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The Ultimate Guide to the National Science Bowl: Everything You Need to Know

If you are a passionate STEM student, eager for a chance to compete against others, then the National Science Bowl is for you! Founded by the Department of Energy, the National Science Bowl has risen to be one of the most prestigious national competitions for science.

What is the National Science Bowl?

The National Science Bowl is an academic competition in the United States that brings thousands of high school students to test their knowledge in various scientific topics, from biology to ecology and from math to astronomy. Being sponsored by the Department of Energy, the National Science Bowl represents the effort to promote excellence in science across the country.

The National Science Bowl features a fast-paced, quiz-show format with buzzers that challenges teams to answer questions on a wide range of science topics, including physics, chemistry, and biology. The competition is designed to encourage teamwork, research and studying ability, and love for science.

The National Science Bowl begins with regional and state competitions, with winning teams advancing to the national finals held in Washington, D.C. Since 1991, the National Science Bowl has become a competitive prestigious event, and continues to promote a love for science to students across the country.

Who is Eligible to Participate in the National Science Bowl?

The National Science Bowl is open to all middle and high school students in the United States. Each team must consist of four students, one alternate, and one adult mentor, and they must be from the same school.

Is the National Science Bowl Prestigious?

The National Science Bowl is internationally recognized as one of the most prestigious science competitions for students.

The National Science Bowl has brought together the smartest, hardest working, and most passionate students in STEM, and many participants have gone on to successful careers in science, engineering, and otherwise. The competition is designed to challenge students and promote excellence in STEM education, and winning teams are awarded a variety of prizes, including trophies, scholarships, and other honors – especially prestige to yourself, your school, and for any of your future applications.

Timeline and Structure of the National Science Bowl

The National Science Bowl consists of three phases: registration, regionals, and nationals.

  1. Registration: Registration for all of the regional bowls begins in the fall season, and exact timing will vary depending on which institution is hosting your regional competition. Your school or your mentor must register your team at least three weeks prior to the beginning of the regional competition.

  2. Regionals: From February to March, various institutions around the country will be hosting regional science bowls, where the winner of each bowl will advance to the national competition. The formatting may slightly differ depending on the venue, but likely fulfills the same format as the national competition.

  3. Nationals: Winners of the regional competitions will have the opportunity to compete in nationals, held in Washington D.C. sometime in late April and early May. Nationals features a buzzer questionnaire system with questions from all of the sciences, with teams going head to head in a round-robin and then double-elimination format until the top 16 is reached.

Tips and Resources to Win the National Science Bowl

The National Science Bowl can be an extremely intense and overwhelming competition, but it doesn't have to be that way.

  1. Study early: The National Science Bowl can jump from physics, to ecology, to chemistry, to trigonometry, so spend some time developing a strong understanding of the key concepts in each area. Be sure to spend time studying textbooks, practice questions, and other study materials across all of these topics to ensure that you are well-prepared for the competition. There are plenty of study materials provided by the DOE, as well as, supplied by your general education and your mentor, so be sure to use all of these to your advantage.

  2. Simulate competition environment: The competition is designed to be fast-paced and buzzer-based, so it is important to be able to quickly and accurately answer questions. Practice with a buzzer and time yourself to simulate the competition environment. You must practice as to recognize how long it takes for you to solve the answer for a problem and to develop the confidence to press the buzzer. The Bowl is a game of knowledge, trust, and confidence amongst your team.

  3. Get close and trust with your team: The National Science Bowl is a team competition, so it is important to work well with your teammates and to communicate effectively. Practice working together on practice questions and other exercises to build strong teamwork skills. You may not be extremely strong at all topics, but as a team, you should be able to answer every question and cover each other’s bases. Be sure to spend time studying wisely across your team, have confidence and trust within each other, and build each other up in case things go wrong during the competitions.

  4. Attend workshops and other training events: The DOE and other organizations often offer workshops and training events to help teams prepare for the competition. Take this time to learn from experienced coaches and to gain valuable insights and tips that no one else has known of.

  5. Stay happy and positive: The National Science Bowl is a long and challenging competition, so it is important to stay focused, positive, and motivated throughout the process. Make sure to lift each other up during hard times and celebrate together during the good times. Have fun, enjoy the competition and the learning, as there is no point in competing if you are not happy throughout it.

If you're looking for a real-world internship that can help boost your resume while applying to college, we recommend Ladder Internships!

Ladder Internships is a selective program equipping students with virtual internship experiences at startups and nonprofits around the world! 

The startups range across a variety of industries, and each student can select which field they would most love to deep dive into. This is also a great opportunity for students to explore areas they think they might be interested in, and better understand professional career opportunities in those areas.

The startups are based all across the world, with the majority being in the United States, Asia and then Europe and the UK. 

The fields include technology, machine learning and AI, finance, environmental science and sustainability, business and marketing, healthcare and medicine, media and journalism and more.

You can explore all the options here on their application form. As part of their internship, each student will work on a real-world project that is of genuine need to the startup they are working with, and present their work at the end of their internship. In addition to working closely with their manager from the startup, each intern will also work with a Ladder Coach throughout their internship - the Ladder Coach serves as a second mentor and a sounding board, guiding you through the internship and helping you navigate the startup environment. 

Cost: $1490 (Financial Aid Available)

Location:  Remote! You can work from anywhere in the world.

Application deadline: April 16 and May 14

Program dates: 8 weeks, June to August

Eligibility: Students who can work for 10-20 hours/week, for 8-12 weeks. Open to high school students, undergraduates and gap year students!

Additionally, you can also work on independent research in AI, through Veritas AI's Fellowship Program!

Veritas AI focuses on providing high school students who are passionate about the field of AI a suitable environment to explore their interests. The programs include collaborative learning, project development, and 1-on-1 mentorship. 

These programs are designed and run by Harvard graduate students and alumni and you can expect a great, fulfilling educational experience. Students are expected to have a basic understanding of Python or are recommended to complete the AI scholars program before pursuing the fellowship. 

The AI Fellowship program will have students pursue their own independent AI research project. Students work on their own individual research projects over a period of 12-15 weeks and can opt to combine AI with any other field of interest. In the past, students have worked on research papers in the field of AI & medicine, AI & finance, AI & environmental science, AI & education, and more! You can find examples of previous projects here

Location: Virtual


  • $1,790 for the 10-week AI Scholars program

  • $4,900 for the 12-15 week AI Fellowship 

  • $4,700 for both

  • Need-based financial aid is available. You can apply here

Application deadline: On a rolling basis. Applications for fall cohort have closed September 3, 2023. 

Program dates: Various according to the cohort

Program selectivity: Moderately selective

Eligibility: Ambitious high school students located anywhere in the world. AI Fellowship applicants should either have completed the AI Scholars program or exhibit past experience with AI concepts or Python.

Application Requirements: Online application form, answers to a few questions pertaining to the students background & coding experience, math courses, and areas of interest. 


If you’re looking for another chance to explore your passions in STEM, or want another opportunity to build your own independent project and research paper, then consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program. Last year over 2100 students applied for about 500 spots in the program. You can find the application form here.

Aaron Zheng is a sophomore at Harvard University, studying Bioengineering. He is passionate about biotechnology, business development, and aiding students get to college, regardless of background. In his spare time, he looks to read, journal, and explore the world.

Image source: National Science Bowl



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