Scholarships are abundant for exceptional athletes, exceptional students and those with proven leadership skills. What about average students? Minority students? Students with talents not as much in-demand?
If you fall into some of the latter categories, you may have been out of luck at one time. But today there are many scholarships for average students, minorities and those with other talents. In fact, there are some just plain weird scholarships that can help you pay for college, just like those scholarships awarded to athletes and over-achievers.
Miscellaneous scholarships can be unique, unusual or just plain wacky. Your instinct might be to discount them or ignore them, but that’s the last thing you should do. The money these scholarships pay is as real as that paid to any student athlete. In fact, fewer students usually apply for these scholarships, so they’re actually easier to win.
From unusual last names to gender to height and unique talents, these weird scholarships can help defray the cost of your college education if you fit their requirements for eligibility.
How Can You Stand out?
The committees that award scholarships tend to choose students who stand out in some way from the vast majority. While conventional scholarship judges look for athletic abilities or high GPAs, the committees that choose the winners of weird scholarships have their eye out for unique students. There are hundreds of these scholarships and they look for students with some attribute or talent that is unusual.
Some of these scholarships are founded by companies, to promote their products, and they often do this in humorous ways (case in point, the Duck™ Tape Prom Dress Contest by Duck™ Brand tape). Others may be administered by organizations that simply want to shine the light on their area of expertise.
Some weird scholarships are essay-based, and these can be interesting to enter. From creating greeting cards to knowledge about special types of sports turf, these are not usually well-known scholarships, but they still pay money for college.
It’s true that many unique scholarships have smaller awards than major scholarships. This means you’ll have to do a little more leg work to find them (or just check our list below). And you’ll spend more time applying, since the awards are smaller. That being said, most of these scholarships don’t have as much competition as conventional scholarships, so there’s a better chance of winning most of them.
How Are these Scholarships Different?
You may find these contests organized by various subcategories, from the amusing to the absurd. From school activities to legacies, fields of study, doing good works, your last name, creativity or unique physical attributes, you will never know the wide variety of weird scholarships until you open your eyes to their opportunities.
Whether you are female or male, single or married, have won other scholarships or not, you have a great chance to win with strange scholarships. There are some scholarships you can only win if you live in a certain state, and almost every state has a few. In addition, you can often win state-specific scholarships if you will be attending college in that state. It all depends on the scholarship eligibility rules.
Minority scholarships and weird scholarships with more unique requirements are open to all students, even if you don’t have an outstanding GPA or excel in athletics. Some scholarships are open only to specific minorities, but most are open to all college-bound high-school seniors. Some are even available to those in earlier years of high school.
Average-student scholarships can be beneficial to you if your test results aren’t exceptional. You can use your talents, your experience and your leadership and essays to get money for college. Some of these scholarships even offer you up to $20,000, so they’re certainly working looking at.
Scholarships for community service will be helpful to you if you often give back to your community by volunteering. Communities have weird scholarships, funded by religious organizations, unions and chambers of commerce. These often have respectable award amounts, and they will pay you for paying it forward with your service to the community in which you live.
Start with our list below. We have working links to the contest or college, instead of dead links that go to 404 file not found pages.
Applications are Easy for Many Weird Scholarships
Even if you have studied and worked hard, you may find yourself lacking in the grades department. This will cut you out of the running for some prestigious scholarships, but you can use smaller scholarships to help pay for your tuition, books, lab fees, parking and room and board.
The main cost of college is tuition, and this is why many incoming freshmen are searching for unique scholarships. The cost of a college degree has been increasing rapidly in recent years, and if you don’t have assistance from weird scholarships, you may have to take out a student loan. Loans can stick you with years of debt after graduation, so it’s a great idea to apply for as many scholarships as you can.
Living on-campus at your chosen college can be quite expensive. You’ll have to pay for your apartment rental or a dorm room, and these aren’t cheap, even if you split the bills with other students who share your housing.
School supplies and books are always needed, especially at the beginning of coursework. This can eat into the money you may have been able to set aside for college. Weird scholarships can help. If your college doesn’t have subsidized meals, you will also have to buy groceries and snacks. If you like to party a bit, then beer and pizza will cut into your budget.
You will usually require a computer for college. Laptops are often needed, while some college professors prefer the use of tablets. If you don’t live on-campus, you will have to pay for a connection to the Internet, so you can pick up your assignments, study and turn them in.
If you live off-campus, you will incur costs for traveling daily to class and then back home. If you have a car to get to classes, consider the costs of gas, insurance and maintenance. You can work part-time while you attend college, to help pay the bills, but this leaves less time to study, which will affect your grades.
If you win weird scholarships, even small ones, they can add up, so the future will look brighter, and less stress-filled. You’ll be able to focus on your studies if you don’t have to work a part-time job. Sufficient scholarship funding allows you to attend college without student loans, and this is always a plus.
