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In most stories set at an expensive and prestigious school largely populated by rich kids, there will be one -- and usually only one -- student who's middle-class or even poor. Usually this student is there on a scholarship (as the trope name indicates), but sometimes there's another reason for their being there -- maybe one of their parents teaches there so their tuition is discounted or free, or maybe their parents just scraped together the money to give their child the best education they could.

This character will nearly always be the protagonist, presumably because they're more similar to most of the audience (in terms of socioeconomic status if nothing else) and because there is a lot of FishOutOfWater comedy and/or drama to be milked from their situation. In comedic series, the character is also frequently the OnlySaneMan amongst all those eccentric rich kids. In British boarding school literature, this character may be part of a FiveTokenBand. For those who can barely afford food, see StarvingStudent. Also see PennyAmongDiamonds.

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!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder: Anime and Manga]]
* Haruhi in ''OuranHighSchoolHostClub'', who's in the school due to her getting a really good score on an important test.
* Tsukushi in ''HanaYoriDango'', who got into the VERY exclusive Eitoku School due to her brilliant grades allowing her to get a scholarship.
* Obscure comedy manga ''Ten Yori Takaku'' is about Konoe Hiroyuki, a commoner who attends Hinomiya Private Academy ( nicknamed named "Heavenly Academy") on a scholarship.
* Mai Tokiha and her brother Takumi get into Fuuka Gakuen through a scholarship in ''MaiHiME''. [[spoiler: Which happens to ber a part of Mashiro's BatmanGambit to bring her to the school and reunite her with the other [=HiME=]s. Natsuki tries to scare her off at the beginning, but it doesn't work.]]
* Halfway through the manga version of ''NaruTaru'', Shiina Tamai gets into a ''very'' prestigious and exclusive all-girls' middle school through a scholarship. Funnily enough, she was formerly BookDumb.
** Subverted in the case of [[spoiler: Satomi]], who ''tried'' to get the same scholarship before her but didn't make it so she had to get in through normal ways.
* Tanpopo, the main character of ''Imadoki!'', is one.
* Implied two in ''Manga/HayateTheCombatButler''. Hayate himself is in Hakuou because Nagi is paying his tuition, we're not sure how Hinagiku (or her sister Yukiji) came to be there, though Hinagiku has the possible excuse of her sister working there.
** All the more confusing since Yukiji's childhood friend is also a teacher there, and it's implied that they went to the same school as children, and her parents accumulated a substantial debt.
* There's a very silly ecchi manga by the name of ''AsaMadeJugyouChu'' which has the protagonist as one of these.
* Luna from ''MujinWakuseiSurvive''.
* Maya Kitajima from ''GlassMask''. She's offered a scholarship in Tsukikage's art school and runs away from home when her mom Haru forbids her from taking it up.
* Dimitri from ''Manga/KurobaraAlice'' is a lower-class boy [[spoiler: (more exactly, a kid from a UsefulNotes/{{Roma|ni}} caravan)]] who's taken in by a rich man and given a scholarship in an art school due to his singing voiuce.
* Sharo in ''Manga/GochuumonWaUsagiDesuKa'' is one, [[DeconstructedTrope and actually regrets it]], as this caused confidence issues arising from her need to socialize with [[PennyAmongDiamonds peers that are not in her socioeconomic group]].
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[[folder:Film]]
* Chris O'Donnell's character in ''Film/ScentOfAWoman''. In fact, he was in danger of ''losing'' his scholarship, and was assigned the work of watching over Al Pacino's character to keep it.
* The protagonist in ''Film/FindingForester''
* Demi Lovato's character Mitchie from ''CampRock''. Sort, of: it's a summer camp, not a school.
* In ''TheBox,'' the protagonists' son attends a private school because the mom is a teacher there and they get a discount. [[AliensAreBastards Then aliens screw them out of it]]. ItMakesSenseInContext.
* Dodger in ''Film/CryWolf''.
* The entire team in ''Film/TheMightyDucks 3''
* A subversion in ''TheSlumsOfBeverlyHills''. While the schools in the 90210 area code seem to be public, the protagonist's father keeps moving around within the district so his kids can attend what he considers to be "better" schools than the ones in poorer areas.
* Ivy in ''Film/PoisonIvy.''
* In the direct-to-DVD sequel of ''Film/LegallyBlonde'' 2,''Legally Blondes'', Elle Woods's twin British cousins move to Elle's house in L.A. and go to a private school on a (partial) scholarship.
