Strengthen Your College List

Opens: July Before Senior year | Closes: October of Senior Year

Strengthen Your College List

About this Step 

Starting in July before your senior year, students who strengthen (or update) their college list to have at least three reach colleges, two match colleges, and one safety will earn entries in monthly drawings for $500 and $40,000 scholarships.

The goal is to help students like you make sure your list has a range of schools to consider for your future. You can use your SAT or ACT scores or your GPA to determine which schools are right for you.

How to Qualify

  1. Login to your College Board account.
  2. Review your college list to make sure it has least 3 reach colleges, 2 match colleges, and 1 safety college.
  3. If you’re missing any category, simply click ‘Start Now’ above to see how your GPA, SAT or ACT scores compare with students at different universities. From there, you’ll be able to see which schools are reach, match or safety for you.

Dates and Deadlines​

Scholarships for $500 and $40,000 are awarded monthly until February of your senior year. Completing any step enters you in the drawings on the first day of every month. Drawings occur on the first day of every month. ​

Class of 2025 Deadline to Complete this Step: Thursday, October 31, 2024

Class of 2026 Deadline to Complete this Step: Friday, October 31, 2025

Increase Your Chances

Whenever students whose families earn less than $60,000 a year apply to colleges, they’ll earn an extra entry in monthly drawings and have double the chances at a scholarship. Half of all awards are reserved for students who meet the income criteria.

Tips for Strengthening Your List

  • How can I balance my list?
    Once you’ve made a list of colleges you’re interested in, narrow it down to the colleges that are a good fit and where you plan to apply. You’ll need a minimum of six colleges on your list, including three reach, two match, and one safety. Your school counselor is a great resource as you evaluate colleges and choose those that you’ll apply to.
  • How are reach, match, and safety colleges defined?
    This scholarship defines reach, match, and safety based on SAT scores, ACT scores, and estimated GPA, but remember that past achievement is only one factor for admission. Consider coursework, extracurriculars, potential major, and available financial aid to decide if a college is right for you.
    Compare your highest SAT score, ACT score, or estimated GPA to those of last year’s first-year class. If you don't yet have an SAT or ACT score, you can estimate your score based on a previous PSAT-related test score or take a practice test on Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy.
    • REACH: Your SAT score, ACT score or estimated GPA is lower than the average score range of last year’s first-year class—but don’t let that stop you! Colleges consider a range of factors during the admissions process.
    • MATCH: Your SAT score, ACT score or estimated GPA is solidly in the same score range as last year’s first-year class.
    • SAFETY: Your SAT score, ACT score or estimated GPA is higher than the average score range of last year’s first-year class.



Who's eligible for scholarships from BigFuture?

Students in the class of 2024, 2025, and 2026 are now eligible for BigFuture Scholarships. They must: have a College Board account and attend public or private high school or are enrolled in a home school in the United States, Puerto Rico, or any other U.S. territories, and U.S. citizens and residents attending Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools. When students complete one or more qualifying steps on BigFuture, they'll be automatically entered into monthly drawings for $500 or $40,000 until February of their senior year. Students can opt out of scholarship drawings here. ​

Read more

What are the deadlines to complete each step to qualify for BigFuture Scholarships?

Class of 2024

  • Start Your College List: Friday, June 30, 2023
  • Strengthen Your College List: Tuesday, October 31, 2023
  • Start Your Career List: Thursday, February 29, 2024
  • Start Your Scholarship List: Thursday, February 29, 2024
  • Apply to Colleges: Thursday, February 29, 2024
  • Complete the FAFSA: Thursday, February 29, 2024

Class of 2025

  • Start Your College List: Sunday, June 30, 2024
  • Strengthen Your College List: Thursday, October 31, 2024
  • Start Your Career List: Friday, February 28, 2025
  • Start Your Scholarship List: Friday, February 28, 2025
  • Apply to Colleges: Friday, February 28, 2025
  • Complete the FAFSA: Friday, February 28, 2025

Class of 2026

  • Start Your College List: Monday, June 30, 2025
  • Strengthen Your College List: Friday, October 31, 2025
  • Start Your Career List: Saturday, February 28, 2026
  • Start Your Scholarship List: Saturday, February 28, 2026
  • Apply to Colleges: Saturday, February 28, 2026
  • Complete the FAFSA: Saturday, February 28, 2026

Read more

Are there family income requirements to earn scholarships?

No. These scholarships are open to students regardless of their family income. At least half of all the scholarships will be designated for students whose families earn less than $60,000 per year.

A student may be automatically identified as eligible to increase their chances if they received a fee waiver from College Board for one of our assessments or if they attend a high school where 75% or more of the student body qualifies for free- or reduced-priced lunch. If students haven't been automatically identified as qualifying for extra scholarship entries but feel they qualify because their family earns less than $60,000 per year or they earned fee waivers, they'll be able to indicate they meet these criteria by updating their College Board account. Students who select this option may be asked to verify family income by using a secure document system if they earn a scholarship in a monthly drawing.

Read more

Do students have to take a PSAT-related test or SAT to participate in BigFuture Scholarships?

No. The program is open to all students, even those who don't take a College Board assessment. None of the six steps on BigFuture require sitting for an SAT assessment.

Read more

Do students have to participate online via the BigFuture website?

There's a mail-in entry option for students who can't participate online. See the Official Rules for more information. We encourage students to use BigFuture to track their progress and stay up to date on the latest information regarding this program.

Read more

Can I dispute my activity progress on BigFuture? What do I do if I don’t think my activity on BigFuture is accurate?

It may take up to 24 hours for your activity to be updated in the progress tracker. After that time, if you still feel that your information isn't up to date, please contact Customer Service at 844-298-3554.

Read more

How do you find reach, match, and safety colleges?

Strengthen your list by sorting colleges on BigFuture based on your GPA or SAT or ACT scores. You can sort your list by reach, match, and safety colleges to help you make sure your list has different kinds of schools that interest you. Remember to also consider size, location, campus life, available financial aid and other factors as you update your list

Read more

Why is a balanced list important?

By adding a mix of reach, safety, and match schools, you may add colleges you may not have considered before. As you narrow your list, make sure to consider location, campus life, cost, size, and majors. These other factors can help you determine what colleges are an overall good social, financial, and academic fit for you. Your strengthened list should reflect a mix of schools where you will thrive, academically, and socially.

Read more

What if my counselor told me I’m a match for a certain college but BigFuture says it’s a reach?

BigFuture identifies schools as a match based on your GPA or SAT or ACT score. However, past achievement is just one factor that schools consider during the admissions process. Your counselor may have advised you that you’re a good fit based on other factors. To strengthen your list and earn an entry in the scholarship drawings, we recommend adding another match college based on your GPA or SAT or ACT score.

Read more

How will I know when I’ve earned an entry?

After you strengthen your list, you’ll be automatically entered in monthly drawings unless you opt out of participation. You’ll see an update on your dashboard on BigFuture when you earn entries for $500 and $40,000. You’ll also get an email to confirm your drawing entries.  

Read more