As you start to plan for college, you'll need to know how you're going to pay for it. Sure, there's always financial aid and student loans, but you'll have to pay those back in the future. However, if you start applying for college scholarships as a high school senior, you may be able to save yourself some money in the long run.
Scholarships are no longer just for athletes and brainiacs. There are plenty of niche and unusual scholarship opportunities on the market that you'll be able to find something that suits your interests and extracurricular activities.
What can you get a college scholarship for?
Believe it or not, you can get a college scholarship for just about anything. Whether you're a high school junior or senior, current college student or graduate student, there are scholarships out there that you qualify for.
Most commonly, scholarship programs will award their scholarship money based on one or more of the following:
However, that doesn't mean that there aren't other ways you can qualify for a scholarship award to help with the cost of college tuition. There's a long list of wacky and unique scholarship contests you can apply for. Let's go over a few of our favorites.
16 weird scholarships that can help pay your college tuition
Have any niche hobbies and interests? Or unique traits? Well, they might qualify you for a scholarship to help pay for your college education. These scholarships are for a wide range of people, including high school students, college students and graduate students.
Let's check out some of the weirdest college scholarships that you may qualify for.
1. UNIMA-USA's scholarship for puppetry
If you are a puppeteer at heart interested in studying outside the United States, then this scholarship award from UNIMA-USA may be for you.
UNIMA stands for Union Internationale de la Marionnette. UNIMA-USA is the North American branch of the organization, which seeks to promote understanding and friendship through puppetry.
You will need to fork over $35 for a student membership to UNIMA-USA before applying for this $1,000 scholarship, but if you're that into puppets, it's probably a good thing to join anyway. Note: Having a working knowledge of a second language is a serious advantage in landing this award.
2. The Asparagus Club scholarship
The Asparagus Club, affiliated with the National Grocers Association, offers 10 scholarships of $1,500 per semester to rising juniors, seniors, or graduate students pursuing a degree in business, food management or another relevant area leading to a career in the grocery industry. Preference is given to the independent retail and wholesale sector.
Each year, one scholarship winner will also be named the Thomas K. Zaucha Asparagus Club Scholar and receive an extra $500 per semester in the first year.
To keep the scholarship, students need to maintain a reasonable 2.5 GPA. You’ll have a leg up if you already have relevant work experience in the industry and can get a letter of recommendation from a professional grocer.
3. American Board of Funeral Service Education scholarship
Let’s talk about death for a moment, shall we?
You’re going to die someday and so are we, and someone is going to need to bury all of us. If you’d like to be that person, you should really rethink your plan because it’s impossible to bury yourself. But if you’d like to bury other people (preferably deceased ones), the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) would like to help make sure you get the proper training.
If you're going to school to be a mortician or want to work in any related fields, this could be the scholarship for you. Scholarships are generally given in award amounts ranging from $1,500-$2,000.
4. Vegetarian Resource Group scholarship
Attention, vegetarians! The Vegetarian Resource Group has a total of $20,000 in scholarship funds for vegetarians who promote the meat-free/fish-free lifestyle in their schools or communities.
Bonus: You can let your passion for passionfruit shine through, because these scholarships are awarded based on the amount of heart and dedication the applicants show.
5. CME Group & National Cattlemen's Foundation scholarships
On the flipside, the CME Group & the National Cattlemen's Foundation has ten $1,500 scholarships for students who plan to work in the beef industry. Eligible career fields include education, communications, production, research and more. To apply, you or a family member must be a member of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and your application should show your commitment to working in the industry, including two letters of recommendation from instructors or professionals in the field.
Past winners have been granted a trip to the industry trade show (held in a different locale each year), where they've been honored at the Best of Beef Awards Breakfast. Wonder what’s on the menu?
6. American Fire Sprinkler Association scholarship
So here’s the thing: Fires can kill people. And automatic fire sprinklers can save people.
Every year, they give out ten $2,000 scholarships to students like you. How do you apply? Just spend a few minutes reading over their fire safety info and then take a quick quiz.
That’s it. Winners are randomly selected.
7. Duck Brand's Stuck at Prom scholarship
You could win up to $10,000 just for getting dressed. There’s just one catch: You have to make the outfit out of tape.
