Universities’ social media managers are noticing a trend: the growing number of prospective students asking via Twitter about how many retweets will earn them free tuition.
As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education, the inquiries seem to have started with a joke in 2017, when a young man, Carter Wilson, used the social networking service to ask Wendy’s how many retweets he needed to earn a year of free chicken nuggets. Wendy’s answer? Eighteen million retweets, far more than anyone has earned in the history of Twitter.
Although Wilson fell short of his goal, Wendy’s awarded him the year of free nuggets for his enthusiasm—an outcome that has since inspired many young people to try their luck exchanging free viral publicity for scholarship dollars.
No takers just yet
Unfortunately for those students, no college has yet to provide full tuition on the basis of social media influence. The Chronicle details several universities’ experience with these sorts of inquiries, including the response provided by Virginia Commonwealth University, which told its followers, “Unfortunately, we cannot exchange [retweets] for RamBucks, tuition, admission, housing, or well, literally anything.” The university also provided links where students could find additional information on scholarship programs and other resources.
Other schools, however, such as the University of Arizona, have humored some enthusiastic students with school spirit wear for their efforts. Arizona’s social-media manager estimates he receives about 20 of these kinds of retweet inquiries daily.
Megan Schmidt, a social-media strategist at Virginia Commonwealth University, told The Chronicle that she finds the trend “an interesting, albeit sometimes frustrating, example of Generation Z’s entrepreneurial spirit,” adding that students would need marketing and branding know-how to reach such extreme retweet goals. “Some part of me has to hand it to them—they definitely think outside the box,” Schmidt said.