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How to apply for the NRF Foundation University Challenge

NRF University Challenge Scholarship

How to apply for the NRF Foundation University Challenge

Do you think you have what it takes to go all the way in the NRF Foundation University 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.

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Application Process

The NRF Foundation University Challenge application process consists of three phases. In the first phase, teams are required to submit a 20-slide pitch presentation deck and 90-second video presentation that addresses the business challenge. 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, 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 $30,000 tuition scholarship per team, the second-place team will receive $20,000 per team and the third-place team will receive $20,000 per team.

Challenge Timeline

Key dates for the 2023-2024 University Challenge

March - April 2023: Gather your team of 3 - 4 undergraduate students 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 U.S. University school at the time when the scholarship is presented in January 2024.

May 2023 (Date TBD): The NRF Foundation will host an information session open to all students and educators to learn more about the requirements, the timeline, etc. The overview of the Burlington, and the core elements of the case study was discussed. Click here to register

May 22, 2023: 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.

September 2023 (Date TBD): The NRF Foundation will host the second information session with Burlington. Click here to register

Oct. 9, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. ET: Deadline to submit pitch presentations and pitch videos. 

Oct. 27, 2023: 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.

Nov. 10, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. ET: Revised pitch presentations and pitch videos due.

Nov. 14 - 20, 2022: During this time period, each Round 2 team will take part in a virtual Q&A session with retail judges, who will ask questions about their pitch presentations.

Nov. 22, 2023: 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.

Jan. 6, 2024: Revised pitch presentations and pitch videos will be due.

Jan. 11, 2024: The final three teams will pitch their concepts live to a panel of retail executives as a part of the NRF Foundation Student Program.

Jan. 14, 2024: The top team will be announced at the NRF Foundation Honors event.

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 2023-24 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.

Semifinal 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.