Science Olympiad

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a globe in front of a bookshelf

Science Olympiad: Everything you need to know

If you’re trying to figure out where you want to go to college, engaging in various Science Olympiad games is the perfect activity to get your brain tingling as you compete in school locations throughout the country.

The Science Olympiad is one of the largest K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) organizations in the United States. They host 450 tournaments every single year on various university campuses based on your region.

The Science Olympiad manages professional workshops to help students develop their skills in STEM. Students from 8,000 teams compete in standards-based challenges. The Science Olympiad National Tournament is held at a different university every year, giving cooperating students the chance to visit parts of the United States as they play.

Since the subject matter can range from thermodynamics to herpetology, it allows a diverse student body to participate, get to know each other, and challenge themselves in competition. The organization recognizes above and beyond achievement for students and their educators.

This type of tournament can be a great statement on your college application. Depending on where the National Science Olympiad Tournament is hosted, participants get a moment to stay on the university’s campus and potentially eat in the available dining options on and near the campus. What an immersive experience to talk about in your admissions essay.

In this blog post, we break down what is STEM, what kind of STEM careers you can get in this day and age, a background on the Science Olympiad’s beginnings versus where it is now, and how you can be a part of this cool community.

Students of all ages are encouraged to look into the Science Olympiad to see if it’s a track they would like to go down. You can take the plunge and work in a team atmosphere with other students interested and the same subjects as you.

View of students staring at a laptop and talking to each other.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)

You might have heard the term “STEM.” People often say it without explaining the background or context. STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, which is a type of curriculum taught in schools. The Science Olympiad tournaments, events, and overall subject matter revolve around the whole STEM universe.

We need STEM now more than ever. In the 21st century, STEM is important since it’s an ever-increasing part of our daily lives from our computers to how our cars are created and function.

Everything from everyday products like solar panels to modern Tesla electric cars are created by the very people who studied STEM in colleges and universities around the globe. While studying a STEM curriculum in school, students have the opportunity to get an edge in their educational development. The academic discipline of STEM can lead to a range of jobs that are both useful and interesting. Are you contemplating working in this field type?

Careers in STEM can include:

  • Software Developer
  • Dentist
  • Physician Assistant.
  • Orthodontist
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Web Developer
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Computer Systems Analyst
  • Statistician
  • Medical and Health Services Manager
  •  IT Manager

There are a variety of education associations, groups, and coalitions that your child can join to make science, technology, engineering, and mathematics an active part of their daily lives. When applying to universities, this type of academic and extracurricular activity can help your high achieving student stand out from the crowd of other qualified candidates. We offer an Academic and Extracurricular Profile Evaluation at AdmissionSight that are constructive for college admissions, learn more or set up an appointment here.

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Science Olympiad Background

The Science Olympiad was founded in 1984 by Dr. Gerard J. Putz who served as President, Co-Founder, and Founding Board Member from 1984 until 2019. The Science Olympiad was one of the first science competitions in the United States with this type of competitive experience with rigorous challenges and events offered on such a wide scale. The National Science Olympiad Tournament is a cumulation of the country’s best young scientists in STEM. Even children can compete in some of the younger grade Olympiad options.

The Science Olympiad is meant to work with a mix of students with differing needs. Students work together as a team for group participation. High school students get to compete in cities throughout the US while exploring a university they do it. This type of multifold benefit is fantastic for future college applications and endeavors.

You might just figure out what school you want to go to you as you participate in a tournament or two over your high school career. As you compete throughout the years, you stay in the college dorms, eat the food, and truly experience the college life prior to heading off to university for real.

Science Olympiad competitions appear in a series of 23 team events in each division, where Division B is middle school and Division C is high school. The events rotate year-by-year as current events change. The science Olympiad is sponsored by some pretty well-known companies including NASA Ace Hardware, Texas Instruments, and the Army ROTC.

How do students benefit from joining the Science Olympiad?

Without a doubt, students will have the chance to earn major recognition and awards thanks to their involvement in Science Olympiad, but that isn’t all that should be driving a student to want to form a team and take part. 

