There are scholarships for everyone. You don’t need to have a perfect GPA, hours of community service, or be captain of a sport in order to receive a scholarship for your higher education. That being said, those achievements are beneficial and impressive, we encourage every student to strive for accomplishments in academics and extracurriculars. Although it may not seem like it, not every scholarship for college requires exceptional grades or impressive talents.
Every year, The U.S. Department of Education along with colleges and universities across the map give nearly $50 billion in scholarships & grants awarded. Out-of-the-box scholarships are a great way for high schoolers, undergraduate students, and graduate students to earn money for college. If you want to learn how to find scholarships with unique requirements, keep reading!
When it comes to paying for college, students everywhere are scrambling to qualify for and obtain scholarship money, grants, and financial aid. Students are usually advised to begin looking for potential colleges and scholarships during their junior and senior year of high school; but the scholarship hustle doesn’t stop after freshman year. Students of all years and ages are looking towards scholarships to help take some weight from tuition, student loans, and other debt. Scholarship programs keep their eyes peeled when it comes to sifting through applicants, so you better hope you’re what they’re looking for.
What is a unique scholarship?
A unique scholarship is a scholarship that doesn’t follow the traditional list of requirements. While most average scholarships pick through applicants based upon their academic status, achievements, and maybe an essay, unique scholarships look past a students studying habits. Instead, these unique scholarships focus on rewarding students with special talents, medical history, ethnic backgrounds, and much more.
These grants may commonly be written off as “weird” scholarships due to their unorthodox requirements, but unique scholarships offer a variety of opportunities for all students. You’d be surprised by the requirements of some scholarships; there are unique scholarships for asthma patients, jugglers, tall women, knitters, and everything in between. Some businesses even offer scholarships to their employees, such as select McDonald’s restaurants. It is also common for scholarship providers to host an event to promote a scholarship or raise a scholarship fund.
How can I qualify for unique or unusual scholarships?
Chances are you already qualify for a number of scholarships! Take TCI for example, Tall Clubs International (TCI) awards scholarships to tall students under 21 who are attending their first year of college. Any of your individual interests and characteristics could make you eligible for a scholarship.
You can also qualify for a scholarship with your hobbies, such as video games, creative writing, art, and more. Take the Gamers Helping Gamers scholarship as an example. This scholarship is awarded to players of the popular wizard card game Magic the Gathering, applicants are asked to submit an essay about their most and least favorite Magic cards.
Spend some time and think about yourself; what are your hobbies, achievements, talents, and future goals? You should also consider your ethnicity, heritage, origin, languages, and any unique characteristics that sets you apart from others. It’s also important that you don't forget to consider how parents can help you qualify for scholarships. Their employers, professions, military service, memberships, and even the colleges they attended could make a difference in your eligibility for a scholarship.
How can I strengthen my unique scholarship search?
Every year, hundreds of new scholarships join the scene. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t find a perfect scholarship match right away. There is a strong variety of scholarships with unique requirements, you just need to look closely. When it comes to searching for out-of-the-box scholarships, there are several things you can do to strengthen your search.
Many admissions officers and academic coaches encourage students to spend some time preparing before jumping right into the search. Being prepared for your scholarship journey can help quicken the search and make the whole process less stressful. It is also advised that students stay organized and diligent during their scholarship search; one scholarship could make a difference of $1,000+.
Students are urged to write down their accomplishments, talents, skills, and even personal interests such as tv shows, hobbies, clothing brands, etc. As previously mentioned, it is also important for students to write down any personal information that could set them apart from the competition. This information includes characteristics such as heritage, ethnicity, origin, etc. and even unique physical characteristics such as skin, hair, or eye color, height, age, etc.
Know Where To Look
When starting their scholarship hunt, most students begin with a simple google search. Although some may frown upon browsing google for scholarships, it is very easy, effective, and a great place to start. There is an abundance of websites and databases dedicated to helping students with their scholarship search. However you decide to go about your scholarship search, don’t let yourself be discouraged.
If you’re beginning your scholarship journey we encourage you to take advantage of CollegeData’s Scholarship Finder, it’s easy to use and very helpful! Simply enter your eligibility criteria, such as your GPA, gender, residency, ethnicity/heritage, religion, college location, and/or area of study. Then, add keywords that apply to you. For example, you can include sports, activities, honors or awards, a disability or medical condition you or family members have, career interests, etc. The tool will then turn up scholarships you qualify for!
It is also a good idea to keep your eyes peeled for any local scholarship opportunities and take advantage of any that you discover. A student applying for a local scholarship has a good chance of their application being chosen simply because of location. For example, there may be a scholarship just for students who live in your hometown! You can also reach out to your counselor, financial aid office, or admissions officer for help when looking for scholarships specifically for your high school or college.
Just knowing where to look for scholarships isn’t always enough, it is also important to be thorough. Some unique scholarships may not be as well known as their merit-based counterparts, and many unique scholarships may not even be called scholarships! It is not uncommon for businesses, private groups, or even some colleges to give student cash awards. Although these awards cannot be labeled as scholarships due to technicalities, they still fall under the same category.
Students should also consider broadening their horizons to include contests in their search as well. Contest money is typically awarded to the winner in a lump sum, to be spent however they wish. For instance, the winning applicant(s) may receive an award for submitting a winning poem, essay, live performance, etc.
The potential downside is that contests are not just for students. Anyone can enter a contest if they fit the criteria, which could make the competition a little more difficult. Contest money doesn’t have to be used for academic purposes either; this gives a student who is not disciplined and responsible the opportunity to spend their reward elsewhere. If you are a student who may graduate with student loans, putting your contest winnings towards your college fund is the best option.
Searching for scholarships can be a daunting process, especially if you feel as though you don’t fit into the traditional merit-based criteria. But there is no need to worry, after all there is a scholarship for just about everyone. We wish you the best of luck in your unique scholarship search, you got this!
Are you a student interested in more scholarship tips? Visit 10 Ways to Stand Out When Applying for Scholarships.
Need help getting your college budget under control? Read our article Budgeting 101 for College Students.