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U.S. Presidential Scholars Program

U.S. Presidential Scholars Program

blue ribbon award

President Lyndon Johnson established the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program in 1964. The mission of the program is to recognize outstanding high school seniors. More than 7,500 seniors have been honored since the program began.

For most of the program's existence, nominees have been invited to apply for Presidential Scholars recognition based solely upon SAT or ACT scores (Category 1). Since 1979, outstanding students who demonstrate ability and accomplishment in the visual and performing arts or creative writing have also been included in the Presidential Scholar pool (Category 2). In 2013, the presidentially-appointed Commission on Presidential Scholars initiated a pilot program to expand the nominee pool by including students who have shown outstanding achievement while overcoming challenges in their educational journey (Category 3). Students in this category have demonstrated outstanding scholarship but might not otherwise be nominated through the current SAT/ACT, Arts, or CTE recognition processes. Since 2016, outstanding students who demonstrate excellence in Career and Technical Education (CTE) have also been included for recognition (Category 4). 

Each year in August, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) sends an email to every Wisconsin high school principal asking them to nominate students for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. We ask for one nomination in the “Achievement and Overcoming Challenges” category (Category 3) and one nomination in the “Achievement and CTE Accomplishment” category (Category 4). All high school seniors graduating between January and August who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents and attend public, parochial, or independent schools or are home-schooled are eligible.

In early fall, the DPI contacts all nominated students and invites them to submit an application. A panel of judges at the DPI evaluates the student applications and selects 20 students (10 males and 10 females) in Category 3 and five students in Category 4. These names are submitted to the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program office at the U.S. Department of Education. In January, the U.S. Department of Education announces the names of the nominees and invites these students to submit an application. Applications are due in February. Scholars are selected by the Commission on Presidential Scholars in May. In June, students chosen as Presidential Scholars receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where they are presented with a U.S. Presidential Scholars medallion at a ceremony sponsored by the White House. (Note: The ceremony may be virtual in 2021.)

More details about selection criteria are provided to principals when they are invited to submit nominations in early fall.

More information can also be found on the U.S. Department of Education’s Presidential Scholars Program web page: https://www2.ed.gov/programs/psp/index.html.

For general information about the program or information about the "Achievement and Overcoming Challenges" category, please contact Chris Tiedje . For more information about the "Achievement and CTE Accomplishment" category, please contact Sharon Wendt.

For questions about this information, contact Christine Tiedje (608) 266-3706