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    How to Win the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program

    By Will Geiger

    Will Geiger is the co-founder of Scholarships360 and has a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. He is a former Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at Kenyon College where he personally reviewed 10,000 admissions applications and essays. Will also managed the Kenyon College merit scholarship program and served on the financial aid appeals committee. He has also worked as an Associate Director of College Counseling at a high school in New Haven, Connecticut. Will earned his master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania and received his undergraduate degree in history from Wake Forest University.

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    and Cait Williams

    Cait Williams is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cait recently graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism and Strategic Communications. During her time at OU, was active in the outdoor recreation community.

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    Reviewed by Cari Shultz

    Cari Schultz is an Educational Review Board Advisor at Scholarships360, where she reviews content featured on the site. For over 20 years, Cari has worked in college admissions (Baldwin Wallace University, The Ohio State University, University of Kentucky) and as a college counselor (Columbus School for Girls).

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: May 1st, 2024
    How to Win the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program

    The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program is a very prestigious scholarship that aims to support high-achieving high school seniors. Started in 1964, this program has since awarded thousands of scholarships to high school students.

    Jump ahead to:

    1. Presidential Scholars Program background
    2. Eligibility requirements
    3. How do I apply?
    4. Presidential Scholars Application components
    5. What do Presidential Scholars win?
    6. Additional questions

    Keep reading to find out more about the Presidential Scholars program including how to apply, what the application consists of, and what recipients win!

    President Scholarship background

    Each year, only 161 students from across the United States are recognized as Presidential Scholars (you can see the listing of students who were recognized as Presidential Scholars in 2023 here).

    Since 1964, there have been a few changes to acknowledge different groups of high-achieving students. Now, students who have exceptional talents and accomplishments in the visual, creative, performing arts, as well as in career and technical fields are also recognized.

    Presidential Scholarship eligibility requirements

    The general requirements for the Presidential Scholars program include the following:

    • Students must be U.S. Citizens or Legal Permanent U.S. residents by the application deadline (which is in February)
    • Students must be graduating high school seniors

    That’s it! As long as you meet these requirements you are eligible.

    How do I apply for the Presidential Scholars program?

    The Presidential Scholars Program is available on an invite-only basis. So even if you are eligible, you may not necessarily be able to apply unless you are invited. Here are the criteria for each of the three main pathways of general, arts, and career and technical education (CTE):


    For the general Presidential Scholars pathway, the most common way that a student is invited is through achieving a high score on their ACT or SAT. Alternatively, students can be nominated by their Chief State School Officer or a Presidential Scholar partner organization.

    Related: What is a high SAT score?


    For the arts pathway, students must demonstrate “academic achievement and talent in the visual, creative, or performing arts.” Additionally, students must participate in the National YoungArts Foundation’s nationwide YoungArts program.

    Career Technology Education (CTE)

    Finally, for the CTE pathway, students must be nominated by their state’s Chief State School officer and show academic achievement in career and technical programs.

    Presidential Scholars application

    Once a student is invited to apply for the Presidential Scholars Program, they will need to complete the application.

    The application entails several components including:

    Students in each area–general, arts, and CTE–will be assessed by the scholarship committee based on their academic achievement, personal characteristics, leadership, service, and essays.

    What can I win?

    Unlike other scholarship programs, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program does not award a monetary scholarship.

    Instead, students chosen as Presidential Scholar will receive an expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. and are presented with a medallion at a special ceremony sponsored by the White House.

    In addition to the trip and the White House awards ceremony, scholars receive a ton of non-monetary benefits like:

    • Network with leaders: Gain access to important national and international figures, including government officials, educators, authors, musicians, scientists and other accomplished people.
    • Experience Washington, D.C.: Opportunities to attend recitals, receptions and ceremonies held in their honor; and visit D.C. museums and monuments.
    • Meet accomplished peers: Gain the chance to exchange ideas with similarly motivated and accomplished peers, and to forge friendships that last a lifetime.

    In short, while students do not receive money, the Presidential Scholars program is highly prestigious due to the overall selectivity of the program and the networking opportunities it provides.

    Writing resources

    The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program may require you to write an essay about yourself. You can also check out our Scholarships360 guides on how to write a 250 word essay, how to write a 500 word essay, and how to write a scholarship resume to help you throughout this process. If you need help starting your essays, we have you covered! 

    Final thoughts

    For more information about the Presidential Scholars Program, you can check out the FAQ on the Department of Education website. You can also contact the scholarship committee with any other questions.

    If this scholarship program doesn’t work out for you, there are still plenty of other options out there! Look into the Questbridge scholarship to determine if you are eligible to apply. Be sure to check out all full ride scholarship opportunities that are available!

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • The Presidential Scholars Program is for students who standout for their academic achievements and merit
    • Students are invited to apply for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program
    • While there is no monetary prize that comes with this program, there are several other benefits that make it more than worth while
    • If you qualified for this scholar program, but did not make it, that is okay because there are still plenty more scholarships available that you can strive for

    Frequently asked questions about the Presidential Scholars Program

    How prestigious is the US Presidential Scholars Program?

    The Presidential Scholars Program is very prestigious. Because this program is by invite only, it is your academic record and achievements that need to speak for you. Being recognized for this scholarship is a testament to how hard you have worked in high school and the high standards that you hold yourself to.

    Is being a Presidential Scholar a big deal?

    Yes, being a presidential scholar is a very big deal! Again, you must be invited before you can even apply for this award.  If you are selected as a Presidential Scholar, make sure you accept and take advantage of all the resources they have to offer you!

    How many Presidential Scholars are chosen?

    Each year, 161 Presidential Scholars are chosen from across the United States. Initially, each year, around four thousand students are chosen as candidates. Of those candidates, around 650 become semi-finalists, which of course is then narrowed down to a list of 161 winners. Just being considered a candidate for this list is a great honor!

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