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Unusual But Legit Scholarships

March 08, 2016

Every parent dreams of their kid getting a college scholarship. There are merit-based scholarships, based on a student’s grades. There are athletic scholarships for students with exceptional physical skills. If a student commits to a field like education or nursing they may be eligible for certain scholarships related to those fields.

Or a student could have red hair.

There are some unusual scholarships out there. While most students are aware that sports and good grades can pay off, there are other ways to get money for college. By doing a little digging, families might be able to track down some smaller, slightly odd scholarships that earn them college money with less competition.

Have red hair: Yes, this is real. ScholarshipRed offers an unusual scholarship of $500 to one lucky redhead a year. US high school juniors and seniors with a GPA over 2.5 and natural red hair (they ask for a childhood photo to prove it) are eligible. A lifetime of sunburns finally pays off!

Be left-handed: Being left-handed often means smudging your own writing and bumping elbows with people at dinner tables, but it can also get you $1,000-$1,500 a year for college. The Frederick and Mary F Buckley Scholarship has been rewarding southpaw students attending Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA., since 1979. Only about 10 percent of the US population is left-handed, which reduces competition for this weird scholarship.

Be short: Little People of America offers scholarships to students who are 4’10” or shorter. Billy Barty, a little person actor known for his roles in “Willow” and the animated version of “The Lord of the Rings,” founded the LPA in the 1950s. The amount awarded depends on the needs – not the height - of the student.

Be a vegetarian: Every year vegetarians get better dining options in college cafeterias, but they also have good opportunities for unusual scholarships to get into schools. The Vegetarian Resource Group awards one $10,000 scholarship and two $5,000 scholarships to meat-free students every year. If you’re a vegetarian who wants to attend college in a warm climate, the Vegetarian-Roth Fund at the University of Hawaii at Manoa assists vegetarian graduate students studying nutrition. Who would have thought eating your veggies would pay off so well?

Be creative with duct tape: Duck Tape brand duct tape offers a $10,000 scholarship to each member of a couple who wears duct tape attire to their high school prom. Second place gets $5,000 and third place $3,000. It’s not as simple as wrapping yourself in silver tape; past winners have been very creative with designs, colors and accessories.

Ways to Apply for Scholarships

Every family should submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to help determine your eligibility for need-based financial aid. Check with your employer and any local clubs, organizations and local groups to find out if there are any unusual, odd or just everyday scholarships available in your area.

High school counselors are also a good source for information on scholarships and grants.

In addition, there are sites like that let you look at different scholarship categories to find the right one for you. You can search for scholarships by state, by major, by ethnicity or your ability to call ducks.

What Happens When You Get a Scholarship?

Your scholarship, grant or fellowship may count as taxable income, so make sure you keep track of any forms for tax time. Scholarships that apply to tuition and required fees, books and supplies are generally tax-free, while scholarships that apply to room and board and travel are taxable.

Many scholarships are renewable, so you can’t take for granted that the money will be there every year. Make sure you mark down deadlines so you can file for renewal or submit proof that you’re still in school.

Some scholarships send money directly to the school to be applied to your tuition. Make sure that you have submitted the correct information for the scholarship or bursar’s office so your scholarship ends up in the right place.

Watch Out for Scams

Unfortunately, there are organizations that seek to cash in on the scramble for scholarships. If you use a scholarship service, make sure it is backed by a reputable company. If you have to put up money for the scholarship or the organization isn’t forthcoming on details, it may be a scam.

Whether you’ve earned an unusual scholarship or not, Farm Bureau Financial Services has college funding options to help cover expenses. A 529 Plan, Coverdell Education Savings Account or use of the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act can ease the burden of education expenses. Learn more about college funding options today.