National History Day FAQ


National History Day® (NHD) is a nonprofit education program that improves the teaching and learning of history in elementary and secondary schools. For more than forty years, it has promoted systemic educational reform, and it remains the nation's oldest and most highly regarded humanities contest for students in grades 6 to 12. More than two million people are engaged annually, including 600,000 students, 40,000 teachers, and thousands of judges and other volunteers.

Open to students in all instructional settings, NHD improves critical thinking and research skills that make history come alive and that are useful in all subject areas. For teachers, it offers curriculum materials, workshops, summer institutes, and other resources that enhance classroom strategies and help them exceed educational standards. Teachers and students benefit from an annual curriculum guide that explains and complements each year's theme.

First-, second-, and third-place national contest winners receive cash prizes of $1,000, $500, and $250, respectively. The grand prize is a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to Case Western Reserve University. Partial tuition scholarships are awarded to Chaminade University (Honolulu) and the University of Maryland. Special prizes are awarded in topic areas such as African American, colonial, and women's history.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do students participate?
    Students choose a history topic related to NHD's annual theme, conduct extensive research, and create a historical paper, exhibit, documentary, performance, or website to present their findings. There are two competition divisions: junior (grades 6 to 8) and senior (grades 9 to 12). Within each division, there are nine entry categories: individual paper, individual exhibit, group exhibit, individual documentary, group documentary, individual performance, group performance, individual website, and group website.
  • How does a student qualify for the national contest?
    Students enter their project in a school and/or district contest, and winning entries advance to a state competition. The top two entries in each category and division at state contests participate nationally. More than 3,000 students annually attend the NHD competition.
  • Who supports National History Day®?
    State-level programs are sponsored by state agencies, humanities councils, historical societies, universities, and museums, with additional funds coming from school or district entry fees, grants, and corporate donations. The national program is supported by fees from state programs, individual donors, and corporate sponsors.
  • Why call it a Day?
    It is called National History Day® because history is happening every day. The program teaches students that history is not just about dates and facts that happened in the past, but about the stories that occur every day in communities around the world.
  • How long has the program been around?
    NHD began as a small, local program in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1974, when professors at Case Western Reserve University created a competition to improve history in schools. History Day expanded throughout midwestern states before becoming a national program in 1980. With support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, it grew during the 1980s and '90s, moving its office in 1992 to the Washington, DC, area. Today, affiliate programs exist in fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, and international schools in East and South Asia.
  • Where is the national contest held?
    The national contest is held at the University of Maryland in College Park, about fifteen miles north of the nation's capital. The focus of contest activity is Stamp Student Union, where student registration is conducted and exhibits are displayed and judged. Judging in other categories is held in buildings nearby, and the Awards Ceremony takes place in the Xfinity Center. Students and chaperones can stay in campus dormitories or local hotels; a meal package for the campus dining hall is available regardless of where participants stay. During the four-day contest, NHD provides an exciting array of activities for students, and Washington, DC, is easily accessible by the Metro.

For information:
National History Day®
4511 Knox Road, Suite 205
College Park, Maryland 20740
301.314.9739; fax: 301.314.9767