The Coaching Educator

The Odds Are Good but the Goods Are Odd: 16 Unusual Scholarships

unusual scholarships
(Llama photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcelles, clown by Levi Saunders)

You meet the nicest creatures, off the beaten path.

By Paul Culp, MA (Oxon.), CFT, GCDF, CCSP

We at The Coaching Educator, with nearly a decade of experience helping students with college admissions and financial aid, try never to stop learning and growing. We do not kid ourselves that we know everything there is to know about scholarships, be they related to academics, athletics, race, gender, performing arts, community service, etc. In the interest of lifelong learning and of growth in professional competence, we decided to see what sort of scholarships might be available from somewhat unorthodox sources. We suspect you will be surprised. We certainly were.

Here are 15 of our favorites among the peculiar imbursements available, plus one more that might reward someone who pursues the rest:

Send in the clowns–among others.

Clowns of America, International, offers scholarships to students who plan to attend clown college. The amount of the award varies, but apparently the “clown” category is elastic enough to include family-friendly entertainment in general. That means you might be able to combine the COAI award with the second scholarship on our list:

The UNIMA (Union Internationale de la Marionnette-USA) Scholarship offers $1,000 to those studying to become puppeteers. Applicants must be members of UNIMA’s U.S. chapter, aged 18 years or older, and with demonstrable experience in puppetry.

The darts and marbles of outrageous fortune…

Gamers Helping Gamers provides scholarships valued at $20,000 each (distributed over four years) to students whose essays demonstrate a significant appreciation for the game Magic: The Gathering and its role in the real world and in the applicant’s life. Persons whose leisure pursuits require a bit more exertion (but not much) might consider the next two offerings:

Applicants for the PeakPicker Scholarship must “talk about ‘Future of Darts Board Games.’ A reward of $500 will be given to the winning entry. Students who are pursuing their education in Marketing, Business, IT, Communications, Health Science and others [sic] related categories are eligible to apply.”

Mibsters (people who play marbles) may be interested in the National Marbles Tournament Scholarship, with a payout of $2,000. The age range is seven to 14, and we applaud the National Marbles Association’s agreement with our recommendation that kids with college ambitions start early.

Eat your vegetables and get big and strong.

The Asparagus Club Scholarship Program, established in 1990, “has provided over $850,000 in scholarship funds to students entering the independent grocery retail careers. The Asparagus Club awards a maximum of ten scholarships per year…Each scholarship is $2,000 per semester (fall and spring only) not to exceed four consecutive semesters.”

The National Potato Institute offers $10,000 to graduate students in potato-intensive sectors of agribusiness study.

Now that you’ve eaten those vegetables…

The Tall Clubs International and its offshoot, the Tall Clubs International Foundation, fund scholarships for females who stand at least 5’10” and males 6’2” or taller. They’re just a bit more democratic than the people at Juniata College you’ll be reading about shortly.

But the left hand really needs to know what the right hand is doing.

Juniata College in Huntington, Pennsylvania, offers multiple awards of $1,000 to $1,500 each year to Juniata sophomores and upperclassmen who have compiled outstanding academic records and who are left-handed. One recipient interviewed for the article on the website was surnamed Bonker, and we appreciate this.

Duck Brand duct tape offers the Stuck At Prom Scholarship to students who excel at fabricating their evening attire entirely from duct tape. Multiple awards are given, but the grand prize winners in the separate dress and tux categories receive $10,000 each. Applicants must use the Duck brand.

A rose by any other name doesn’t get the fertilizer.

Loyola University in Chicago offers the Zolp Scholarship to “any Catholic student by the last name of Zolp who attends Loyola University Chicago. A copy of a birth certificate and a baptismal or confirmation certificate confirming the last name of Zolp and that the applicant is Catholic must be filed with the Financial Aid Office.” So apparently changing your name isn’t cricket. The website is silent on the topics of adoptees and of persons who take the Zolp name via marriage.

Meanwhile, down at North Carolina State, students named Gatlin(g) are invited to apply for need-based scholarships valued at $10,000 per year, each, for North Carolina residents and $15,000 per year for non-residents.

