How to spot a scholarship scam

27 September 2017

As Canadians, we know there are limited university spots available for degrees like medicine, dentistry, and law, and fewer places available for rehabilitation sciences programs like physiotherapy and speech pathology. So what do students do?

While some may give up on their dreams of becoming a doctor, others decide to apply to universities outside Canada, like Australia. If you’ve considered studying abroad, you know that international student fees don’t come cheap, and finding a way to fund your studies can become an insurmountable obstacle. For some, this is a mountain of a deal-breaker. For others, this is merely a tiny molehill.

How to spot a scholarship scam
Too good to be true?

If you’re the latter, you already know about getting a student line of credit. Some major Canadian banks do approve lines of credit for Canadians studying internationally. The drawback to getting a loan is the “paying it back” part. This is where scholarships come in. Some Australian universities automatically assess you for an international scholarship based on your program choice and your GPA; others require you to apply. There are also other sources of scholarships, depending on your location and credentials, and there are also people out there looking to scam you.

The best way to guard yourself from a scholarship scam is to know how they work. As the saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Here are some examples of some “fishy” scam tactics:

Scholarship is open to everyone! – Um, no. Scholarships are almost always available to those applying to a specific program or faculty—those applicants usually have great grades and great references, or a specific background.

You have to pay them – It’s like a young girl dreaming of becoming a model: the modelling agency is dying to work with her, but the girl has to pay for her entire portfolio. Pffft. Professional companies don’t work like that. Whenever you are applying for a scholarship, never send money or pay an application fee. You should not have to send money to an organisation to get a scholarship. If they are asking for money “up front,” fuhgeddaboudit.

Application is too easy – Many legitimate scholarships require a personal statement or short essay, plus official transcripts, plus references.

Loan fees required asap – Legit loan companies will add fees to your loan balance, which you will repay over time.

“Guarantees” – There are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. Don’t trust anyone who advertises that they will guarantee to get you a scholarship. Again, many of these companies will ask for a fee and may even offer a money-back guarantee, but will never get you a scholarship. Buh-bye.

Official-sounding titles that make you go hmmm – Titles with words like “national” and “official” should make you hesitate. They may be trying to sound official to cover up the scam.

No photos or proof of former winners – Can’t see any student photos or reviews or university references? Might be a scam—unless it’s brand new. Be aware.

Contact them – This is the easiest way to determine if the scholarship is a scam. They should freely post contact information, including phone number, email address, and physical address because they have nothing to hide! Real companies will be glad to have you contact them and scam organisations won’t.

Get references –  This is when you Google the crap out of the company. As your Canadian university if they’ve heard about it.

Where should you look?

There are several Canadian websites listing scholarships for students. Check out the following:


Do you have questions about finding scholarships or about studying in Australia? Contact OzTREKK at or 1-866-698-7355.