It seems as though some students are under the false impression that only straight ‘A’ students or those from low-income families are eligible to apply for scholarships. Although most institutional, state and federal programs are merit-based (academics) and/or need-based (income), a plethora of private scholarships are also awarded to students based on other criteria. Here’s another newsflash – students don’t have to be high school seniors either; many scholarship programs are open to students beginning their freshman year of high school (some even earlier!) and others are for adult-learners, or those pursuing graduate degrees and beyond. There’s really no excuse for not searching for scholarships to help keep college expenses to a minimum, especially when there are so many choices. Here are just a few of the many types of scholarships available to students.
Students who have worked on community projects, volunteered with their local non-profit agencies, or even assisted at their local church may be eligible for scholarships that are specifically designated to those who have given their time to others. One of the largest scholarship programs in this category is the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, which is open to students in the fifth through twelfth grades. Finalists are selected based solely on their volunteer efforts over the previous calendar year. Winners receive a $1,000 scholarship at the state level (102 available) and a $5,000 scholarship at the national level (10 available).
Although athletic scholarships are highly competitive, those who excel in their sport may be able to receive funding for their education. Many community leagues, such as swimming or bowling, provide scholarships to students for competing in area meets and tournaments. Although these awards are typically small, earning several over time can help cover books and other college expenses. Those who compete on a state, regional and/or national level may have more opportunities for scholarships at the college-level, as well, especially those involved with football or basketball. Many private organizations also provide scholarships to amateur and/or casual athletes, so students should not rely entirely on institutional awards.
Students who enjoy writing, painting, singing, playing a musical instrument, or working with film/video, will find many scholarship opportunities. Creative writing and essay scholarships abound at the local, state and national levels. Those who love to read will also find plenty of opportunities, such as the Ayn Rand Anthem Essay Contest for eighth, ninth and tenth graders; there are over 236 scholarships, valued between $30 and $2,000, offered each year. Amateur artists of any age can compete for a chance to win $5,000 in the L. Ron Hubbard’s Illustrator of the Future Contest, while students who love making videos will find many opportunities on YouTube.
Some scholarships don’t fit neatly into any particular category, but they are fun and usually open to just about anyone. Some of the more famous, weird scholarships include: the Stuck at Prom Scholarship (open on March 11), the Klingon Language Institute’s Kor Memorial Scholarship and my new favorite, the Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship. Students can also win scholarships for comparing themselves to ice cream or writing a letter to the number five; it doesn’t get much stranger than that!
The point is that students have plenty of scholarship opportunities to choose from, regardless of their grades or family’s income; they just have to be willing to put in the time and keep at it. Finding scholarships is the easy part; students can get help from their guidance counselors, financial aid office, and a variety of online resources, such as ScholarshipExperts.com. It’s winning them that takes a little more work; students must have a plan, scheduling time for applications and essays, as well as recruiting teachers and mentors to help with letters of recommendation and editing assistance. Just remember, as Vince Lombardi said, ‘A winner never quits and a quitter never wins!’
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