/Dr Pepper challenge has students chucking footballs for $100K reward – Business Insider

Dr Pepper challenge has students chucking footballs for $100K reward – Business Insider

  • Since 2008, US-based soda company Dr Pepper has sponsored an annual tuition giveaway contest.
  • During the halftime of each of the five College Football Conference Championship games, two contestants go head-to-head throwing footballs into giant inflatable Dr Pepper cans
  • The winners take home $100,000 to go towards their future educational endeavors.
  • Though Dr Pepper is awarding a total of $1 million in this year’s giveaway, many social media users are unhappy about the nature of the contest, saying it makes light of issues of student debt in the US.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In less than a minute, Andrea Gathercole’s medical school dreams changed forever.

The senior from Baylor University successfully lobbed 12 out of 15 footballs through a tiny hole in a giant inflatable Dr Pepper can 30 feet away during halftime of the NCAA Southeastern Conference Championship football game on Saturday night. 

She bested Max Wunsche, a senior studying veterinary health at Clemson University, during the 30-second contest, winning $100,00 through Dr Pepper’s 2019 Tuition Giveaway. The money, Gathercole said in her contest application video, will go toward her dreams of becoming an emergency room physician.

After she won, Gathercole thanked God, and Dr Pepper, of course. 

This is the 11th year that Dr Pepper (part of the US-based Dr Pepper Snapple group) has sponsored this contest. According to their website, the company has awarded more than $10 million in tuition to “help students reach their biggest goals” since 2008.

But not everyone is happy with the nature of the recurring contest, stating that “chest-passing a football into a giant Dr Pepper can” should have nothing to do with earning tuition money for college.

The Dr Pepper ‘Hunger Games’

In order to be considered for the contest, students between the ages of 18 and 24 must fill out a questionnaire about themselves on the Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway website and describe their goals for changing the world. Then, applicants submit a video in which they must explain to Dr Pepper how “winning this tuition” will impact their academic and professional lives (according to the contest website, inclusion of Dr Pepper in these videos is “not mandatory, but recommended”).

Finalists are then notified by email and compete against each other during the halftime of each of the five College Football Conference Championship games. 

Dr. Pepper

Dr Pepper salesman, Larry, poses with two Wisconsin football fans.
Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Dr. Pepper

Five finalists, like Gathercole, win the grand prize of $100,000. Another five finalists, like Wunsche take home $25,000, and ten other finalist win a $2,500 consolation prize.

One Twitter user described the giveaway as “the Dr Pepper Hunger Games,” after the infamous dystopian series in which teenagers fight each other to the death for food and financial support in a public arena.


Another user also mentioned the dystopic nature of the contest, joking that losers like Wunsche were “doomed to a lifetime of debt.” Other Twitter users echoed similar thoughts.

The average cumulative student debt balance in 2017 was $26,900 for graduates of public four-year schools and $32,600 for graduates of private nonprofit four-year schools, according to the College Board. A one-time $100,000 payment could wipe out the potential debt of an average college student.

For future medical school students like Gathercole, the $100,000 grand prize could go a long way paying off four years of medical school fees. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average cost of attendance for one year at a public medical school (including tuition, fees, and health insurance) was $34,592 for in-state students and $58,668 for out-of-state students.

“America treats access to college like a gameshow,” one Twitter user said.

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