Fort Lewis College is dangling the chance at a $1,000 scholarship to students who attend Preview Weekend today and Saturday.
To win the scholarship, students must explain the value of community service in a short essay of "300 words or less" (for comparison, this article runs more than 400 words). The winning essay will be read during Preview Weekend events, and the author will receive a $1,000 scholarship.
The twist? Students must be present to win.
College officials said the scholarship is not unique in the increasingly competitive world of student recruitment.
"This is something a lot of colleges are doing," said Mary Buchmayr, FLC campus visit coordinator.
The scholarship is only one part of Preview Weekend, which is targeted at incoming freshmen who have been admitted to FLC but have not yet committed to attend.
In addition to the scholarship, the college will raffle a free season pass to Durango Mountain Resort, an Osprey backpack and, for parents, a night at the Strater Hotel.
College officials brushed off the suggestion that their recruitment efforts could be perceived as gimmicky.
"We want it to be exciting for them to come," Buchmayr said.
Burns said the essay is in line with college programs that link theory to practice, such as the Common Reading Experience and the Community-based Learning and Research program, a volunteerism initiative.
"We thought that the essay was the perfect extension of the other co-curricular activities already on campus," he said.
Fort Lewis College has been trying to raise its profile. It has tightened admissions standards, hired admissions staffers to comb the Front Range for recruits and worked to reach out to alumni and possible donors.
Construction equipment swarms around campus working on Animas Hall, a new student residence building; the College Union Building expansion; and the new biology wing at Berndt Hall. All the projects are aimed at attracting and retaining students.
During Preview Weekend, students are invited to overviews of college programs and the groundbreaking for the new College Union Building. Parents are invited to a question-and-answer session with college President Brad Bartel.
"We typically have a great number of students who commit after Preview Weekend, so it's a very valuable event for us," said college spokesman Mitch Davis.
College officials expect 293 students from 16 states. Including parents and other relatives, about 700 people are set to visit campus this weekend.
"We feel that many students through the college search process rely on Web sites and new technology," Burns said. "It's really best for students to be here and experience the school firsthand."
The deadline for submitting an essay was Saturday.