8 Unique Scholarships for College-Bound Students

Today’s students and their families are facing soaring college costs and potentially huge amounts of student debt.

The cost of college is up about 42 percent from 10 years ago, and continues to rise at more than two-and-a-half times the rate of inflation. Thankfully, aid comes in many forms. You don’t have to be an athlete to win money for college tuition.

We found niche scholarships that reward students with a variety of different interests and talents, from awards for scholars who have demonstrated a commitment to fighting hunger to scholarships for young people who are passionate about preventing distracted driving.

For the aspiring poet: Power Poety Scholarship 

Presented by Power Poetry, the world’s first mobile poetry community, this contest involves submitting a poem on the “true you” for a chance to win $1,000. The purpose of the scholarship is to get you thinking about your authentic self and how to “pull back the curtain,” in honor of the 75th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz.” College students under age 25 may apply; the application deadline is Nov. 30.

For the budding scientist: Young Naturalist Awards

Awarded by the American Museum of Natural History, Young Naturalist Awards are given to the winners of  a research-based science competition open to seventh- to 12th-grade students. Entrant essays may include bibliographies, charts and diagrams, and must include pictures. Lengths of essays and prize amounts are dependent on grade level. High school seniors can win $2,500 and must submit their essays by March 1.

For the community activist: NSHSS Robert P. Sheppard Leadership Awards

Sponsored by the National Society of High School Scholars Foundation, these awards are for students who demonstrate an outstanding commitment to community service and volunteer activities. Entrants must provide a recommendation, a list of community service activities and a personal statement. The deadline for this $2,500 award is March 22.

For the freedom fighter: The We The Students Scholarship Contest

This contest, which is open to all high school students, is sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute. Participants must respond, in 800 words or fewer, to the following question: “Since you were born, has America moved closer to or further away from the ideals outlined in the Declaration of Independence?” First-, second- and third-place winners, as well as honorable mentions all receive prizes of descending values, with the first-place winner garnering a $5,000 award. The students’ teachers also receive awards. The deadline for submission is Dec. 5.

For the safe-driving advocate: The Hunter Garner Scholarship

This scholarship, sponsored by Project Yellow Light, is named after the victim of a distracted driver, and provided in partnership with the Ad Council, Mazda, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Organizations for Youth Safety. Entrants should create either a 25- or 55-second video designed to motivate peers not to drive while distracted. The video can come in any form, be it a cartoon, an animation or theatrical presentation. The winning video in this contest will be turned into a public service announcement and distributed to 1,600 TV stations nationwide. High school and college students are eligible to apply for this award, and the first-place winner receives $5,000. The submission deadline is April 1.

For the student fighting to end hunger: Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarships

Students making significant contributions to the fight against hunger are eligible for these scholarships, which are sponsored by the Sodexo Foundation. In addition to a $5,000 scholarship, winners will also receive a $5,000 matching grant to give to the hunger-fighting organization of their choice. Special consideration will be given to entrants fighting child hunger. Entrants must be recommended by someone over the age of 21 who is not a parent, guardian or family member. Submission deadline is Dec. 5, and students ages 5 through 25 may apply.

For the artist: The Gallery Collection Scholarship

The Gallery Collection, a greeting-card producer, is offering $10,000 to one student (and another $1,000 to their school) for designing a winning greeting card. The final card will then be produced by the Gallery Collection to be used by consumers and businesses. Students as young as age 14 are allowed to apply for this lucrative award. The submission deadline is Feb. 18.

For the libertarian: Ayn Rand Institute Scholarships

The Ayn Rand Institute recognizes students who have a strong philosophical grasp of Rand by awarding up to $10,000 to students with the winning responses to questions posed on the institute’s website. High school juniors and seniors are eligible to apply, and the deadline for submission is April 26.