An NHD Review

National History Day, a worldwide competition exploring a specific historic theme with a variety of topics and modes of presentation.

History Education Hawaii

National History Day, a worldwide competition exploring a specific historic theme with a variety of topics and modes of presentation.

National History Day is infamous for being a stressful time for all underclassmen, who are required to compete in the competition. Some love it, some hate it; (in my opinion) there’s no in between. National History Day, or NHD, is a huge history project in which students pick a topic relating to the year’s theme. They then choose how they are going to present their research: either in the form of a paper, exhibit, website, documentary, or a performance. Students can work in groups of up to five people, except for papers, which have to be completed independently. In 2022, the theme was Diplomacy and Debate. The freshmen began around October, while the sophomores started in mid-November, meaning that they had to work diligently to get everything done by the rough-draft due date of January 18th. Then, they had to do edits, and the final projects were due on February 1st. Then teachers choose which projects move onto regionals, which is the next level of the competition. 

The day we found out that the NHD project had begun, everyone in class was given a packet with loads of topics. Curiosity sparked everyone: what topic should we do? What kind of project should we create? We didn’t have long to make up our minds as we only had around eight weeks to complete the entire project, around half the time that students were given in some other years. 

Starting the research is the most difficult part because it’s hard to figure out where to start. Most students take themselves to JSTOR on the Boston Public Library website while others dig into books, images, or web pages. Doing research gets easier as you go on, because you find more and more sources. Pro tip from someone who’s done NHD twice now: find research that works for your topic, and use the bibliography to find more great sources. The research process can be really hard, but if done correctly, it can go very smoothly. Leslie Baker ‘24, said: “It is a very stressful project, but it can be manageable if you spread out the workload.”

Before long, the most stressful time of all came: putting the project together. This is the part that most people procrastinate even more than the research. Often, the day before the due date, many find themselves scrambling to get everything glued onto their posters or scrambling to finish all of the edits for their documentary. When those final pieces are finished, a huge sigh of relief washes over everyone. Months of hard work and late nights weren’t all for nothing after all. 

Spandana Vagwala has made it to the national competition twice; once as a freshman for her paper on the partition of India and Pakistan, and again for her sophomore year website on political imagery in the Women’s Suffrage movement in the UK.

There are tons of mixed emotions regarding this project, and it’s been a huge question among high schoolers: should NHD be required for freshmen and sophomores? One sophomore said: “While NHD teaches valuable research skills to students, I believe this project should be optional for upper schoolers as it requires a tremendous amount of time and dedication.” She continued by saying: “I think that National History Day is perfect for those who are truly passionate about creating a project based on an historical event, though this very demanding endeavor, alongside a heavy, rigorous course load over several months, creates a very stressful, exhausting student life.” 

However, some students think differently. Catherine Olohan ‘22, said at least freshmen should have to do the project because “it’s a great introduction to the process of researching and completing a big project.” When I interviewed Kasey Corra ‘22, she said that the project can be very overwhelming, but it is also valuable in learning how to conduct research and how to have good time management. Spandana Vagwala ‘22 said the same, also saying that it helped her when it came time for senior capstone. 

Overall, National History Day, despite giving immense amounts of stress and sleepless nights, is a very fulfilling project. So much hard work is put into it, but it’s worth it once you’re done! 


By Kristina Klauzinski ‘24, Rising Sports Editor