How Scholarships Work

Individual Scholarships

Not all scholarships are directed at the overachiever who's a star football player and earns a perfect SAT score. If a student can get into a college, he or she has a chance at receiving some kind of scholarship, period. One of the more common ways to get a scholarship is to apply for an individual-based program that offers scholarships that funnel applicants into specific career paths. For instance, anyone intending to be a doctor, dentist or nurse should have no trouble finding funding, provided they're willing to enter into a service obligation after they've completed their training. The National Health Service Corps gives out free ride scholarships for future health care workers in exchange for two years of clinical practice in a health care arena where there's a shortage of workers, like rural dentistry or vision care. The Army, Navy and Air Force also award this kind of funding through the ROTC program.

Even who you are can be a cause for scholarship. The Knights of Columbus offer 62 awards of $1,500 each for Catholic students who show academic potential, and the Jewish Community Center offers up to $10,000 a year to graduate students. Many scholarships are offered based on ancestry. Students of Chinese, Polish, Danish, Japanese and Italian descent (just to name a few) all have scholarships open to them. And, if you can prove you're a direct descendant of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, you're eligible for $1,500 from the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence Scholarship committee.

How about even more specific scholarships? The Evans Scholars Foundation offers full tuition scholarships to former golf caddies of exceptional character. The requirements for individual scholarships get even stranger, like the Fred and Mary F. Beckley Scholarship, which awards a sum of money every year to needy southpaws. Here are a few more odd duck scholarships, only one of which is actually duck-related:

  • The Klingon Language Institute offers $500 every year for one special student who's studying foreign languages.
  • The Vegetarian Resource Group Scholarship gives $10,000 for promoting the cause of vegetarianism in school and the community.
  • The Duck Brand Duct Tape Stuck at Prom Scholarship grants $6,000 to the couple that makes and wears the best prom outfits made entirely out of duct tape.
  • The Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest awards $1,500 to the finest duck call by a high school senior.
  • The OP Loftbed Scholarship offers $500 for answering a set of questions including, "What is the coolest object you've ever found?" and "Tell us your favorite story about your favorite pet." (Mentioning loft beds isn't required but is encouraged.)

Next up, we'll take a look at athletic scholarships to find out whether all that practice you did on your high school bowling team can help you pay for school.