The Honor of a Lifetime – The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program

Students and parents sit in an auditorium as a speaker speaks from a podium at the Presidential Scholars Ceremony

Each year the U.S. Department of Education joins the White House in honoring U.S. Presidential Scholars. This program– established in 1964 by Executive Order of the President –spotlights academic achievement of outstanding high school graduates and has expanded to recognize achievement in the arts and career and technical education (CTE).

Since the creation of this award, ten U.S. Presidents – from President Lyndon B. Johnson to our current president, President Donald J. Trump – have embraced the opportunity to celebrate our Nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors. Each year, thousands of students are identified as eligible for recognition, but fewer than 200 are selected to receive this prestigious award.

In 2019, more than 5,200 candidates qualified for this program based on outstanding ACT or SAT scores or through nominations by Chief State School Officers, partner organizations, or the National YoungArts Foundation’s nationwide YoungArts competition. The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars– appointed by the President – selects the finalists based on their academic success, school evaluations, transcripts, and essays, as well as evidence of community service, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to high ideals.

This year, 161 students were named U.S. Presidential Scholars. The list of award recipients includes:

  • One male and one female scholar from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and American families living abroad
  • 15 scholars at-large
  • 20 scholars in the arts
  • 20 scholars in CTE

Throughout the program’s 55-year history, members of each class of scholars have gone on to have a notable impact in a wide range of professions. Previous scholars now hold leadership roles in almost every field including science, medicine, education, law, finance, the arts, the military, politics, and government. Their ranks include Rhodes and Marshall Scholars, a Nobel Laureate and a U.S. Poet Laureate, elected officials at the state and national levels, MacArthur Fellows, and Pulitzer prizewinners.All have given back to their communities through their continued pursuit of innovation and excellence.

The U.S. Department of Education extends our congratulations to all the scholars – past and present – and warmly welcomes the newest class of 2019. We are confident that they all will continue to make great contributions to our country and our world.

To view the full list of 2019 Presidential Scholars award recipients, click here.