U. S. Presidential Scholars

ABOUT the program

In 1964, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established by executive order of President Lyndon B. Johnson to recognize and honor the nation’s top graduating high school seniors. In 1979, the program was extended to recognize students who demonstrated talent in the visual, creative and performing arts. In 2015, the program was again extended to recognize students who demonstrate ability and accomplishment in career and technical education fields.

Scholars are selected annually by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, appointed by the President, based on academic achievement, personal characteristics, leadership and service activities, and writing ability. This year, more than 5,500 candidates qualified for the 2016 program determined by outstanding performance on the College Board SAT and ACT exams, through nominations made by Chief State School Officers or the National YoungArts Foundation.
Since its inception, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program has honored more than 7,000 of the nation's high performing students. During the National Recognition Program, scholars are flown to D.C. to receive a Presidential Medallion, which is given to honorees during the annual ceremony in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Presidential Scholars each year are comprised of one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and from U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large, 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts, and 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in Career and Technical Education.


The first step to becoming a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts is to apply to the National YoungArts Foundation, which is the nominating agency for this honor. To be eligible for the YoungArts program, applicants must be between the ages of 15 and 18 or in high school grades 10-12. To be further considered for a nomination as a U.S. Presidential Scholar, applicants must be high school seniors and meet all of the U.S. Presidential Scholars requirements.

YoungArts winners demonstrating excellence in the visual, literary, performing or design arts are selected annually through a blind adjudication process. Each January, approximately 170 Finalists from across the nation are invited to National YoungArts Week in Miami, where they participate in a week of intensive master classes and workshops with internationally renowned artists, and share their work through performances, readings, exhibitions and screenings that are open to the public.

During National YoungArts Week, eligible participants are further evaluated, award levels are determined, and nominations are made for that year’s U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts candidates. After a rigorous selection process, YoungArts nominates 60 candidates for an invitation to apply to the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. Finally, the Commission on Presidential Scholars selects 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts each year based on artistic achievement, personal characteristics and leadership and service activities.

U.S. Presidential Scholars are invited to Washington, D.C. for several days of recognition activities. The scholars meet with government officials, educators, authors, musicians, scientists and other leaders. Scholars also visit museums and monuments in our nation’s capital and attend recitals, receptions and ceremonies held in their honor.

In addition to these activities, the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts have the opportunity to display their artwork in an exhibition and perform at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

View the list of 2016 Presidential Scholars in the Arts.
Read more about this year's U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts.

A Salute to the 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholars

“A Salute to the 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholars” performance and exhibition will take place on June 19, 2017 at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
This annual event features outstanding performances by the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts, winners of the National YoungArts Program.

The performance is a celebration of all U.S. Presidential Scholars, and is co-presented by the National YoungArts Foundation, the Commission on the U.S. Presidential Scholars and the U.S. Department of Education.

Past Presidential Scholars in the Arts