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Unusual Scholarships in the US

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Education costs may be climbing, but in the meantime college scholarships seem to be getting ever more weird and wonderful. While usually US scholarships are allocated based on academic merit and/or financial need, there are some much more unusual scholarships out there – based on everything from duck imitation skills to feats of engineering brilliance.

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We’ve collected the most unusual scholarships we could find for students in the US, with details of what you’ll need to do to be in with a chance of success. Read our list below and discover how you could win US$2,000 for writing an essay about zombies, and a whopping US$25,000 for making a peanut butter sandwich!

Unusual scholarships contests

American Fire Sprinkler Association Scholarship Programscholarship contest for US college students who write a winning ‘fire sprinkler essay’.

Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest – prospective college students in the US can take part in the Arkansas annual duck calling scholarship contest, in order to win awards totaling US$4,250.

Create-A-Greeting-Card $10,000 Scholarship Contest – scholarship contest for US college students to design a winning greeting card.

Duct Tape “Stuck At Prom” Scholarship Contest – Funded by Duck Tape, this gives graduating high-school students the opportunity to gain college scholarships by dressing entirely in duct tape for their prom.

Illustrator of the Future contest – US college scholarships are awarded to winners of this science fiction illustration competition.

Jif Most Creative Sandwich Competition – A massive US$25,000 in college scholarship funding is awarded annually to the creator of the best peanut butter sandwich.

Junior Duck Stamp Contest – another duck-related scholarship contest, this initiative gives US$1,000 to the student who creates the best drawing, sketch or painting of a duck.

National Marbles Tournament – This marble tournament awards US scholarships to the winning ‘mibster’ (marble shooter).

Rube Goldberg Machine Scholarship Contest – US scholarship contest to make a winning Rube Goldberg machine. Open to incoming students at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

Writer of the future contest – creative US scholarships contest for science fiction and fantasy writers.

Zombie Apocalypse Scholarships – US scholarships worth US$2,000, offered by ScholarshipsExpert.com. To win, students must write a creative application essay on how they would survive if a zombie apocalypse broke out in their school.

Collegiate Inventors’ Scholarship – annual US scholarships awarded to full-time US students with an idea for an original invention in a STEM subject or other field.

Unusual scholarships for specific groups of students

Little People of America Scholarships – offering scholarships for current undergraduate or graduate US students, with preference given to LPA members medically diagnosed with dwarfism, immediate family members of an LPA member, or non-member students with dwarfism.

Optimist International Communication Scholarship – college scholarships for deaf and hard of hearing students graduating from high school in the US or Canada.

Starfleet Scholarships – opportunities to gain US$1,000 scholarships for US students who are members of the International Star Trek Fan Association, Starfleet.

TCI Foundation Tall Scholarships – unusual scholarships for tall, first-year university students in the US with a height of over 6 foot 2 inches (for men) or 5 foot 10 inches (for women).

Vegetarian Resource Group Scholarships – US scholarships for current students who are vegetarian and actively promote a vegetarian way of life at their university.

Unusual scholarships for sports fans

Bob Gurnsey Paintball Scholarships – college scholarships for current US students who are active paintballers.

The Chick Evan Caddie Scholarship – full tuition college scholarships for golf caddies pursuing study in the US.

Unusual scholarships for foodies

AACT John Kitt Memorial Scholarship – offering a US$5,000 scholarship to US students with an interest in confectionary technology. Funded by the American Association of Candy Technologists.

National Beef Ambassador Program – US$1,000 in scholarships for national beef ambassador students in the US. Weird, yes, but they do also offer a free iPad…

National Potato Council Scholarship Program – graduate-level scholarship program for students conducting research to further the US potato industry.

NDS Milk Marketing Scholarship – seven US scholarships given away by the National Dairy Shrine to encourage undergraduate students to pursue careers in dairy marketing.

Subject-specific unusual scholarships

American Welding Society District Scholarship Programscholarship opportunities for US students studying or training within a welding-related program.

ASEV Scholarship Program – university scholarships open to US students studying a degree in enology and viticulture, the science behind the wine and grape industry.

Eileen J Garrett Scholarship – open to students at an accredited US university wishing to pursue study in parapsychology, the study of paranormal and psychic phenomena.

Ludo Frevel Crystallography Scholarships – scholarship opportunities for graduate students with a major interest in crystallography (e.g. crystal structure analysis and crystal morphology). Awards total US$2,500 each.

National Gay Pilot Association Scholarships – opportunities for members of the LGBT community to gain funding to pursue a professional pilot education at a US institution.

TAPPI William L Cullison Scholarship – scholarship opportunities for students studying pulp and paper science at an accredited US university. Sponsored by TAPPI.

TYLENOL Future Care Scholarships – US scholarships funded by TYLENOL drugs company, offered to students pursuing studies in healthcare.

University-specific unusual scholarships

Alice Mcarver Ratchford Scholarship – (very specific) scholarship opportunities for female students at the University of North Carolina who are single, live on campus and don’t own a car.

Loyola University Chicago Zolp Scholarships – unusual scholarships on offer to Catholic students with the surname Zolp at Loyola University Chicago in the US.

University of Michigan LaFontaine Aquatic Entomology Scholarship – scholarship opportunities for students conducting an aquatic entomology research project within the department of Natural Resources & Environment at the University of Michigan in the US.

The Hiram College Hal Reichle Scholarship – scholarships offered at Hiram College in Ohio, US for students who show humanity and kindness, be that through volunteering, community involvement or humanitarian efforts.

Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation Scholarship – US scholarships awarded to students enrolled at Mississippi State University in the Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science program.

Scholarships for twins and triplets

Eastern Michigan University Furlotte Twins Endowed Scholarship – Endowed scholarships for twins studying at the College of Education at Eastern Michigan University

George Washington University Family Grant – cut-price tuition scholarships for twins and other siblings attending George Washington University in the US in the same year.

Layton Frazier McKinley Scholarship – offering undergraduate business scholarships for twins at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University in the US. Preference given to identical twins.

Wilson College Scholarships for Twins and Triplets – scholarships for twins and triplets awarded annually at Wilson College in Pennsylvania, US. 45% off tuition fees awarded to each twin/triplet.

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Laura Tucker's profile image
Written by Laura Tucker
Laura is a former staff writer for TopUniversities.com, providing advice and guidance for students on a range of topics helping them to choose where to study, get admitted and find funding and scholarships. A graduate of Queen Mary University of London, Laura also blogs about student life.

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HELLO
My name OLadipo, I am an undergraduate seeking admission for this fall in the US but haven't found any university that can suit my parents budget.
Any form of help would be highly appreciated.

Hi Oladipo, we've listed some less unusual scholarships to study in the US here. :)

hi Laura, I am Carlos from Benin and i would like to know if there are unusual scholarships for international students.

I am a holder of Bachelor of Science in Fisheries Science and now am looking for any chance of securing a scholarship to do Master of Science in the fields of fish Biology, Fish Genetics or Water Quality Management. May you please assist me with a list of universities that offer courses in fisheries and aquaculture.

Hi Barnett, although we don't have a ranking specifically in this area, we do have a ranking of the top universities for earth and marine sciences (you can filter the results by country). A number of universities in this list may not offer your program, but with a bit of trial-and-error research on each university (via their website or an online search) you should find a program in this speciality. From there, you'll be able to find information on any scholarships the university offers. Good luck! Laura