Unusual and Unknown

Book Open on the Grass

With tuition costs continuing to rise, these days, it pays to find creative ways to finance an undergraduate or graduate degree in engineering.

While most colleges offer academic scholarships and grants as part of the financial assistance package upon enrollment, rarely do they meet the financial needs of the student. Most students need to apply for loans to make up the difference. But before making the trip to the bank, there is another avenue to pursue to gain supplemental funds to contribute towards tuition.

In addition to college-specific aid, there are thousands of private organizations that offer scholarships, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars per year. With books costing as much as $1,000 per semester, even a small grant helps. There are many types of private organizations who offer scholarships: corporations, professional associations, religious organizations, unions, high schools and school districts, Chambers of Commerce, military, and hundreds of other private groups. Because the field of engineering continues to grow, the number of scholarships for engineers is on the rise as well.

For example there are a large number of scholarships available for minorities. The William Randolph Hearst endowed scholarship for minority students is offered annually by the Aspen Institute and the National Society of Black Engineers offers scholarships to minorities. There are more and more scholarships for women in engineering. The National Society for Professional Engineers (NSPE) has two scholarships available to female engineering students, including the Virginia D. Henry Memorial Scholarship for female engineering students who are transferring from community colleges into four year programs. The Society of Women Engineers has scholarships for women in multiple disciplines, as well as programs at most of the major engineering schools across the country.

There is also a large category of "unusual and unknown" scholarships and grants available that can be described as "unique" in that they are awarded on unusual characteristics that generally have nothing to do with talent, but everything to do with genetics, heritage, or history. For example, if you and your twin decide to go to the same college, there are many universities that will provide a tuition discount to you both.

The Gertrude J. Deppen Scholarship Fund at Bucknell University provides two scholarships a year to Bucknell students who do not participate in strenuous athlete competitions - but, you must live in Mount Carmel, CA and disavow the habitual use of tobacco, alcohol and recreational drugs. There are scholarships for short people and tall people and those skilled in knitting with wool. The American Fire Sprinkler Association offers several $2,000 scholarships to help raise awareness of fire safety, and Body by Milk annually awards twenty-five $7,500 SAMMY (Scholar Athlete Milk Mustache of the Year) Awards to "outstanding athletes, students, and all-around nice people."

What's the catch? To win, you have to send a picture of yourself with a milk mustache with your application.

There are thousands of scholarships available to those individuals who make the effort, and invest the time, to seek and pursue them.

Tom Ricci is the owner of Ricci Communications.

For example, if you and your twin decide to go to the same college, there are many universities that will provide a tuition discount to you both.


March 2011

by Tom Ricci. ASME.org