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.