How to apply for the Student Challenge

Do you think you have what it takes to go all the way in the NRF Foundation Student Challenge like this winning team who’s product idea took them to HSN, the television shopping network? Or, these two teams profiled by NBC 5 Chicago news? Here's how the process took place this year.

The 2019-2020 Student Challenge application period is now closed. Stay tuned for updates on next year's scholarship in early 2020.

Application Process

The Student Challenge application process consists of three phases. In the first phase, teams are required to submit a 30-slide pitch presentation deck and 90-second video presentation that addresses the Akola business challenge. The application deadline for phase one is September 20, 2019. There will be a review period during which teams will be evaluated by retail judges at various companies.

A maximum of 10 teams will be selected to advance to the second phase. In phase two, teams will revise their presentations, submit part 2 of the business challenge and complete Q&A interviews with a group of retail judges. Part 2 will be announced once the teams have been selected. The interviews, revised presentations and part 2 of the challenge will be evaluated by a second group of retail judges.

Three teams will be selected to advance to the third and final phase. In this phase, teams will present their pitches live to a panel of executive retail judges during the week of the Student Program at NRF 2020 in New York City, January 10-12, 2020. The first-place team will receive a $5,000 tuition scholarship per student, the second-place team will receive $2,500 per student and the third-place team will receive $1,500 per student.

Challenge Timeline

Key dates on the road to the 2020 Student Program.

March - April, 2019: Gather your team of 2 -4 people and start familiarizing yourself with the case study. Be sure to talk with your advisor about how to get selected as the team(s) to represent your school. Team members must be sophomores, juniors or seniors enrolled full-time at a University Member school at the time when the scholarship is presented in January 2020

April 15, 2019: Soft deadline for schools to notify us regarding their participation by completing this webform. Schools can still join after this date, but are not guaranteed a KPMG mentor.

September 20, 2019: Deadline to submit pitch presentations and pitch videos. Two teams can apply per school!

October 14, 2019: We’ll announce the semi-finalists who have made it through to the second round. All teams will receive their overall score and feedback on their proposal. Semi-finalists will have a chance to revise their pitch presentations and pitch videos based on feedback from round one judges, and will be assigned part 2 of the Challenge.

November 8, 2019: Revised pitch presentations, pitch videos and part 2 of the Challenge due.

November 12, 2019 - November 26, 2019: During these two weeks, each Round 2 team will take part in a teleconference Q&A session with retail judges, who will ask questions about their pitch presentations.

December 3, 2019: We’ll announce which three teams have made it to the final. Pack your bags! You’re coming to New York (and we’re paying for your tickets!). Teams will have a final chance to revise their pitch presentations and videos.

January 2, 2020: Revised pitch presentations and pitch videos due.

January 9, 2020: The final three teams pitch live to a panel of retail executives at Retail’s BIG Show in New York City.

January 12: The top team will be announced at the NRF Foundation Gala.

Judging Criteria

How your submission will be scored.

Your Submission
Your team must submit a pitch presentation and pitch video; there are formatting and content requirements for entry materials. Please review the 2020 requirements for specific details. 

Round One
During the first round of judging, your pitch presentation and pitch video will be evaluated for content, presentation and delivery.

Semi-Final and Final Rounds
The judging criteria vary for the final two rounds. Teams who advance beyond round one will receive the judging criteria for the next round via email.