It is said that “necessity is the mother of invention.” So, with two kids in college, our family is inspired to get creative in our search for ways to help pay for higher education.

Along the way, we’ve discovered that a unique hobby, special skill or unusual interest could be the ticket to financing a college education. It’s a way to get rewarded for exactly what sets you apart from so many other people.

– If you love all things grape, the American Society for Enology and Viticulture offers numerous scholarships to students whose majors emphasize the science of the wine and grape industry. Awards vary from year to year.

– If duck calling is your calling, the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest awards $1,500 scholarships to high school students who excel in duck calling. The fund awards $1,500 to the first-place caller; $500 to the first runner-up, $300 to the second runner-up and $200 to the third runner-up. Contestants have 90 seconds to show the judges their best stuff.

– For the more inventive student, one undergraduate and one graduate student are awarded $15,000 in scholarships for winning the Collegiate Inventors Competition. Entrants present a plausible new idea, process or technology to a panel of judges from the fields of mathematics, engineering, biology, chemistry, physics, information technology and medicine. Criteria include the project’s potential value to society.

– Who says fashion and duct tape don’t go hand in hand? Duck brand duct tape selects ten finalists each year from photos sent of couples dressed in formal wear fashioned entirely from their tape. Online visitors then vote for their favorites. Each of the two entrants who make up the couple getting the most votes receives $3,000 toward college, as well as a cash award for their school.

Photo by Duck Duct Tape.