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College Offers Scholarship for Twitter 'Essay'

At the University of Iowa, a good tweet is worth $37,000.

That's the price of a full scholarship, and that's exactly what a student hopeful can win in a contest the university has dreamed up that takes electronic communication to a new level. The university is asking prospective students to submit a 140-character tweet in place of a second essay.

The University of Iowa is joining several others in its attempt to make students get to the point quickly and to improve their social media skills — two qualities that today's Twitter-savvy marketplace demands.

  • Kentucky Fried Chicken offers a Colonel's Scholars Twitter scholarship for $20,000 over four years based on a tweet responding to "tell us in 140 characters why you deserve a $20,000 scholarship." The competition received 2,800 applications last year, says Rick Maynard, KFC spokesman.
  • Scholarship.com, an organization to help students find money for college, offers the Short and Tweet Scholarship, which asks applicants to sum up their college experience in a tweet to win $1,000 or a Kindle.
  • The 140 Scholarship, presented by College Scholarships.org, a website to help students search for funding, looks for a tweet highlighting how to use Twitter to improve the world. The winner receives $1,400, and the first and second runners-up receive $140, according to the website.

At the University of Iowa, the person with the best tweet by the July 28 deadline will receive a full scholarship to the university's business school.

Applicant Seth Goldstein of Columbus, Ohio, submitted his tweet last week and said he was excited for the "fun, unique challenge."

"It is something different and out of the box," Goldstein said. "No other MBA schools I have applied to have anything like this."

Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto, says he doesn't support the idea.

"They're devaluing their future, because they're identifying themselves with a fad rather than something more long term," Lanier says. "It comes off as a school trying so hard to be cool."

Jodi Schafer, the University of Iowa's director of MBA admissions and financial aid, says that application essays were becoming unoriginal and often highly edited.

"We're hoping that incorporating social media in the process will help bring back some of that creativity," Schafer says.

Students are encouraged to link to their blogs, videos, Facebook accounts or anything else that may help answer the question: "What makes you an exceptional Tippie Full-time MBA candidate and future MBA hire?"

University of Iowa alum Kinzie Dekkenga has considered going back to school for a few years, but "life got in the way," and it wasn't until she saw the scholarship offer on Facebook that she decided it was time to apply.

"I saw it and I thought, 'Oh my gosh! Why not?'" Dekkenga said. "Taking the burden off the 800-word-essay was a huge incentive. I am on social media almost every day, so it's more comfortable to tweet than to write an essay."

Dekkenga worked on the tweet for five days.

"It turns out … having to simplify your thoughts down was much harder than I thought," Dekkenga said. "I sat on the Twitter page and just kept typing things, but I was always 100 or 200 characters over."


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