Scholarships for the Less-Than-Gifted

Move Over, Brainiacs and Future NBA Stars — Scholarships for the Rest of Us

By Buck Wolf

Sept. 4, 2001 — It's that time of year when all kids feel like geeks: The first day of school. If you're feeling like total loser who'll never get ahead in life, cheer up. There are people who will give you money for college simply for being left-handed — or fat.

Having brains like Einstein never hurts when you're filling out a college application. And if you're expecting a free ride to a top school, it's not a bad idea to be 6-foot-10 with a 45-inch vertical leap.

Still, the National Scholarship Research Center estimates that the private charitable organizations donate about $50 billion to the U.S. educational system. About 3.5 percent of that money, almost $1 billion, goes undistributed, so it might pay to check it out.

If you think you have a future in harness racing, the Harness Tracks of America scholarship is worth up to $3,000. If you wish to advance in the field of shade trees, the International Society of Arboriculture wants to help you.

There are some scholarships that are ridiculously specific. For decades, the University of California at Berkeley offered a $3,000 annual award to any Jewish orphan interested in a career in aeronautical sciences. The school had to appeal to the courts to broaden the scholarship because there were no takers.

Finally, the courts said the scholarship could go to any flight-minded Jew — but a Jewish orphan would still be given preference.

Many more scholarships award money to people with average grades who don't have the sort of talents that would land them in the student newspaper.

Here are a few of the oddball scholarships that can help catapult a young mind to new heights.

Oddball Scholarships

The Fat Scholarship — If you are a fat high school senior in the New England area, you can win a $500 scholarship to a two- or four-year college or university. Applicants must respond in writing to questions about his or her attitude toward fat people and size acceptance. Skinny folk who plan to gain a "freshman 15" in their first year need not apply.