With more than $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, Americans are burdened by the cost of education like never before.
Carrying significant student loan debt can have long-term consequences. A hefty balance can prohibit you from buying a home, moving across the country, or even getting married.
However, reducing how much money you take out in loans can ultimately help you financially later on. One of the easiest ways to limit your need for loans is to get scholarships.
Check out unusual scholarships
Many schools offer merit-based scholarships. But, they may only cover a portion of your education expenses.
To cover the gap, or if you were unable to get an academic scholarship, you could apply for a number of unique scholarships to help pay for school.
Remember, scholarships are not just for people with perfect GPAs and SAT scores. There are individuals and organizations who are looking to support the next generation of enthusiasts with various hobbies, talents, and interests.
FastWeb and Scholarships.com have comprehensive databases of strange and downright weird college scholarships. Whether you are a top-notch duck caller or an exceptionally tall person, there are plenty of awards out there for you to win.
10 weird scholarships for college
These are our favorite unusual scholarships for the upcoming school year.
American Fire Sprinkler Association Scholarship
Designed to educate the public about the benefits of automatic fire sprinklers, the American Fire Sprinkler Association awards $2,000 to ten winners, for a total of $20,000 distributed each year.
The contest is open to high school seniors who are going to college or trade school after graduation. The association chooses the scholarship recipient at random from the valid entries. Submissions are due by April 2017.
Billy Welu Bowling Scholarship
The Professional Bowlers Association awards the Billy Welu Bowling Scholarship to promising bowlers in college. The winner of the scholarship receives a $1,000 award.
The scholarship is open to both male and female amateur bowlers. Candidates must be current college students and have a minimum GPA of 2.5. All applications are due by June 15.
Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest
For hunting and bird-watching enthusiasts, this scholarship recognizes students who can skillfully call ducks. Each contestant has 90 seconds to use four calls: hail, feed, comeback, and mating.
Open to any high school senior graduating in 2017, the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest offers four awards: $2,000 for the first-place winner, $1,000 for second place, $750 for third place, and $500 for fourth place.
The annual competition will take place on November 25, 2016, at 11:00 a.m. in Stuttgart, Arkansas. There is no entrance fee, but you do need to show up in person with proof of high school registration.
For more information, visit the scholarship website.
Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship
The National Cartoonists Foundations offers the Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship to current college students attending a four-year school.
While you do not have to be an art major to qualify, applicants must submit eight samples of their own cartooning artwork.
The number and amount of scholarships change every year. However, previous awards have been up to $5,000.
National Potato Council Scholarship Program
The National Potato Council awards a $10,000 scholarship to one graduate student each year. To qualify, applicants need to be conducting research that could benefit the potato industry.
The winner is selected based on academic achievement, leadership ability, potato-based research, and the benefit of their work in the potato industry.
The 2017-2018 scholarship will open up to applications in the spring, with all submissions due in June.
New Looks Laser Tattoo Removal Scholarship
The New Looks Laser Tattoo Removal Scholarship is an $1,000 award available to students in college or planning to go to college.
To qualify, you must have at least a 3.0 GPA. And, the review board asks applicants to write a 200 to 400-word post on a website, blog, or forum about the impact of laser tattoo removal on society.
Applications are due November 30 and rewards will be given by the end of the year for the spring scholarship.
This may be one of the easiest and most unusual scholarships to apply for. Applicants can win up to $500 through the ScholarshipRed program if they naturally have red hair.
To apply, you must be a high school junior or senior with at least a 2.5 GPA and planning to attend a two or four-year school.
You need to send in two photos, one of you as a child and one of you currently, to show you naturally have red hair. They also ask for your transcripts and a personal creative project where you describe what it means to be a redhead.
The scholarship will open up again in the winter for the 2017-2018 school year.
Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest
The Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest, sponsored by Duck Brand, offers generous scholarships to creative and ingenious high school students who can turn tape into prom garments.
The winning couple gets $10,000 each. Second place gets $5,000, and third prize gets $3,000. Runners-up get $1,000 each.
You can start planning your outfits now and submit your pictures for the 2017 scholarship.
Tall Clubs International Scholarship
Tall Clubs International awards $1,000 scholarships to men and women who are above-average height. Women applicants must be at least 5’10” and men must be at least 6’2”.
To apply, you must be an incoming freshman and a local TCI Member Club must endorse you.
Applications are due in February 2017.
Vegetarian Resource Group Scholarship
The Vegetarian Resource Group issues one scholarship of $10,000 and two awards of $5,000 each year.
High school students who have promoted a vegetarian lifestyle in their school or their community are eligible.
The group asks that applicants submit an essay addressing their vegetarian lifestyle and challenges they have experienced for evaluation. The Vegetarian Resource Group chooses winners based on their applications’ merit.
Submissions are due February 20, 2017.
Applying for unconventional scholarships is a great way to get extra money for your education. There is often less competition than other scholarships, so it’s possible to win several different awards.
Consider applying to these unique scholarships or search for other opportunities that fit your unique situation and interests so you can reduce your overall need for student loans.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2019!
|1 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
2 Important Disclosures for CollegeAve.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 2/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
3 Important Disclosures for Discover.
* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2019 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
8 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|4.23% – 13.23%1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.20% – 11.44%2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.84% – 13.49%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.50% – 10.11%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.25% – 13.25%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.85% – 6.99%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.95% – 9.81%7||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.45% – 12.42%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|