The Deseret News-KSL Sterling Scholar Awards program is open to seniors in good standing in high schools in participating areas of Utah. Each school may nominate only one student in each of 12 categories although the school is not required to make an entry in all 12.

Therefore, some schools may not be represented in a specific category. The 12 categories are English, speech/drama, mathematics, social science, science, foreign language, visual arts, industrial education, home economics, business education, music and general scholarship.Selecting nominees is the responsibility of the school principal and not the sponsors of the program. No specific method is required although the sponsors suggest that the selection process should motivate scholarship through the involvement of a number of students in each category.

Judging involves the study of portfolios and personal interviews beginning at 3 p.m. Selection of finalists during preliminary judging and the determination of winners and runners-up in final competition is made on the basis of scholarship (50 percent), leadership (25 percent) and citizenship (25 percent). However, no scholar should be nominated who fails to demonstrate high moral standards, habits and attitudes or who fails to serve associates, both within the school and the community.