The Irascible ProfessorSM

Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro
"Money's a horrid thing to follow, but a charming thing to meet."... ...Henry James.

Commentary of the Day - December 7, 2004:  Give Him the Money!  Guest Commentary by Felice Prager.

The attractive blonde anchor was interviewing twins, a brother and sister, whose parents could not afford to send both of their children to college.  The twins said they were never honors students, nor had they excelled in any sport or extracurricular activity.  Yet, between the two of them, according to the news story, they had received over $100,000 in scholarships.

I was sitting on the couch with my younger son at the time.  It was early in the morning, and early in the morning is not a good time to talk to him.  Lately, neither is late in the afternoon, early in the evening, or late at night.  This is not unusual for a seventeen-year-old high school junior.  Sometimes I think to myself, "Well, he IS sitting on the same piece of furniture as I am!  We are in the same room."  That alone is progress.  There is hope, that beyond the horizon, this son will grow out of this stage just as my older son has.  For now, I take advantage of our couch-sharing moments and perfect my nagging skills.

"Have your guidance counselors started talking to you about colleges and scholarships yet?"  The nagging part is that I already know the answer to my question.  I know the counselors have begun because it was written in the monthly newsletter.  It was also the topic at several parent-teacher meetings.

Unless you consider a grunt and a look of disdain a reply, my son ignores me.

I consider this a sign of affection.  There is acknowledgment that the words were heard.

We moms have to take what we can get.

I know a bit about scholarships because I've researched them before.  In fact, several times a year, news programs and magazines cover the topic.  It's not difficult to find the information.  The Internet is filled with information about ways to get money for education, and not all of them are scams.

My favorites are the weird scholarships.

For instance, in addition to the usual academic and athletic scholarships, Juniata College in Pennsylvania gives grants to needy left-handers.  In addition to corporate, community, and university funds, Loyola University in Chicago offers a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to Catholic students with the last name of Zolp.  There is also the Scarpinato scholarship at Texas A&M for students who have the last name of Scarpinato.  Stopping right there, unless my son changes his last name to Zolp or Scarpinato, becomes Catholic, or practices writing with his left hand, this money is not earmarked for him.

Bucknell University has a scholarship for students who do not use alcohol, tobacco, or narcotics and do not participate in strenuous activities.  My son does wheelies and flips on his BMX bike and that's pretty strenuous, so that eliminates another source of funding.  I have seen my son limping into his room with bruises on his arms and a lump on his head, not telling me about whatever injury he has sustained because he doesn't want to hear, "Were you wearing your helmet?  I told you to wear a helmet."

The Little People of America for people under 4 feet 10 inches, Tall Clubs International for women over 5 feet 10 inches and men over 6 feet 2 inches, and the New England chapter of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance all have funds available for qualified candidates.  My kid is a relatively thin 5 feet 11 inches.  He also works as a Sandwich Artist at SUBWAY®, and according to the ads, Jared Fogle lost 245 pounds by eating two SUBWAY® submarine sandwiches a day, so I don't think my kid is going to all of a sudden become overweight by having a part-time job.

The David Letterman Telecommunications Scholarship is for students at Ball State University.  It awards a $10,000 prize for an "average" student with a creative mind.  My son is way above average.  The kid does his homework, studies, and gets great grades.

The Icy Frost Bridge Scholarship, named for the sister of DePauw alumnus Jack Frost Bridge, goes to female music students who can play or sing the national anthem "with sincerity."  Even if they opened this scholarship up to males, my son is into SKA music and plays the guitar, but the sounds I hear coming from his band when they practice in our garage for their shows hardly sound like the national anthem.  They may think they sound sincere, but they are so loud, it is hard to tell.

There is the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial scholarship for duck calling.  My kid is into eating chicken and turkey, not duck.  Plus, he took three years of French, but they did not offer Duck at his high school.

The National Make It Yourself with Wool scholarship offers a $2000 reward to students who work with wool.  My son wears one sweatshirt and will not let me wash it.  In seventh grade, he had to take a Life Skills course; and, in that course, the students learned to sew.  He had to make a pillow.  He started the pillow, but let the truth be known: I finished it for him.  The boy just wasn't gifted with a needle and thread.

Up to four students may collaborate on an invention for the Collegiate Inventors' Competition, which offers scholarships with a potential value of $50,000, plus $10,000 more for the college advisor.  My son has an inventive mind, but usually it is inventing ways to manipulate his parents into saying "Yes" to a tattoo.  And he hasn't been very convincing yet.

Several colleges offer special scholarships, discounts, or two-for-one deals for twins.  I was there at his birth and can confirm that he is not a twin.  I don't think I would have survived two of him.

A $25,000 scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America is available to a student with the best apple pie recipe.  He eats a lot of pie, but his best recipe to date has been a mixture of Pillsbury Dough, brown sugar, and powdered sugar that he and his buddy put in my microwave one night.  A lot of it is still stuck to the inside of my microwave.

There is also the Patrick Kerr Skateboard Scholarship.  He's a biker, not a skater.  There is a big difference between the two.  Just ask a biker…or a skater.

The American Society for Enology and Viticulture gives scholarships to students studying grapes or winemaking.  Not a good match.  He eats grapes but doesn't like them enough to turn them into wine.

The makers of Duck Tape brand duct tape hand out cash to the best-dressed couple at a high school prom if they are wearing duct tape costumes or accessories.  When my son was in fourth grade, he made a Duck Tape wallet, and for awhile, a Duck Tape belt held up his pants, but he's not the prom type.  Or so he says - this week.

It's frustrating as a parent to watch a child who just doesn't fit the mold.  It would be wonderful for him to qualify for a weird scholarship, but I'm afraid he will have to find a more conventional way to get money for his education.  Perhaps his grades will open up a few doors.  He does work hard and is at the top of his class.  But then again, maybe some kind philanthropist will decide to give his money away to a bright kid who likes to sleep until noon, wears unusual hairstyles and gauged earrings, listens to very loud SKA music, and still, with his hard exterior, loves kittens.  Then, I would have a perfect candidate.

©2004 Felice Prager
Felice Prager is a former English teacher and freelance writer from Arizona.  She publishes the Write Funny pages.

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