a deposit.  

  • Look out for trigger words

Scammers will often include official logos from governments, banks and education-based institutions to accompany their emails when they target you.

So how to determine which foundations or funding organisations are legitimate? Try to contact the sponsor or run a search online to find out more about the organisation that is mention. Check for specifications on eligibility, application procedure, due dates, etc. Legitimate scholarships offer all this information to make the process fair. 

  • Asking for personal information

For many international students it is common to hand over personal information as part of the application process. However, you should never provide any personal information such as your bank details, a passport number, credit or bank card PIN numbers or any other kind of identification that can be used for fraud.

If you encounter any scholarship that sounds might switch your ‘danger alarm’ on, you can always check with your educational advisor or with the university you are applying to and they will be able to guide you.

  • Try to get all your correspondence in writing

Try to keep track of all your communications with the sponsor in writing, so you don’t jeopardise your opportunity to study abroad. Try to keep your prospective university informed of these communications so they can help you during your application process. Be careful with responding to unsolicited ‘opportunities.’ Genuine scholarship bodies will have a website where everyone can access their application process in an equal manner.


Read more

You can find more info about scholarship scams in this article about Finding Financial aid.

If your student loan money has run out, small bursaries can also be most helpful to boost your budget!

Consult our list of funding opportunities following the link.

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Aspiring journalist and Cambridge University graduate, Londoner 'by adoption'. Tweeting for @hotcourses_Abrd