Top Ten Wacky College Scholarships

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Updated on Oct 29, 2008

If you’re the parent of an older teen, chances are you’ve spent a lot of time considering financial aid options to help pay for college. Do remember to think outside the box when you’re investigating scholarship opportunities! Here are ten eccentric awards that go way beyond simply rewarding traditional academic or athletic achievement.

  1. A talent for skateboarding could lead to a serious financial aid, thanks to a special fund set up by mothers of skateboarders to honor skateboard activist Patrick Kerr. A total of $8,000 is available each year for four skateboard enthusiasts with a GPA of 2.5 or higher who can write about the positive influence skateboarding has had in their lives. One previous recipient of the Patrick Kerr Skateboard Scholarship successfully lobbied city council members to build a public skate park in his hometown of Calvert City, KY, and even helped to design the park!
  2. It may be the digital age, but operating a ham radio station retains its allure for a new generation of teenagers. Kids who spend their evenings twiddling knobs and adjusting antennas to communicate with other amateur radio enthusiasts across the country may be eligible for one of several annual scholarships offered by the American Radio Relay League Foundation. Those who have passed an amateur radio licensing exam at any level can apply.
  3. Beef: it isn’t just what’s for dinner. It’s what helps some meat-loving teens pay for school. The National Beef Ambassador Program, a project of the beef industry, holds an annual public speaking competition with prizes in the form of college scholarships. Contestants vie for the awards by presenting speeches about beef nutrition, food safety, and beef production processes—the perfect opportunity for hamburger fans who aren’t afraid to shout it from the rooftops.
  4. If your teen prefers beets to beef, never fear: a generous donor at the Vegetarian Resource Group funds two $5,000 scholarships each year for high school seniors who have worked to promote awareness of vegetarianism in their communities—making a diet that’s meat free not only healthy, but smart, too.
  5. Perhaps the most delicious food-related scholarship is awarded by the American Association of Candy Technologists. Eligible applicants are sophomores, juniors, or seniors in college who are majoring in food science or a related field, and can demonstrate a serious, long-standing interest in the science of sugary confections. We’re pretty sure a life-long love of chocolate isn’t quite enough to qualify, but a teen who’s engaged in “research projects, work experience, and formal study” related to candy stands a strong chance of nabbing this sweet award.
  6. Is your daughter a lofty 5 feet 10 inches tall or more? Does your son shoot past the six foot 2 inch mark? Even if your kids don’t happen to be outstanding basketball players, their height alone may qualify them for a scholarship awarded by Tall Clubs International, an organization that runs conventions and social gatherings for tall men and women around the country. Towering teen applicants must first become members of their local TCI chapters.
  7. It’s hard enough paying for one college education—try two or more at the same time! A variety of scholarships offer help to children of multiple births, including one awarded by the Northwest Association of Mothers of Twins. Many colleges also offer specific scholarship programs or discount programs for twins who both enroll at the same school, so don’t be afraid to ask about those during the application process.
  8. Students with epilepsy may qualify for a $3,000 scholarship for either college or graduate school. The award, sponsored by drug-firm Pfizer, requires applicants to demonstrate that they have successfully overcome the challenges of their disorder. This isn’t the only scholarship of its kind; many other medical-related awards also exist, including funds for teens who suffer from asthma or have sickle-cell anemia.  
  9. The “Excellence in Predicting the Future Award” is a small scholarship—just $400—but it does come with a pretty special perk: the status of an oracle. Students with an interest in economics can apply by taking part in an online prediction trading market. Contestants use play money to buy and sell predictions about the future such as who will win the 2008 U.S. presidential election. 
  10. Some scholarship offerings aren’t about what you can do, but who you are—or who you’re related to. Name-based awards grant scholarships to qualifying applicants who bear a particular surname. For instance, funds are available at Harvard University for students with the last names Thayer and Downer, Loyola University has awards for Catholic students whose last name is Zolp, and the National Association of the Van Valkenburg Family gives out a scholarship to one lucky Van Valkenburg (or burgh) each year. Be prepared to show a birth certificate when applying to awards of this kind—and know that first preference is often given to students directly descended from the scholarship donor.
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