In the end, the love of science and research should be at the core of every high school student’s interest in it. For that reason, we have broken down the top benefits that high schoolers will get from taking part in the Science Olympiad. Let’s get started! 

Students gain access to advanced scientific knowledge

As a member of Science Olympiad, students get a lot of advanced scientific knowledge that they will very likely not be able to grapple with even in the most advanced of high school courses. The reason why is because team members of Science Olympiad will often be using college-level – and even in some cases grad-student level – textbooks in order to become more informed about the related subject. 

The truth is that dealing with advanced subjects in high school can give high schoolers a great step ahead in many different ways. First off, college admissions offices love to see when students challenge themselves in high school as it is a great indicator that they will enjoy success once enrolled in undergraduate. 

Moreover, learning about these subjects in high school will allow students to have a strong foundation to build off of once they begin to dive even deeper into those same subjects in college. 

Female students smiling while writing on the board during an activity.

Students gain crucial research and writing skills

In high school, much of the curriculum around science is based on memorizing facts and learning about equations and scientific rules. Sure, there are some courses in which students will get to improve their research and writing skills, but that option is probably not as prevalent as it should be. 

The reason why there should be more of a focus on research and writing in high school is because once people get to the higher levels of science, almost all of their work will be done through research and then writing about that research in journals and grants in the hopes of being published. 

Luckily, when it comes to the Science Olympiad, almost every event will require students to do at least some research. If you are a student who is specifically looking to improve your writing skills, we at AdmissionSight would advise you take part in the Write It Do It or the Experimental Design challenges. 

Students can get help getting into college

Of course, high school students are going to want to show college admissions that they are ready for higher learning in any way possible. Being involved in a challenging extracurricular such as the Science Olympiad is a great way to do just that. 

It also helps students prove that they are passionate about science to the level that they want to spend their time learning more about it beyond just their classroom studies. That can be especially valuable if a student is thinking of applying specifically to STEM-related programs. 

Beyond that, students who excel in the Science Olympiad will have the opportunity to win college scholarships. Sometimes these scholarships are quite sizable and can really make a difference for students who are searching for ways to help pay for an expensive college tuition. 

The most generous scholarships come in the Division C of Science Olympiad, where some awards even come with free tuition for all four years of undergrad. That means a prize that literally equates to hundreds of thousands of dollars!

A large crowd of students walking in the school campus.

State Chapters

If you want to join, you can create a team via your State Chapter or find where your local tournament is located. The 50 participating states each have their own unique organization, so Hawaii has the Hawaii State Science Olympiad, Idaho has the Idaho Science Olympiad, and so on.

To find the website of your local chapter and organization, visit the Science Olympiad State Websites page, which allows you to hover over their interactive map for the link to your state website.

Each state Science Olympiad website may contain unique information to your area, including the divisions and grades that it offers. Not all locations will offer the same options. It’s important that you check your particular state so you understand how your child can compete on the national level.

If your school isn’t an active participant, you can potentially register online to create a school team or inquire with a teacher or coach about how you can do so.

You can participate in professional development opportunities to benefit your future job searches. You’ll need to check with your local Science Olympiad webpage for the updated listing near you. These types of opportunities will look good on a resume as well as your college applications, especially if you’re looking for Ivy League options. Extracurricular activities can make you look like a fantastic candidate. The dates are updated on the local chapter page.

Elementary Science Olympiad

There is the Elementary Science Olympiad (ESO) program for those children in kindergarten through sixth-grade levels. While this K-6 program is a similar type of competitive tournament environment as the older kid’s version, there’s also a Fun Day for hands-on science amusement or an expert-filled Science Olympiad Fun Night.

Since this branch of the Olympiad is for the younger crowd, there are more games and fun-filled activities versus rigorous experiments and testing the older kids face. While we normally cater to the college admissions crowd, if you have a younger child(ren) as well, it doesn’t hurt to get them started in the ESO program.

6th Through 12th Grade

Once students reach 6th through 12th grade, they have the opportunity to participate in other Science Olympiad functions such as a football or soccer team. These activities are created to help children understand the elements of commitment, teamwork, and preparation while practicing for an extended period of time throughout the year.

