Tuition-free college is now a reality in New York, but if you don’t meet the requirements, you probably have to come up with a way to pay for your education. According to Debt.org, universities and the U.S. Department of Education award an estimated $46 billion in grants and scholarships annually, with another $3.3 billion coming from private sources. You don’t have to be a top-notch athlete or scholar to qualify; you just need to know where to look.
Check out these outside-the-norm scholarships. One of them could be perfect for you.
1. The Adventure Fund
Not all learning is done in a classroom. Every year, an online travel journal called Sidetracked awards grant money to individuals or groups who come up with innovative approaches to adventure. Sidetracked donates 10 percent of its profits to the fund and other donors contribute as well, so the award varies annually.
2. Stuck at Prom
Skipping the pricey ball gown and going with a DIY dress might not earn you a prom royalty title, but it could net you some serious cash for college. Every year, Duck brand duct tape awards more than $50,000 in scholarships to entrants who create and wear complete prom attire and accessories made with their products.
3. Create-a-Greeting Card Scholarship
Budding artists can win big by creating a Hallmark-worthy design. The Gallery Collection awards a $10,000 scholarship to the entrant with the winning greeting card design. The card is sold as part of the company’s line and the winner’s school gets $1,000 as well.
4. NMC/MPA Copyright Awareness Scholarship
If you are passionate about the importance of protecting intellectual property and can shoot a video, you could come into some cold, hard cash for college. The National Music Council and the Music Publishers Association award up to $10,000 a year to up to three entrants who submit videos regarding copyright law.
5. Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest
Since 1974, high school seniors have competed to win their share of a college scholarship jackpot at the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest in Stuttgart, Arkansas. Hopefuls must travel to the competition in order to have a shot.
6. Clowns of America Individual Educational Scholarship
If you suffer from coulrophobia (a fear of clowns), you may want to skip this unusual scholarship. However, if your dream is to take courses in family entertainment, this may be the ideal choice for you. Caveat: you must submit a pic of yourself in full clown makeup.
7. Asparagus Club Scholarship
Preparing for a career in the grocery retail industry? The Asparagus Club has your back. The group provides up to 10 scholarships per year. Each recipient is awarded $2,000 per semester for as many as four semesters.
8. The Willy the Plumber Scholarship
It might surprise you to learn that this unusual scholarship has nothing to do with becoming a plumber. In fact, it is a scholarship program for Utah students whose parents are incarcerated. The plumbing company who started the fund want to help these young people who had done nothing wrong, in order to break the cycle.
9. Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship
Could you survive an outbreak of the walking dead? Your 250-word essay on how you would stay alive if your school was overrun with zombies has to impress the judges for you to win a $2,000 scholarship.
10. Starfleet Academy Scholarships
Provided you have been a Starfleet member in good standing for at least one year (and your membership is current), you can apply for one of five $1,000 scholarships. Categories include the James Doohan/Montgomery Scott Engineering & Technology Scholarship and the DeForest Kelley/Dr. Leonard McCoy Memorial Medical & Veterinarian Scholarship, among others.
If none of these weird scholarships are a perfect fit for you, keep looking. There is truly something available to suit everyone. On the other hand, there are lots of other ways to earn a degree for free.