There are many extracurricular opportunities available to Tennessee students and teachers, such as grants, scholarships, and experiences, some of which are coordinated by the Department of Education in partnership with other agencies and organizations. Learn more about these opportunities from the list below.
The Governor's School Program provides immersive summer programs for high-achieving Tennessee students during the summer semester preceding either their 11th or 12th grade year. Selected students participate in challenging and intensive learning experiences in one of eleven disciplines. More information is available on the Governor's School webpage.
The National Youth Science Camp (NYSC) is a residential science education program that honors and challenges two graduating high school science students from each state. Scientists from across the nation present lectures and hands-on science seminars and linger to interact informally with student delegates. Delegates are challenged to explore new areas in the biological and physical sciences, art, and music with resident staff members. Opportunities are provided for delegates to present seminars covering their own areas of interest and research. A visit to Washington D.C. permits delegates to visit some of the nation’s premier scientific, governmental, and cultural facilities. The NYSC experience includes overnight excursions into the Monongahela National Forest featuring backpacking, rock-climbing, caving, mountain biking, and kayaking opportunities. Delegates are required to participate in the camp program for its entirety as the fast-paced activities and remote location make travel to and from the NYSC very difficult.
More information is available here.
The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964, by executive order of the President, to recognize and honor some of our nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors. In 1979, the program was extended to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional 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. Each year, up to 161 students are named as Presidential Scholars, one of the nation's highest honors for high school students.
Scholars are selected annually by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, based on academic achievement, personal characteristics, leadership, service activities, and writing ability. Every year, thousands of candidates qualify for the program based on outstanding performance on the College Board SAT and ACT exams, and through nominations made by Chief State School Officers (Commissioner of Education), other partner recognition programs or YoungArts.
The U.S. Department of Education invites students to apply based on their scores on the SAT or ACT exam or their nomination by a Chief State School Officer (Commissioner of Education) or nomination from one of our partner recognition organizations, during the year of their graduation from high school; to be eligible for the program, candidates must be U.S. citizens or legal permanent U.S. residents.
Students in Tennessee must be nominated by their high school and apply to be considered for nomination by the Tennessee Commissioner of Education.
Criteria for Applying in Tennessee
Tennessee high schools with a graduating class size of 1-299 may nominate:
- One (1) senior to be considered as a state finalist for the general academic component of the U.S. Presidential Scholars program, and
- One (1) senior to be considered as a state finalist for the CTE component of the U.S. Presidential Scholars program.
Tennessee high schools with a graduating class size of 300 or greater may nominate:
- Two (2) seniors to be considered as state finalists for the general academic component of the U.S. Presidential Scholars program, and
- Two (2) seniors to be considered as state finalists for the CTE component of the U.S. Presidential Scholars program.
Note: High schools should avoid nominating students who receive a nearly perfect score of 1600 on the SAT or 36 on the ACT. The College Board and ACT, Inc. will transmit this information to the U.S. Department of Education. These students are automatically eligible for consideration and will be sent program notification and a unique nomination ID by the U.S. Department of Education.
Students who were not U.S. citizens or legal permanent U.S. residents on the day they took SAT or ACT exam but will be U.S. citizens or legal permanent U.S. residents by the application deadline date, or who requested that The College Board or ACT not release their scores to outside entities, should contact the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program by phone at (507) 931-8345 or email to Presidential.Scholars@ed.gov to ensure their scores are considered in the determination of the candidate pool.
1. General Academics Component - High school seniors may be considered for the general academic component based on academic success and perseverance. The general academic component emphasizes the following areas on the application:
- Academic achievement
- Leadership skills
- Community involvement
- Perseverance/overcoming obstacles
- Strong writing skills
2. CTE Component - High school seniors may be considered for the CTE component based on excellence in career and technical education (CTE). The CTE component emphasizes the following areas on the application:
- Academic rigor
- Technical competence
- Employability skills
- Ingenuity and creativity
3. Arts Component - The arts component (U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts) is managed by YoungArts. Students interested in becoming a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts must apply to YoungArts’ national arts competition. Competition winners at the Finalist level who attend National YoungArts Week are considered for nomination by their respective discipline-specific panelists based on their artistic achievement and participation in the program. For more information, visit the YoungArts U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts website.
The competitive application process used in Tennessee for both the general academic and CTE components of the U.S Presidential Scholars program helps the Tennessee Department of Education identify a slate of students to be nominated to the U.S. Department of Education. Students nominated by the Tennessee Department of Education will receive an invitation from the U.S. Department of Education to formally apply for the program. The U.S. Department of Education also sends invitations to students based on their scores on the SAT or ACT.
The following outlines the typical application and selection timeline:
||The department opens the competitive application process for the general academic and CTE components.|
|October–November||The department reviews and evaluates all eligible applications through an interdisciplinary panel of subject matter experts from across the department and may include panelists from partner agencies.|
|December||The department conducts a final review transmits the slate of nominees to the U.S. Department of Education.|
|January||The U.S. Department of Education posts the names of candidates to its website and sends invitations to candidates to formally apply for the program.|
|February||The U.S. Department of Education closes the application process in February.|
|April||The U.S. Department of Education posts the names of semifinalists.|
|May/June||The U.S. Department of Education announces final list of Presidential Scholars.|
*Note: The timeline does not include specific dates. All dates are subject to change.
