Amy Vangsgard

The free ride. Many a penniless prospective college student has thought about it — dreamed of it. “If only I were a jock or genius,” you say. Well, fear not, there is hope. It’s time to discover the universe of the wacky, specialized, occasionally lewd, off-the-wall scholarship.

In the quest to find money to finance grad school, I came across a little gem called the Encyclopedia of Associations, which can be found in just about any college library. Be bored no more; perusing this catalog is good leisure-time stuff, and the three-volume set lists every association in the U.S., from the Ancient Astronaut Society to the Zeppelin Collector’s Club.

And don’t think it isn’t worth it. I passed on nearly $30,000 during my undergraduate years because I didn’t know that asthmatic southpaws could receive money for attending college.

Listed below is a sampling of the myriad foundations and grants, presented for inspiration, motivation and outrageous entertainment.

The Screaming Politicians’ “Shame” Scholarship

Actually, this award, given by a local politically active band, is no longer available. But singer/songwriter Ira Brown assures the public that more are forthcoming. That is, as soon as he can get a couple of benefactors to help him out. “I paid for the first two scholarships out of pocket,” says Brown, “and I got a terrific response, but working with an indie band’s budget and having a baby on the way has made me realize that it’s time to look for a little outside help.” The band, heard mostly on college radio stations, threw out their first scholarship in 1998 via the Internet as a tribute to their scholastic audience. The initial $1,000 essay contest, titled “Pros and Cons of a Cashless Society,” attracted 5,000 applicants. They’re still deciding the winner for their second $1,000 essay contest, “Shame,” which asks students to interpret the lyrics of one of their environmentally minded songs. You call this studying?

(818) 905-1622

Check back periodically for their 2000 scholarship posting at

American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR)

My personal favorite, this is a scholarship for those who have done most of their au naturel experimentation in their formative, pre-college years. The AANR, an organization basically representing all-things-disrobed (including nudist clubs and resorts), is divided into seven different regional departments throughout the U.S. We Angelenos fall into the Western Sunbathing Association (WSA), extending as far east as the Colorado Rockies, and west into the Hawaiian tropics. The group antes up $1,000 for two post-secondary students who belong, or whose parents belong, to the WSA. They also give matching funds to the lucky winners who demonstrate “leadership, potential for growth, purpose and club participation.” What enterprising college-student-to-be wouldn’t mingle in the buff at a Colorado resort for that hefty prize?

1703 N. Main St.

Kissimmee, FL 34744

(800) 879-1788

Ayn Rand Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged and Anthem Scholarships

This is an MBA grad’s blessing. The Ayn Rand Institute promotes “responsible” essay writing about the above-listed novels by high school, college and grad school students. Hefty rewards abound, from $1,000 to $10,000. The discourses require in-depth analyses of the self-promoting philosophies that have made Rand perennially controversial. What’s more, to underscore the concept of personal responsibility, use of the cash is up to the recipient. Media-relations manager Chris Wolski says, “While most of the winners apply the money toward college, we don’t require that it be spent on education. They could use the money to start up a business if they like.” Or, perhaps, fund a wicked winter trip with the WSA coed Naked Ski Team in Colorado?

P.O. Box 6004

Inglewood, CA 90312

The Christermon Foundation — The Beverage Industry Scholarship Program

Well, here’s to good times. Yes, even the California liquor industry has gotten into the act of donating money to college hopefuls. But who wouldn’t offer future frat boys and sorority girls some inducements before they reach the college party scene. Ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, these awards are presented to the children or grandchildren of the proprietors of stores or restaurants who hold a valid California liquor license. This grant is pretty liberal: If a student’s guardian just works in a supermarket that sells Bud six-packs, then he or she will have a shot for the bucks. Call it the fruits of the vine.

2082 Michelson Drive, No. 302

Irvine, CA 92612

Amateur Radio Silent Key Scholarship Award

Let’s see . . . we’ve covered nudity, alcohol and rock & roll. Now comes ham radio. The prerequisite for this award is that the applicant be a member of the Foundation of American Radio (FAR) and have an FCC license. FAR grants about 14 different scholarships per year, ranging from $750 to $500. Ten-four!

P.O. Box 831

Riverdale, MD 20739

Silicon Valley Scholars Program

Silicon Valley is searching for the next Gates or Jobs possessing a “creative interest in the technical sciences.” The payoff is a hefty $5,000 a year, covering all four years, for that techno-savvy sophomore genius with a penchant for the Net. Plus the young wizard is matched with a mentor to get an idea of the cyber-heartland. Unfortunately, the foundation is a bit elitist, feeling that the apple must not fall far from the tree; awards are given only to those students who have lived in the Silicon Valley for five years.

P.O. Box 60891

Palo Alto, CA 94306

College of the Ozarks Free Tuition

This very well may be the mother lode. The College of the Ozarks in Missouri is willing to foot the entire bill for any and every college applicant on one simple condition: The student stays enrolled in a 15-hour-a-week work-study program for all four years. No strings attached. This 1,500-student college has majors ranging from agriculture to political science, two worthwhile interests in the nation’s Bible-thumping heartland. The college relies on a large endowment and “a very aggressive fund-raising campaign” to keep its kids tuition-free. Definitely worth the price of a one-way ticket.

Point Lookout, MO 65726

(800) 222-0525

Of course there are many, many more out there. Some scholarship search engines on the Web claim to access more than 400,000 different gifts to eager students. “Awareness and availability are way up since the expansion of the Internet,” says Angela Campbell, director of the UCLA Scholarship Resource Center. “When I started here four years ago, there were only four links to scholarship search engines on our Web site; now there are over 20.” Below are some additional leads.

International Society for Astrological Research

Grants for those interested in furthering the study of astrology.

P.O. Box 38613

Los Angeles, CA 90038-0613

Phone number (805) 525-0461

Whirly Girls Scholarship Fund

Scholarships for female airplane or hot-air-balloon pilots looking to obtain helicopter-pilot licenses.

P.O. Box 7446

Menlo Park, CA 94206

Monitor Sugar Co. Scholarship

Scholarships for students studying science or business that may be applicable to the beet-sugar industry.

(517) 686-0161

Golf Course Enthusiasts: GCSAA Foundation Scholarships

Open to students pursuing degrees in turf-grass science, agronomy or any field related to golf-course management.

1421 Research Park Drive

Lawrence, KS 66049-3859

(800) 472-7878, Ext. 678

Julia Child Endowment Fund

Scholarship awarded to culinarily inclined applicants for professional study and research in France.

304 W. Liberty St., Suite 201

Louisville, KY 40202

(502) 583-3783

International Rose O’Neill Club Scholarship

For those students interested in innovation and design, much like this creator of the kewpie doll.

P.O. Box 668

Branson, MO 65616

Bedding Plants Foundation Inc. Scholarship Program

Many awards given to students with a major or minor in horticulture.

P.O. Box 27241

Lansing, MI 48909

(517) 694-8537

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.