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10 History Competitions for High School Students

Are you in high school and looking to participate in a history competition? Check out this curated list below of opportunities from across the country!

Competing and performing well in a history competition can offer valuable exposure by indicating your interest in the subject of history to potential colleges. Competitions also grant the opportunity to improve one’s skills in writing, public speaking, or debate, for example. Additionally, you can also choose to conduct independent research on various topics that come under the umbrella of history, and publish them in prestigious journals like the Concord Review!

Below are 10 history competitions to consider, some of which are offered in the summer and others during the school year. The programs range from live quiz competitions to essay competitions to oratory contests, so there is something for everyone!

We’ve also covered some great history programs in this blog, and research ideas in history here!

One of the most popular competitions at the high school level, the International History Olympiad is a competition attended by hundreds of students from all over the world. The multi-day series of events features numerous competitions (as well as non-competitive events) that offer many opportunities for students to win awards and connect with other individuals. The Olympiad takes place in a new location around the world each year (with past editions being held at Honolulu, Berlin, Rome), deeming it also a great opportunity to take advantage of in terms of international travel. Qualification is conducted through participation in regional, national, and international qualifying events.

Application Deadline: July 2024

Location: TBD, 2023’s competition took place in Rome

Prizes: Prizes vary by rank and competition

Eligibility: All high school students are eligible through participation in regional, national, and international qualifying events

This popular competition takes place on an annual basis in the capital of the United States. In order to qualify for participation at the national level of the competition, students must advance beyond rounds at the local and state levels in their respective districts. The History Bee is a buzzer-based history quiz that occurs at the individual level, without the help of teammates. Students compete 1-1 over many rounds where they answer paragraph-long questions about various historical topics. Visit the National History Bee’s website to learn more about specific competition rules and formatting. This is a very esteemed competition where you can network with other students, learn more about historical facts, and impress colleges.

Application Deadline: TBA

Location: Washington, DC and Arlington, VA

Prizes: Prizes vary by rank and competition

Eligibility: All high school students younger than 19 years old: Varsity (11th and 12th grade), Junior Varsity (9th or 10th grade)

This contest is offered by The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) and is an oration competition. Each participant must draft and present an original oration between five to six minutes in length. Then, students must deliver the oration from memory without notes or props. The topic must be an event, personality, or document related to the Revolutionary War. The oration must also show a relation between the chosen topic and America today. This is a great way to simultaneously develop public speaking and writing skills!

Students must get through preliminary local rounds, state levels, and then advance to the national level at which place scholarships and prizes are awarded. The orations are evaluated on composition, delivery, significance, historical accuracy, and other secondary criteria. Winners on the national level in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place receive cash prizes, as well as an Olympic-sized medal.

Application Deadline: TBA, varying by state and SAR chapter

Location: Virtual

Prizes: Varying cash prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners

Eligibility: Students in grades 9-12th

Offered by The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), this essay competition invites students to submit an 800-1,200 word essay. The essay needs to be based on an event, person, philosophy or ideal associated with the American Revolution, Declaration of Independence, or the framing of the U.S Constitution. Essays will be judged on historical accuracy, clarity, organization, grammar, spelling, and documentation.

Like other competitions offered by the SAR, the contest is conducted in stages on the local, state, and national level. Contact your local chapter to enter into the competition. All essays must additionally include a title page, bibliography page, and a biography page. The prizes vary for the top 5 essay writers. However, the first place winning essay will be submitted in the SAR magazine and will have an opportunity to visit Washington, D,C. This is a great opportunity to strengthen one’s ability to conduct research and synthesize historical information.

Application Deadline: TBA, varying by state and SAR chapter

Location: Virtual, through each SAR chapter

Prizes: Varying cash prizes for winners at each tier

Eligibility: Students in grades 9-12th

The National Contest of National History Day is a massive gathering of nearly 3,000 individuals offered annually by the organization to student scholars and their families. National History Day invites successful winners of local and affiliate contests to share their research and other history-related work widely. Beyond competing in a variety of competitions, partnerships with local museums and cultural institutions offer students dynamic programming and professional development opportunities.

