New Research Suggests that BigFuture Scholarships Motivate Students to Complete College Planning Steps

New research shows that BigFuture Scholarships incentivize students to complete milestones on the path to college. These college-going milestones are grounded in the research literature and include building a college list, practicing for the SAT, exploring scholarships, strengthening the college list, completing the FAFSA, and eventually applying to a balanced set of colleges. The new research covers the period between December 2018 and February 2020, when College Board awarded almost 4,000 scholarships worth $4.6 million to students in the high school graduating class of 2020. Based on the program's criteria, at least half of the scholarships are reserved for lower-income students. Among winners from the class of 2020, 70% were lower-income students.

Each month, winners are randomly selected from among students who complete college planning milestones on BigFuture. This monthly design of the scholarship program is ideal for isolating the causal impact of winning BigFuture Scholarships for early milestones on the completion of subsequent college planning milestones. The research shows that winning a BigFuture Scholarship propels students to complete subsequent college planning milestones.

The figure below shows the impact of winning one of the early BigFuture Scholarships, such as Build Your College List and Practice for the SAT. Scholarship winners were 16-17 percentage points (between 43% and 64%) more likely to later complete college planning milestones like FAFSA completion and applying to college compared to identical students who completed these early milestones but did not win a scholarship. The overall impacts depicted below are similarly large among students historically underrepresented in higher education such as low-income, underrepresented minority, and first-generation college students. For these additional analyses as well as evidence that scholarship winners attended slightly more resourced four-year colleges, please see the new paper.

Students in the class of 2023 can now qualify for monthly drawings to win $500 and $40,000 scholarships by completing college planning steps on BigFuture.  Open to all, the scholarships do not require a specific test score, GPA, essay, application, or citizenship. 


The Impact of Winning a Build Your College List or Practice for the SAT Scholarships on Subsequent Milestone Completion

Note: Prior to December 2021, BigFuture Scholarships program was known as the College Board Opportunity Scholarships program.