Studentship Opportunities: 5 Things To Watch Out For

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If you are looking for PhD funding, all offers look attractive—especially if you are finding it difficult to achieve your goals. However, potential postgrads must be wary, as not all studentships are a good choice. Here are five tips on what to watch out for. 

1. Is it legit?

Sadly, high competition for PhD funding has led to efforts by scammers to part students from their money. If you are unfamiliar with the organisation offering the studentship, research it. Don't rely on what their Web site says, check with Companies House (or the Better Business Bureau, for US or Canadian firms) if it is a corporate sponsor, and with the Charities Commission or non-profit charity watchdogs (see Resources, below) for voluntary sector sponsors.

Be particularly wary of scholarship offers that require an application fee, and watch out for identity fraud—be careful with personal details, credit card or bank account information, etc.

2. Is it the right fit for you?

Checking the sponsor will also give you information about their orientation. If your research interests or personal beliefs run counter to the sponsor’s, it’s likely that a) you will not be approved in the first place or b) you will eventually come into conflict. University departments often (though not always) include academics whose research covers multiple topics and viewpoints, but corporate and charity sponsors may expect you to back up and/or present their agenda. In addition, you will be identified with the sponsor for the rest of your career—make sure it’s a link you can feel proud of.

3. Are you really eligible?

Studentship sponsors note that every year they receive many applications from people who do not meet their student criteria (age, academic level/degree class, etc.), and either apply anyway or try to hide their ineligibility. Not eligible? Don't bother—they will not make an exception, no matter how fantastic you are.

4. Can you afford it?

Many studentships do not cover your full costs. That’s fine if you can fill in the gaps with another grant, a Personal Development loan, or a part-time job. Watch out, however: some studentship rules explicitly state that sponsored students must devote themselves to the research project full-time and must not work during the time they are sponsored.

Consider the impact of location on your costs as well. Will you need to move house? Will you have to live in London or another expensive location? Are you expected to fund your own travel, or overseas costs during research trips. 

5. Departmental problems.

One of the best reasons for visiting university departments where you hope to do postgraduate work is the opportunity to talk to current postgrads. You may find out that a particular supervisor is impossible to work with, a department is under immanent threat of closure, or a research project is doomed. You will have to make your own decision, but think long and hard before joining a team, department or project that could actually harm your career.


Better Business Bureau

Charity Commission  


Charity Navigator

Companies House

Federal Student Aid (US): Scholarship and Financial Aid Scams

Career Paths for PhDs ebook

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