17 bizarre scholarships: YOU may qualify

4 min read

Calling all Klingon speakers, duct-tape fashion designers, duck callers, ghost hunters and woolen garment makers: Thick wads of scholarship money are waiting for you.

Endowment funds are waiting to be claimed by everyone from golf caddies to pagans. There’s cash for the tall, the short, the fat and the determinedly nonathletic.

Would-be college kids with extremely specific skills, talents or qualifications can find scholar dollars, and it seems that the crazier your interest, the better chance you have!

Here’s a look at some of the quirky, odd and specialized virtues that will be rewarded with college cash, chosen by publisher Dr. Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.com, and Baird Johnson, vice president of FastWeb.com, two leading Web sites free to students looking for ways to finance their educations.

You can cash in if you:

Look Ducky at the Prom. The makers of Duck Tape brand duct tape hand out cash to the best-dressed couple at a high school prom — if they’re wearing duct tape costumes or accessories. Originality and workmanship are taken into account, and even the students’ school can pocket a $2,500 prize. Send a picture.

Communicate with the other side. Ghost hunters and others with interest in the paranormal can spirit one of several scholarships away from the sponsors, the New York-based Parapsychology Foundation. The authors of the right study of the spooky or the creator of a paper on anything from life after death to telepathic spying can qualify.

Want to go where no man has gone before. You might need to speak Klingon. “Star Trek” fans know the warrior Klingon aliens speak in a guttural, spitting and barking manner, but the Klingon Language Institute’s scholarship was not claimed last year despite the fact that the institute’s motto is “Language opens worlds.” (In Klingon that’s: “qo’mey poSmoH Hol.” You need not even speak Klingon, but you must be a language student and be creative. Value: $500, in Earth money.

Are short, tall or obese. The Little People of America (4-feet, 10-inches or shorter); Tall Clubs International (women 5-feet, 10-inches or better, men over 6-feet, 2-inches) and the New England chapter of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance all offer college funds for suitably-qualified candidates. A short essay on being tall can pick up a fat check of $1,000.

Are artistically spaced-out. The SPAACSE (Society of Performers, Artists, Athletes and Celebrities for Space Exploration) Scholarships offer $1,000 cash to high school seniors interested in space music and space art works. You must keep the art three-dimensional, though.

Wear milk mustaches. Got milk money? Twenty-five SAMMY (Scholar Athlete Milk Mustache of the Year) awards of $7,500 go to graduating high school seniors who are the cream of their class. Skim the whymilk.com site to see winners with their milk mustaches.

Throw southpaw. On the other hand, left-handed students enrolled at Pennsylvania’s Juniata College can apply for the Frederick and Mary F. Beckley Scholarship, to palm a $1,000 handout.

Live clean, but wear no jock. Are you clean-living, but not athletic? Also in Pennsylvania, Bucknell University offers the Gertrude J. Deppen Scholarship, for nonathletes. The fund is for needy students who do not smoke or drink, who come from coal-country Mount Carmel High School, which boasts a powerhouse football team, but who do not take part in “strenuous” athletic contests. “They want scholars, not athletes,” says Kantrowitz. “Intramural teams are OK. Just don’t participate in varsity sports,” adds Linda Reinaker, Bucknell’s manager of endowed gifts.

Think creatively, but not much. Are you just average? The David Letterman Telecommunications Scholarship for students at his alma mater, Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., awards a $10,000 prize for an “average” student with a creative mind. Also offered are runner-up prizes of $5,000 and $3,333.

Love water bugs. An interest in water insects can earn the right student the LaFontaine Aquatic Entomology an award of $500.

Sing with star-spangled sincerity. At DePauw University, the Icy Frost Bridge Scholarship, named for the sister of DePauw alumnus Jack Frost Bridge, goes to female music students who can play or sing the national anthem “with sincerity.”

Can make a wigeon wonder. Take this off your college bill: The Chick and Sophie Major Memorial scholarship for duck-calling awards a $1,500 prize to the student who can quack a variety of calls — including a mating call — convincing enough to mystify a mallard, puzzle a pintail or make a wigeon wonder. Pat Peacock helps organize the competition at the annual duck fest in Stuttgart, Ark., which benefits one of America’s quackiest … er … quirkiest scholarships. The contest only lasts 90 seconds, which means the $1,500 prize works out to an hourly rate of $60,000.

Knit one purl four. This is just a purl of a scholarship. If you can knit the right garment, the National Make It Yourself with Wool folks may hand over a $2,000 scholarship. Winners are judged on the garment’s style and design, integration of fabric, presentation and creativity, and the appropriateness of the wooly wearable to the contestant’s lifestyle.

Emulate Rube Goldberg. Are you inventive? Already-enrolled college students with an original idea or invention can hit a big jackpot, and you need not act alone. Up to four students may collaborate on an invention for the Collegiate Inventors’ Competition. Your brainchild will be judged on qualities like potential value to society and scope of use. Award value: $50,000, plus $10,000 more for the college adviser.

Call yourself Zolp. The biggest bucks in the scholars-dollars game seem to come to those with the right name. Full tuition for four years at prestigious Loyola University in Chicago awaits any Catholic with the last name of Zolp. “It wasn’t claimed recently,” says FastWeb’s Johnson. “It’s a tough category.” The same is true of the Scarpinato scholarship, at Texas AM. It’s worth about $14,000 a year and was founded by an alumnus who wanted anyone with his name to get an education. Two Scarpinatos — mother and son — will take it up this fall.

Make people see double. Are you a twin? About 10 colleges offer special scholarships, discounts or two-for-one deals for twins, which isn’t a bad deal and brings financial relief to plenty of parents with double-trouble.

Have a Boy Scout attitude. Hal Reichie, a quiet do-gooder, had a scholarship endowed in his memory at Hiram College, Ohio. You can’t apply. Instead, unknown observers of your good deeds will put your name forward. Watch out for the Secret Society of Serendipitous Service to Hal and be on your best behavior!

Are as American as apple pie. Take a slice of this: a $25,000 scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America, with runners-up prizes of $15,000 and $10,000 are waiting for the winners of an apple pie recipe contest. If baking’s not your best, the institute offers other mouth-watering scholarships, too.

“There are scholarships for everyone,” said FinAid’s Kantrowitz. “Everyone from welders to golf caddies, from pagans to experts on mold and fungus can qualify for free money. You just have to find it. Good hunting — and try the Internet!”