Young people just don't appreciate how easy they have it these days. Back when I was in high school, only the smartest or most athletic students were candidates for any type of college scholarship. Not anymore. Today's students don't have to be the best and the brightest to score some scratch "“ they can parlay a hobby, goofy talent or even a genetic luck of the draw into scholarship money. Take a gander at some of the more unusual opportunities that are available for eight subsets of the population (but first get the heck off my lawn.)
1. Dessert Enthusiasts
Is your sweet tooth serious enough to pursue a future as a pastry chef or chocolatier? The American Association of Candy Technologists offers an annual $5,000 scholarship to students enrolled at an accredited university who plan to major in food science and have a demonstrated interest in confectionary technology. Sounds like a great opportunity to expand both your waistline and your bank account!
2. Duck Callers
OK, this contest may border on the goofy, but the top prize is $1,500 in scholarship money, so if you've got a knack for calling ducks we say you've got nothing to lose but your dignity (and travel fare to Arkansas). The Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest is open to any high school senior in the U.S. Participants have 90 seconds to demonstrate their best hail, feed, comeback and mating calls. The top three placers also receive commemorative jackets, so get quackin', er crackin', because $1,500 isn't exactly chicken feed. (Me, I'm still looking for that ever elusive Bad Pun Scholarship.)
3. Fire Safety Experts (or literate people with decent luck)
Fire sprinkler systems save lives, and they might just save your neck if you're sweating that college tuition bill. The American Fire Sprinkler Association scholarship program is not based on financial need; all interested students need to do is read an essay about fire sprinklers and then take a 10 question multiple choice test. Get this "“ the test is "open book." You can print out the essay before taking the test! Each correctly answered question enters you into a drawing for a $2,000 scholarship, so if you ace the test, you'll have ten chances to win.
4. Bagpipe Majors at Carnegie Mellon
One of the least competitive scholarships in the U.S.—it's not unusual for there to be zero applicants—is the Carnegie Mellon University Bagpipe Scholarship. It offers $7,000 per year to a student who intends to major in bagpiping. (Andrew Carnegie loved bagpipe music, you see, and even brought a personal piper with him from Scotland when he emigrated to the U.S.) On the plus side of this offer, you get a kilt subsidy. On the minus side, class is held in the basement of the building due to the vehement complaints from neighboring classrooms upstairs. (Sorry, no link available. Yeah, like any of you would've clicked on it anyway.)
5. Creative Students at David Letterman's Alma Mater
Because David Letterman was a C student at Ball State University, he established a scholarship at his alma mater that is awarded to telecommunications majors based strictly on the creativity of a submitted project, rather than a student's GPA. The top prize is $10,000; previous winners have included a satirical script based on the novel Pride and Prejudice and a stop-action animated film of a penguin climbing a beer bottle.
6. People Looking for Unique Prom Attire
If you don't mind looking like a dweeb (a sticky dweeb, to boot) at your high school prom, you could earn yourself a $3,000 scholarship check from the folks who make Duck Brand Duct Tape. You and your date simply need to fashion your prom outfits completely out of duct tape and then submit a color photo for consideration. Oh, and you have to actually wear those outfits to the dance, too.
7. Aspiring Children's Television Stars
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences awards three $10,000 scholarships annually in the name of the late, great Fred Rogers to college students pursuing a career in children's media. Remember all those puppet shows you used to put on in the garage? Maybe that was an early indicator of your special talent"¦you are special, y'know.
8. Twins Who Don't Hate Each Other
If you happen to be a twin and don't mind spending an additional four years with your sibling, several schools offer scholarships for twins. Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia, waives tuition for one twin when both enroll, Lake Erie College in Painsville, Ohio, offers half-off tuition for each twin, and Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, has 45% discounts available on tuition for female twins only.