Updated: June 2, 2024

Unusual Scholarships

Group of smiling college students walking with coffee

When most people think about the different kinds of college scholarships, they think about awards that are based on test scores, GPAs or athletic accomplishments. However, there are a number of unusual scholarships that look for more unique factors. These are not your average merit or need-based scholarships; they cater to a variety of unique talents, personal characteristics, and even your last name!

What is an unusual scholarship?

While most scholarships are given to students based on some kind of academic criteria, such as merit scholarships or other traditional scholarship based on musical, artistic, etc., unusual scholarships have requirements that are outside the norm.

For example, the Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest rewards students who create fashionable prom outfits from duct tape. You don't need to have good grades or a stellar essay in order to win this scholarship - just an eye for fashion.

Some scholarships will give out awards to students based on personal characteristics they can't control. For example, the Tall Clubs International Student Scholarship is given to a student who is eligible for membership in Tall Clubs International. The minimum height requirement for men is 6’2”, and the minimum height for women is 5'10”.

Because unusual scholarships are different from regular scholarships, it's even more imperative to read through the requirements so you understand how to qualify and what to submit. Make sure to also read the frequently asked questions and contact the scholarship administrator if you're confused about any details.

Types of Unusual Scholarships

When we talk about the types of unusual scholarships, the variety is as vast as the imagination. There are awards for those with specific physical characteristics or names, like the Tall Clubs International Scholarship or the Zolp Scholarship (exclusively for individuals with the last name 'Zolp'). Creative minds can benefit from scholarships rewarding inventive prom outfits or pumpkin carving.

There are scholarships for those with interests as diverse as sports, field of study, animal appreciation, or even for your favorite food-related activity. For those who have dedicated their time to good works in the community or have chosen to abstain from certain behaviors, there are scholarships recognizing those efforts.

Twins can celebrate their bond with dual scholarships, and families can pass down more than just their legacies with awards reserved for descendants. The world of unusual scholarships celebrates the unique and the diverse, offering opportunities for nearly everyone.

Unusual Scholarships: Beyond the Ordinary

Defining the Uncommon

In the vast scholarship universe, there's a special category that defies the norm: unusual scholarships. These are financial aids set aside for those who exhibit rare characteristics or pursue less common passions. Unlike traditional academic or athletic scholarships, these funds celebrate the diversity of the student population, recognizing everything from unique hobbies to uncommon physical traits.

The Hunt for the Extraordinary

To uncover these scholarships, one must venture beyond traditional search methods. Tapping into scholarship databases is just the beginning. Dig deeper by engaging with community groups, niche organizations, and companies that may offer awards for qualities or interests that are as unique as your fingerprint. Strategic keyword searches—reflecting your unique traits or hobbies—can be the compass that leads you to these hidden gems.

A World of Weird and Wonderful Scholarships

Scholarships for Every Eccentricity

Imagine a scholarship for your ability to call ducks or your dedication to the art of miniature painting. This is the reality of unusual scholarships—they exist for almost every conceivable hobby or interest. They can be both a celebration of individuality and a testament to the creativity of those who offer them, rewarding everything from your zombie apocalypse survival plan to your eloquent essay on the importance of the number five.

Identity and Heritage in Scholarships

It's not just what you do but who you are that can unlock these financial rewards. Scholarships might cater to left-handed individuals, twins, or people with certain surnames. They can be a nod to your cultural background, your physical attributes, or even your family's legacy. This is where embracing your identity can have tangible benefits, providing a financial incentive to honor your personal story.

Crafting Standout Applications for Unusual Scholarships

Showcasing What Makes You Special

Applying for these scholarships is not the time for modesty. It's the moment to amplify your distinctive characteristics and let them take center stage. In your application, paint a vivid picture of your uniqueness—this is the platform where your individuality will shine brightest.

The Art of Creative Applications

These scholarships often invite you to flex your creative muscles. They may ask you to craft an essay from an unusual perspective, design an innovative project, or showcase a talent that doesn't fit into standard categories. The application itself becomes a canvas for your originality, and your submission a reflection of your inventive spirit.

Insider Tips for Clinching Unusual Scholarships

Early Birds and Organizational Wizards Win

Securing these scholarships requires foresight and meticulous planning. Begin your quest early, with a keen eye on deadlines and submission requirements. A dedicated scholarship calendar can be your ally in this endeavor, ensuring no deadline slips through the cracks.

Custom-Tailored Applications

Each scholarship is its own world, with its unique set of rules and expectations. Tailoring your application to each scholarship's theme is paramount—generic applications are the foil to these special awards

Guidance is Just a Question Away

When in doubt, reach out. Scholarship providers are the gatekeepers of these funds and can offer invaluable insight into what makes an application successful. Engaging with them can not only clarify doubts but also demonstrate your genuine interest and commitment.

Continue reading the article below the scholarship list.

25 Unusual Scholarships with Approaching Deadlines

How to apply for an unusual scholarship

Students interested in unusual scholarships should start searching for them early on in their high school careers. Many of these scholarships are not limited to just high school seniors or juniors.

Many weird or unusual scholarships reward students who can be creative and unique. These scholarships are not necessarily easier to win than regular awards, and they may require more ingenuity.

Finding unusual scholarships is harder, simply because there are fewer of them available. You can start with a scholarship search at Scholarships.com, which will automatically match you to unusual scholarships as well as any others you qualify for. We also have an entire section of our Scholarship directory dedicated to scholarships by special attributes to help students find less traditional awards easily.

It's impossible to predict whether you'll win a scholarship, and that doesn't change if you're applying for unique or weird scholarships. The best thing you can do is double-check all the requirements, make sure the application is submitted before the deadline and try to stand out as much as possible.

Frequently asked questions about unusual scholarships

While there are many unusual scholarships with fewer criteria, others still have strict requirements. For example, the Scholars Helping Collars Scholarship is given to a student who can demonstrate how they helped a rescue animal or promoted animal welfare. Crafting a well-written essay and having a compelling story will be key to winning this scholarship.

The best unusual scholarships are the ones that you can get just by basically submitting something you are required to do for a class. No essay or other requirements that can take up a lot of your time. The National Candy Technologists Scholarship is awarded to a college sophomore, junior or senior with a demonstrated interest in confectionery technology. This can include many activities including but not limited to research projects, work experience, and formal study.

One type of unusual scholarship with a simple application is a sweepstake, which is essentially like a lottery system. Scholarship contests and sweepstakes don't base winners on factors like grades, test scores or extracurriculars. Instead, you simply fill out a very brief application and submit it by the deadline. A winner will be chosen randomly.

Scholarship sweepstakes are impossible to predict, so students shouldn't count on them. If they’re easy to apply for, go ahead and fill out the application. But if there are a lot of hoops to jump through, then focus on scholarships where you have a better chance of winning.