In a similar vein, the National Association of the Van Valkenburg(h) Family offers $1,000 each year to a descendent, “whether by birth or legal adoption, of Lambert and Annetje Van Valkenburg, who came to New Amsterdam from the Netherlands in 1643, and their spouses; and descendants of others of the surname Van Valkenburg, and their spouses. Variations in the spelling of Van Valkenburg shall not make anyone ineligible.” As one whose surname has taken on a surprising number of permutations for so short a word, this writer takes comfort from the broadmindedness of the NAVVF.

We hope there will be a Bonker Scholarship at Juniata someday.

If I could talk to the animals…

To qualify for the Michigan Llama Association’s annual $1,000 scholarship, all you have to do is be a member and college-bound.

From Stuttgart, Arkansas, we hear that high school seniors “may compete for college scholarships totaling $4,250 at the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest. A copy of the contestants [sic] high school transcript must be provided at registration along with a proper ID.” There are four awards annually, with first prize paying $2,000. Publication deadlines preclude us from researching the origins, 43 years ago, of a duck-calling contest named after someone named Chick.

Last, and among the least.

If you are applying for a large number of scholarships, the Debt.com Scholarship for Aggressive Scholarship Applicants might be for you, awarding the princely sum of $500 to some lucky applicant who has applied for an impressively huge bunch of scholarships.

Seek help. There’s nothing unusual about scholarships for TCE.

And so The Coaching Educator goes on getting educated, in order that we might better help those who want to get educated beyond high school and avoid the avalanche of student debt. Obviously most scholarships aren’t as offbeat as the ones covered in this article, but even the most unusual scholarships and application processes often require essays, which can make or break you. Among our other services, we offer state-of-the-art coaching in essay writing, based on the Oxford tutorial system. Follow us on Facebook for regular updates on our successes, including the specific dollar amounts. 

To learn more about our philosophy and capabilities, be sure to watch our free webinars, listen to our podcasts, sign up for our four-week College App Boot Camp, consider our Ultimate Programs and our special services for athletes and performing-arts students, and book a consultation to hear what we can do for you and how we do it. Keep reading this blog, and look for us on social media (see links below) as we keep our clients and admirers advised of new developments in our effort to help students get into and succeed at the right school.

Paul Culp is certified as a global career development facilitator and writes about college admissions, college costs, financial aid, and college life in general for The Coaching Educator team. A former journalist and corporate ghostwriter who now operates Shenandoah Proofreading, Editing & Composition Services (SPECS), he has also been a humanities teacher at all levels from university down to sixth grade. Paul has degrees from Oxford University, Jacksonville State University, and Samford University, and also is certified as a fitness trainer.

Recommended Reading About College Admissions and Scholarships

Culp, Paul. “An Arm and a Leg and Your First-born Child: Why College Costs So Much,” The Coaching Educator, http://thecoachingeducator.com/2018/09/06/an-arm-and-a-leg-and-your-first-born-child-why-college-costs-so-much/

Culp, Paul. “Eat Your Alphabet Soup: FAFSA, EFC, COA, and Other Delights,” The Coaching Educator, 6 November 2018, https://thecoachingeducator.com/2018/11/06/eat-your-alphabet-soup-fafsa-efc-coa-and-other-delights/

Culp, Paul. “Five Favorite Unusual Colleges,” The Coaching Educator, 1 April 2019, http://thecoachingeducator.com/2019/04/01/five-favorite-unusual-colleges/?fbclid=IwAR1cnOiP5rVLug_sQdSubRprfZAtq-t73ojWuKGmP3F_fqBErEIxwXUiCj0

Culp, Paul “Part 2: The Odds Are Good But the Goods Are Odd: 10 More Unusual Scholarships,” The Coaching Educator, http://thecoachingeducator.com/2019/03/20/part-2-the-odds-are-good-but-the-goods-are-odd-10-more-unusual-scholarships/

Culp, Paul. “Ten Common Mistakes You Must Avoid in Applying for Scholarships,” The Coaching Educator, http://thecoachingeducator.com/2019/02/06/ten-common-mistakes-you-must-avoid-in-applying-for-scholarships/

Culp, Paul. “Ten Unusual Athletic Scholarships,” The Coaching Educator, 8 April 2019, https://thecoachingeducator.com/2019/04/08/ten-unusual-athletic-scholarships/

Culp, Paul. “Types of Financial Aid: A Very Short Primer,” The Coaching Educator, 14 September 2018, http://thecoachingeducator.com/2018/09/14/types-of-financial-aid-a-very-short-primer/

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