Turns out, it was a mistake that disappointed hundreds of parents and students.
"I told my parents that I have this free ride to UVU, and even though it's not my top option, they're like, 'Well, you're going to UVU,'" recalled Sarah Payne, a high school senior.
Administrators at Utah Valley University apologized and blamed the confusion on a clerical error discovered after they had alerted 300 high school seniors they were eligible for a full tuition award worth $4,122 a year.
"I honestly was shocked because I hadn't even applied to UVU and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, they're offering me this scholarship to go to school for free," Lisa Schneider told the Deseret News ( http://bit.ly/V3HtRS) in a story published Thursday.
She responded to the Jan. 11 offer from UVU President Matthew Holland by paying a $35 application fee.
"I put it on Facebook, of course, and on Twitter," Schneider said.
University officials said the scholarship is actually based on grades and academic achievement testing, but only the test scores were considered while sending the scholarship notices.
"This is an extremely rare occurrence, but due to an unfortunate, technical glitch in our system, some individuals received scholarship offer letters who did not qualify for the scholarship," university spokesman Chris Taylor said.
Schneider is now applying to nearby Brigham Young University in Provo but won't rule out UVU, which is offering all the disappointed students a chance at winning other scholarships and waiving a Feb. 1 deadline to apply for the awards.
Utah Valley University has more than 28,000 students, making it Utah's second-largest after the University of Utah. UVU boasts that its tuition is a bargain—"little more than half of the national average," according to the school's website.
Payne, however, said the school wasn't her top choice.
She has since been accepted at Utah State University with a scholarship, and BYU—the private school of choice for members of the Mormon church—remains near the top of her list.
Information from: Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com