Financing a college education in America has become a seriously stressful endeavor. Student loans, while convenient now, can result in crushing debt later. That’s why the National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA) sponsors National Scholarship Month each November. It encourages students to concentrate on securing funds they’ll never need to pay back. Learn how to be creative during your search; you’ll be surprised by what you find. Curious about the Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship? Read on! Also, meet the CEO who won 24 scholarships and $90,000 en route to a Harvard degree.
So make a plan, set clear goals, and research the scholarships of your choice. Then, apply, apply, apply! To start you off, we’ve gathered lots of helpful information so you can get a jump on the competition!
National Scholarship Month timeline
The Japanese American Citizens League
After World War II, the JACL begins as a way to support the Japanese-American community — featuring the National Scholarship and Awards Program.
Irving Fradkin, a Massachusetts optometrist, creates the organization — now in its seventh decade. As of July 2019, the group had over 60 scholarships listed on their website.
The first National Scholarship Month
Scholarship America establishes the observance in order to help kids make it through college. The inaugural event features speeches from Gen. Colin Powell and Sen. Ted Kennedy.
NSM 20th anniversary
The National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA) selects November as National Scholarship Month. Fastweb, the nation's recognized leader in helping students pay for college, challenges students to apply for 10 scholarships during the month.
How to Observe National Scholarship Month
Learn the secrets
Call him "book smart"! Author-turned-CEO Ben Kaplan won two dozen different scholarships. That — combined with a year's worth of AP credits — led to a "free ride" at Harvard. His book, “How to Go to College Almost for Free,” guides students through the intricacies of finding free scholarship money. According to Kaplan, you can succeed no matter where you come from, your household income, or even your GPA. Now a successful entrepreneur, Kaplan believes the difference between scholarship winners and losers comes down to creativity and persistence.
Take an inventory of your interests
Approach your scholarship search as a treasure hunt. There's one for almost every passion. For example, an interest in the food and retail industries could qualify you for $8,000 courtesy of the National Growers Association. If you actually like clowning around, Clowns of America International has an educational scholarship (and probably a bright red nose, too) just for you!
Contact your college (or high school) guidance office
Don't work hard — work smart! Save yourself time and energy by visiting, calling, or emailing your local high school or college guidance office. The counselors keep a running tab of information on the latest scholarships so they can work with you on exactly what's available, their timelines, and qualifications.
5 Unusual Scholarships That Might Just Pay For College
Scary — but true
The Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship offers $2,000 for the best answer to this question: "Imagine that your high school or college has been overrun with zombies. Your math professor, the cafeteria ladies, and even your best friend have all joined the walking dead. Flesh out a plan to avoid the zombies, including where you’d hide and the top five things you’d bring to stay alive." (250 words or less.) Nothing quite like a cafeteria lady zombie.
If you can trick ducks into falling for you based on your call, the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest has scholarship money for you.
Twice the money
Teachers and students are used to seeing double at Kansas' Sterling College thanks to its Twin Scholarship program that splits a scholarship between twins. (No word on quintuplets.)
Short and sweet
The Little People of America Association (LPA) looks out for its own with scholarships ranging from $250 – $1,000 for members 4'10" or shorter.
A visionary scholarship
The National Federation of the Blind provides over $120,000 each year to legally blind students in all 50 states. Applications are available on Nov. 1.
Why National Scholarship Month is Important
It's free money
National Scholarship Month shines a light on how to snag free money for college. You'll be surprised to discover there are scholarships to fit any personality type or occupation. For example, do you envision yourself as a future YouTube star? Test your talents and apply for a Video Contest Scholarship.
Play to your strengths
Do you prefer merit-based scholarships or have you pinned your hopes on winning a lottery scholarship? It takes perseverence and skill to match your interests with the scholarship of your choice. If you vigorously participate in extra-curricular activities, but your academic score doesn't quite make the grade, a lottery scholarship can level the playing field. Remember, don't give up — you can still be a contender even if your grades need work.
Sort through digital platforms for the best scholarships
In the past, students searching for scholarships spent hours digging through library "card catalogs." (Remember those? No? Ask your parents!) One of the best all-around scholarship search sites is Fastweb, where the dollar amounts are high, and high school and grad students can look for options, too. Cappex is another winning site due to an incredibly large scholarship database and a large toolbox to help with your search.