Advertiser disclosure

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, 161 students are recognized as Presidential Scholars (you can see the listing of students who were recognized as Presidential Scholars in 2021 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 participated 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:

  • Essays
  • Self-assessments
  • Transcripts

Students in each area–general, arts, and CTE–will be assessed by the scholarship committee based off of 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 a highly prestigious designation, with the award in the prestige it signals and the networking opportunities it provides.

Questions about the Presidential Scholars program?

If you have any questions 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.

Keep on reading


Return to top