Top 20 Best Writing Contests for High School Students
By Jin Chow
Co-founder of Polygence, Forbes 30 Under 30 for Education
15 minute read
Writing contests are a great way to focus on a topic that excites you, organize your thoughts, showcase your research and/or creativity, join a community, gain recognition, and even win cash, scholarships, and all-expenses-paid travel. The other nice thing about writing is that you can do it on your own time, and it doesn’t cost a dime. You can fit it around other summer activities or on weekends. You don’t need to win first place in these competitions to reap the benefits either. Many competitions offer all sorts of prizes at various levels, and you may get invaluable feedback from expert judges that will help you in your future writing projects–and, yes, winning looks great on college applications too!
We’ve organized this list of teenage writing contests alphabetically, by hosting institution. It covers a broad swath of subjects, including: scientific research; persuasive essays; poetry; comics; and philosophical arguments.
Pro tip : Most of these competitions publish past winners on their websites. Read these winning entries to get inspired and to get a sense of the format, length, tone, and subject matter that’s considered winning material. It’s also just fascinating to read this great writing.
Want to work on a writing project but want feedback? Check out our Polygence mentors . Most of these competitions don’t mind if you polish your work with a mentor if the work and ideas behind your entry are your own.
Writing Contests for Teens and High School Students
As entry requirements, writing prompt availability (if applicable), application and submission deadlines, and judging criteria may change year to year, be sure to refer to the specific contest websites for those that catch your attention.
1. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose
Hosting institution: The Adroit Journal
Writing prompt availability: n/a
Application deadline: n/a
Submission deadline: Mid-May
The submission guidelines for this writing contest are very nuanced; in short, you can send up to 5 “packets” of writing. Each “packet” can consist of either 6 poems or 3 prose pieces (fiction or creative nonfiction, and a total of 3,500 words combined). Winners and runners-up will be published in The Adroit Journal .
This contest is open to students internationally and winners are announced in mid-October. Each year, the contest features a different set of esteemed judges. Judges in 2023 were Natalie Diaz (poetry) and Ocean Vuong (prose).
Note: this writing contest has a non-refundable $15 submission fee; students can apply for financial assistance if needed
2. National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards
Hosting institution: Alliance for Young Artists & Writers
Awards: Scholarships of up to $12,500
Submission deadline: December or January, depending on your region
The prestigious Scholastic Art & Writing Awards has been around since 1923 and has an impressive list of past winners including Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, John Updike, and Sylvia Plath. There are 11 writing categories including humor, flash fiction, poetry, short stories, journalism, and more.
You may win at the regional level and then be automatically entered into the national contest. Winners at the national level are invited to attend a star-studded ceremony in New York City and your writing will be published in the annual anthology Best Teen Writing.
As timelines will vary based on your specific region and which writing contest you enter, the calendar on the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers site is a great resource for students to refer to for information about important dates and deadlines.
Learn more about Why You Should Apply for the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards !
3. National High School Essay Contest
Hosting institutions: American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP)
1st: $2,500 and a paid trip to the nation’s capital from anywhere in the U.S. for the winner and his or her parents, plus an all-expense paid educational voyage courtesy of Semester at Sea
2nd: $1,250 and full tuition to National Student Leadership Conference’s International Diplomacy summer program
Writing prompt availability: Fall
Submission deadline: Early April
Every year, this essay contest invites high school students to explore a topic that touches upon issues of peace building and the protection of national security. Your response to this prompt should be an essay of 1,000-1,500 words. Winning essays are also published on the website so you can see past topics and research.
You must be a U.S. high school student to participate and meet all eligibility requirements (e.g., your parents cannot be in the Foreign Service). It’s best to refer to AFSA’s site for the most up-to-date information about very specific writing contest rules and guidelines. The judging criteria include the quality of analysis, quality of research, form, style, and mechanics.
4. Young Writers Awards
Hosting institution: Bennington College
Awards: $500 (1st in each category), $250 (2nd in each category)
YWA winners who enroll at Bennington receive a $15,000 scholarship each year - for a total of $60,000
Submission deadline: Early November
Bennington College has quite a literary pedigree, with alumni that have garnered twelve Pulitzer Prize winners, three U.S. poet laureates, four MacArthur Geniuses, countless New York Times bestsellers, and two of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people. In honor of its legacy, Bennington College started this contest to celebrate great writing by high school students.
You’re invited to submit writing in one of the following categories: poetry (3 poems), fiction (up to 1500 words), or nonfiction (up to 1500 words). All work must be reviewed, approved, and sponsored by a teacher. Homeschool students may use a mentor.
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5. My Impact Challenge
Hosting institution: Bill of Rights Institute
Awards: Up to $10,000, with $40,000 in total prizes
Writing prompt availability: n/a
In this contest, a 1,200-word essay is part of a larger project that also includes a service project that you’ve completed along with a 2,000-word report detailing your inspiration, project plan, details of how you executed the plan, and how your understanding of civic virtue and your community grew as a result. Visual documentation of your project is also required. You’ll be judged on the impact your project had on the community, knowledge gained, originality, mechanics, and your understanding of civic virtue.
Get more information about the submission guidelines and judging rubric for My Impact Challenge on the Bill of Rights Institute website.
6. Ocean Awareness Contest
Hosting institution: Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs
Awards: Up to $1,500
Writing prompt availability: Early September
Submission deadline: Mid-June
This international writing contest was created to raise awareness about environmental issues through creative communication. Students aged 11 through 18 are eligible to participate.