The gathering takes place in Maryland for a week-long series of events inviting students from all across the U.S., and the world. Students can also take the competition as a chance to explore Washington, D.C and benefit from the plethora of historical sites at the nation’s capital. This is a fantastic opportunity! To compete on such a national level is an amazing opportunity and very impressive feat that is sure to demonstrate your passion for history and historical reasoning to colleges.

Application Deadline: June 9-13, 2024

Location: University of Maryland, College Park

Prizes: Varying prizes per category of the competition

Eligibility: All high school students, teachers and parents are also invited

In a similar fashion to The National History Bee, The National History Bowl is offered once a year in the nation’s capitol to students who have advanced past local, regional, and state History Bowl competitions. The format is a buzzer-based history quiz with teams of up to 6 students. Students seek to answer questions faster than their opponents about topics covering: the history of the arts, sciences, religion, philosophy, language, historical geography, recent history, and even a bit of the history of sports and entertainment. Questions can reference all eras of history in all geographic regions of the world. Check out their website for specific information about the tournament format and how to advance in each round.

Note: We’ve covered the competition in depth here!

Application Deadline: TBD

Location: Washington, DC and Arlington, VA

Prizes: Prizes vary by rank and competition

Eligibility: All high school students are eligible through participation in regional, national, and international qualifying events

Offered by the World History Association, this international contest asks students to address a historical topic and its relation to student’s personal lives and world history at large. An example of a past paper topic is: “My ancestor walked with Abraham Lincoln from Illinois to fight in the Black Hawk War of 1832." The essays are judged based on the thesis, evidence of critical-thinking, organization, and other criteria. Overall, this written competition is a pretty good opportunity to assess your writing ability from a renowned organization in the discipline of history.

Application Deadline: May 1, 2024

Location: Virtual

Prizes: $500 Prize and a one year membership to the World History Association

Eligibility: An international competition for students in grades K-12

Presented by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), this essay competition seeks to introduce younger students to employ creativity in thinking about the history of the United States. The DAR set out a unique topic for each competition cycle and the submissions are judged for historical accuracy, topic adherence, organization of materials, originality, and writing quality. The essays are evaluated on a local, state, divisional, and national level. The contest is carried out through participating chapters of the DAR organization.

Application Deadline: Varies, contact your local DAR chapter

Location: Virtual

Prizes: Certificate of participation for each student and varying medals and awards for winners at each division (local, state. national)

Eligibility: Students in 9th-12th grade

The Write Your Own Historical Fiction Competition is offered by The Historical Association each year to students across the world. Although varying by year, the organization typically does not assign a firm theme for the entries to the competition. The essays, ranging from 400 to 3500 words, are evaluated for their historical accuracy, convincing storytelling, effective use of historical vocabulary, and creativity. Do note that entries must be submitted by a teacher on behalf of a school.

Although the competition’s premise is a bit unconventional for a history competition, this contest offers students a unique opportunity to channel their creativity through the lens of an important academic subject. This will prove very beneficial when writing applications to colleges, or other writing endeavors at large.

Application Deadline: TBA, likely June 2024

Location: Virtual

Prizes: Cash awards for winners as well as a specially-designed notebook

Eligibility: Students in Years 5-13. Internationally

Named after the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, this essay competition offered by The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, recognizes outstanding high school student research essays each year. Essays for the competition (between 1,500-2,000 words) are required to center primary source analysis of a document in American history from 1493 to 2000. This is a solid opportunity to conduct historical research very similar to collegiate writing, with citations, a bibliography and secondary sources attached.

Application Deadline: TBA, likely June 2024

Location: Virtual

Prizes: Cash awards for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place and a certificate of participation for all students

Eligibility: Students in 10th-12th grade part of the National Academy of American History and Civics

If you are interested in doing university-level research in history and politics, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for high school students. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Aisha is a student at Princeton University, studying Anthropology and Global Health. On campus, she is involved with student groups centered around health equity and cultural affinity. In her free time, she enjoys podcasting, learning languages, and trying new recipes.

Image Source: National History Bowl logo



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