Frequently Asked Questions

How do students participate?

Students choose a history topic related to NHD's annual theme, conduct extensive research over the course of the school year, and create performances, documentaries, papers, exhibits, and web sites that they enter in contests at the school, district, state, and national levels. There are two divisions of competition:  junior (grades 6 to 8) and senior (grades 9 to 12). Within each division, there are nine entry categories:  individual exhibit, group exhibit, individual documentary, group documentary, individual performance, group performance, individual web site, group web site, and individual paper. Students (and teachers!) benefit from a curriculum guide produced annually by NHD to explain and complement the annual theme.

How does a student become eligible to participate in the NHD contest?

Winning students in county or district competitions advance to a state contest. The top two entries in each category and division at state contests are eligible to participate nationally. Nearly 3,000 students annually attend the NHD competition.

Who supports National History Day?

State-level programs are sponsored by historical societies, university departments of history or education, humanities councils, and state agencies, with additional funds coming from county entry fees and corporate donations. The national program is supported by fees from state programs, individual donors, and corporate sponsors, such as The History Channel, Jostens, and Southwest Airlines.

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 competition in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1974, when the department of history at Case Western Reserve University created a program to bolster the teaching and learning of history in schools. History Day expanded throughout Ohio and nearby midwestern states before becoming a national program in 1980. With support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the program grew during the 1980s and 1990s. In 1992, NHD moved its office to the Washington, D.C., area. While the competition remains at the core of the program, NHD is now a year-long academic program, serving teachers with curriculum materials, seminars, and professional development workshops, and offering summer internships for students.

Where is the national contest held?

The national contest is held at the University of Maryland in College Park, about 20 miles north of Washington, D.C., where NHD staff maintain an office year-round. The focus of contest activity is Stamp Student Union, where student registration is conducted and exhibits are displayed and judged. Judging in the other categories is held in buildings nearby. The Awards Ceremony is held in the Comcast Center. Students and chaperones have the option of staying in campus dormitories or in hotels in College Park. A meal ticket for the campus dining hall is available, regardless of where participants stay.