Weird and Unusual Scholarships

There are many unique scholarships that seem unusual, strange, wacky, crazy and even just plain weird. These offbeat scholarships seem quirky because they are unexpected, not like a traditional merit-based scholarship.

Like every other scholarship, the scholarship provider seeks the student who best satisfies the provider’s selection criteria. It’s just that the provider’s criteria have a slightly different objective. Consider the Stuck at Prom scholarship for making a prom costume out of duct tape. The scholarship provider is Duck Brand Duct Tape, a manufacturer of duct tape. Part of the scholarship provider’s goal, besides sponsoring a fun scholarship, is to raise awareness that duct tape comes in multiple colors, not just gray.

Weird Scholarships Based on Physical Characteristics

Some of the most unusual scholarships are based on physical characteristics, as opposed to abilities or interests. These scholarships often take the physical characteristics to an extreme or highlight less common characteristics. There are scholarships for tall people, such as the scholarships from Tall Clubs International and Central Arizona Tall Society (C.A.T.S.), and there are scholarships for short people, such as the scholarships from Little People of America (LPA). There are also scholarships for left-handed people, such as the left-handed scholarship at Juniata College in Pennsylvania, and scholarships for fat people, such as scholarships from the National Association for the Advancement of Fat Acceptance(NAAFA). There is a scholarship for natural redheads, ScholarshipRed. There are scholarships for the children of prison inmates, such as the Willy the Plumber Scholarship.

There are many scholarships for twins. The Lake Erie College Twins Scholarship and Sterling College Two-for-One Twins Scholarship both offer a kind of "buy one, get one free" scholarship, where each twin gets a 50% discount on tuition if both twins attend the school. The Illinois Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (IOMOTC) provides a scholarship for parents of multiple-birth children. The Mid-Atlantic Twin Registry maintains a list of colleges that offer discounts for multiples. Another good resource for finding scholarships for twins is the Twins Days Festival, which is held annually on the first full weekend in August in Twinsburg, Ohio.

Weird Scholarships Based on Creativity

Aside from the NAAFA scholarship for plus-size fashion design, there are several other scholarships connected to fashion. As noted above, the Stuck at Prom Scholarship awards $10,000 scholarships to students who create (and wear) a prom costume made out of duct tape. When these students are ready for graduate school, they can enter the Marian A. Smith Costume Scholarship Award if they decide to pursue a degree in costume design and/or technology. The Two Ten Footwear Foundation awards a scholarship for footwear design. Then, there’s the Make It With Wool Competition for garments knitted from wool and a jewelry design scholarship from the Women’s Jewelry Association.

A spray-paint company awards an art scholarship, the Krylon Clear Choice Art Scholarship. The North American International Auto Show High School Poster Contest awards scholarships to Michigan high school students who design an automotive-themed poster. Each pays $1,000, much less than the Annual Create-A-Greeting-Card $10,000 Scholarship Contest sponsored by The Gallery Collection.

David Letterman, who is known for oddball humor, endowed a scholarship at his alma mater. The David Letterman Telecommunications Scholarship provides $10,000 to a Ball State University student who is majoring or minoring in telecommunications and who has "an average but creative mind." Grades are not considered for this scholarship.

The ultimate in creativity is the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest Scholarship, which involves building a complicated device to do something simple. This $4,000 scholarship is available to contest participants who enroll at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

Weird Scholarships for Creative Writing

Students generally don’t like scholarship applications that involve an essay, even a short one. But there are several less traditional essay competitions that might spark the creative writing urge.

The Ursinus College Creative Writing Award provides a scholarship worth up to $120,000. The winner gets to live in the dorm room once occupied by J.D. Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye. Salinger, who was known for his unusual and quirky brilliance, attended Ursinus in 1938 but did not graduate.

Just as quirky is the $5,000 Dr. Seuss scholarship, Seussvile: Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

There are two $5,000 scholarships from L. Ron Hubbard, Writers of the Future & Illustrators of the Future. Foreclosure.com has a $5,000 essay scholarship about dealing with challenging situations. The Ayn Rand Institute Essay Contests award scholarships worth up to $10,000. Poetry pays better, with the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship worth more than $25,000.

The American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) sponsors a scholarship for students to write about fire safety.

Weird Music Scholarships

In addition to many traditional music scholarships, there are scholarships for jazz improvisation (Central Florida Jazz Society Scholarship), percussion (Kerope Zildjian Concert Percussion Scholarship) and playing the bagpipes (Carnegie Mellon University Bagpipe Scholarship).

Weird Scholarships Related to Food

Certainly there are a lot of culinary scholarships for aspiring chefs, such as baking apple pie and chocolate chip cookies. The scholarships from the James Beard Foundation are good examples. But there are also many scholarships for different ingredients. For example, the Jif Most Creative Sandwich Contest awards a $25,000 scholarship for creating an unusual peanut butter sandwich. The winners of this scholarship demonstrate a lot of creativity beyond spreading peanut butter on bread. The John Kitt Memorial Scholarship from the American Association of Candy Technologists (AACT) provides a $5,000 scholarship to a college sophomore, junior or senior with a demonstrated interest in confectionary (candy-making) technology. The National Ice Cream Retailers Association (NICRA) provides ten scholarships worth $1,000 to $3,500 for student employees of NICRA members.  

