Every year since 1981 the Society has held the Student Scholarship Competition. Over three hundred works are chosen from more than 8,700 entries submitted by professors of college-level students nationwide. In a competition which can kick start a career, students bring their most sophisticated, well-crafted and original work to be tested. A jury of professional peers, including illustrators and art directors, selects the most outstanding works created throughout the year. Pieces are accepted based on the quality of technique, concept and skill of medium used.
From the Society’s endowment, generous contributions from private and corporate donors, and proceeds from an annual auction of member-donated artworks, scholarship awards are granted to about 25 students whose work is deemed the best of the best.
In the last 30 years, the Society has awarded over $1,500,000 to deserving students in this unique competition, which has opened the door for many of today's top professionals including Kadir Nelson, James Bennett, Gwenda Kaczor, Dan Dos Santos, James Jean and many more.
Each spring the Student Scholarship Exhibit is held in the galleries of the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators, where awards and certificates are given to the students during an Opening Reception. Also honored during the Reception are Distinguished Educators in the Arts, a prestigious award presented to educators who have made a strong impact on illustration as both a teacher and an artist.