Technology in higher education: tweeting for scholarships

I recently read an article discussing a new trend of students bringing publicity to a university and in return, the student gets a scholarship or even a full ride to the college. The platform of choice for this article was twitter and the phenomenon started when a prospective student asked LSU how many retweets he would need to earn free tuition. This started a trend in 2017 of multiple students emailing various universities to ask how many retweets they need to get a full ride. Most universities respond with the location where a student can find scholarship opportunities.

However, there is more to this than meets the eye. Many college-age people in the US are incredibly immersed in social media and understand that these platforms are one of the many ways that universities and businesses can market themselves. There is also the issue that colleges in the US work very much like a business so marketing and money from private donors are incredibly important to them. But that also means that certain applicants can buy their way in if they come from a family that donates a significant amount of money to the university. The university says it awards scholarships to students based on academic merit but students whose family donate probably have an easy time getting in and maybe even getting a full-ride based solely on their families donation rather than on that students grades. So, if publicity from twitter brings notice and subsequent donors/money to the university, it is surprising that there isn’t a scholarship that exists in this facet.

If a student asks a university how many retweets they need, and the university gives them a number, it is likely that the student would have to become quite the entrepreneur to gain that number of retweets. It may also require so skillful marketing of their own. These are good qualities to instill in young students, especially those that want to go into business and marketing.

There is also a new, immerging issue that many students are more than qualified to go to college but don’t have the funds to get through. Tuition costs are rising across the country in both public and private schools but the funds of incoming students and their parents are not. More and more students are having to fall back on loans and scholarships but these don’t always cover all the costs associated with college. Providing an entrepreneurial scholarship for an incoming student that meets a ‘retweet’ quota first seems like a great new-age scholarship that will also help students who are capable but just not quite able to pay the bill.


The details matter

This week I found myself incredibly satisfied with my advisors mentoring. I know, that’s so rare for so many students. I often feel like many graduate students get a laundry list of tasks to complete with no actual instruction from their advisor. That’s how my master’s advisor “mentored”. But this method leaves students with a learning curve for so many things, particularly if the student has been instructed to do something that is completely foreign to them.

I know advisors were in our shoes at one point in their lives, how could they possibly have forgotten so quickly how much they struggled with what seems like everyday tasks for them now. I like to believe that maybe they are just really smart and never went through these struggles. But there is also the possibility that they remember and they know that they learned the most when they struggled. Or worse, they know and don’t want to take the time to do some real mentoring.

Let’s go back to that part about advisors being really smart and not knowing that their students struggle sometimes. Do these people make the best mentors? In my experience, the answer is no. They also make the worst professors. These people also seem to be the norm in academia. What are us laypeople to do!? The best mentors I have had in college/grad school are honestly those that have been doing their job for the shortest period of time and are the least far removed from the learning portion of their lives. I have occasionally had a professor that has admitted to struggling with material and found a way to teach it that is not confusing. I have also had professors that have taken the time to make a nice lesson plan.

That’s it, that’s the key to being incredibly smart and being a good mentor/teacher. Taking the time to consider how their teaching methods come across to their students and acting on it. But many professors are lazy when it comes to teaching and would rather be doing research. This is such a backward thought to me. I feel like if you take the time to engage students in class and ensure that you have reached them, then they are more likely to go to graduate school. Once the student is in graduate school, they will be happier if their advisor takes the time to teach them good research practices, valuable resources, and doesn’t make them feel like they are always behind by not taking the time to teach the proper methods.