Be a Star With These Celebrity Scholarships

David Letterman, Yoko Ono, and Alec Baldwin are among those who help fund educational awards.

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Comedian Jerry Seinfeld.
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld.

If you're a high school or college student, the glitz and glamour of celebrity life may seem pretty far removed from your day-to-day grind, but that's not always the case. Plenty of the best-known musicians, actors, and athletes in America have relied on colleges and universities to help them get their starts—and there are all kinds of celebrity-associated scholarships that can help you get yours.

Unsurprisingly, a number of the most high-profile celebrity scholarships are for students interested in arts and entertainment careers, and several come from well-known figures who want to give back to their alma maters.

[Consider these scholarships for film students.]

David Letterman is perhaps the best-known alumnus of Ball State University in Indiana; to recognize the university's impact on his life, Letterman has endowed the Letterman Telecommunications Scholarship, which provides annual awards of up to $10,000 each to three upperclassmen in Ball State's telecommunications department. (In a nod to Letterman's career, student applications must involve a creative project; submissions are typically due in early April.)

The Letterman Scholarship is one of the longest-running celebrity scholarships, having been awarded every year since the 1985-1986 academic year. Creative students looking at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts can benefit from one of the newest: In 2010, NYU alumnus Alec Baldwin created the $1 million Alec Baldwin Drama Scholarship Fund, which provides assistance to acting students at the Tisch School.

Singers and dancers can also benefit from celebrity scholarships. The John Lennon Scholarships for Songwriters and Composers were established in 1997 by Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, and award three scholarships totaling $20,000 each year for original song submissions. (While you're researching that one, check out the other scholarships offered by the BMI Foundation; as the charitable arm of one of the largest music licensing groups in the world, they provide a ton of support for young musicians and composers.)

If moving to the music is more your style, the Dizzy Feet Foundation could be your ticket to scholarships. Founded by actress Katie Holmes and dance-world bigwigs Nigel Lythgoe, Adam Shankman, and Carrie Ann Inaba, the foundation seeks to increase access to dance education throughout the United States. Its scholarship program provides awards of up to $10,000 per student; recipients must attend a nationally accredited dance institution and be nominated by their school, so if you think you might fit the bill, talk with your financial aid office in the fall.

[Find out your net price of college.]

Some celebrity scholarship funders are working to give back to their hometowns—including famous New Yorker Jerry Seinfeld. Each year, the comedian's family foundation partners with the nonprofit PENCIL to award the Seinfeld Scholarships; the awards are four-year renewable scholarships to public high school students from one borough of New York City. The deadline for the program usually falls early in the year, so if you're in the designated borough for 2013, we recommend checking it out over your holiday break.

Elsewhere, the foundation of golf star (and Stanford University alumnus) Tiger Woods awards the annual Earl Woods Scholarships in honor of the golfer's father. Woods Scholars receive scholarship funds; they're also paired with mentors and given internship opportunities to help them make the most of their college careers. The foundation invites applications from "select geographic regions," which in the past have included Washington, D.C., and Orange County, Calif.

Finally, there are a handful of memorial scholarships out there that aren't limited to a career or a location, but that are open to any students who exemplify the spirit of their namesake. The Heart of America Foundation awards the annual Christopher Reeve Scholarship in memory of the late Superman star who was paralyzed in a riding accident; the award provides $1,000 to a student who exemplifies courage, caring, compassion, and community service.

[See more scholarships that reward community service.]

And the Bruce Lee Foundation honors the late action-movie hero with a $1,000 scholarship presented to a student who honors Lee's passion for education, self exploration, and honesty.

Matt Konrad has been with Scholarship America since 2005. He is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota and a former scholarship recipient.