No-Essay Scholarships Doesn’t Mean No Work

no essay scholarships

Writing essays can be a daunting task, and even more intimidating when you’re wielding your pen to win college scholarships. You might be wracking your brain to come up with unique, probing essays for your college applications. It’s understandable that you might want to think about your academic future besides writing more essays. 

Thankfully, there are alternative options for winning college scholarships that don’t involve another essay topic. Organizations have come up with imaginative approaches to earn cash for college using other creative channels.

If you’re good at making videos, harness that talent into making video essays or short documentaries. If you have fun taking photos, have fun turning your photos into cold, hard cash for college. If making memes is effortless, enter your creation in a meme contest. If you’re engaged in community service, your campaigns should be documented and submitted for a chance to fund your postsecondary education. If you don’t mind signing up for newsletters, your email address can grant you a monthly chance to win money.

The point is there are multiple ways to earn college scholarships that go beyond a winning essay or being lucky enough to have a parent work at a generous corporation.

However, as you embark on your scholarship search, be careful of scams. It should be a big red flag if you’re asked to pay for processing costs or entry fees. The easier the scholarship application, the chances are it’ll be harder to win so weigh how much time you want to invest in an entry. Be wary of winning scholarships that you didn’t apply for or were even aware of. The chances are if it’s too good to be true, it’s too good to be true. You can check with your teachers or guidance counselors to see if they nominated you. Don’t be afraid to call up the organizations themselves to vet them since you are well within your rights to ask questions.

Think of this introduction as a starter kit to get your mind thinking in creative ways to search for alternative scholarship money that involves something else besides another essay. Here are a few sources for you to peruse but there are many more out there.

List of Scholarship Opportunities

Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway Program

Dr. Pepper has been giving away generous college scholarships for the last 12 years, based on a 60-second video submission about how the soft drink’s tuition dollars will impact the students’ lives and help them achieve their personal and professional goals. In 2020, the oldest soft-drink brand is giving away $2 million, double from last year. Six finalists will be invited to compete in a grand throw competition that has typically been broadcast during a college football game. This year, it’ll be a different setup due to the pandemic, and the contestants will be invited to the Texas headquarters of Dude Perfect, a group of guys who entertain with funny sports stunts on their YouTube channel.

Three grand-prize winners will earn $125,000 and three runners-up will win $75,000 each. There are also virtual prize giveaways of $25,000 each. 

Dr. Pepper is also donating $1 to Scholarship America every time someone snaps a pic of their receipt and texts the word “TUITION” to 21688. The donation program lasts until December 31, 2020.

DoSomething.org

If you’re involved in community service, you can document your efforts and enter scholarships that reward students for their involvement in social causes. DoSomething.org is the largest not-for-profit digital platform that encourages young people to volunteer and humblebrag their efforts. Celebrating community service is a good thing to help kids think outside of their own world, organize clubs, and learn what gratitude looks like from many perspectives. A few campaigns they’ve sponsored include registering to vote, collecting 1 million pairs of jeans for homeless youth, and sharing secrets to battle school stress. The program also allows you to apply for multiple scholarships at a time.

Bold.org

Here’s a digital platform that states its main objective is to fight student debt. They believe that student debt detracts people from starting a business, pursuing their dream career or buying a house. It’s also an innovative way to match generous benefactors with students who need scholarships. The company itself funds scholarships like rewarding a student who creates the boldest Bold.org profile or even making a funny meme.

In addition, it’s also a brilliant matching scholarship program that matches generous adults and companies who want to give back to students who need money for school. Anybody can sign up to be a donor to fund a scholarship and 100% of the money is given to the applicant. The wide breadth of scholarships available is inspiring. There are good people out there who want to give money to needy students. Teens can find scholarships for student athletes, entrepreneurship scholarships, or curating a playlist. 

C-SPAN

C-SPAN, a nonpartisan news organization, hosts an annual video documentary competition that awards prizes to the top 150 student documentaries, totally $100,000. The video needs to be 5 to 6 minutes long and the contest is open to grades 6-12. Each year, there’s a different theme and since this has been an election year, the topic is pertinent to the issue that’s been dominating the headlines recently. The theme is “Explore the issue you most want the president and new Congress to address in 2021.” Even if students haven’t been able to vote, it’s been a hotly contested election that hopefully all students have been aware of. 

The requirement for C-SPAN’s documentary is to include many perspectives, even if they differ from the students. News reporting is meant to be objective in order to bring different points of view to an audience’s attention. With that mindset going into projects, students are encouraged to think critically about issues that affect their community and the country with an understanding that news topics are often nuanced in interesting and surprising ways.   

Remain Vigilant

There are dozens of no-essay scholarship contests that function more like sweepstakes scholarships. Yes, they may sound exciting and hopeful. However, if it’s too good to be true, it’s probably too good to be true. Students can read the terms and conditions of the official rules to decipher what kind of scholarship it is. Read the fine print. The chances of winning a sweepstakes scholarship are against your favor. Think of it as playing the lottery. Weigh how many times you have won a sweepstakes contest or won the lottery and decide if your time is better spent putting in some effort to win a scholarship.  

Also, be aware when you sign up for a newsletter, you’re providing your name and personal details for a database that can be shared and monetized. This is valuable information that can be sold. So while kids might think there’s no harm in signing up for something, companies are gaining a rich treasure trove of potential new customers for marketing, advertising, and credit cards. Your emails may get spammed from companies you’ve never heard of. People can always unsubscribe after they sign up so you’re not locked in. Feel free to sign up but just understand that a free newsletter comes with a price. 

For more information, contact NextStudent.com.

Helen Hwang
Helen I. Hwang is a freelance journalist, author and mechanical engineer. Her works have appeared in People Magazine, Huffington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia City Paper, [email protected] (Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania's online business journal), Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel Magazine, TravelSavvy.com, Jade Magazine, Hyphen Magazine, Next American City Magazine, and other publications.