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

One of the most gratifying experiences possible is the opportunity to make money from your hobby or pastime, something you love and would happily do for free. We encountered several intriguing examples in parts one and two of our discussion of unusual scholarships, The Odds Are Good but the Goods Are Odd, some of which involved competitive activities like marbles, darts, and duck-calling. This suggests that our series on athletic scholarships—in which we’ve looked at basketball, lacrosse, women’s volleyball, women’s soccer, the overall availability of athletic scholarships, and the task of acquiring them—would benefit from some research on sports that generally (but not invariably) lie outside the scope of high school athletic programs but that offer some very helpful college money for accomplished and scholarship-savvy participants.

Here, in no particular order, are ten that caught our eye:

Bass fishing is not a varsity sport in the conventional sense, but lists well over 200 colleges with clubs, and reports that as of 2017 there were seven schools that “sponsored” more-or-less varsity teams through the Association of Collegiate Anglers, (the NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA not being involved in fishing, at least not the literal kind). lists eight colleges that offer scholarships, including, unlikely as it may sound, the Savannah College of Art and Design. Last year Bethel College in Tennessee disbursed a cool $216,000 in scholarship money for its 36-member team.

The International Surfing Association promises that “[r]eceiving an ISA Scholarship is a life-changing event for young surfers…Awards range from $100-$1,000 per recipient and are determined on a case-by-case basis…Please note: Scholarships will be awarded for exact dollar amounts for specific needs, as opposed to years past where fixed amounts were awarded to all recipients.” According to the most recent information available, a total of $20,000 was available for one academic year. Applicants must be 18 or under and enrolled in school (there’s a catch in everything, isn’t there?), demonstrate financial need, and be “outstanding role models to their community.” We look forward to helping someone get this one, as we have never yet had occasion to use the expression “Cowabunga, dude!” on social media.

The USA Water Ski and Wake Sports Association has been offering scholarships since 1983. “General guidelines for consideration include the number of years the applicant has been a member of USA Water Ski: AWSA-ABC-AKA-WSDA-NSSA-NCWSA-NWSRA-USAWB-USHA, academic achievement level, two letters of reference, need, work record, school and community activities and a 500-word essay. Also considered are the individual’s contributions to the sport as a skier, rider, barefooter etc., as a worker at water ski tournaments, (judge, driver, committee work, etc.).”

Here we make our transition to land-based sports, as Chuck Allen did. Allen, who died in 2011 at age 74, co-founded the National Scholastic Surfing Association and led the U.S. to a world championship before establishing the Amateur Snowboard Association and eventually the USA Snowboard and Freeski Association, whose Chuck Allen Scholarship is “given to applicants who are chosen based on all of the character qualities most valued by Chuck Allen…” Selection is based on “commitment to excellence in community involvement and service…commitment to excellence in school or chosen form of education…[and] commitment to excellence and loyalty to applicants [sic] home USASA series and the USASA as a whole. This is not a need based scholarship.”

Sensing a trend here toward sports associated with the participant being cold and/or wet, we’ll flee to the lush green lawns of ultimate frisbee. According to RaiseMe, “Now you can begin earning college scholarships for your participation in ultimate frisbee club as early as the 9th grade, even if you don’t plan to pursue it in college. Menlo College, University of Vermont, University of Denver and 308 other colleges offer up to $6,000 in scholarships for every year of ultimate frisbee club. Plus, if you’re in a leadership role, you may be eligible for an extra scholarship of up to $3,375 per year!” For those who do plan to pursue ultimate frisbee in college, the University of North Carolina offers a limited number of scholarships. There probably are other schools doing so, but you’re on your own from here.

Should you prefer a more lethal form of projectile, you might be happy to see reporting that “[t]he Amateur Trapshooting Association offers scholarships to its members enrolled in the AIM [youth] Program. Only shooters who excel in Trapshooting and have achieved a somewhat high level of success should apply for the scholarship. Only shooters who have an average of 90 percent or higher are eligible to participate. Average will be comprised of [sic] all ATA registered targets shot across all disciplines for the target years. Applicants must be a current member of the ATA and AIM between 16 and 23 years of age and shoot at least 2,000 registered targets in the target years. For more information or to apply, please visit the scholarship provider’s website.” Said website is not functioning well as we proceed to publication, but we were able to ascertain that the Trapshooting Hall of Fame has on hand five scholarships of $5,000 each, plus lesser awards.

