National History Bee & Bowl, National Academic Quizbowl

I had the most shocking conversation with a highly paid & very reputable college consultant. My son plays at the highest levels in NHBB (history bowl) and NAQT (quizbowl) competitions and holds national titles, and truly loves these (learning in depth about subjects of interest, being globally aware since current affairs are a big part of these competitions, team skills, etc). I was hoping to talk to a consultant to get some ideas around ways he could take up a research project in history / political sciences (since despite playing quizbowl, his passion is history and political sciences), and for him to shortlist some organizations to volunteer his time; those that are truly making an impact globally whether it’s in human rights or poverty etc (again to help my son get some ideas aligned with his passion in history, political sciences, public policy etc - all of which he has developed through years of playing history bee and bowl and quizbowl).

However, this highly reputed consultant (charges thousands of dollars and all clients have gone on to ivies) told me that these are just ‘recall’ awards (not perceived as having any scholarly depth…) and since we are in the ‘Asian’ demographic, we are perceived as ‘achievement machines’, and that my son should rather focus on getting his Eagle Scout instead. I was so shocked that I immediately created an acct on this site :slight_smile: to get some advice.

All the kids that I have seen play history bee/bowl and quizbowl for a number off years have been phenomenally globally aware and put in 20+ hours a week…Do these tournaments have such a bad reputation that they aren’t associated with any ‘scholarly depth’ at all as I was told?

I haven’t replied back to the consultant since I don’t believe my son is a robot and I’m just supposed to have him pivot from these just because ivies supposedly look at these as ‘recall’ awards. Sure, my son has gifted recall, but he (and his team mates) read voraciously and are so much more passionate about the world and issues…none of which would’ve been possible without diligently working on these tournaments and enjoying the camaraderie of the NHBB and NAQT community. It was very disheartening to hear these tournaments dismissed so emphatically by this consultant.

Please reply back with your opinions. I would very much appreciate it!

They aren’t just recall. It’s nice to find kids committed to side interests and playing collaboratively. But it’s not a tip into Ivies to win national titles.

Nor a tip to find some big deal organization to vol with. If he’s interested in poli sci, why not vol for a local rep, learn first hand about local/national issues, how priorities are set, and how the system actually works? Or a local advocacy group, working on local issues?

This history/ps interest is not overdone by Asian American kids. Just not. And even if he’s interested in a stem major, it’s a nice side touch.

I suspect this consultant was playing “expert” with you, hoping for your business.

I am also a Mom of a State champion National History Bee AND Bowl contestant who was also a nationally ranked and winning player both individually and with his team. The comments you received from your college consultant started to make my blood boil. My child also did hours and hours of in depth research and study because he was driven to know all the subtle nuances of very obscure historical facts, people and occurrences. He did this because he was interested in all things history—it was a passion (like playing an instrument, ballet, soccer, musical theater or, yes, boy scouts) While fast recall is required, you can’t recall what you don’t know in the first place. My child is now going into his second year of college. He targeted schools where he could focus on International Affairs. I believe his NHB&B accolades (along with good grades and excellent test scores) helped him get into the Honors Programs, with scholarships at many schools that had the program he wanted (not Ivies—that was not a goal of his). In fact, his Common App essay relayed what happened in an actual NHB&B round and how his brain worked to win (and lose) some rounds by himself and with his team. He demonstrated a unique passion for learning which is exactly what most colleges want to see. He demonstrated teamwork and how to succeed as part of one. For what its worth, all of my son’s teammates that were older than him, his age and a year younger than him have ended up at Ivies/Stanford or at top programs at state schools (e.g. for Engineering or CS) or at top 20 schools. While I don’t always think those colleges should be a “goal” for every student (for a variety of reasons), they obviously thought that NHB&B accomplishments (amongst other things) were pretty valuable. My son has two internships this summer (after his first year of college) and has a third lined up for this fall—he was hired in part because of his vast knowledge and understanding of history and the role it plays in various political climates in the Middle East today. So ignore the college counselor, have your child sing their NHB&B accomplishments loudly and good luck with the college application process.

Hello there, thanks for your kindness in responding back. To your point of going further with his interests in political science and finding a local rep/org is what I was hoping this consultant would help with ideas on where to start. My husband and I are both from the science and tech field and so we are pretty clueless on how to find these local organizations / ppl in govt who are willing to take in students as mentees to further my son’s interests with practical hands-on experience. Any pointers would be a great help!

I think the suggestion for Eagle Scout is because that is an award more well known and college admission officers don’t have to guess at the amount of work that goes into the award. Since the ‘bowl’ group is much smaller and less well known, the amount of work going into it would have to be explained.

