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There are a lot of strange scholarships out there. There’s the Eileen J. Garret scholarship, for instance, which awards $3,000 only to students who aspire to study parapsychology--that is, ghosts.
Other scholarships are less weird but no less specific, as students must have very particular skills or interests or reside in a particular geographical location, which means that most students won’t qualify.
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The good news is that there are plenty of other scholarships out there that are a lot easier to qualify for. Some of them require interesting and creative essays, while others ask for a much smaller time commitment, but the common denominator is that most high school students will at least be able to apply. Here are some scholarships worth exploring if you need a little extra cash for college.
1. Zinch.com’s Weekly Essay
Zinch, a site with information on colleges and scholarships, can kick in a bit of cash to help you fund your education with its weekly essay contest. What sets it apart from other scholarships that require long-winded essays is its length: You have a limit of 280 characters for your essay, or the equivalent of two tweets. There’s a new essay prompt every week, and there’s no reason not to set aside a half-hour every week to see if you can win the prize - $1,000 toward your education. That’s not a huge sum given that top colleges now charge in the vicinity of $50,000 a year, but it’s still easy money that anyone can get.
2. Short and Tweet Scholarship
Why write an essay the size of two tweets when you can write a single tweet and be done with it? That’s the idea behind Scholarships.com’s own contest, which asks you to follow the site on Twitter and then tweet your answer to the question “What was the most important thing you learned this year and why?” Your tweet must include “@scholarshipscom”--this is, after all, a promotion for the website--which means that your actually answer is capped at 134 characters.
The best tweet will earn $1,000 toward a college education, while the two runners-up will each get a Kindle. You can enter up to three times a day until the May 14 deadline, though each tweet will be considered on its own.
3. Foreclosure.com Scholarship
Those were the easy ones. This essay contest requires a bit more writing--between 800 and 2,000 words--and you’ll also have to put on your thinking cap in a big way. The essay prompt asks to hear what sort of creative solutions for stimulating the housing market you’d like to hear from a presidential candidate. Extra points will be given to students who come up with their own brilliant solutions for revitalizing the housing market and stemming the tide of foreclosures. Sure, that’s a tall order for a high school senior, but why are you going to college if not to solve the nation’s most pressing problems?
The grand prize is a $5,000 scholarship, with the next four runners-up getting $1,000 each. The one limiting factor here is that the contest is limited to students who will be freshmen in fall 2012. The deadline is Dec. 1.
4. College Peas Student Standout College Scholarship
Some scholarships require you to have a very specific interest--for instance, duck-calling. But this scholarship doesn’t get into specifics: It just wants to know that you do something, anything that sets you apart from your fellow teenagers. Do you like baseball? That’s probably not enough to differentiate yourself. Are you obsessed with tracking baseball statistics? That’s closer to the sort of thing they’re looking for.
The scholarship is only $400 (plus a free college admissions consultation with Mike Moyer, who runs the site). But the essay is 100 words or less, so it’s not as if this will take a big time commitment. If there’s anything about you that other students find a bit weird, you probably qualify for this one. The deadline is June 30.
5. FIRE’s Freedom in Academia Essay Contest
You aren’t going to college just so you can get your freedoms violated, right? Storm into college as a defender of liberty by entering this annual essay contest presented by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a non-profit group that defends individual rights on college campuses. While the 2012 contest has yet to be announced, last year’s contest asked students to write an 800-1000 word essay about free speech in higher education.
The grand prize is $5,000, and second and third place winners get $2,500 and $1,000, respectively. Only high school seniors graduating this spring will qualify.
6. American Legion Oratorical Contest
Given that most people consider public speaking to be their greatest fear, a lot of otherwise well-qualified students will shy away from this scholarship, which requires students to deliver an eight-to-ten-minute speech (this year’s topic: the US Constitution). But the grand prize may be enough to get some students to conquer their fear: the national winner gets a whopping $18,000, and the runners-up and state-level winners also get cash to put toward their scholarships. High school students under 20 are qualified to enter the contest.
While the deadline for entry to the 2011-2012 contest has passed, students who will still be in high school next year should start practicing in front of the mirror.
7. Stuck at Prom
If you’re the extroverted type, but lack the time or public speaking skills to enter the American Legion Oratorical Contest, there are other scholarships that could be up your alley. One possibility is the Duck brand “Stuck at Prom” scholarship contest, which requires you to make a prom dress or tuxedo out of Duck brand duct tape and wear it to your prom.
The contest, which is in its 12th year, requires you and your date to both dress up in duct tape, and prizes will be awarded to the most dashing tape-clad couples. The first-place couple gets $5,000 each, with lower cash prizes for runners-up. The deadline for submitting your photo is June 13.