Duck Brand has a Stuck at Prom Scholarship contest for people who are creative and daring enough to create their prom ensembles out of Duck Tape. For some people this might be a big ask. For others, it might be a great way to save money on prom attire while also potentially making money for college.
Winners in the dress and tux category get $10,000 each. Runners up in each category get $500. Check out the scholarship page to see pix of prior winners. (Note: These looks are more creative than you’re probably expecting.)
8. Tall Clubs International scholarship
If you’re tall, you’ve probably heard all the standard jokes by now. But here’s something you maybe haven’t heard: Tall Clubs International wants to help tall people pay for college.
Let us sum up the main criteria for this scholarship: Be tall. In this case, over 5’10” for women and 6’2” for men.
Actually, scratch that. It doesn’t matter how you walk. It just matters how you quack.
The Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest is an annual contest by the Stuttgart, AR, Chamber of Commerce. The town, which calls itself the “Rice and Duck Capital of the World,” runs this little shindig to honor the memories of legendary champion duck callers and duck-call makers, Chick and Sophie Major. There are four scholarships ranging from $500-$2000.
Note: If you want to win a prize, you’ll need to attend the Duck Calling Contest in-person, which usually takes place in November. We hear it’s a quackin’ good time.
10. Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society scholarship
“Work underwater.” That probably needs some more explanation, yes?
This scholarship is geared toward multiple disciplines that require below-surface water work, including field studies, underwater research, scientific expeditions, equipment testing and design, and photography.
Recipients of this scholarship don’t get cash-in-hand for college studies. Rather, they get up $25,000 to fund a year's worth of travel and living expenses while they work with other underwater professionals around the world to explore different professional opportunities.
11. Women Divers Hall of Fame scholarship
The Women Divers Hall of Fame offers 41 different scholarships (mostly for women) pursuing careers related to diving, such as conservation, marine biology, underwater archaeology, education (marine or freshwater), dive instructor education, photography, and dive medicine.
Awards range from $500-$5,000 and have varied criteria.
12. Zombie Apocalypse scholarship
Nope, that headline is not some tricky wordplay to get you to read this. The Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship committee wants to hear about your survival strategy for when stuff starts gettin' real, in the undead sense. (Living through 2020 should have you plenty prepared for this one!)
Spell out your plans to survive the zombies, including what five things you'd need to carry out your plan. The winner gets $2,000 for college.
13. Entertainment Software Association Foundation scholarship
The National Inventors Hall of Fame is looking to spark innovation by rewarding those crazy ideas that just might be crazy enough to work … or even change the world.
This scholarship competition not only offers money for college, it gives talented young inventors the opportunity to network and brainstorm with some of the top inventors in the country.
15. Create-a-Greeting-Card scholarship
If you're a creative high school or college student, this may be a great opportunity for you. You can earn a $10,000 scholarship to put toward your college tuition by designing a greeting card for Christmas, birthdays, or any other holiday.
In addition to the $10,000 scholarship, Prudent Publishing Company will also make a $1,000 donation to your school if you are the winner.
16. Zolp scholarship
Finally, we’d like to share with you the most interestingly specific scholarship we have found.
The Zolp Scholarship is for any Catholic student whose last name is Zolp, who also happens to attend Loyola University Chicago.
Don’t go getting any bright ideas about changing your identity, either. To claim this scholarship, you’ll need a copy of your birth certificate and a baptismal or confirmation certificate confirming your last name and your status as a Catholic.
The good news: There are no academic or athletic requirements for this one.
Learn more ways you can earn money for your college tuition with Nitro
If you're looking for less-niche scholarship opportunities, you can search for state-specific scholarships at our database.
Even after you're awarded scholarships to help with your college tuition, you may still have a gap between your funding and the tuition balance. So, Nitro wants to help you learn the best ways you can pay for your higher education.
From applying for colleges, filling out the FAFSA, and making student loan payments, Nitro is here for you every step of the way. Learn about the best college planning tips and find resources on student loan payments, college applications, and more. You can also stop by to apply for the $2,000 Nitro College Scholarship — no essay required!
Carol Katarsky is a contributing writer for Nitro. She is an award-winning journalist with extensive experience writing about both finance and education. Her corporate and non-profit clients include AIG, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and the Project Management Institute. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, son, and one cat more than she should. Read more by Carol Katarsky