Students who are less outdoorsy should be aware that the scholarship committee of the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association is looking for a few good men and women. Recipients must be attending or enrolling in a college with an NCTTA-affiliated table tennis program and must compete “in both semesters of the division competitions.” Table tennis skill level accounts for only 30 percent in the consideration of an applicant’s worthiness, with academics also accounting for 30 percent (though the minimum GPA required is only 2.0 on a 4.0 scale) and the essay 40 percent.

Those who prefer a larger ball might consider the Billy Welu Scholarship, awarded nationally by the Professional Bowlers Association, which was “established to annually recognize a college student who combines outstanding bowling talents with academic excellence.” Candidates must be amateur bowlers with a GPA of at least 2.5 on a 4.0 scale.  

If you’d rather hold another person instead of a racket, a ball, a flying disk, or a firearm, the ballroom dance companies at Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University offer the opportunity to compete nationally and internationally. Scholarships are available through the dance departments at both institutions.

But if holding onto anything or anyone is too complicated for you, there’s always handball, and the U.S. Handball Association grants scholarships to “full-time college applicants who have taught handball through their community handball programs. All applicants are required to be USHA Certified Level 1 Instructors. Six student-instructors received $2,000 scholarships through the Mardak Scholarship program” in 2018. Buster’s Bar and Grill in Mankato, Minnesota, got in on the act by funding four $300 club handball scholarships at Mankato State in 2013.

We have learned that there is an online poker tournament with an overall payout of $100,000 in scholarship money, but the sedentary nature of the game disqualified it from the above list. We would like to be able to report that there are scholarships for billiards, ax-throwing, and tree-climbing, having heard rumors to that effect, but we are unable to verify the existence of these scholarships, and The Coaching Educator would rather be accurate than amusing. Many websites devoted to admissions and scholarships have a tendency to be careless, but The Coaching Educator is committed to being as accurate and up-to-date as possible.

The point of all this is that your amusements and avocations can be a source of college money that’s just lying there waiting for you to pick it up. Take inventory of your activities and get to Googling, and you might be in for a pleasant surprise.

The Coaching Educator brings ten years of expertise to the quest for admission to the most suitable college and for the necessary financial aid, whether athletically based or otherwise. 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 in “Credits and Recommendations” 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.

Photo Credits 

Photos: Shoes by, shooter by SFC Kevin Heerman

Recommended Reading About College Admissions and College Scholarships

Culp, Paul. “Basketball Scholarships by the Numbers,” The Coaching Educator, 4 April 2019, http://tce.local/2019/04/04/basketball-scholarships-by-the-numbers/

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

Culp, Paul. “The ‘How Many’ and ‘How Much’ of Athletic Scholarships,” The Coaching Educator, 18 September 2018, http://tce.local/2018/09/18/the-how-many-and-how-much-of-athletic-scholarships/

Culp, Paul. “The ‘How To’ of Athletic Scholarships Explained,” The Coaching Educator, 24 November 2018, http://tce.local/2018/11/24/the-how-to-of-athletic-scholarships-explained/

Culp, Paul. “Lacrosse Scholarships by the Numbers,” The Coaching Educator, 6 December 2018, http://tce.local/2018/12/06/lacrosse-scholarships-by-the-numbers/   

Culp, Paul. “The Odds Are Good but the Goods Are Odd: 16 Unusual Scholarships,” The Coaching Educator, 12 October 2018, http://tce.local/2018/10/12/the-odds-are-good-but-the-goods-are-odd-16-unusual-scholarships/

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

Culp, Paul. “Why Scholarship Athletes Quit,” The Coaching Educator, 25 February 2019, http://tce.local/2019/02/25/why-scholarship-athletes-quit/

Culp, Paul. “Women’s Soccer Scholarships by the Numbers,” The Coaching Educator, 23 October 2018, http://tce.local/2018/10/23/womens-soccer-scholarships-by-the-numbers/?fbclid=IwAR1tqZ-uyy8Kjw8krJDl–ERyuxUF_lt2uVfcqFqbNtmQDDTQvvBK7EOhJ8

Culp, Paul. “Women’s Volleyball Scholarships by the Numbers,” The Coaching Educator, 10 October 2018, http://tce.local/2018/10/10/womens-volleyball-scholarships-by-the-numbers/

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