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National History Day

National History Day

As a college applicant, students are constantly looking for ways to make their application stand out from the crowd. Special academic programs, competitions, and extracurricular activities add personality and flair to catch the eye of an admissions officer. The National History Day competition is one such reputable program.

2018 National History Day Winner Brandon Jansma talks about his first place presentation

What is National History Day?

National History Day is a year-long academic program for 6th to 12th-grade students that focuses on historical research, as well as interpretation and creative expression through collaborative projects. Each year a different them is chosen as the center of students’ research. The theme is chosen broad application to global, national, or state history and its relevance to ancient history or more recent past. The 2019 theme was Triumph and Tragedy in History, and the 2020 theme is Breaking Barriers in History.

The end of the program culminates in a national competition in which half a million students across the country participate in. The competition gives participants a chance to showcase what they’ve learned and how they’ve grown. NHD has affiliates in all fifty states, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, South Korea, China, South Asia, and Central America. National History Day also offers enriching internships, scholarships, and job openings to those who qualify.

How Will Participating Benefit Me?

Besides learning valuable history lessons, by participating in NHD students become writers, filmmakers, web designers, playwrights, and poets. They learn to collaborate with a team on projects and individually become better critical thinkers. An independent study from 2011 found that participation in the National History Day Contest benefits students far beyond the competition.

Owner and Creator of the NHD poses in front of the 2019 finalists

NHD Teaches Valuable Skills

NHD teaches students valuable skills that will boost their performance in and out of the classroom. Students who take part in the program learn critical thinking and research skills that boost their performance across all subject areas. NHD students tend to outperform their non-NHD peers on state standardized tests in multiple subjects, including reading, science and math, as well as social studies. They become better writers as a result of learning to develop a perspective, gather evidence to support a position, and speak confidently with a clear voice.

Students who participate in the National History Day program have also shown better performance on standardized tests than their peers. In fact, over 66 percent of NHD participants passed the TAKS assessment in Texas vs 19 percent of non-participating students taking the same exact test. Many students who were previously failing basic courses ended up excelling in advanced classes by the end of the program.

2017 NHD presentations

National History Day Prepares Students for Life & Pushes Boundaries

More than ever, young minds need to be prepared for life outside the classroom in order to succeed in the 21st-century. National History Day does exactly this, engaging students in critical thinking, communication, and collaboration to develop the skills they need for college, a career, and community leadership.

In skill tests between NHD students and non-participants, those who were in the program were marginally better than their peers at analyzing information, persevering through challenges, planning, and collaborating. National History Day is the ultimate culmination of integrated studies and skill development that gives students an opportunity to question, explore, and think critically.

National History Day also pushes boundaries for non-traditional students and opens doors for them to succeed. Many special-needs or previously low-performing students were able to overcome mental limits they had set for themselves and end the program having earned multiple awards and excelling in advanced classes.

How Will National History Benefit My College Applications?

Competing in National History Day on any level or being a part of the program is a huge accomplishment and would be a great addition to any resume or college application. The program is well renowned globally and would stand out to an admissions officer by demonstrating a student’s commitment and growth. At IvyCollegeAdmit, we’ve always emphasized that the regional and national academic competitions are what separates the girls from the women, or the boys from the men, not merely GPA, SAT’s, and AP Exams.

In addition to the array of skills each individual has to gain from participation, students also gain access to valuable networking and gain connections with students from across the nation. Such experiences and relationships can open doors to scholarships, internships, mentors, letters of recommendation, and other irreplaceable opportunities that can pave the way to a better future.

One example of how a student used National History Day to achieve her goals is Bethany Henry, a former NHD participant and intern. For her project, Bethany researched Native American culture and then developed and presented performances to over 15 organizations and clubs all over the nation. She used these experiences and included the skills and what she had learned in her college applications, and was ultimately accepted to and received scholarships to her dream schools to complete her PhD.

This year’s National History Day competition will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Student submissions will be judged online by a variety of judges from different locations across the world. More information on registration and requirements can be found at

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