According to the Institute of College Access & Success, 68% of graduates from public and nonprofit colleges in 2015 did so with student loan debt. Of those, the average loan debt was a staggering $30,100.
When I graduated over ten years ago, I had about that much in student loan debt and that is with the help of grants and scholarships.
Scholarships are absolutely crucial if you want to graduate with as little debt as possible but you have to be smart about it. It’s hard to win scholarships if you’re not the smartest kid. Or the fastest kid. Or the strongest kid.
If you want to win scholarships, you have to go where there are as few competitors (other students) as possible.
So I want to share ten really obscure college scholarships in the hopes that it’ll get your creative juices flowing.
The deadline is typically in November and any current high school senior graduating in the spring can apply.
This is a contest that’s associated with the World’s Champion Duck Calling Contest and it is held in Stuttgart, Arkansas. Contestants then compete for college scholarships totaling $4,250 across four placements… so if you think you can call a duck with the best of them, the top prize of $2,000 could be yours.
The scholarship starts in early April and ends in late May, to correspond with prom season, with the Top 10 announced in mid-June and the winners announced in mid-July. The top prize is $10,000 with $5,000 going to 2nd and $3,000 going to 3rd place. Singles and Runners-Up can win thousand dollar prizes too. US and Canada residents with a few exceptions (you can live in Maryland, Vermont, Colorado or the Province of Quebec!).
The contest involves you making your prom outfit out of Duck brand duct table and will be scored on workmanship, originality, use of color, accessories, and use of duct tape. Check out past winners here.
This is a $10,000 academic scholarship awarded to a graduate-level student conducting research for the benefit of the potato industry. The winner is selected based academic achievement, leadership abilities, potato-related areas of graduate study, benefit to the U.S. potato industry/commercial value, extracurricular activities, and grades.
Unfortunately, the deadline for applications for the 2016-2017 Academic Scholarship passed on June 15, 2016. But that just means that the next round should be coming up soon. If you think you even might be interested in applying for the scholarship, check in with the National Potato Council Scholarship website from time-to-time. Applications for the 2017-2018 school year should be coming up any time.
The Tall Club International Foundation Scholarship should have broader appeal, since the qualification requirements are more generic (than the National Potato Scholarship at least) and since they actually award several scholarships, rather than just one. In fact, they issued 10 in 2015 and 15 in 2016!
To qualify for the scholarship you must be under age 21, entering your first year of college, and be at least 6'2″ if you're a guy, and at least 5'10” if you're a girls. And there's no cheating by wearing high-heeled shoes either – the minimum height requirement must be met in your “stocking feet”.
There are also 39 chapters across the US and Canada, greatly increasing the chance of getting the scholarship. If you're tall what have you got to lose?
How about a scholarship for golf caddies? That's who the Chick Evans Scholarship is designed to help. You must be employed by a golf club for a minimum of two years to qualify for the scholarship, but if you happen to be someone who has, this could be the scholarship for you!
Applications for the Evans Scholarship are available online beginning August 1, and are accepted at the beginning of the applicant's senior year of high school. To qualify, you must be sponsored by your employing golf club. You must also have to document an excellent academic performance, a demonstrated financial need, outstanding character, and of course, a strong caddie record your golf club.
What's the underlying message of these obscure college scholarships? That when looking for scholarships you should look closely at all the seemingly little things in your life. You never know – there just might be a scholarship out there for something you do or something about you that you never thought might be worth something.
Ludo Frevel Crystallography Scholarships
The the Ludo Frevel Crystallography Scholarships are named for Ludo Frevel, one of the top scientists at The Dow Chemical Company Spectroscopy Laboratory. The purpose of the scholarship is to cultivate aspiring crystallographers.
Never heard of crystallography? It’s an interdisciplinary branch of science taught in departments of physics, chemistry, geology, molecular biology, metallurgy, and material science. There are multiple scholarships offered amounting to $2,500 each.
To qualify, an applicant should be a student enrolled in a graduate degree program during the 2018 calendar year, with major interest in crystallography (crystal structure analysis, crystal morphology, modulated structures, correlation of atomic structure with physical properties, systematic classification of crystal structures, phase identification and materials characterization).
Applications for the scholarship for the coming school year will be accepted between August 1 and October 18, 2017.
Asparagus Club Scholarship
The Asparagus Club Scholarship enables you to qualify for an award of up to $8,000 (four semesters at $2,000 each). Scholarships are awarded to up to 10 students who are preparing for careers in independent grocery retail, including manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing.
To qualify you must be a:
- Full-time student
- Rising junior, senior or graduate students
- Earning a degree in a business, food management, or other relevant courses of study leading to a career in the independent retail grocery industry
Letterman Telecommunications Scholarship
Yes, that’s Letterman as in David Letterman .
The Letterman Telecommunications Scholarship is an award of up to $10,000 for a student who has “reasonable expectation” of becoming a professional in the telecommunications industry. One of the major limitations of the scholarship: it is available only at Ball State University.
One of the more curious wrinkles in this scholarship is that grades are not a criteria or condition for eligibility or consideration. Instead, each scholarship is awarded on the basis of a creative endeavor in the form of a written project, a research effort, an audio, video, film, interactive media or similar presentation, so long as it can be clearly defined as creative in the area of telecommunications.
If you’re an academic underachiever, and you have an interest in entering the telecommunications field, this could be the scholarship you’ve been waiting for.
Clowns of America, International (COAI) Scholarship
The Clowns of America, International Scholarship is awarded for family entertainment educational programs which run a minimum of 10 hours of educational activities for short programs (1-3 days), and 30 hours for long programs (4-6 days). It is awarded to COAI members in good standing and have been a member for one full year before applying.
he deadline for this scholarship is March 1, so it’s already passed for the upcoming academic year. But if you apply before March 1, 2018, you may be eligible for the following school year.
Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship
We’ve saved the weirdest scholarship for last. With all the zombie-mania gripping the land, you had to know this one was coming! The Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship is an award of $2,000 and the application deadline is October 31, 2017 – Halloween – what other day would they possibly choose?
To qualify, you must be enrolled in an accredited post-secondary education institution, and submit an online written response – in 250 words or less – to the question:
“Imagine that your high school or college has been overrun with zombies. Your math professor, the cafeteria ladies, and even your best friend have all joined the walking dead. Flesh out a plan to avoid the zombies, including where you’d hide and the top-five things you’d bring to stay alive.”
How’s that for really obscure?
What's the underlying message of these obscure college scholarships? That when looking for scholarships you should look closely at all the seemingly little things in your life. You never know – there just might be a scholarship out there for something you do or something about you that you never thought might be worth a scholarship award.