Depending on your school grade, you could win a trophy at your state tournament if your team places an award. This is a fantastic enrichment activity for your child leading up to the university admissions process because some of these teams could have up to and over 75 members to help with apprenticeship and mentoring opportunities. Students can attend these practice events with others in a similar academic or career track.

a group of six student journalist gathered around a table while working

Urban Schools Initiative

The Urban Schools Initiative, created by the Science Olympiad Executive Board, established programs for schools with underserved populations. The district or region usually undergoes a three year starting plan to get on their feet as they establish themselves.

Now there are programs in schools around the US such as Baltimore, Maryland; Los Angeles, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Washington, DC, and several more cities. This type of initiative allows a citywide STEM outreach where it might not have had a chance to flourish. STEM is working toward being more accessible than ever. We believe in a world where STEM is reachable to all.


The Science Olympiad tries to mix up the events to reflect current news and changes when it comes to genetics, earth science, chemistry, anatomy, physics, geology, mechanical engineering, and technology. The challenges are broken down in the following categories:

  • Life, Personal and Social Science
  • Earth and Space Science
  • Technology and Engineering
  • Earth and Space Science
  • Physical Science and Chemistry

There are various classes of challenges such as B Events and C Events. Each category has a range of subcategories that it covers. For example, Earth and Space Science B Event can cover the subjects of Dynamic Planet, Fossils, Meteorology, Road Scholar, and Solar System, while the C Event covers Astronomy, Dynamic Planet, Fossils, and GeoLogic Mapping. These events or challenges may develop each year as STEM remains ever-changing.

Each event has a webpage full of resources and links as well as problem-solving tips and practice problems. Teams can take a sample test and go over the answers to make sure answers are correct. The convenient information allows students to get a feel of what the events and testing will be like during the game without the added stress of being in a competing atmosphere. We highly recommend using this feature since we believe that practice is always a good idea.


As always, be sure to adhere to the official rules in the current Rules Manual, which students, parents, and educators can find for free online. There are print versions available for those who don’t want to read everything digitally. You’ll want to follow the rules from day one so you know what you’re in for during game day. They even have an Official Rules Clarifications and Changes section to correct the rules in the Science Olympiad Rules Manuals that may have changed since the last year.

Workshop Sessions

The workshop is not only meant for students but also to help the volunteers, educators, supervisors, coaches, and even the parents involved. If your child can participate in the local workshop, it’s a great hands-on experience before facing the stress of a real tournament. Teachers have the latest information on Science Olympiad events. Plus, they have educational tools such as CDs and other resources the average parent or student might not have access to.

These workshops and professional development sessions are hosted by state and national Event Supervisors who have the background to assist students with the expectations of each event. These people know what they are doing and have the tools to really help your child excel.

These sessions are meant to help your child understand what is expected during the rigorous competitive experience without going to an official Science Olympiad event blindly. Ask your regional director about the specific events in your area.


Tournaments are where the games become the real deal. Tournaments vary by state so you have to check your individual state’s Science Olympiad tournament website for official dates, goals, pictures from tournaments, as well as background on directors and advisory committees, etc.

Your state website will often include a schedule of the tournament day, driving directions, different types of eye protection rules or letters from the coach regarding the team structure.

There are invitational tournaments, regional tournaments, and state tournaments. After the tournament finishes, the head coach of each team is provided one and only one copy of the final scores. Regardless if your team wins, it’s important that you celebrate your achievements as they come. Even being a part of the Science Olympiad is a great sign. Browse your state’s website for information about local events.

Are you ready to build your foundation in STEM? The Science Olympiad was created to ignite the passion for science in the student body. The organization is devoted to giving students access to better science education.

The rigorous competition for students grades six through 12 prepares them for STEM disciplines such as biology, earth science, technology, and physics. Participating in the Science Olympiad it could be a fantastic option for you if you’re thinking of pursuing a career path in STEM or if you’d like to jazz up your college admissions application.



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