Full Proposal

Application Requirements and Criteria


All teams in the final round of the 2020-2021 Big Ideas Contest are required to submit both a written proposal and a short application video by the final round deadline of Friday, April 2, 2021 at 1pm Pacific Time. Please carefully read all of the information contained on this webpage. Any applications that do not adhere to the requirements outlined below for both the written proposal and application video will be deemed ineligible. All decisions made by the judges and contest administrators are considered final and not subject to appeal.

Application Video

All finalist teams are required to submit a short application video between 60 and 90 seconds. Big Ideas is utilizing the Y-Combinator Application Video model. This format requires that teams speak directly to the camera, leaving out all production aspects (such as music, effects, images, slides, “post-production wizardry,” etc.) This is not a video making contest and no fancy editing is necessary (or desirable). We just want to hear directly from the student team members about their project in a very straightforward, clear and concise manner.

The video is an opportunity for teams to introduce themselves, explain what they are doing and why, and detail anything else they want judges to know about the team or the project. Applicants should carefully review the Y-Combinator Application Video instructions for tips and examples, some of which are outlined as follow:

  1. Up to 90 Second Video
  2. Upload to YouTube
  3. Allow Embedding
  4. Only Student Team Members Talking
  5. No Effects
  6. No Script
  7. No Music
  8. Check Audio

Videos should be uploaded to YouTube and the URL included in the application platform along with the written proposal (by Friday, April 2, 2021, by 1pm PT.)


Written Proposal

Finalist teams will have the opportunity to develop and refine their pre-proposals into full proposals due on Friday, April 2, 2021 (1pm PT). In the 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.

Finalists are instructed to submit full proposals no more than 8 pages in length, single-spaced (including the required budget and implementation timeline, but not references or appendices). Big Ideas recommends the format below to ensure applicants include the required proposal elements, however, students are allowed to modify the order and presentation of the information as needed to tell their story. The basic required components are as follows:

Written Proposal: Required Elements

1. Problem Statement

This section includes a clear description and background information on the identified problem. An effective problem statement is thoroughly researched, shows a deep understanding of the issue, and builds a strong case to support why the project is needed. This includes but is not limited to: research/statistics on the problem, and/or research/statistics about the target community or market.

2. Existing Solutions

This section is an overview of any existing services, programs, interventions, or products that have been designed or implemented to address this problem. Where applicable, applicants should discuss the limitations of these approaches, the gaps that still exist, and present research on what has been done in the past and where those solutions fell short.

3. Proposed Innovation

This section includes a summary of the innovative project (e.g. program, service, good, etc.) how it works, and its intended impact. This is the “nuts and bolts” portion of the proposal and focuses on what the project will look like in its 1st year of implementation. It briefly explains any implementation challenges that may arise and how they will be addressed. It may note (but does not focus on) whether the project intends to scale up or expand in future years.

4. Implementation Timeline

The timeline describes the key next steps for implementing the idea for the 1st year only. Big Ideas awards will be disbursed in June/July 2020. Therefore, for the purposes of this Contest, the 1st year is defined as June 2020-June 2021. Teams may mention work conducted prior to or following this 1-year timeframe in order to convey the broader context or vision for the project — but it should not be considered in their scoring.

5. Measuring Success

Teams should include information about how they will monitor or measure the impact or success of their project throughout the 1st year of implementation (June 2020-June 2021). This does not need to be a formal monitoring and evaluation plan, but can take the form of metrics and methods to make sure they can track their progress.

6. Budget

Includes both expected costs and revenue for the 1st year of the project (June 2020-June 2021). Note: The average Big Ideas award is approximately $5,000 and proposals should not request more than $10,000 from Big Ideas. The requested amount form Big Ideas is typically seen in the “Funding Gap” section of the budget template we have suggested for use. Teams may also include any plans to leverage additional funding sources, if appropriate.

7. Team Bios

A list of key project team members with brief biographies that explain the capability of the team to pursue their idea.

Judging Criteria

Entries will be judged according to the criteria below.

Viability (30%): Given the project description and the team members’ expertise, skills, training, the team will likely be able to meet their proposed goals. (Please keep in mind that we asked teams to explain how their project would look and consider implementation in only the 1st year of their project.) For example:

  • The proposal demonstrates consideration of potential obstacles to implementation/ adoption and has proposed convincing solutions to address these challenges.
  • The team has considered all relevant aspects of development, considered/developed viable marketing goals, effective marketing strategies, and realistic training and recruitment procedures for personnel or volunteers, if applicable.
  • The team has identified and developed relationships with potential community partners, where applicable.
  • The project team members and partners possess the necessary skills and experience to be successful in implementing the project.

