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Not the Valedictorian? You Can Still Find a College Scholarship

Author: Daniel Smith

Let's face it: you were not the high school valedictorian. You also might not have graduated at the top of your class, but, that doesn't mean you can't qualify for a scholarship. Many organizations and universities offer scholarships based on other criteria, such as community participation, leadership, and financial need, in addition to scholarships geared toward students in particular majors.

Investopedia rounded up several experts and asked them to share some of the various scholarships available to students who don't necessarily have the highest GPA. Keep reading to learn how to take advantage of the scholarships that are available.

While students who have an a high school GPA are twice as likely to have won scholarships as students who have a B or lower, less than 10% of scholarships ask about a student's GPA or test scores," says Mark Kantrowicz, the author of Secrets to Winning a Scholarship.

How is that possible? Kantrowicz explains, Students who perform well academically tend also to perform better in non-academic fields that matter for scholarships. Nevertheless, students who have less than an A still do win scholarships.

Nippy Betz of the Scholarship-Leadership Institute agrees. There are a ton of scholarships out there for those willing to do the research. We help teens by making them think outside the box. As an example, Betz says one 11-year-old has already earned $60,000, which proves that there is no shortage of scholarships. There is only a lack of knowledge on how to acquire them, and there are also good scholarships out there for many of the non-STEM majors, says Betz.

Specific Majors

Some scholarships are geared toward students in certain majors. For example, the National Society of High School Scholars Foundation offers scholarships for students in political science, business, or finance/economics, says Betz. He also recommends the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program, sponsored by the GM Foundation. The program provides 100 yearly-renewable scholarships up to $25,0000 a year, and 1000 one-time scholarships of $2,000 to students who plan to major in engineering, technology, design, or business.

Whereas Kantrowicz suggests telecommunications students check out awards at Ball State University, The David Letterman Scholarship at Ball State University is for telecommunications students who have an average yet creative mind," says Kantrowicz.

Leadership and Achievement

Betz says another popular scholarship for leadership is the "Coca-Cola Scholars Program." The scholarship is open to high school seniors who are outstanding leaders in business, government, the arts, or education. This program gives $20,000 renewable scholarships to 50 students and $10,000 renewable scholarships to 400 students. The AXA Achievement Scholarship also recognizes students who've displayed exceptional work outside of school.

Financial Need Awards

Students from lower income families may want to consider s like the SchoolLinks Scholarship. The organization's founder and CEO, Katie Fang says, SchooLinks is hoping to open up funding to low-income students as it grows. Currently, we have a $5000 Scholarship, which doesn't require an application form, essay, or GPA requirement.

Fang says SchoolLinks also offers a video contest scholarship to help students to have fun and be more creative. We feel that there aren't as many opportunities for low-income students. Thus we are aiming to provide as many res and tools to lower the barrier to funding as well as college acceptance, in general, says Fang.

Kantrowicz recommends that students in financial need look up the Horatio Alger Association Scholarship, which awards 106 scholarships at $22,000 each. Besides having a financial need, students must maintain a 2.0 GPA, display determination in overcoming adversity, and be involved in extra-curricular and community activities. The association also offers other types of scholarships based on specific majors (such as STEM subjects) and to attend certain colleges.

Location-based Scholarships

Some scholarships are offered to students living in a particular region. For example, if you have at least a 2.7 GPA, have an interest in science and technology, and you live on the East Coast, consider applying for a scholarship to Harrisburg University. According to Steve Infanti, assistant vice president of admissions, The university awards up to full tuition scholarships for students who graduate from high schools in Baltimore, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Reading Harrisburg and high schools in York, Delaware, Montgomery and Dauphin Counties in Pennsylvania. He says the university also offers similar scholarships to transfer students.

Miscellaneous Scholarships

There are also many other types of scholarships offered for various reasons. Linda Enoh, the author of How to Score a Debt-Free College Education," lists several niche scholarships that students aren't typically aware of, including the following: 

  • Scholarships for tall students - for males at least 6' tall and females at least 5'10 (Tall Club International)
  • Short students less than 4"0 (Billy Barty Foundation)
  • Scholarships for Star
Trek fans (Klingon Language Institute)
  • Scholarships for left-handed students (Frederick and Mary F. Beckley Scholarship),
  • Scholarships for KOHL'S shoppers (Kohl's Cares)

Kantrowicz says one of his favorite scholarships that does not consider grades is the Stuck at Prom Scholarship, which is awarded to students for making a prom costume out of duct tape.

The Bottom Line

Just because you don't have the highest GPA doesn't mean that you can't find scholarships. The same refulness and determination that got you this far can help you find some of the many organizations willing to help you offset your college expenses.

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