Has the 400-word application essay been replaced with the 140-character tweet?

That's the buzz as the University of Iowa's Henry B. Tippie College of Business announced that it had swapped an essay question with a call for tweets.

"What makes you an exceptional Tippie Full-time MBA candidate and future MBA hire? Creativity encouraged!"

The best tweet will win you two years of free tuition -- valued at $37,240.

"At first glance, people hear 'tweet' and think, 'Oh, this is really simple,'" said Jodi Schafer, Tippie's director of admissions and financial aid.

But you have to write more than 140 characters to win. The contest requires an application, test results and one essay about your "career objectives." The tweet takes the place of the second essay. "A tweet shows us how they would sell us, immediately," Schafer said. An elevator pitch, if you will.

"Wow," was the reaction of Daniel Bursch, director of admissions for the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. It's "probably not something we'd do in the near future."

Already, the school uses social media to connect with potential applicants. While tweets are not part of a formal application, he said, "we make a mental note" of applicants who converse with Carlson online.

Angela Tank, an adjunct instructor in the U's College of Design, calls the contest "an excellent idea. ... It helps differentiate an outstanding creative applicant from a traditionally 'good on paper' applicant."

Sophie Tran gave it a shot:

"#Innovation starts with one #idea leading to another idea that creates sustainable business. #MBA"

Tran, who tweets "around the clock," said she was unsure whether she would complete the rest of the application. But the Philadelphia University student might get an MBA, and now, as she researches business schools, Iowa is on her list.

"I kind of see them as a leader," Tran said, "bold enough to do something different."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168