Ten college-bound students from communities across the U.S. are competing for their share of $40,000 for college in Sallie Mae's second annual "Make College Happen Challenge," the contest that asks high school students to describe creatively how they plan to pay for college. Now the public is invited to help choose the top three winners by voting for their favorite entry at MakeCollegeHappenChallenge.com/vote. Voting officially opens today at noon and closes on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

The first-place winner will receive $15,000; the second-place winner will receive $10,000; and the third-place winner will receive $8,000. Each of the other seven finalists will receive $1,000. Top online vote-getters, combined with judges' scores, will determine the top three winners, who will be named in April.

"Voters and judges are going to have a tough time choosing among this slate of entries because each demonstrates such conviction, confidence, and creativity about planning for college," said Martha Holler, senior vice president, Sallie Mae. "It's terrific to see these students developing their plans for college, because, as research shows, a plan is a critical step in helping students and families reach college, meet the cost, and ultimately borrow less."

More than 1,100 students, representing all 50 states and Washington, D.C., entered the "Make College Happen Challenge," with entries that comprised videos, rap songs, poems, essays, and other creative forms. A panel of judges narrowed the field to 10 finalists on the basis of creativity, effective communication, and potential of the plan.

Here are the 10 finalists, listed in alphabetical order by home state:
  • Jasmine Chan of Alhambra, California
  • Gabriel Gaurano of San Diego, California
  • Sarah Wouters of Port St. Lucie, Florida
  • Madison Stano of Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • Amy Wieland of West Des Moines, Iowa
  • Benjamin Trimpi of Greenville, North Carolina
  • Vincent Marchi of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
  • Blake Takushi of Sugarland, Texas
  • Adriena Pew of Shaw Island, Washington
  • Amy Wisegarver of Sammamish, Washington

Again, to vote for these exceptional student entries, visit MakeCollegeHappenChallenge.com/vote beginning today through Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Sallie Mae conducts the "Make College Happen Challenge" in partnership with By Kids For Kids, a national organization that provides free educational resources for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

"We are proud to partner with Sallie Mae again for this project, and we want to commend each of the 'Make College Happen Challenge' finalists for their creative efforts to address this critical issue facing many college-bound students," said Norman Goldstein, CEO and founder, By Kids For Kids. "Providing young people with the skills they need for their future success and helping them achieve the dream of a college education is integral to our mission."

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.

For complete contest rules, visit MakeCollegeHappenChallenge.com/rules.

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: www.bkfk.com.

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 SallieMae.com. 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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