5 wacky scholarships

1. Student bowlers can receive scholarships from the United States Bowling Congress.

2. The Patrick Kerr Skateboard scholarship offers a $5,000 and a $1,000 award to high school skateboarders.

3. The Joseph Bulova School in Queens offers scholarships to disabled foreign students who want to study watch-making.

4. The New England Chapter of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance offers scholarships to overweight students.

5. The Mycological Society of America offers scholarships for students interested in spores, molds and fungus.

Source: scholarship.lifetips.com

W ith tuition costs continuing to rise, CU students are looking for all the financial help they can get.

For many students, grant money and scholarships feel less accessible and harder to get than a student loan.

But with some simple tips from Susan Youtz, the associate director of financial aid and student employment at CU, students may be able to snag a scholarship or two to help pay those pricey tuition bills.

Youtz said students should focus on prioritizing opportunities based on specialized qualifications.

"Prioritize the specialty ones that have fewer applicants because you'll have a better chance of getting those that fewer people qualify for," Youtz said.

Youtz recommends students start researching scholarship opportunities as early as November for the following academic year. But it's not too late for students looking for some free cash to help with next year's tuition.

"Keep an open mind when doing your research," Youtz said. "There are a lot of scholarship opportunities out there, and you should apply for as many as possible to have the best chance of getting at least one."

Students should start by filling out the application for university scholarships and department-specific opportunities. Visit the financial aid website at colorado.edu/finaid to apply for university-wide scholarships. Then check with your department about any opportunities it might offer.

Staying organized can make the application less painful and quicker for students, Youtz said. She suggests getting a notebook to can keep copies of applications, including the materials you've sent in so you can follow up later.

Consider the wacky ones

Thinking outside the box might be the key for students struggling to find scholarship money.

Some organizations offer academic-based scholarships, which require high grade point averages and test scores for qualification. Others offer specialty awards that include qualifications such as physical characteristics, personal interests or family factors among many others.

There are some unusual national and local scholarships, too, such as ones for left-handed students only, students who are under 4-foot-10-inches tall or students who are more than 6 feet tall.

Duck-brand duct tape offers a scholarship for the high school couple who wears the most creative prom attire made entirely of duct tape. Other odd awards include scholarships for student inventors, marble players, students who promote vegetarianism in their schools and students who sell Tupperware.

Students at CU have received private aid from the American Association for Nude Recreation, the International Metal Decorators Association, the Propeller Club of the U.S., the Society of Mayflower Descendents, the Young Farmers & Homemakers Club, the Heritage Fine Arts Guild, the Space Center Scholarship and the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, among others.

Youtz said odd scholarships often have fewer applicants since not many students are eligible for them; students who are eligible -- and apply, of course -- have better odds nabbing these.

Check out sites such as scholarships.com, finaid.org or education planner.org. For more help finding and applying for scholarships, visit a counselor offered by the financial aid office.

Youtz said that while scholarship searches can be incredibly time consuming, they can also be well worth the work.

"If you get even a $500 scholarship after putting in 20 hours of work, that's like making $25 per hour," Youtz said. "Imagine the benefits if you get multiple awards."

Youtz said maintaining motivation is important: despite rejections, keep applying for scholarships.

"Do your best to get them," Youtz said. "But remember, rejections can be based on luck or even random decisions."

"Keep trying."