Official Rules

Failure to meet these rules will result in disqualification from the contest.

  1. At least one member of each team must be a matriculated student at an eligible campus to enter the contest.  Please visit contest category descriptions to view a list of eligible campuses for each category.
  2. The Team Lead (primary applicant) will be the main contact person for all Big Ideas communications and must be a matriculated student at an eligible campus at the time of the pre-proposal deadline. The Team Lead has final authority in determining prize disbursement options. Please see Official Award Options Letter by clicking here.
  3. Big Ideas projects must be student initiated and student led.  Faculty, staff, and external partners may only play an advisory role for student teams.
  4. Student teams may submit an application to only one category.  If an application is submitted to more than one category, only the first submission received will be reviewed.  One student may participate in more than one project team as long as each team submits a unique pre-proposal application.
  5. Student teams cannot seek funding from Big Ideas for projects that have previously won a Big Ideas award, unless they are submitting a proposal in the “Scaling Up Big Ideas” category.  Teams that have won a Scaling Up award in the past are not eligible to reapply.

Prizes will only be awarded for high-quality submissions.  Decisions of the judges are final and not subject to appeal.

Please note that many contest categories have category-specific rules.  Applicants should carefully review the descriptions for the category to which they are applying.

Pre-Proposal Application Requirements

Your pre-proposal should be a single PDF document no more than 5 pages long, including a budget spreadsheet, but not including references. Appendices are not allowed to be included in the pre-proposal round, but can be included in the full proposal round if your team is selected to participate. Your proposal should focus on how your project will look in its first year of implementation (from March 2015 to June 2016). Please note that all the application requirements listed below apply for all categories. However, each category may also have specific application requirements that you must review.

Included in the application (but not in the 5-page pre-proposal), your team will need to prepare two brief summaries. The 50-word summary serves as an “elevator pitch” of your project and the 300-word summary gives a more detailed “preview” to judges reading your proposal. Please note that Big Ideas can publicly disseminate the information included in these sections.

The 5-page pre-proposal must be typed in Times New Roman size 12 font, single-spaced, with one-inch margins. The pre-proposal must include the sections below, but note that you can change the order or sections if needed:

1. Needs Statement (Approx. 1-2 Pages)

Include background information of the problem your project will address that communicates a deep understanding of the relevant research on the problem. Make sure you build a strong case that supports why your project is needed. This could include: research/statistics on the problem; research/statistics about the community you wish to serve or market you’ll be entering; and, or research what has been done in the past to address this problem and where those solutions fell short.

2. Summary of Project (Approx. 1-2 Pages)

Include a summary of your innovative project (e.g. program, service, good, etc.) how it works, and its intended impact.  Please focus on how your project will look in its first year of implementation.  If you expect to encounter implementation challenges, please briefly explain how you will address those challenges.  If you plan to significantly scale up or expand in future years, please note this (but do not focus on your plans to scale up). Note that judges are instructed to consider, above all else, how innovative and creative your project idea is.

3. Timeline (Approx. ½ Page)

Describe the key next steps for implementing your idea for the first year only. Please note that the timeline may be impacted by the award disbursal: awards will not be disbursed until Summer 2015!

4. Team Bios (Approx. ½ Page)

Discuss your team members, noting relevant accomplishments, training, or expertise. These should serve to explain your team’s capability of accomplishing your idea.

Please note that teams do not have to be complete by the pre-proposal round. If you know that you want to add an additional team member, but have not yet identified a person to fill that role, it is okay to note that in your pre-proposal.   It is better to say “we are looking for a programmer with X, Y, and Z skills,” than to present information on an incomplete team and lead the judges to believe that your team doesn’t does not recognize that you will need additional help to put your idea into action.

5. Preliminary Budget (About 1-2 Pages)

Create a preliminary budget for your project using the Excel template available at or by clicking on the link below. While you are not required to submit a formal budget narrative, please use the “details” column in the template to provide as much information as possible on how you calculated these costs. The budget should include both expected costs and revenue for the first year of your project.  Please note that the average Big Ideas grant is about $5000 and proposals should not request more than $10,000 from Big Ideas. If you plan to have additional funding sources, include them here.

Download the Budget Template (.xls)



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