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[[folder:Literature]]
* [[Literature/HarryPotter Tom Marvolo Riddle]] was one of these 'pitiful' creatures, which seems to have been a formative influence.
** The actual education at Hogwarts seems to be free, though. It was the books he got for free.
** Similarly, the Half-Blood Prince: [[spoiler: Severus Snape.]]
* The ''[[Literature/{{Discworld}} Assassins' Guild of Ankh-Morpork]]'' has occasional "scholarship students". While most of the students from the Guild are nobility sent for the first-class education, who rarely actually become assassins The "scholarship students" got free education for outstanding work in the field of study - in this case, murder. Generally, they work for the Patrician. The first one we meet is Arthur from ''Discworld/{{Pyramids}}'' (who received his scholarship thanks to a famous assassin father), but the concept was really established, named, and codified with [[spoiler:Inigo Skimmer]] from ''Discworld/TheFifthElephant''. The scholarship boys appear again in the Moist von Lipwig books with Cranberry from ''Discworld/MakingMoney''.
** Mr. Teatime from ''Discworld/{{Hogfather}}'' was something similar. All guilds in Ankh-Morpork will occasionally take in orphans, who receive free training from the guild. Jeremy Clockson from ''Discworld/ThiefOfTime'' is an example from a different guild, in this case the clockmakers.
*** "We took pity on him because he lost both parents at an early age. [[SelfMadeOrphan I think, on reflection, that we should have wondered a bit more about that]]."
* Reed Brennan from the ''Literature/{{Private}}'' series of books.
* Subverted in the KikiStrike books, where there are a lot of scholarship girls. Ananka is the outsider because one of her relatives left the family money that can only be spent on education. Ananka is neither rich nor a good student (though her low grades are because [[BookDumb she's bored.]] )
* The narrator in Donna Tartt's ''Literature/TheSecretHistory'', Richard Papen escapes small-town California through a scholarship to Hampden College. He constructs an elaborate fake past for himself, telling his friends that his parents, in reality a gas station attendant and a housewife, are failed movie stars who own an oil well.
* Scholarship students are the lifeblood of [[BoardingSchoolofHorrors Montague School]]- ''literally'' - in John Connolly's short story ''The Ritual of the Bones.'' More specifically, they are sacrificed to temporarily resurrect the school mascot, a horrific cross between a spider and a scorpion, in a ritual that apparently [[BloodMagic strengthens the ties of blood and allegiance between the upper-class students]]; the is the unfortunate fate of the narrator's friend Smethwick, and nearly the narrator himself.
* Literature/{{Greyfriars}} has Mark Linley, a Lancashire lad who worked in a factory, and Tom Redwing, a (temporarily) orphaned fisherman's boy. Both have strong GaryStu overtones and both were very popular with readers.
* Sam in ''The Four Dorothys'' (her mom is a teacher and she gets a discount on tuition -- she is also very useful for PR whenever the school is accused of elitism).
* Referenced in ''Journey to an 800 Number'' be E.L. Konigsburg. The narrator's mother has a custodian job at a private school that provides them with a cottage and free tuition . She marries a rich man before he begins, though, partly so he won't be labeled as a janitor's kid.
* Peekay in ''ThePowerOfOne'' wins a scholarship to the Prince of Wales School and nearly has to turn it down because he can't afford the uniform. He gets involved in several successful money making schemes after admitting to his best friend that he literally has no money of his own.
* In ''Is That You, Miss Blue?'', Cardmaker is one, by virtue of being a smart Preacher's Kid.
* Jerusha "Judy" Abbott from ''Literature/DaddyLongLegs''. [[spoiler: She falls in love with her benefactor, [[UnclePennybags Jarvis]] [[BunnyEarsLawyer Pendleton]], and marries him.]]
* Naturals in the ''[[BlackMagicianTrilogy Black Magician Series]]''. Naturals have such strong magic that it spontaneously awakens, and an untrained magician is a danger to everyone around him or her, so they have to be trained regardless of their social standing. In the original trilogy, Sonea comes from the slums and is taken in by the Magician's Guild, while Tessia in ''The Magician's Apprentice'' is a rural healer's daughter and apprentices under her manorial lord. In the latter case, [[DeconstructedTrope it's mentioned that naturals are seen as something of a pain in the ass]], since existing magicians are required to train them, but they don't get the connections and favors they'd get for training a nobleman's son.
* Lee in Curtis Sittenfeld's ''Prep'' is quiet and mousy and from the Midwest, in contrast to her classmates.