Why Look for Weird Scholarships?
If you want to increase your funds for college but you’re not the best at analytical or inspiration essays, unique scholarships can provide a better option. With traditional college scholarships, there is usually a huge pool of students from which the administrators of scholarships will make their choice.
This is not true with unusual scholarships, which usually attract many fewer applicants. That means you can build up a good funding source using non-conventional scholarships, and still be able to pursue your dreams of a higher education.
Do you know the Klingon language? Have you used duct tape for fashion? Are you a good bowler, or even a good marbles player? These are several examples of the weird scholarships you can apply for, usually without essays. Just think of the weird aspects of life, and there is probably a unique scholarship that applies to them. These scholarships are a unique but less stressful way to pay and manage your expenses in college.
Applying for Weird Scholarships
Unusual scholarships change the commonly-held viewpoint that says that only the best students get help with their college tuition and fees. Not everyone can be an “A” student, and there’s nothing wrong with pulling down B’s and C’s if you’re doing your best. There are many scholarships that will suit all kinds of students ready to head off to college. You just need to know where to find them and how to win them.
With a click on any scholarship in our “101 List” below, you can explore all kinds of unique scholarships and see if you are eligible to apply for them. This gives you a good chance to make a shortlist of the weird scholarships you feel most confident about, so that you can attend college without student debt. Keep your unique talents in mind, and stand out from other students while you earn tuition money for your college education.
Unlike conventional scholarships, which often have lengthy applications and essays, unusual scholarships may be just a web form and you’re “in” for the contest. Some unique scholarships do require essays, but the competition isn’t as cut-throat as you will find with traditional scholarship essay contests.
How soon Can You get Funding from Weird Scholarships?
The time between applying for a scholarship and receiving the funds varies with each individual scholarship. Follow the links on our scholarships below to find out the application deadline for each. If the page says the date has passed for this academic year, check back later when the sponsors load the applications for the next school year. The variations in timelines actually benefit you as a student, since you can get in on some unusual scholarships virtually at the last minute.
The application process can be long or short, but most weird scholarships have shorter apps and fewer requirements than conventional funding sources. Still, some may require school transcripts, teacher recommendations and essays. If essays are not “your thing”, you can skip those. But keep in mind that a clever essay can make you stand out from other fund-seekers, and may even win you money for college.
Many unusual scholarships just need a few bits of your personal information. Some scholarships based on projects may require you to create an art project or a video, but these are usually more interesting than essay-writing.
Some of our weird scholarships below do have application deadlines of one year before the start of the next college year. When you find one, prioritize it, so that you can apply for this type first and wait until later for the ones that you can file closer to the start of the academic year.
If you see that you have missed a deadline, you can catch it next year. There are plenty of scholarships posted every year. Some unusual scholarships have their application deadlines in spring or summer for the fall semester.
How to Find the Best Weird Scholarships
Every person is different in some way, and you no doubt have several things that make you unique. You can use this part of your personality to earn scholarship funds. One prolific place to start is the area of the country in which your family resides. Some unique scholarships were created to benefit families or students who live in a specific area. In some years, no one even applies for them.
Students don’t think to apply to areas of the country where their family was originally from. Sometimes you will be eligible for scholarships of this type. If you know where your parents or grandparents once lived, use a bit of your time to research the ancestry of your family. They may have even set up scholarship funds for later generations of their family.
You can also find weird scholarships if your family has not been in the United States for very long. Funding that is connected to your family culture or heritage, like some chambers of commerce organize, may have scholarships for certain ethnicities. Check for national organizations, too.
Most students do scholarship searches beginning with their basic information. That’s fine for broader funding options. But to find underpublicized scholarships, focus on what makes you unique – your heritage, interests, etc.
Tips to Make the Most of Weird Scholarships
File your FAFSA
Be sure that you file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Do so earlier rather than later. File it every year. The FAFSA application is made available in January each year, and having one filed allows you to qualify for many conventional and weird scholarships. When you are approved, you’ll learn the amount of free aid you are qualified to receive, and what scholarships you can apply for.
Become more Involved in your Community
If you volunteer, this will give you an enormous advantage over other students applying for scholarships. Scholarship sponsors look for volunteering in the long term. They have a bias in favor of students who volunteer, which is logical, since the providers of many scholarships are not-for-profit organizations that are themselves committed to helping others.
Let your Voice Shine through in Essays
If you are writing an essay for any of your weird scholarships, allow your passion to show through. Include the little details, to help in revealing yourself to sponsors. Focusing on one problem and the ways you solved it may be a good choice of topic. Or you might explain how you have overcome some adversity in your life.
Give the committee what they are looking for. In addition to the selection criteria on a sponsor’s scholarship listing, there may also be pertinent information on their website. Check out their mission statement, and appeal to their goals.