Potential for Impact (30%): The proposed project addresses a pressing and important social problem.  The team provides the reviewer with sufficient statistics and research to understand the problem, and makes a clear and compelling case that their “Big Idea” project addresses this need.

Community or Market Familiarity (10%): The team demonstrates a great deal of familiarity with the market or community they plan to enter (either through research, professional, or volunteer experience). The proposal discusses similar programs, projects, or products that currently exist (especially with regard to the target population), the issues that have emerged with those other initiatives, and specifically how their project compares. The proposal demonstrates that the applicants have given sufficient consideration to the cultural, ethical, and legal implications of their proposed intervention.

Realistic Budget (10%): The proposal includes a thorough and realistic budget that outlines all relevant expected expenses and revenue for the project’s 1st year. The budget demonstrates that the applicants have given sufficient consideration to necessary supplies, equipment, travel expenses, etc.  The funding requested from Big Ideas is no greater than $10,000.  If the projects’ expenses are greater than $10,000 total, the team has a reasonable plan to raise additional funds (e.g., the team has plans to submit additional grant applications, fundraise, etc.)

Measuring Success (10%): The proposal demonstrates a viable plan for measuring success in achieving the project’s goals.  The exact measurement tools (e.g. survey instruments) need not be developed at this stage, but the proposal should explain what will be measured, when/how it will be measured, and justify how those measurements lead to the achievement of the team’s desired impact.

Quality and Creativity (10%): The project is innovative, the overall merit of this idea is high, and this is an idea worth funding. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. Only one team member is required to be a matriculated student from an eligible campus.

We understand that team building is a primary challenge teams face during the pre-proposal round; however, your for the final round your team should be able to demonstrate that it comprises individuals with the necessary skills to implement your project. [PD2] Some teams may seek to hire or recruit additional team members during the 1st year of implementation (between June 2019-June 2020.) In these instances, applicants should list the type of team member they will seek to recruit (skillsets & role on project), when they will be recruited, and strategies for recruiting them.

No. Full proposals should be a single PDF document no more than eight pages long, including a budget spreadsheet. You may have additional references/citations beyond the 8-page limit. For consistency and fairness purposes, the proposal should be size 12 font, single-spaced, with one-inch margins.

Yes! Unlike the pre-proposal round, appendices are allowed in the final-round and do not count towards the 8 page limit.

You may rearrange the sections as it makes sense for your proposal, and you can add an additional section(s) if you think it will enhance your proposal. That said, it is highly recommended that you include a section (and the appropriate section heading) for each of the components described on the pre-proposal application requirements, as the judging criteria focus on the information provided in each of those sections.

There are no restrictions on what expenses can be covered with Big Ideas funds. Past winners have budgeted for personnel costs (e.g., hiring a programmer or marketing consultant), domestic and international travel, marketing costs, building materials costs, and so on. Typically, teams do not include a salary for themselves in their budget. However, note that you should not request more than $10,000 from Big Ideas. If your project requires more than $10,000 in funding, note other funding sources you are pursuing in the Revenue section of the budget (and include in the Notes section whether you’ve applied for this money and not yet received it, have received it, etc.)

This year, Big Ideas awards will range from 5,000 to $20,000 based on the overall quality of the proposal. Proposals should not request more than $10,000 from Big Ideas in their budgets.

No. As long as you are consistent, you can format your references any way you choose.

Yes! You can include figures in your proposal to help explain your project, but they will count toward the page limit. Any image not created by your team should be properly cited. If you are worried about losing space for writing, you can include more images in an appendix.

As in the pre-proposal round, applicants are required to complete a webform with information about their team and a brief description of their project. Applicants will then attach their proposal and budget (preferably as one PDF document). The Big Ideas Contest reserves the right to use the brief description of the project in the webform publicly. However, your attached proposal will be kept confidential. If you are concerned about protecting your idea, do not put any protected information in short (webform) description.

Big Ideas awards must be disbursed either to a) a registered student (from an eligible campus), b) an ASUC student group account, or c) a campus research account of a faculty advisor. Awards cannot be disbursed to partners, non-profits, or students from non-eligible campuses. 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. The Team Lead has final authority in determining prize disbursement options.

The judges are a mix of academia and industry professionals with varied expertise, backgrounds and skillsets. When crafting your proposal, you should be writing to a general audience. Be sure not to use jargon and explain technical terms. Judges’ identities will remain anonymous throughout the Contest. You will receive written feedback from the judges, but you will not be given access to the names or contact information of the judges. If there is a certain judge that you wish to get in touch with based upon their feedback, please contact the Big Ideas staff and we will attempt to facilitate an introduction.