• REACH HIGHER Career App Challenge

    First Lady announces grand prize winner:
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    Watch the Announcement

  • Call for Submissions
    October 7, 2015
  • Submission Deadline
    December 7, 2015
  • Finalists Announced
    May 11, 2016
  • Demo Day
    July 7, 2016
  • current stageWinner Announced
    Summer 2016
Detailed Schedule


About The Challenge

With a constantly evolving career landscape, it is increasingly challenging for students to identify, assess, and act upon their options as they plan for careers and college. While the current career guidance and counseling infrastructure plays a critical role in assisting students with college and career selection decisions, nationwide, one in five high schools lacks a school counselor. Furthermore, the American Counseling Association reports that in 2013, the national average student-to-school-counselor ratio for K-12 counselors was 482:1 with peaks of 880:1 in Arizona and 826:1 in California. As a result, students receive only minutes of in-person time with their counselor annually, as they prepare to make important postsecondary education and career decisions.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) Reach Higher Career App Challenge calls upon mobile app developers, educators, and data mavens to submit mobile solutions to improve access to information about career and technical education (CTE), help students, including students with disabilities and English Learners, navigate education and career pathways, and increase the capacity of career counselors to assist students in making decisions about their education and career options. The Challenge seeks mobile app solutions focused on middle and high school students that include integrated tools to assess user skills and interests, and offer users accessible information on occupations, education options, credentials, and career-seeking skills through an individualized user experience. Submissions should include a plan for full development and integration of local educational and employment data — so that any student, anywhere, can reach higher.

Challenge Criteria


Prizes awarded under this competition will be paid by electronic funds transfer. Winners are responsible for any applicable local, State, and Federal taxes and reporting that may be required under applicable tax laws.



5 finalists receive $25,000

1 grand prize winner receives $100,000

From the $225,000 Challenge prize pool funds, up to five finalist teams will be awarded $25,000 each following the judging of the open submissions. Finalists will improve and iterate upon their submissions during the Virtual Accelerator phase in preparation for Demonstration Day (“Demo Day”). After Demo Day, a judging panel will provide recommendations to ED on the selection of one or more winners from the pool of finalists to receive the remainder of the prize money and the additional prizes described below.

IBM will offer award packages to one Challenge winner for their ongoing use of Bluemix. If the IBM Award recipient is a “Student” team, IBM will provide up to one year of free access to Bluemix for learning purposes, and if the Challenge winner is an “Entrepreneur or Startup”, IBM will provide access to the IBM Global Entrepreneur Program for Cloud Startups (up to $120,000 value, see https://ibm.co/1pIsleq). The Challenge winner may also receive 80 hours of technical consulting by an IBM senior developer or architect over a 6 month period after the winner announcement. The Challenge award winner will be eligible to showcase their application in the Application Gallery hosted on IBM developerWorks.

Microsoft will award one Challenge winner with an invitation to the BizSpark Plus program, inclusive of up to $120,000 Azure cloud services, free software, developer tools, and technical support for one year. The winner must be a qualified start up to be eligible for BizSpark Plus (see https://www.microsoft.com/bizspark/plus/default.aspx).