How to Become a U.S. Presidential Scholar?

In order to become a U.S. Presidential Scholar, students must score exceptionally well on the SAT or ACT and be nominated by their Chief State School Officer or one of the partner recognition organizations. The review committee also looks at leadership and service activities, personal characteristics, and writing ability.

Since the program’s inception in 1964, over 81,000 students have received the prestigious honor. These students come from all over the country and have a wide range of impressive achievements. Many of them are valedictorians, National Merit Scholarship finalists or semifinalists, and inductees into the National Honor Society. Others have been recognized for their musical compositions, photography work, research projects, or volunteer efforts.

The process of becoming a U.S. Presidential Scholar is no easy feat. First, the student must be nominated by their Chief State School Officer (CSSO). Then, they must submit an application to the U.S. Department of Education. The Commissioner then invites a number of students to apply based on their scores on the SAT or ACT exam. Students who are nominated by YoungArts or other partner organizations can also be invited to apply for the program (Category 2). In April, the Commission on Presidential Scholars makes the final selection of up to 160 scholars. One male and female scholar is selected from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and from families of U.S. citizens living abroad. Up to 20 scholars are also selected in the arts, and up to 15 scholars are chosen at-large.

Students who are invited to apply for the program typically do so in January of their graduation year. Once the applications are submitted, the semifinalists will be invited to Washington, DC, for a National Recognition Program in June. During their stay, scholars meet with renowned authors, scientists, educators, musicians, and more to discuss important social issues.

How to Get Invited to the U.S. Presidential Scholar
How to Become a U.S. Presidential Scholar? 1

How to Get Invited to the U.S. Presidential Scholar?

The first and most obvious way to get invited is by scoring exceptionally well on your SAT or ACT. Specifically, you must score within the top percentile of all test takers. However, that is only one of the many criteria for consideration. Other factors include your academic achievements, community service, and extracurricular activities. Being a Presidential Scholar is a prestigious honor and a great way to stand out on college applications. The scholars themselves are a diverse group of students from all across the country, with some high school valedictorians and National Scholarship recipients among them. Others are scientists conducting research or members of the National Honor Society and even student-athletes like soccer players, cross-country runners, tennis players, and varsity golfers have been chosen as scholars.

The program has also expanded to include high school students with excellence in career and technical education (CTE). These candidates are nominated by their Chief State School Officer based on their achievement in CTE, and an independent review committee determines the official scholars after careful deliberation.

The selection process is guided by a quota that ensures there is one male and one female scholar from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and U.S. families living abroad, and 55 more scholars in the arts, CTE, or at large. Students who are nominated must then submit candidacy materials such as essays, self-assessments, secondary school reports, and official transcripts.

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