* ''Literature/APrayerForOwenMeany'' subverts the "only one" rule; the town and prep school having developed around each other, the town never built its own HighSchool and instead the school board pays for the local kids' tuition at the Academy (or optionally a neighboring town's high school).
* Ann Bradshaw from ''AGreatAndTerribleBeauty.''
* The title character in ''I Am Charlotte Simmons'' is a poor farm girl who winds up an an ersatz-Duke University among rich kids and gets {{Wangst}} about it.
* Adam Parrish from ''Literature/TheRavenCycle.'' Adam is very insecure about this. He works himself to the bone keeping his grades near perfect to maintain his scholarship and working three jobs to pay for school even with said scholarship, while his classmates can throw away thousands of dollars without a second thought. Because of this, his pride often gets between him and his non-scholarship friends.
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[[folder: Live Action Television]]
* Jo from ''Series/TheFactsOfLife''.
* ''Series/ColdCase'' featured an episode where the victim attended a prestigious private school in Chestnut Hill on scholarship. She was mocked endlessly by the rich kids before her death.
* Part of the backstory for TheWestWing's President Bartlet had him attending a prestigious private school, because his father was the dean.
** Although the Bartletts can trace their ancestry back to one of the men who signed the declaration of Independence for New Hampshire so there was a lot less FishOutOfWater to this one.
* ''Coca Cola Presents: A WB Summer Premiere: Young Americans'' used this X2: the main character was a townie with a scholarship, and another major character was the son of the dean so he got in cheap/free.
* Cody in ''Vampire High''. Humans ("gadje") are accepted in small quantities into the school because vampires ("jenti") can't touch water and the state mandates that all schools have a water polo team. In return, they are given straight As automatically.
* The main character in ''The Best Years''.
* Wendell from ''{{Bones}}'' was an intern who was able to attend because of a scholarship. How the other interns are paying for their education is never addressed, but one episode focused on Wendell being in danger of losing his scholarship because there wasn't enough money anymore. [[spoiler: At the end of the episode, an anonymous donation (heavily implied to be Brennan and/or Hodgins) saved the scholarship program and Wendell returgned to being a reoccurring character.]]
* Rory of GilmoreGirls had a friend at Yale named Marty who couldn't afford to eat with the rich kids.
* While not on scholarship due to West Beverly being a public school, but Brandon and Brenda Walsh during the first season or two of ''BeverlyHills90210'' qualify as the middle class students in a rich school. And Andrea takes the bus from another district.
* Sam Winchester from ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' received a full scholarship to Stanford, allowing him, if only for a few years, to leave behind the drifter life of hunting.
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[[folder: Web Comics]]
* Vincent from ''Webcomic/BestFriendsForever'' has a music scholarship.
* ''Webcomic/GirlGenius'' with the Baron's "school" of noble apprentices/hostages stepped on this trope, shuffled a little, then [[SubvertedTrope overturned it]] and walked on. Twice in a row. (Agatha and Gil both appeared to be charity cases during their time there. The first turns out to be arguably the most powerful Spark in Europa and The Heterodyne; the second turns out to be the other main contender for most powerful Spark ''and secretly the Baron's heir''.) Though the Baron ''does'' do this with any Sparks he finds that come into their talent young: This puts them in a place where they can be observed, influenced and the havoc they create contained while their talents develop.
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[[folder: Web Original]]
* Subverted and averted in the WhateleyUniverse. The majority of the students attending are on some form of scholarship - largely because, otherwise, there would literally be no way for them to afford it; WordOfGod has the yearly tuition fees at around $100,000 - and that's not counting textbooks, school supplies, and uniforms. Largely averted in that it rarely comes up in the stories themselves - the students usually have enough to enjoy themselves (with the exception of Jade and various gadgeteers and devisors, whose money woes are always directly linked to the supplies needed for various projects sucking up every penny they have).
** This may have something to do with the fact that Whateley isn't so much a prep school as it is an institution for teaching social responsibility for potentially dangerous people.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Western Animation]]
* In the ''[[PoorlyDisguisedPilot Crash Nebula episode]]'' of ''WesternAnimation/TheFairlyOddparents,'' Sprig becomes the first human to attend the Celestial Academy because he saved an alien [[EverythingsBetterWithPrincesses princess]] named Galaxandra from robots. He expects people to find this impressive, but is instead mocked as just being the school's yearly "charity case."
* Hugh Test in ''WesternAnimation/JohnnyTest'' is desperate for his son to get one of these so he won't have to pay for college, they eventually manage to get him one in curling.
* ''UltimateBookOfSpells'': Verne was turned into one so his parents wouldn't need to be told about the magical world.
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