This is the problem. The consultant doesn’t have any ideas because there aren’t a lot of research opportunities in the humanities for high school kids. I’m afraid most of the ‘opportunities’ are going to be scut work and not heavy duty research. This is true if he works at city hall or on a political campaign or for a professor. He can’t start at the top.

Just start with a call to a local rep and see if they can use him. Many times, these roles start small, very small. But if he’s good, they can expand to allow him to sit in on discussions or more. If he does want a poli sci major, so many kids never pursue this sort of experience. So many times, they claim the interest, but never leave the high school realm of clubs, never “get out there.”

If he has particular sub interests (say, healthcare or voting rights,) you might find a local rep who focuses on that. They’ll also know the local orgs. If you aren’t aware of local orgs involved in x or y, maybe even a call to a local newspaper for ideas of who’s shaking what trees. It doesn’t need to be some great number of hours or a special title- it’s the “climbing out of the hs box” and pursuing more. Not even about “passion.” More like drive and follow-through.

Thank you! I guess my write up clearly relayed I’m the mom :-). Yes, I have gone through a range of emotions within the last hour since I heard from the consultant - shock to blood boiling to despair and wanting help! Thank you so much for the detailed reply. It was very helpful to me…

Does your area/school participate in National History Day competition? I think NHD would give your son the opportunity to use his knowledge and passion in history to ‘create’ something original. The theme changes every year and he would get to choose a topic. He could do something individual or work with a group as there are different areas to do website, documentary, dramatic scene, etc.

Thank you for the practical pointers! He and I will start looking into local options for grassroots work to begin with.

Also it would seem that Model UN and/or Debate Team might be of interest. I can see what the consultant is saying. Recall events are great for younger children - pre-high school but top schools are looking for them to move into something with more critical analysis once they are in high school.

It’s probably too late for this summer but our city has paid internships for high schoolers. Much of what they do is boring, but if you can learn a lot just by being in the room. Back when I was in high school my school had a program where all juniors spent one day a week working on Capitol Hill. I stuff a lot of envelopes and faked a lot of signatures, but I learned a lot about how Congress works! Anyone who is running for election this year is likely to be happy to have help.

Next year is election year and there will be plenty of volunteer opportunities at both political parties, for your son to get involved with at the grass roots level.
It is quite an accomplishment to be Nationally ranked at QB, and even better if he has any leadership.
My take on the consultant’s advice is, it is great but not a shoo-in for Top 10 schools.
Just make sure the rest of his App is strong, and he carefully researched the colleges.

National History day

I agree with that college counselor, I encouraged my son to join debate club

@hbeeqb son went to a public, but not Board of Ed run HS in NYC that has consistently been at or near the top in NHBB, NAQT and PACE over the last 8 or so years. I’m sure you’d recognize the name. The majority of A and B team members over that time have ended up at IVY+MIT+UChicago+Stanford. That being said, the consensus of parents who’s kids were involved would be that the college value of quizbowl achievements was far less than the time the kids invested in it. They loved doing it, and so we supported them, but it certainly did not have a big impact on colleges. They got in to top schools more “despite” quizbowl (and the time it takes) than because of it. But hey, these kids work really hard, and if they find these competitions fun, then great.

I’d say the most useful college related part of QB was that a significant number of competitions were hosted on IVY and other top college campuses which cuts down on the number of dedicated college visits you’ll be doing.

There are plenty of national level “prestige” competitions and opportunities for STEM kids - for History and Pol Sci not so much. There is absolutely nothing wrong with HB or QB, but they are not the equivalent of something like the Science Olympiads.

One international competition that does bridge the gap and has reasonably significant participation by the QB/HB kids is NACLO.

I’d also be a bit leery of trying to “…shortlist some organizations to volunteer his time; those that are truly making an impact globally whether it’s in human rights or poverty etc” Colleges are getting very tired of the whole college-application-as-Miss-America-pageant-save-the-world thing. If you had to read thousands of essays about the non-profit founded by a 17 year old just in time for college apps that built 11 wells in rural India, I’d think you’d be pretty tired of it too.

For a Pol-sci, NHBB kid, particularly as an Asian who is not a cookie cutter STEM kid, I’d lean more towards getting involved in the presidential campaigns at this point. A kid who went and organized or participated in canvassing or phone banking or undocumented immigrant legal aid clinics would show a real level of commitment and interest that most students, particularly those with curated, college councilor directed EC resumes do not.

If your son happens to be at the NYC school I referenced above, PM me and I can give you some HS school specific recommendations.