8 History Competitions for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

An image with the word history and a world map as background

8 History Competitions for High School Students

Are you a high school student with a passion for history, eager to showcase your knowledge and skills beyond the classroom? You’re in the right place. History competitions offer a unique platform where your understanding of the past intersects with critical thinking and creativity, opening doors to exciting opportunities. These contests not only enrich your learning experience but also shine brightly on your college applications.

In this blog, we’ll explore history competitions that can help you stand out in the college admission process. Whether you’re a budding historian, a skilled researcher, or just curious about the past, these competitions are your ticket to challenging yourself and achieving recognition.

1. National Genealogical Society Rubincam Youth Award

  • Location: The awards are presented at the annual NGS Banquet at the NGS Family History Conference
  • Cost: None
  • Program Date: Unspecified
  • Application Deadline: The deadline for submissions is December 15th, annually
  • Eligibility: There are two categories: Senior (high school students in grades 9–12 at the time of submission) and Junior (middle school students in grades 6–8 at the time of submission)

The National Genealogical Society Rubincam Youth Award is a prestigious writing competition established in 1986 to honor Milton Rubincam for his significant contributions to the field of genealogy and to the National Genealogical Society. It’s open to students worldwide, with two categories based on grade levels: the Senior category for high school students in grades 9–12 and the Junior category for middle school students in grades 6–8.

For your submission, you must present an appropriately prepared genealogy. The competition rewards the winners in both categories with monetary prizes ($500 for Senior and $250 for Junior), a plaque, and a one-year non-print membership to the National Genealogical Society. Additionally, up to two honorable mentions may be named in each category. Winners have the opportunity to have the details of their winning submission featured in NGS Magazine. 

2. National History Bee and Bowl

  • Location: History Bee National Championships will take place at the Hyatt Regency Orlando and History Bowl National Championships will be held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA
  • Cost: History Bee National Championship –  $149; History Bowl National Championships – unspecified
  • Competition Dates: The History Bee National Championships – May 23-27, 2024; History Bowl National Championships – April 26-28, 2024
  • Application Deadline: 12 days before the tournament
  • Eligibility: History Bee is for individual students in middle and elementary schools, while History Bowl is for teams of students from both middle and high schools

The National History Bee and Bowl (NHBB) are engaging, buzzer-based quiz competitions focusing on history, tailored for elementary, middle, and high school students across the USA. The Bee is designed for individual students, while the Bowl is a team event, although single-player teams are permitted. NHBB is part of International Academic Competitions, organizing events in over 30 countries, including the International History Olympiad, for which NHBB participants can qualify​​.

National History Bee: This competition involves an Online Regional Qualifying Exam (ORQE), which is a 50-question multiple-choice test covering all aspects of history. Successful participants then move to the Regional Finals, consisting of buzzer-based rounds. The top performers at the Regional Finals are invited to the National Championships, where the competition format is similar but with more preliminary rounds. The questions span a wide range of historical topics, including but not limited to historical geography, recent history, and the history of various fields like science and arts​​.

National History Bowl: Teams first compete in Regional Tournaments, held both in-person and online across the USA, featuring preliminary and playoff rounds. The top 50% of teams at these tournaments qualify for the National Championships. The Nationals include more intensive competition with numerous rounds, where performance can also lead to qualification for the International History Olympiad. The Bowl’s questions are similarly wide-ranging and include a significant focus on U.S. history​​.

Both competitions provide rich opportunities for students to deepen their understanding of history, enhance critical thinking skills, and gain recognition that can be beneficial for college applications.

3. Joseph S. Rumbaugh Historical Oration Contest

  • Location: The contest culminates at the annual SAR Congress
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Program Date: Unspecified
  • Application Deadline: The deadline varies based on the local chapter and state competitions. In some regions, local competition applications might be due around March 31, with state competitions following in May, and the national finals in June
  • Eligibility: High school students in grades 9-12

The Joseph S. Rumbaugh Historical Oration Contest, sponsored by the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), is an inspiring opportunity for high school students in grades 9-12. This contest encourages students to explore the narratives of patriotism, courage, and the struggles for freedom during the American Revolution. Participants are required to write and deliver an original oration, lasting between five to six minutes, focusing on an event, personality, or document related to the Revolutionary War and its significance to modern America. 

The contest begins at the local chapter level, with students having the chance to advance to state and national levels. The national finals are held during the annual SAR Congress in June. The competition is judged on composition, delivery, historical accuracy, significance, and relevance to the current day. Winners receive substantial cash awards and medals, with the national first place winner receiving $8,000, the second place $5,000, and the third place $3,000.

Female teacher addressing students in a classroom

4. Chapman Holocaust Art and Writing Contest

  • Location: The contest is organized by Chapman University, specifically through the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Program Date: Unspecified
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: Middle and high school students

The Chapman Holocaust Art and Writing Contest is a unique and impactful program hosted by Chapman University, inviting middle and high school students to engage with the profound history and enduring lessons of the Holocaust. Through this contest, you have the opportunity to create original works in various categories including art, film, poetry, or prose, each inspired by the testimonies of Holocaust survivors and rescuers. 

