Study Abroad: Is Scholarship A Marketing Gimmick To Trap Students?

According to some experts, scholarships have become a marketing gimmick to attract foreign students as they pay four times more fees than any local candidate.

Scholarships from foreign universities are often a means to trap ambitious students pursuing a dream

Unclear facts around scholarships offered by low-ranked foreign universities are often a means to trap overseas students

Scholarships from foreign universities are often a means to trap ambitious students pursuing a dream to study abroad.

Take the case of Sumit Wadhwa (name changed) who received a scholarship from a very low-ranked US-based university last year. As per the offer letter of the university, Wadhwa had clinched an impressive $20,000 scholarship.

Sumit was supposed to pay only the remaining 50% of the fee. However, the letter didn’t mention whether it was a one-time scholarship or an annual reward money till the completion of the four-year course.

The University’s agent working in India convinced Wadhwa that he would get a 50 per cent discount on the fee every year helping him save close Rs 65 lakh in four years.

Wadhwa, clearly, was in for a shocker. “But when I moved to the US and started attending my classes, I got to know that it was a one-time grant. My family didn’t have the money to afford such high fees so I have to return to India in the middle of the course,” Wadhwa said. He not only lost his academic year but also Rs 20 lakh in the process.

Counsellors and experts recount cases in which many students have to work in foreign countries illegally after falling into the scholarship trap. Professor Amarjiva Lochan, an expert at the India Centre for Migration (ICM), which serves as a research think tank to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on international migration and mobility, says, “Agents misguide students and families as they get a hefty commission from the university. Students get the scholarship for just one semester after which the college demands full fee for the rest of the course.”

“Such students often resort to work illegally apart from studying as they don’t have the work permit. Even the family faces hardship in arranging money because their education budget overshoots unexpectedly,” said Professor Lochan, who is also the foreign students’ adviser in Delhi University.

 Some experts say that scholarship has become a marketing gimmick to attract foreign students as they pay four times more fees than any local candidate.

“For the academic session 2022-26, students have got scholarships between $12,000 and $19,000 based on their academic capabilities. But that’s a one-time scholarship and not renewable for the next academic session. Agents often misread and misinform students so that they can maximize their own commission from the university,” said a professor from a reputed international college requesting anonymity.  

Mostly, scholarship is offered by top global universities for genuine academic excellence and other factors like leadership and skills. However, parents should not lose sight of the fact that low-ranked universities use it as a honey trap.  

Adarsh Khandelwal, Managing Director, Collegify – a global firm in the study abroad space said, “Indian parents perceive getting scholarship a matter of success and pride. It gives them an impression that their children are being treated as scholars and that they will get it every year. Reality is often bitter than their perception.”

He adds that one shouldn’t blame the universitie. “I don’t think it’s the universities’ fault. Colleges give a one-time scholarship perhaps as an incentive to attract international students to enrol and pay up with them for undergraduate/graduate courses,” Khandelwal said.

“I have seen students with 70 to 80 per cent marks and a SAT optional background offered scholarships in the range of $12000-15000. It’s great but they should evaluate the ROI,” he cautioned.

Other experts second Khandelwal saying that international students pay a significantly higher fee as compared to local students. Hence, it’s imperative to do one’s research before enrolling in any particular college. 

“US colleges offer a variety of courses with some of them designed only to attract international students. As it funds their overall expenses, it’s important to evaluate and know your facts well,” a study abroad counsellor, requesting anonymity, said.  

Understanding all the hidden facts around a scholarship thus becomes essential before depositing money and seeking admission in any foreign university.