The research is clear: students who create a plan to pay for college are more prepared to meet the cost of college, so Sallie Mae — the nation's saving, planning, and paying for college company — will again encourage students to do just that through the " Make College Happen Challenge," the contest that rewards high school students who creatively describe how they plan to pay for college.

Open to high school students ages 14-18, the second annual " Make College Happen Challenge" will award 10 prizes totaling $40,000: a first-place prize of $15,000, a second-place prize of $10,000, a third-place prize of $8,000, and $1,000 to seven semifinalists. Students may submit their entries in videos, photos, essays, songs, poems, or other creative formats between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31.

"Every student should have the opportunity to make college happen and that starts with a plan to pay for it," said Martha Holler, senior vice president, Sallie Mae. "While there is no single way to pay for college, the benefits of college planning are universal. Through essays, videos, raps, and even a college planning video game, we heard from so many impressive students last year, and they were speaking not only to us, but also to their peers, providing practical tips for college planning. It's amazing to see this growing community of college planners, and we can't wait to meet the next group through this year's challenge."

Alexander Gomez, now a freshman at the University of Colorado at Denver, was one of last year's "Make College Happen Challenge" winners. He created an animated video that illustrates steps he took to reduce college expenses, including taking dual-credit and advanced-placement classes and applying for scholarships.

"There's no magic bullet when it comes to paying for college, but a little preparation can go a long way," said Gomez. "Understanding costs upfront, making sure to complete important forms like the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and applying for scholarships or contests like the ' Make College Happen Challenge' can be game changers. After all, you can't win if you don't apply!"

The 10 finalists will be chosen at the end of January based on the creativity of their entry, effective communication of their message, and the potential of their plan. The public will then have the opportunity to choose their favorite entry from the 10 finalists by voting online for a week in February. Top online vote-getters, combined with judges' scores, will determine the contest winners, who will be announced in March.

Sallie Mae conducts the "Make College Happen Challenge" in partnership with By Kids For Kids, a leader in education that inspires innovation in youth.

"Motivating our young people to make the dream of higher education a reality is integral to our mission at By Kids For Kids," said Norman Goldstein, CEO and founder, By Kids For Kids. "We are proud to again partner with Sallie Mae to help students realize their potential and get on the path to college."

Sallie Mae offers a number of free planning-for-college tools, including the College Planning Calculator and Scholarship Search by Sallie Mae. The company recommends students and families follow its 1-2-3 approach to paying for college: first, maximize money that does not need to be repaid, such as scholarships and grants; second, explore federal student loans; and, third, consider a responsible private education loan.

Sallie Mae will co-host a Twitter chat with Wise Bread on Nov. 3 at 3 p.m. (EDT) to discuss planning for college and the "Make College Happen Challenge." To participate, use hashtags #MakeCollegeHappen and #WBChat.

For more information, visit For contest rules, visit No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law.

About By Kids For Kids

By Kids For Kids (BKFK) is an agency that empowers youth invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship. BKFK provides a unique platform for kids and teens to develop and showcase their ideas, inventions, and entrepreneurship. The company provides free educational resources, including curricula and challenges that promote social change, product innovation, and entrepreneurial endeavors. Learn more:

About Sallie Mae

Sallie Mae (NASDAQ: SLM) is the nation's saving, planning, and paying for college company. Whether college is a long way off or just around the corner, Sallie Mae offers products that promote responsible personal finance, including private education loans, Upromise rewards, scholarship search, college financial planning tools, and online retail banking. Learn more at Commonly known as Sallie Mae, SLM Corporation and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

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