Specialized awards include college tuition money for 'losers,' duct-tape designers and more

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Are you a quilter? The child or grandchild of someone who graduated from the (now gone) Queen Anne High School? Love potatoes or thinking of racing horses?

Would you be comfortable calling yourself a “loser?” (And what if answering “yes” to that question meant that you were eligible for $7,000 in scholarship funds?)

Hundreds of unusual scholarships provide students with unique ways to pay college tuition. Some are hyperlocal to Washington state, some depend on your parents’ jobs, while others cast a broad net across the U.S.

Seattle-area certified public accountant Paula Bishop works with many families on financial aid for college. Bishop suggests that students seek out those little-known (and sometimes less-competitive) scholarships, mentioning the Queen Anne High School Alumni Association, which gives out $500 annually to one lucky descendant of a Queen Anne High School grad.

If you’re a descendant of a Washington, Oregon, Idaho or Montana pioneer and a full-time junior or senior at a Washington institution, investigate the two $1,500 scholarships from the State Association of the Daughters of Pioneers of Washington. A preference is given to history, education and English majors. (wapioneerdaughters.org)

Bishop also points to the Electronic Security Association of Washington, which hands out awards to seniors who are children of active-duty police and fire personnel. First prize is $1,500; second prize is $1,000.

Something for everyone

Personal passions can also lead to scholarships. The Kitsap Quilters’ Scholarship offers $1,500 to any Washington resident working on a fiber art-related undergraduate degree at a Washington college.

The Seattle indie music label Sub Pop offers an annual Loser Scholarship, a total of $15,000 to three eligible high school seniors. Washington and Oregon residents must be ready to enroll full-time at a university — and ready to rock (in other words, interested in music or the creative arts). Students are asked to write a one-page essay on their interest and contribution to the creative fields, and a digital link or hard copies of their artwork.

Some scholarships are school-specific. At the University of Washington, many options exist, says Robin Chang, director of the school’s office of merit scholarships, fellowships and awards.

“Our office does support UW undergraduate students and alumni in searching and applying for scholarships. Often in talking with students we can suggest specific scholarships that fit with their interests and goals, and often those are of the more ‘unusual’ variety,” she says.

But that doesn’t mean kids are off the hook. “With the huge diversity and range of scholarships available in the world, students are able to find many more by searching proactively and planning as far ahead as possible,” Chang says.

For example, UW’s Bonderman Travel Fellowship funds 14 students with the opportunity to travel for a minimum of eight months in at least six countries in two or more major regions of the world … solo. As the rules state, “This is a solitary adventure that you must undertake alone.”

Finding the right fit

If you’ve got eyes for spuds, the Washington Potato Foundation offers a variety of scholarships to up to 30 Washington and Oregon full-time students pursuing agricultural degrees, with a special emphasis in the potato-growing regions. Since 2001, the WSPF has awarded more than 200 students a total of almost $600,000 in funds.

Students in Thurston, Lewis or Mason counties interested in organic farming and agricultural sustainability within the South Sound region of western Washington can apply for a Robert J. Meyer Scholarship.

Chasing after a career in racetrack management? Apply for up to $5,000 per year from the Washington Thoroughbred Foundation Scholarship. The funds can also be applied to equine science, pre-veterinary medicine, business management, pasture management and other horse-related fields.

Of course, there are also national options to consider, such as the DuckBrand Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contests, where the best made-from-duct-tape prom attire can earn you a cool 10 grand.

Even if you don’t win, at least you’ve got a great prom dress.