There are scholarships for vegetarians (Vegetarian Resource Group) and scholarships for beef-eaters (National Beef Ambassador Program). The scholarship for vegetarians pays $10,000 while the beef scholarship pays only $2,500. Speaking of cows, the National Dairy Shrine Scholarships are awarded to students with an interest in milk marketing. The Asparagus Club Scholarship is awarded to students who are interested in the grocery industry, the National Poultry and Food Distributors Association Scholarships are awarded to students pursuing a degree in poultry or related agricultural fields and the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA) Scholarships are awarded to students who are pursuing a degree in a food-related field. The National Potato Council Scholarship awards $10,000 to support graduate study relating to the potato industry. The American Society for Enology and Viticulture Scholarship Program sponsors a scholarship for students interested in the wine and grape industry.

The Mycological Society of America sponsors scholarships for the study of mold, spores and fungus.

Weird Scholarships for Special Skills

Students have unusual talents. Sometimes these talents can help them win scholarships. The Icy Frost Bridge Scholarship is awarded to a female student at DePauw University who can sing or play the national anthem with sincerity. There is a scholarship for duck calling, the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest, held annually in Stuttgart, Arkansas.

There are scholarships for extra-sensory perception or ESP (Eileen J. Garrett Scholarship from the Parapsychology Foundation) and there are scholarships for Know-It-Alls (Common Knowledge Scholarship Foundation).

Weird Scholarships for Interesting Careers

The ESA Foundation Scholarship from the Entertainment Software Association Foundation provides a $3,000 scholarship to women and minority students who pursue degrees in computer science and video game arts. Other scholarships for playing or designing video games include Sony Online Entertainment’s G.I.R.L. Scholarship, the Penny Arcade Scholarship, the Randy Pausch Scholarship from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences and the Microsoft ImagineCup Games Competition.

There are scholarships for careers in vacuum coating technology, travel, tourism, welding, pulp and papermaking, mosquito control, the wood industry and migrant farmworkers. The Starfleet Academy Scholarships support students seeking degrees engineering, technology, medicine, veterinarian, art, business, management and education.

Unusual Sports Scholarships

While there are many scholarships for traditional sports, such as basketball, baseball and football, there are also scholarships for more esoteric athletic activities.

The Professional Bowlers Association and the United States Bowling Congress both award scholarships for amateur bowlers who are passionate about bowling.

There are several scholarships for divers, such as the Ocean Divers IDC Scholarship Program and the Women Divers Hall of Fame Scholarships.

There are scholarships for rodeo (Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Scholarships) and horses (American Quarter Horse Association), both quite generous. The Kathy Larson and Laurel Zechlinski Memorial Scholarships from the Michigan Llama Association provides scholarships for students who are interested in llamas and alpacas.

The Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund and the Western Golf Association Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship both offer generous scholarships for golf caddies.

The National Marbles Tournament awards $2,000 scholarships to mibsters (marble shooters) age 8 to 14.

There are scholarships for snowboarding (Chuck Allen Snowboard Scholarship Award from the United States Snowboard and Freeski Association) and for surfing (Marsh Scholarship from the Eastern Surfing Association and the National Scholastic Surfing Association), which are sort of the same thing, except that one involves frozen water and the other involves liquid water. The American Water Ski Educational Foundation sponsors scholarships that also involve liquid water.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has the Youth Education Summit (Yes) scholarships. The Wildlife Leadership Awards from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation are presented to students with a passion for wildlife conservation. The Founders Fund Scholarship from Theodore Gordon Flyfishers rewards students for their interest in angling and flyfishing. The Shaw-Worth Memorial Scholarship from the Humane Society of the United States awards a $2,500 scholarship to a New England high school senior who has made meaningful contributions to animal protection and dreams of working in the service of animals.

Weird Scholarships for Not Doing Something

Just as there are scholarships for students who can do something, there are scholarships for not doing something. But one cannot be a good-for-nothing to win these scholarships.

The Gertrude J. Deppen Scholarship is awarded to a graduate of Mount Carmel Public High School in Pennsylvania who enrolls at Bucknell University. Recipients must not be habitual users of tobacco, liquor and narcotics and must not participate in strenuous athletic contests.

The Alice Mcarver Ratchford Scholarship is awarded to a female undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro who lives on campus, does not possess an automobile, is single and who does not have any other scholarships.

The Get Up Get Active Scholarship is awarded for writing an essay about the importance of getting active. But the applicant does not need to get up off the sofa to write the essay, which sort of seems counter to the intent of the scholarship.

Weird Scholarships for Having the Right Name

Some students don’t realize that their name could be worth money, even if they don’t come from money. Students cannot become eligible by getting a legal name change.

The Zolp Scholarship is awarded to one or more students with a last name of Zolp at Loyola University of Chicago. The name Zolp must appear on the student’s birth certificate and christening certificate.

The Gatling Grant is awarded to students with a last name of Gatlin or Gatling who are enrolled at NC State. This scholarship was set up by John Gatling, an alumnus who made his fortune in real estate, and is not related to Richard Jordan Gatling, the inventor of the Gatling Machine Gun.

Even Harvard University has numerous scholarships restricted by name, such as students whose last name is Downer, Bright, Baxendale, Hudson or Thayer. There are also several scholarships for descendants of Dudley, Ellis, Amory, Pennoyer, Slater, Appel and Goodbar.

The Lambert and Annetje Van Valkenburg Memorial Scholarship Award is awarded to a student with a last name of Van Valkenburg, Van Valkenburgh, Van Volkinburg, Van Volkenburg, Van Falkenburg, Valkenburg, Vollick or Van Velkinburgh by birth or marriage.

Weird Scholarships for Being Nice

There are two scholarships for being kind. The Norman A. Miles Scholarship, also known as the Thank a Professor Scholarship, awards a $10,000 scholarship to the student with the highest GPA at Rochester Institute of Technology. This student, in turn, picks a professor to receive a $10,000 award. The Hal Reichle Memorial Scholarship is awarded to students at Hiram College for random acts of kindness.

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