You may already be aware of standard merit- and need-based financial assistance for attending university, but have you encountered the myriad of fun and unusual scholarships available for graduate students? Let’s take a look at some notable examples.
Unigo USD 10K scholarship
Are you a US citizen currently enrolled or planning to enrol no later than 2025 in an accredited post-secondary institution of higher education? If so, pay attention because this creative task assigned by Unigo might grant you USD 10,000 to finance your college or university studies. This year’s prompt is the following: “Imagine a historical figure is brought back to life. Who is it? What's their favourite mobile app?”
Applicants need to craft their winning answer in 250 words or less and submit it by 31 December 2019. Keep in mind that the panel of judges at Unigo will consider the writing ability (25%), creativity (25%), originality (25%), and overall excellence (25%) of your entry. Make sure your text is well-written and grammatically flawless but don’t be afraid to get your creative juices flowing. One of the 2015 winners, Hayley H., recommends: “When applying for scholarships, I think it’s important for students to ignore their first instincts. Whatever I think of first is most likely what everyone else will say, too. I would advise students to think longer about it and try to come up with something outside of the box.”
Starfleet International (SFI) scholarships
Although not all scholarships will cover your tuition fully, they can still be a worthwhile source of funding. Starfleet International, an organisation established all the way back in 1973 that brings together the Star Trek fanbase, grants several USD 1,000 graduate study scholarships every year. The funding is offered to students in different categories – Engineering & Technology; Medicine & Veterinarian; Business, Management & Education; and Artistic. There is also a fifth option called “Miscellaneous” which is a general duty scholarship and applies to all courses of study not mentioned in the other four scholarships. The only requirement for you to be eligible to apply? You must have been a Starfleet member for at least one year before the application deadline (which was 15 June in 2018).
The amount of the scholarship may seem humble compared to other four- and five-digit funding options. However, this could be an important factor contributing to the lack of extreme competitiveness. “I’m a graduate student and it’s a lot harder to find funding than it is for an undergraduate. If you want to go to a conference, [or] publish a paper, everything costs money, so most of us are constantly on the lookout for anything we can find,” says Michael Denman, an environmental geographer at Texas A&M University (US) who won the 2015 SFI Miscellaneous scholarship.
This scholarship is awarded by the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation in the form of a 19-month programme of language study, work placement, and homestay in Japan. As its purpose is to promote closer links between the UK and Japan, the programme is open to British citizens only. No previous knowledge of Japan or experience of Japanese is necessary, but you need to be between 21 and 35 years of age. This is a great opportunity for anyone who has already successfully acquired their undergraduate degree and is now looking for a way to channel their passion for Japanese culture.
The deadline for submission of applications and references for the 2020-2022 programme period is 5 December 2019. If you pass the preliminary selection, you will go through three interview stages. If you pass all rounds successfully, the foundation will cover your tuition, accommodation, living costs, and travel to and from Japan.
Dr Jennifer Handsel, who has a Master in Computational Chemistry from the University of Surrey (UK) and a DPhil in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry from the University of Oxford (UK) was selected as one of the scholars in 2017. Here’s her piece of advice: “Have a clear idea of what you would like to do for your work placement, and be prepared to demonstrate your motivation for learning the Japanese language. Your background and specialisation do not matter – past scholars have been everything from furniture designers to aspiring politicians.”
Writers & Illustrators of the Future
Science fiction and fantasy aficionados who have a flair for writing or the arts can give these two scholarships a go. Whether you consider yourself a writer or an illustrator, you will find that the rules and requirements of the two contests are very similar. For each contest, three prizes are awarded four times a year, making the total number of winners 12. Then at the end of the year a jury of established professionals from the field awards an additional grand prize of USD 5,000 to one of the previous winners.
Although the two contests originated in the US in the 1980s, they are open to entries from all over the world. Over the past years the judges have selected winners not only from English-speaking countries but also from Finland, Lithuania, the Philippines, and China among others. As long as you know your way around the English language, your nationality will not be an obstacle in any way! In fact, as of June 2019, participants from a total of 181 countries have submitted their editorial and artistic entries. Winning one of the prizes will not only get your work published and make your name recognisable but the prize money may also contribute to your educational funds.
As you can see, there are various unusual scholarships available across the globe which could be suitable for your graduate study experience. These examples prove that while it is certainly challenging, applying for financial aid can also be fun and inspirational.