As a participant, you can submit up to three entries in any combination of the available categories, with the chance to win a first prize award of $400 in each category. Educators and schools associated with the winning entries are also eligible for prizes. Moreover, first-place student winners from the United States, along with their parents/guardians and teachers, are invited to an expense-paid study trip to visit significant sites in Los Angeles, including the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and the Japanese American National Museum.

5. National History Day National Contest

  • Location: University of Maryland, College Park
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Competition Date: June 9-13, 2024
  • Application Deadline: Tuesday, May 14, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. ET
  • Eligibility: Students in grades 6-12 who have qualified at regional and affiliate contests

The National History Day National Contest is a prestigious and dynamic educational event that culminates a year-long program involving middle and high school students. You’ll be excited to know that the 2024 National Contest theme is “Turning Points in History,” celebrating the 50th anniversary of National History Day. This theme encourages you to explore significant moments in history, analyzing their causes, effects, and lasting impacts. 

You can choose to present your research in various formats, such as exhibits, papers, performances, websites, and documentaries. The top three entries in each category receive awards, and 1st place winners in each category earn the designation of National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Scholars. This experience not only enhances your research and presentation skills but also provides an opportunity to interact with students from across the nation and even globally​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​.

Group of students walking in the campus.

6. Ancient Studies Institute

  • Location: Washington University in St. Louis
  • Cost: $3,185 (need-based scholarship assistance available)
  • Program Date: July 14-27, 2024
  • Application Deadline: April 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: Rising high school juniors and seniors

The Ancient Studies Institute is a two-week residential program held at Washington University in St. Louis. This program is specifically tailored for high school juniors and seniors interested in exploring ancient Roman culture and history through various perspectives, including the concept of “villainy” in Roman society.

The program dates for 2024 are from July 14 to July 27. To participate, you need to apply by the deadline, which is April 1, 2024, at 11:59 pm CT. Eligibility for the program requires you to be a current sophomore or junior in high school, graduating in either 2026 or 2025. For international students, a TOEFL iBT score of at least 90 or an IELTS Academic score of at least 6.5 is required. There are no prerequisites for this program, making it accessible to students with diverse backgrounds and interests in ancient studies.

7. Pre-College Program in American History

  • Location: William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia
  • Cost: 
  • Program Date: June 16-July 6, 2024 for Session 1 & July 7-July 27, 2024 for Session 2
  • Application Deadline: May 15, 2024 for Session 1 & June 1, 2024 for Session 2
  • Eligibility: High school students

The Pre-College Program in American History at William & Mary is distinguished for its hands-on approach, rooted in an area rich in historical significance. This program offers a range of college-level courses that challenge you academically and introduce you to the rigors of higher education. You’ll have the chance to study American history in depth, exploring various periods and themes. 

Participating in this program also has practical benefits for your academic journey. It can help you stand out in college admissions, demonstrating your proactive approach to learning and commitment to academic excellence. You’ll have the chance to build a supportive network of peers who share your passion for American history. 

8. Calder Classics

  • Location: Online and in historical locations such as Italy, Greece, Rome, etc.
  • Cost: $1,200 – $6,500
  • Program Date: Varies depending on the specific program
  • Application Deadline: Varies depending on the specific program
  • Eligibility: High school students

Calder Classics offers a unique educational experience for high school students, combining the study of classical languages like Latin and Ancient Greek with immersive cultural experiences. Their programs include both online courses and study abroad opportunities in locations rich in historical significance, such as Rome, Florence, and Thessaloniki. Whether you’re diving into the intricacies of Latin grammar or exploring ancient Greek philosophy, these programs are designed to deepen your understanding of classical civilizations and their languages.

The study abroad programs not only focus on language learning but also integrate aspects of art history and cultural exploration. For instance, in Florence, you can expect to enhance your Latin skills while being immersed in the city’s Renaissance art and architecture. In Rome, the programs bring ancient history to life with visits to historical sites like the Roman Forum and Pompeii, alongside Latin language instruction. 

The Thessaloniki program in Greece offers a blend of ancient Greek language learning and philosophy, coupled with cultural activities like cooking traditional Greek dishes and learning Greek dances. These experiences are augmented by the online courses Calder Classics offers, which include introductions to Latin, Ancient Greek, and even Egyptian Hieroglyphic, providing a comprehensive and engaging approach to classical studies​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​.

Final Thoughts

As we wrap up our journey through these history competitions, remember that your participation in these events can significantly impact your college application. These competitions offer you a chance to demonstrate your passion, intellect, and commitment to the field of history. They are not just about winning; they’re about learning, growing, and connecting with a community that shares your interests.

So, take the leap, and let your love for history guide you to new horizons. Your journey through these competitions could be the key that unlocks the door to the college of your dreams. Stay curious, keep learning, and you’ll be well on your way to making history yourself.



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