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For high school seniors, a tweet could be worth $20,000


The sender of the winning tweet will receive $5,000 per year for the next four years to attend a public college in his or her state.

High school seniors trawling the internet for college scholarship programs might want to bone up on their tweeting skills: Louisville, Ky.-based KFC is offering a $20,000 scholarship for a single tweet. With a character limit of 140, that’s $142 per character for the winner.

Applicants must use their brief statement to say why they are deserving of the Colonel’s Scholars scholarship program. Tweets must include the hashtag “KFCScholar,” and only high school seniors may apply.

The contest started Nov. 17 and runs through Nov. 26. The winner will be announced Dec. 1.

“It’s judged based on quality, creativity, ability to tell a story on why they should receive the award, and the entrepreneurial drive and desire to pursue a college education,” said KFC spokesman Rick Maynard of the scholarship program.

Some early entries have stressed high-minded ambition and work ethic.

One professed a devotion to “making a positive change to our society and the way we think through science.” Another said, “I taught 4 classes myself and have to travel 30+ minutes when I work for Catholic youth.”

Another applicant took a different tack, professing himself a loyal customer: “Holy Heck, I love that chicken, Remember that when your pickin’, The guy to give that 20k, That guy is here, right this way.”

Carol Montgomery, director of guidance services for Jefferson County, Ky., public schools, said the tweeted scholarship application is “cutting edge” and is quite a departure from scholarship applications that often are “so lengthy and so bulky.”

She’s heard of just a handful of similar social media-based scholarship programs but expects them to gain popularity.

“I would love that kids could spell and could write and could do sentences and paragraphs and themes and essays at a very high level,” she said. “But we cannot negate the value of the social media with Facebook and Twitter.”

Daniel Kovach, founder of CollegeScholarships.org, said his site launched a scholarship program based entirely on a tweet last year.

“In addition to more traditional scholarship, we like to promote using online media as a creative outlet and have offered a blogging scholarship for five years now,” he said in an eMail message to the Associated Press, adding that his site was a response to the stress of paying for college.

He said many college-finding services have used the reach of Facebook and Twitter to help promote scholarship programs.

Meanwhile, KFC is hoping to make an impression with a new generation of potential customers.

“We think this is a smart and strategic way to reach young people online, where they already spend a lot of time,” said John Cywinski, KFC’s chief marketing and food innovation officer.

The KFC Colonel’s Scholars, now in its fifth year, is a program of the Kentucky Fried Chicken Foundation. The foundation awards more than 75 college scholarships each year, but this is the first one based solely on a single tweet.

The scholarship winner will receive up to $5,000 a year for the next four years to pursue a bachelor’s degree at a public college or university in the recipient’s home state. Applicants must have a minimum cumulative high school grade point average of 2.75 and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to be eligible.

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