University of Iowa Offers Scholarship for the Best Twitter Essay

Getting paid to Twitter? How about $265 a character? That's about what University of Iowa is offering to certain applicants: a full-ride scholarship for the prospective student who writes the best Twitter essay when they apply to the graduate program at the university's business school. The Twitter essay is meant to replace the usual second essay required in the admissions process.

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Social Media a 'Powerful Tool'

Answer one question better than anyone else, and you're going to graduate school for free. In addition to submitting all other required application materials, students applying to the MBA program at University of Iowa's Henry B. Tippie College of Business will have the opportunity to win a $37,000 scholarship if they tweet the best answer to the following question: 'What makes you an exceptional Tippie full-time MBA candidate and future MBA hire?'

The university stresses: 'Creativity is encouraged!' In addition to the 140-character limit, students can also provide links to Facebook, other sites, videos or blogs that help them to answer the question. They can even link to resumes.

Alumnus Kinzie Dekkenga was moved to apply to the graduate program at her alma mater, something she had been meaning to do for years, when she saw the scholarship offering. The idea of writing a 140-character tweet, she says, is far more appealing than writing an 800-word essay. One student who recently submitted called it a 'fun, unique challenge.'

But maybe not quite as unique as the student might think. Other scholarship offerings have been made for Twitter responses, including the $20,000 Colonel's Scholars Twitter scholarship from Kentucky Fried Chicken and the Short and Tweet Scholarship, a $1,000 award from Scholarship.com.

Senior assistant dean of the MBA program, Colleen Downie, said in a University of Iowa news release on July 1, 2011, 'Social media has been shown to be a powerful tool for business communication so it makes sense that our applicants demonstrate an ability to use it.' She added that applicants would need to meet all other admission requirements to be admitted to the program.

Others aren't quite as sold on the idea of using the social network in the application process. Some see the award offering as little more than a case of giving in to a fad, and believe entries might even lack substance. But proponents, including the university's director of MBA admissions and financial aid, feel that the Twitter essay provides students the opportunity to be original and creative, two things that the standard written essays had begun to lack.

Tweets are due July 28th, with the winner being announced August 4th.

Is Twitter the most popular social networking tool for educational institutions? Find out how colleges and universities across the U.S. are using social media in a variety of ways.

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