The Miss America pageant is a long-standing competition which awards scholarships to young women from the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The winner of the national pageant is awarded the title of "Miss America" for one year.
The pageant originated as a beauty contest in 1921, but now prefers to avoid this term since Swimsuit and Evening Wear comprise 35 percent of the overall score used to judge contestants. The pageant began in Atlantic City, New Jersey and was held there each year in September through 2004 (except for the year 2001, when it was held on October 14).
In January 2006, the pageant moved to its new home and time in Las Vegas, Nevada. The pageant presents itself as a "scholarship pageant," and the primary prizes for the winner and her runners-up are scholarships to the institution of her choice. The Miss America Scholarship program, along with its local and state affiliates, is the largest provider of scholarship money to young women in the United States and in the world. In 2006 it made available more than $45 million in cash and scholarship assistance. Since most of the contestants are college graduates already, or on the verge of graduating, most of their prize money is devoted to graduate school or professional school, or to pay off student loans for courses already taken.