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.
  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.

Full Proposal Application Requirements

Finalist teams will have the opportunity to develop and refine their pre-proposals into ten to fifteen page full proposals due on Tuesday, March 10, 2015.  In this full proposal, finalists will expand on the ideas presented in their pre-proposals, edit their proposals based on judges’ feedback, and have the opportunity to refine their project ideas through collaboration with a Big Ideas mentor.  From the finalist pool, judges will select between two and five award winners in each category.

Your full proposal should be a single PDF document that is ten to fifteen pages long, including a budget spreadsheet, but not including references. Unlike the pre-proposal round, appendices are allowed to be included with your full proposal (but won’t count towards the page limit). Your proposal should focus on how your project will look in its first year of implementation (from June 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 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 ten to fifteen page full proposal must be typed in Times New Roman size 12 font, single-spaced, with one-inch margins. The full proposal must include the sections below, but note that you can change the order or sections if needed:

1. Needs Statement

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

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 

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. Measuring Success

Include information about how you will monitor or measure the impact or success of your project throughout the first year of implementation.

5. Team Bios

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 did not have to be complete by the pre-proposal round, but should be filled out by the final round.

5. First Year Budget

Create a 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 in the “funding gap” section of the budget template. If you plan to have additional funding sources, include them here.

Download the Budget Template (.xls)



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