Student Challenge

2019 Student Challenge Finalists on stage at the NRF Foundation Gala

Student Challenge

The 2020-2021 NRF Foundation Student Challenge competition cycle has ended. Stay tuned for updates in February 2021 for this year's competition.

The NRF Foundation Student Challenge isn’t an average business case competition. This unique experience gives undergraduate students at NRF University Member Schools the chance to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom in a real-world setting. Since its launch, the NRF Foundation Student Challenge has provided nearly $300,000 in scholarship funds to students across the country, and priceless career opportunities.

It’s more than an exercise. A handful of teams will earn the chance to present their pitch to leaders from retail’s biggest companies, with the top team earning a $5,000 tuition scholarship for each team member. 

Full eligibility guidelines are below.

The 2020-2021 Challenge:

Collaboration between startups and large corporations is a mutually beneficial way for retailers to enter new, smaller markets and for startups to develop products and scale, with the common strategic goals of growth, improving competitive positioning and generating sustainable profitable revenue.

Teams were comprised of two to four entrepreneurs establishing a small business venture in a retail sector of their choice. They created a set of products and were taking their business to the next level by getting their line into a major retailer: Nordstrom, Target, The Home Depot or Qurate Retail Group (QVC, HSN or Zulily). Teams collaborated on a 25-30 slide pitch presentation and a 90-second pitch video to convince their selected retailer of why and how their businesses could collaborate. Take a look at the full requirements to learn more about what was involved.

Members only

The NRF Foundation Student Challenge is exclusively open to students that attend NRF University Member schools. Each member school can submit two teams of two to four students each; interested applicants must check with their school’s NRF Advisor to see how they are selecting teams to enter. Participating students must be sophomores or above at the time the scholarship is awarded in January 2021.

To join the NRF Student Association as a student member, your school must be a member of NRF. We currently partner with dozens of colleges and universities across the United States to promote careers in retail and provide students with exclusive access to educational, networking and scholarship opportunities. All students at member schools are eligible to join the NRF Student Association for free.

To find your advisor, or for more information, contact

Student Challenge 2019 top team

“This competition has inspired me to think beyond the status quo. The Student Challenge has shown me how innovative retail can be and I’m excited to take what I’ve learned during the Student Challenge and come up with my own inventive ideas.” 
- Kendall McDermott, Columbia College Chicago

  The Student Challenge enforced our idea that that retail industry is consistently evolving, especially as it relates to technology. The challenge also showed how important data is for a growing business and how said data informs retail strategists.”
University of Pennsylvania Team

Winning Student Challenge team shines on HSN
The University of North Texas team honored in the NRF Foundation’s 2016 Student Challenge Competition share their experience selling their winning product – a custom women’s handbag – on the television shopping network, HSN.
SC students on HSN

Other opportunities

Next Generation Scholarship
2019 Next Generation scholarship finalists at the NRF Foundation Student Program
The pinnacle achievement for students interested in pursuing careers in retail.
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Student Program
Students at the Student Program
See how a career in retail puts you on the front lines solving complex business problems.
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NRF Foundation Student Ambassadors
Students ask questions during the Friday morning opening keynote session at NRFs Student Big Show 2017
NRF Foundation Student Ambassadors serve as the liaison between the NRF Foundation and their school.
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