KNOW HOW TO SEARCH – This is your time to shine! Yes, many scholarships focus on funding individuals who exhibit specific talents or academic prowess, or are geared towards students who are in need of funding, but that shouldn’t prevent you from applying for financial backing. For example, it’s not uncommon to see scholarships targeted to recent high school graduates. However, it’s important to note that recent high school graduates only represent about 15% of all college students… “weird” scholarships are great for everyone involved.
APPLY FOR EVERYTHING – Matthew If you meet the basic eligibility requirements, go for it…Even if it’s for a small amount, say $500, and you spend three hours completing the application, you’ll just paid yourself $166/hr for your efforts. Would you rather have a one in a thousand odds or one in a hundred? The fact that there are fewer students applying for these financial opportunities puts you in the unique position to try for scholarship that might not entirely match your interests or experience.
FRIENDS AND FAMILY – Talk to your friends, parents, and parents’ friends to see if they know of any scholarships. There are a lot of companies that offer college scholarships — companies that the people you know work at. So ask around! Some of the best scholarships come from some of the most unexpected places. When I was applying for scholarships, my Father was working at Kaiser — which offered a college scholarship to relatives of Kaiser employees. My brother is a teacher and she knew about a scholarship offered through the California Teachers Union. These are scholarships barely anyone applies to because many high schoolers simply don’t know to ask about them. So when you DO find out about one, you automatically have an advantage over everyone else. If you feel odd about it, know that every person wants to help out a high schooler. They won’t think it’s “weird.” In fact, they’ll find it admirable.
TRY DIFFERENT APPROACH – Write down personal interests, clothing brands, foods, companies, hobbies, talents, or skills and then add the word scholarship to their search. In my 40+ years of higher education experience, I’ve seen some really unique scholarships appear. There are countless scholarships out there designed to reward athleticism, a high GPA, or community engagement, but what about all the students who do not fall into these categories?
WATCH FOR SCAMS – Just because these scholarships are quirky doesn’t mean some of them might be too good to be true, and it’s important to keep your eye out for red flags. If they request any money to start the application it's probably fraudulent. Beware of telephone numbers with a 900 area code. A dishonest operation might put pressure on you by saying that awards are on a first-come, first served basis. Fraudulent operations may also claim endorsements by groups with names similar to well-known private or government organizations. For instance, the Better Business Bureau and government agencies do not endorse businesses.
STAY INTOCH WITH YOUR FINANCIAL AID OFFICE – Matthew if you are applying for unique scholarships you may also be receiving some other forms of financial coverage provided directly through their college. Outside scholarships can affect this funding, so it’s important to stay in touch with your school’s financial aid office. Your school cannot refuse outside resources. They do, however, have to account for scholarships in the student’s total financial aid package. So, if a you bring in several outside scholarships, and their aid exceeds their cost of attendance, you might see a reduction in non-need-based aid like unsubsidized loans.
Matthew check below for a few examples of strange scholarships that have been popular over the last few years.
John recommends the following next steps:
Hi Matthew! Great question. I would start by looking online. There are several websites that you can use to get started like fastweb.com and collegeboard.org. You may also want to consider looking into financial aid options, using FAFSA. In addition to online resources, you could also reach out to your high school guidance counselor or the college you plan on attending for more information. Good luck!