You don't have to be the class brain, quarterback of the high school football team or from an impoverished family to qualify for a college scholarship.
But it might help if you're a needy left-hander, a reformed prostitute or were once a supermarket bag boy.
Even as high school seniors and their families gear up for the annual fall ordeal of finding the right college and a way to pay for it, experts say that thousands of financial awards for the college-bound probably will go unclaimed because qualified students aren't aware they exist.
Kenneth and Irene Kohl, authors of "Financing College Education," estimated that more than $135 million in financial aid for education is unclaimed each year. The Carnegie Commission on Higher Education puts the figure much higher.
What's out there? First of all, there are plenty of predictable grants.
A Few Surprises
A database run by Academic Guidance Services, for instance, reveals 3,000 scholarships for golf caddies, newspaper carriers, cheerleaders, glee clubbers and band players.
But determined searchers will find a few surprises:
--Juanita College in Pennsylvania gives four grants of $300 per year to needy left-handers.
--Parents whose children were born on June 12, 1979, can plan ahead to apply for a scholarship to the Rochester Institute of Technology in honor of the school's 150th anniversary.
--Bucknell University in Pennsylvania gives yearly grants to eight to 10 students who do not use alcohol, tobacco, narcotics and don't engage in strenuous activities.
--A judge in Seattle uses the fines he collects from prostitutes to finance scholarships for their reformed sisters who want to return to school.
--The P. D'Agostino Scholarship Fund provides $1,000 for qualified students who have worked for at least five months as a part-time employee in a retail food store.
Finding the right grant can involve a bit of study. But as college costs have risen, so have companies specializing in matching students with scholarships by computer.
Academic Guidance Services, a pioneer in the field, has a network of licensees around the country that provide scholarship matching for undergraduate, graduate, vocational, technical, business and correspondence schools. Students pay processing fees ranging from $25 to $100.
Among the licensees is Oxnard-based College Scholarships Unlimited (3600 S. Harbor Blvd., Suite 462, Oxnard 93035), which can access information on about $4 billion in yearly financial aid or an estimated 200,000 awards available from organizations, philanthropists, professional associations, churches and such. The database is updated daily with major revisions twice a year.
There are scholarships for students who excel in badminton, swimming, bowling, horseback riding, tennis, roping, field hockey and diving, as well as for those interested in ceramics, screenplay writing or floriculture.
You might also qualify if your last name is Murphy, Anderson, Borden or DeForest. And it helps if your parents were associated with a civic organization or union that doles out aid.
There are scholarships for women who want to go to college after they have started their families.
The Adolph van Pelt Foundation Inc. has given 260 scholarships over the last 12 years to Native American boys and girls with a personal dedication to help other Native Americans obtain an education.
Embalmers Trust Fund of Rochester, N.Y., offers aid to anyone who chooses to study at Simmons School of Embalming and Mortuary Sciences in Syracuse.
Betty Crocker awards a $5,000 scholarship to winning cooks and talented essayists and speakers willing to explain why they want to go to college can will $1,000 toward their schooling through the Thom McAn Leadership Awards Contest.
And, finally, there's a special scholarship available from Harvard. It goes to sons of widows living west of the Appalachias.