Increase your Odds of Winning
Most scholarship opportunities will require one or two letters of recommendation, often from teachers or people in the field in which you are planning to major. Select people who will give you solid letters of recommendation. Be sure that they will be providing the committees for weird scholarships with details related to your responsibility, drive, work ethic and other positive traits you display.
Have your letter-writers highlight things that make you unique and speak about your strengths. Some facts to include might be your work with volunteer projects and charitable organizations, or your academic successes.
Enter Essay Contests
If writing is a strong point for you, look for these types of contests. Many students are too lazy to write essays, or they may simply not be good at it. There are fewer entries for these scholarship contests, and thus they can be easier to win, as long as you are articulate.
Make extra Copies of all your Paperwork
For each item you send to scholarship committees, keep a copy, in case someone asks for additional documentation during the process of reviewing applications. It’s easy to lose a letter of recommendation or other documents, and you want to be sure that each committee in the list of weird scholarships you apply for has everything they need to choose you.
Apply to any Scholarship for which you are Eligible
Numbers should be in your favor, even if you’re an accomplished student. Luck is always a factor. Don’t ignore the smaller weird scholarships, because they can add up. In addition, scholarships offering $500 – $1,000 may have many fewer applicants, so that increases your chances of winning them.
Read all Scholarship Application Instructions Carefully
Review all eligibility requirements of every scholarship for which you are applying. You don’t want to waste your time on opportunities that simply don’t fit your profile. In addition, if you don’t follow the directions, your application will usually be discarded.
Make the opportunity work to your advantage by reading all instructions carefully and don’t send along paperwork that wasn’t requested – weird scholarships committees have enough papers to comb through already.
Keep Your Eyes open for Unique Scholarship Opportunities
You don’t have to be a star athlete or a 4 point GPA student to have eligibility for many scholarships. Weird scholarships offer opportunities for people like you, who have unique life experiences, talents or skill sets. If you are talented at making videos, for example, documentary competitions can be a good way to earn scholarship money.
Learn about Local Scholarships
Speak to your guidance counselor about weird scholarships offered in your local area. Check the bulletin boards at financial aid offices and libraries. Local scholarships usually have many fewer entrants, and they are easier to win.
Clean up your Online Appearance
To be successful, you need to look professional online, even when seeking weird scholarships. Google your own name to make sure that you don’t have anything online that you’d rather forget. Check the posts on your Facebook page, and delete inappropriate ones. If you have a humorous email name, change it to something plain.
Keep Everything Organized
Use a calendar to track your scholarship application deadlines. Most weird scholarships require you to send financial records, transcripts and letters of recommendation, along with other pertinent documentation. Prepare these well ahead of the deadline, to make sure everything is ready to go.
Create separate files for each scholarship application and track the due dates closely. Submitting applications ahead of time is a good way to ensure you don’t miss deadlines.
Ready to go for it? Here are some great weird scholarships to check out. They can help make a dent in your college tuition bills.
101 Weird Scholarship Opportunities:
- Win a weird, but great scholarship for students from ThePensters, by taking part in their writing contest.
- Scholarship Zone Scholarship Contest (monthly) – $10,000 per month
- Three Sentence Essay Contest (weekly) – $1,000 per week
- Firefox Flicks Video Contest – $10,000
- Associated Male Choruses of America Scholarship – $1,000 – $1,200
- UNCF Michael Jackson Scholarship – up to $4,000
- Viral Video Scholarship Contest – $1,500
- Hit the Books Scholarship – $500
- The 100 Scholarship Program – $3,000
- SEFA Student Design Award – $6,000
- Samuel Huntington Public Service Award – $15,000
- Alma Adams Scholarship – $5,000
- UNIMA Puppetry Scholarship – $1,000
- Krylon Clear Choice Art Scholarship – $1,000
- KFC Colonel’s Scholars – $20,000
- Boren Awards for International Studies – up to $20,000
- Get Up Get Active Scholarship – $1,500
- ATIA Foundation Scholarships – $500 – $3,000
- National Potato Council Scholarship – $10,000
- Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage Scholarship – $500 – $2,000
- Pasta Tales Annual Essay Contest – $2,500
- Wolf Camp Merit Scholarship – $175
- International Peace Scholarship – $10,000
- NPFDA Scholarship Foundation, Inc. – $2,000
- Patsy Takemoto Mink Foundation Scholarship – up to $5,000
- World Sports Chicago Program – $500 per academic year
- Copyright Awareness Scholarship – up to $5,000
- Playwright Discovery Award – $1,000
- Lammot Belin Arts Scholarship – $15,000
- Castle Ink Paperless Scholarship – $1,000
- Frame my Future Scholarship – $1,000
- Women’s Diver Hall of Fame Scholarships – $1,000 – $2,000
- Media Frenzy Poster Contest – $1,000
- Glenn Miller Scholarship Competition – $1,000 – $3,000
- Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowships – $15,000