- 2023-24 School Verification Form
- This form must be completed by appropriate school staff and uploaded with the application.
- This form must be completed by appropriate school staff and uploaded with the application.
- Presidential Scholars program resume suggestions and tips
- Presidential Scholars program essay rubric
- U.S. Department of Education Presidential Scholars webpage
- Visit the YoungArts website for information about the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts program.
School principals, guidance counselors, or other designees may assist the student nominee with the completion of the online state application.
The Tennessee application deadline for the general academic and CTE components for the 2023-24 school year is 11:59 p.m. CT on September 22, 2023.
- With questions regarding the general academic component of the Presidential Scholars Program, reach out to Nikki Jones-Wallace at Nikki.Jones-Wallace@tn.gov.
- With questions regarding the CTE component of the Presidential Scholars Program, reach out to Candi Collier, Senior Director of CTE and Special Projects, at Candi.Collier@tn.gov.
The 62nd annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) Washington Week is being planned for March 2-9, 2024. This annual program authorizes the selection of 104 student delegates—two high school juniors or seniors from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA)—for an intensive week-long education and leadership program to be held either in Washington, D.C., or online. The program is merit based and highly competitive. Each student will also receive a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship with encouragement to pursue coursework in history and political science.
Delegates will hear major policy addresses by senators, cabinet members, officials of the Departments of State and Defense, leaders of other federal agencies and senior members of the national media. Delegates also traditionally participate in a meeting with a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and the president of the United States. Most speaking events include in-depth question and answer sessions.
The Hearst Foundations will pay all expenses for Washington Week including transportation, hotel, and meals. The Department of Defense (DoD) annually provides a team of competitively selected men and women officers to serve as mentors and chaperones for the student delegates, and a registered nurse, licensed physician, and professional security team are always in place throughout an in-person week.
The United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution in 1962 creating the USSYP, a national nonpartisan initiative to provide an annual opportunity for talented high school students with demonstrated leadership abilities to deepen their understanding of America’s political processes and strengthen their resolve to pursue careers in public service.
Numbering more than 6,100, USSYP alumni serve the country in many ways. They have become leaders in government, law, business, education, journalism, the military, medicine, healthcare, higher education, and many other fields. Alumni serve as elected and appointed officials at all levels of government, including a current United States senator, a current cabinet secretary, many congressional staff members, a former governor, former senior political advisors to the president of the United States, former ambassadors, and former federal judges. The commonality to all their success is the desire to serve.
Criteria for Applying
1. Any high school junior or senior student is eligible for the program provided they meet qualifications and have not previously been a delegate to Washington Week and have not received a USSYP scholarship.
2. The student must be enrolled for the entire 2023-24 academic year in a public or independent high school located in the state in which at least one of their parents or guardians currently resides. Home-educated students may also apply.
3. The student must be a legal permanent resident or citizen of the United States at the time of application.
4. The student must be living in the state that they will represent for the entire 2023-2024 academic year (see USSYP brochure for exceptions).
5. The student applicant must hold a high-level leadership position in any one of the following student government, civic or educational organizations during the entire 2023-2024 academic year:
a. Student Body president, vice president, secretary, or treasurer
b. Class president, vice president, secretary, or treasurer
c. Student Council representative
d. A National Honor Society officer (including discipline-based Honor Societies such as the National English and Social Studies Honor Societies that include service components)
e. Student representative elected or appointed (appointed by a panel, commission or board) to a local, district, regional or state-level civic, service and/or educational organization approved by the state selection administrator, where the student holds a high-level position of representation to a constituency in a year-round capacity providing service to others.
f. Note: Participation or holding an officer position in academic clubs, educational competition programs/conferences or organizations designed primarily for the student’s personal development and enrichment do not qualify a student for the USSYP, although many students who qualify participate in these activities. The positions listed below DO NOT qualify the student for the program:
- Attendance or officer position at Boys/Girls Nation or State summer conference
- Member of a National Honor Society (serving as an elected officer for the organization for the entire school year is acceptable)
- Member or leader of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, or a sports team
- A founder or chairperson of a self-created group
- A participant, captain, or officer in Mock Trial, Debate Team, Model UN, or other academic club, mock legislature, conference, or competition where the primary engagement is for individual educational benefit.
6. Attendance during the entire Washington Week program is required to receive the financial scholarship.
Selection Process for Tennessee Student Applicants
A panel of reviewers will consider applications and select finalists based on a student’s outstanding abilities and demonstrated qualities of leadership in an elected or appointed student office for the entire 2023-2024 academic year.
Virtual interviews for finalists will be held in October/November 2023.
Students who qualify may complete the Tennessee student application. The application deadline is 11:59 p.m. CT on September 22, 2023.
With questions regarding the United States Senate Youth Program, reach out to Banks Lyons, Secondary ELA Coordinator, at Banks.Lyons@tn.gov.