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Last Minute Tips for Your National History Day Entry

February 28, 2012

So, National History Day contests are right around the corner and your project finally looks like it is all coming together. You’ve fought through paper cuts, delusional partners, sabotaging pets and other distractions. Your board stands up without duct tape, your bibliography is annotated, and your process paper is written. Now that you are seeing light at the end of the tunnel, here are some tips for avoiding a meltdown on History Day:


  • First and foremost: Make sure your website project is published and not password protected so the judges can see it!
  • Is your annotated bibliography and process paper on the website?


  • Make sure your paper entry arrives where it needs to be by the due date.
  • Have the content fresh in your mind on contest day it may have been two weeks since you sent it in, so review before you interview.


  • Be prepared for things to fall apart. NHD in Indiana coordinators will have an emergency repair kit with tape, scissors, etc., but prepare by bringing anything you think you will need.
  • Don’t forget your coat under the table! Be aware of valuables left around the exhibit. Remember the times you can get in and out of the exhibit area, and know when the public is allowed in to view.


  • Bring multiple copies of your DVD.Make sure the discs are not blank.Put a copy on a flash drive. Bring a laptop with the film saved on it. Make sure they work. Have a plan for making sure the film plays.
  • Be ready to go when your time comes up! Have your paperwork and hardware ready!


  • Be prepared for an audience. Depending on the contest, you may be in an empty classroom or a full auditorium. Be ready for an audience of both sizes.
  • Have your script memorized. Remember: No reading off scripts during the presentation.

All Projects

  • Do not forget your paperwork! Every project requires paperwork. Do not forget your annotated bibliographies or process papers. Make sure you have at least four copies. Heck, bring six! You will never be penalized for being over-prepared.
  • Did you follow all of the rules? Does your paper entry have a cover page?
  • Take every precaution to avoid someone forgetting something or some kind of software problem. Partner forgot the process paper? Good thing you have extra copies!
  • Do not freak out. Things will go wrong at some point. Problems will be fixed. Nobody gets disqualified from History Day in Indiana for a fixable problem.
  • Finally: Smile. Be confident. Practice a firm handshake. Look the judges in the eye. Have fun!

In summary, always take into account Murphy’s Law: if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. While you may be able to convince coordinators to accept your late paper, to fix your unpublished website or that one copy of your bibliography is enough, it does not look good in front of the judges. Preparing for the unexpected problems and finding solutions, on the other hand, looks great!


Matt Durrett is coordinator, National History Day in Indiana. Usually laconic and reserved, he has recently acquired the nickname ÒThe Quiet StormÓ around the office for his rare yet tempest-like outbursts.

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