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 will take place this year.

Application Process

The Student Challenge application process consists of three phases. In the first phase, teams are required to submit a 25-30 slide pitch presentation deck and 90-second video presentation that addresses the business challenge. The application deadline for phase one is September 24, 2021. 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 pitch decks and videos and complete Q&A interviews with a group of retail judges. The interviews and revised pitch decks and videos 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.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. (If we are unable to award travel stipends in 2021, each amount will be increased by $1,000).

Challenge Timeline

Key dates for the 2021-2022 Student Challenge

February - April, 2021: 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 2022.

February 25, 2021 at 3PM ET: The NRF Foundation is hosting an information session open to all students and educators. Register now to learn more about the requirements, the timeline, etc.

March 17, 2021 at 5PM ET: Kohl's is hosting an information session where participants will hear directly from the Kohl's Diversity & Inclusion team. Learn more about their D&I commitments and goals moving forward. This session is open to all students and educators. Register here.

April 14, 2021 at 5PM ET: Kohl's is hosting an information session where participants will hear more from their Product Development and Design teams who work daily to bring their private label merchandise to life. Come prepared with questions, as these experts will be excellent guides for your project planning! This session is open to all students and educators. Register here.

April 30, 2021: First checkpoint for schools to notify us regarding their participation by completing this webform. Schools can still join in at any point after this date.

August 25, 2021 at 5PM ET: Kohl's will host an information session where participants will hear more from their Merchant teams who are tasked with the final say in product assortments. As you wrap up your project this fall, join Kohl's to have any last-minute questions answered. This session is open to all students and educators. Register here.

September 24, 2021 at 11:59PM ET: Deadline to submit pitch presentations and pitch videos. Two teams can apply per school!

October 18, 2021: We’ll announce the semi-finalists who have made it through to the second round. Up to ten teams will advance to this round. All teams will receive their overall score and feedback on their pitch. Semi-finalists will have a chance to revise their pitch decks pitch videos based on feedback from round one judges.

November 5, 2021 at 11:59PM ET: Revised pitch presentations and pitch videos due.

November 8 - 22, 2021: During these two weeks, each Round 2 team will take part in a virtual Q&A session with retail judges, who will ask questions about their pitch presentations.

December 3, 2021: We’ll announce which three teams have made it to the final round. Teams will have a final chance to revise their pitch presentations and videos.

January 2022: Revised pitch presentations and pitch videos will be due, and the final three teams will pitch their concepts live to a panel of retail executives.

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 2021 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.