From drills to doodles, scholarships can be won in some unexpected ways.
College scholarships: Everyone wants them—and that means the competition is fierce out there, especially for the well-known prestigious ones from the likes of Coca-Cola and Gates Millennium. But in your quest for college cash, it can pay to apply for some out-of-the-box opportunities. The key is to seek out unique ways to use your particular skills and interests.
If you’re a student-athlete, for example, you’ve probably been looking at sports scholarships, but the U.S. Army has opportunities for physically fit student achievers as well. Each year, the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) invests US$280 million in full-tuition scholarships at an average of around $100,000 each, including money for books and supplies and an annual monthly stipend, at universities nationwide. And you don’t have to be a state champion to apply.
“It doesn’t have to be organized sports,” says Joe O’Donnell of the United States Army Cadet Command. “But the Army is comprised of top athletes. We do want to make sure you have the physical skills: the endurance, the stamina. We look for participation in either individual or team athletics through your school, community athletic events, a recreational league—even participation in things like 5K races.”
Yes, you’ll also need to have excelled in your academic environment, and leadership skills are important too.
“I’ve seen many high school students include activities I never would have dreamed of as leadership opportunities,” O’Donnell says, “whether it’s a management position at work or a charity event they planned in their community. It’s really incumbent on the scholarship applicant to explain to us how they’re a leader. Not only that, ROTC will continue to foster your leadership skills well beyond the college classroom. Our cadets are better prepared for in-demand careers upon graduation.”
But wait, you say. That means I’ll be on a plane to an Army base the day after I get my diploma, right? Not necessarily, says O’Donnell.
“The scholarship itself does not require everybody after they graduate college to go on active duty. They could also serve the time in the National Guard or the Army Reserve…You have a lot of flexibility in what you can do on the other side of your college experience.”
You will, however, be expected to serve with the Army in some capacity for eight years post-graduation. That means devoting some weekends and summer vacation to drills and other training in areas like information technology, computer programming and even medicine.
Interested in learning more? Scholarship applications (goarmy.com/rotc/scholarships.html) open on June 12 for students who have completed their junior year of high school.
Looking for something a little less physical? You might be surprised at how your particular interests and skills can pay off. Whether you’re into fashion design, art—even vegetarianism—you’ll find that a little exploration can result in a hefty cash prize or scholarship gold.
Doodle 4 Google
Amount: $30,000 grand prize/$5,000 finalists
Where: United States
You know those nifty doodles you draw when a classroom lecture runs a little too long? Turn one into college cash through this annual Google competition. Win the grand prize and your work of art also will be on Google’s home page for the day.
For more information: doodles.google.com/d4g/faq.html
Where: United States, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico
If you’re skilled in photography, art or computer graphics, you could score this scholarship. Submit an original creation perfect for the front of a greeting card; if you win, you’ll get the cash and see your design on cards sold through The Gallery Collection company.
For more information: gallerycollection.com/greeting-cards-scholarship.htm
Stuck at Prom Scholarship
Amount: $10,000 grand prize/$1,000-$5,000 finalists
Where: United States, Puerto Rico, all U.S. territories and possessions (excluding Maryland, Vermont and Colorado), Canada (excluding the Province of Quebec)
Budding fashion designers, this one’s for you. Craft up original promwear for you and your date, then snap some high-resolution photos of your duds at the big event. Just one catch: Your outfits must be made from duct and/or crafting tape.
For more information: stuckatprom.com
Vegetarian Resource Group Scholarships
Amount: $10,000 winner/$5,000 finalists
Where: United States
Meat eaters need not apply. These scholarships reward those who have promoted a vegetarian lifestyle at school and/or in the community. Be sure to stress your three Cs: compassion, courage and commitment.
For more information: vrg.org/student/scholar.html
NFIB Young Entrepreneur Awards
Where: No country limitations listed
The National Federation of Independent Business awards several scholarships to high school seniors who already own and operate a small business. Judges are looking for enterprising students who want to further develop the interests and skills that sparked their start-up.
For more information: nfib.com/foundations/yef/yef-programs/young-entrepreneur-awards/