The prompt for 2023 involved thinking about climate change and posing possible solutions for the climate crisis. The idea is to move beyond the bad news and celebrate the work that is being done by countless “climate heroes”—the scientists, activists, artists, and educators striving to make our world more habitable.
The writing prompt for the 2024 Ocean Awareness Contest is Tell Your Climate Story . Your submission can take the form of creative writing, film, interactive and multimedia, poetry, and spoken word.
The Ocean Awareness Contest FAQs on the Bow Seat site are an excellent resource to find out more specific information about how to participate in this writing competition.
7. Essay Contest
Hosting institution: Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA)
Awards: $1,000 scholarship + free trip to conference (1st), $500 scholarship (2nd), $250 scholarship (3rd)
Writing prompt availability: November
Submission deadline: Begins February 2024
If you love Jane Austen novels, you must enter this contest! Each year, JASNA asks students from all around the world to think about a topic inspired by a work by Jane Austen and how this topic reflects on our culture today. The 2023 JASNA Essay Contest topic was about marriages and proposals , as inspired by the theme in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The 2024 JASNA Essay Contest topic will be announced in November 2023. Your original insights and clear, correct writing should then take the form of a 6-8 page essay written in English. Past essay winners are published on the website.
8. Profile in Courage Essay Contest by JFK Presidential Library
Hosting institution: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Awards: $10,000 (1st), $3,000 (2nd), $1,000 (five other finalists), $100 (eight semifinalists)
Submission deadline: Mid-January
Inspired by JFK's book, Profiles in Courage, this writing contest invites you to describe and analyze an act of political courage by a U.S. elected official serving after JFK was born (1917). Essays must be between 700 and 1,000 words and include a minimum of five sources. Judges are looking for originality, supporting evidence, source material, high-quality writing, and organization. They also want to see evidence that you understand the meaning of political courage.
Note: students must provide the name of a nominating teacher on their registration form, so make sure you coordinate with an educator who can serve in that capacity. Refer to the Profile in Courage Essay Contest eligibility requirements for more information.
9. John Locke Essay Competition
Hosting institution: John Locke Institute
Awards: Awards: $2,000 scholarship (for 1st in each of the 8 categories)
Application deadline: Late May
Submission deadline: Late June
Ready to think deep thoughts? This contest gives you the chance to refine your skills in argumentation (e.g,, independent insights, depth of knowledge, clear reasoning, critical analysis, and rhetoric) and have your work assessed by experts. You can choose from 1 of 3 challenging questions posed in 7 different categories (Philosophy, Politics, Economics, History, Psychology, Theology, and Law) in the form of a 2,000-word (max) essay. There’s also a junior category for students who are under age 15 (i.e., 14 or younger).
Your entry will be judged by a panel of Oxford and Princeton faculty. Winning essays are posted on the John Locke Institute website , and you can check out the fascinating archive.
Read our blog post, Everything You Should Know about the John Locke Institute Essay Competition to learn more about this writing contest!
10. High School Poetry Prize and Ten-Minute Play Contest
Hosting institution: Lewis Center for the Arts - Princeton University
Poetry: $1,500 (1st), $750 (2nd), $500 (3rd)
Play: $500 (1st), $250 (2nd), $100 (3rd)
Writing prompt availability: Late October (Poetry)
Application deadlines: n/a
Poetry: Late November
Play: Late March
Princeton University has two writing contests that are open to 11th grade students and it is possible to enter both of them:
Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize : students may submit up to three poems and it is okay if they have also been submitted to other writing contests
Ten-Minute Play Contest : submissions are limited to one play per student
Entries for both contests are judged by Princeton faculty.
11. EngineerGirl Writing Contest
Hosting institution: National Academy of Engineering
Awards: $500 (1st), $250 (2nd), $100 (3rd)
Writing prompt availability: September
Submission deadline: Early February
This essay contest features a new writing prompt every year dealing with engineering’s impact on the world. The 2023 contest focused on diversity in engineering and how that might future design solutions . The prompt for the 2024 EngineerGirl Writing Contest is The Secret Life of Everyday Items . High school students are limited to 750 words and must cite anywhere from 3-10 resources. Winning and honorable mention entries are published on the website.
12. Achievement Awards in Writing
Hosting institution: National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
Awards: First-class awards will be published on the NCTE website
Writing prompt availability: August
Application deadline: Mid-November
Submission deadline: Early March; submission period begins in early February
Each year, the National Council of Teachers of English posts a thought-provoking prompt and participants in 10th and 11th grades are welcome to respond in up to 10 pages.
The writing prompt for the 2023 contest was based on Malala Yousafzai’s address to the United Nations; the prompt for 2024 comes from Michele Obama’s book, Becoming:
“If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you'll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others.”
Writing contest entries are not limited to informative or persuasive essays. They can also take the form of a research report, a personal narrative, a fictional story, a series of poems, a photo essay, or a comic or graphic narrative.
Other NCTE Writing Contests for Students
Promising Young Writers
Open to 8th graders
Submission deadline is mid-February
National Writing Award: The Humanities and a Freer Tomorrow - in partnership with the National Humanities Alliance
Open to 11th and 12th graders
Submission deadline is late October
13. YoungArts Writing Competition
Hosting institution: The National Foundation for the Advancement of Artists
Awards: Prizes up to $10,000, Entry to National YoungArtsWeek, Presidential Scholar In the Arts designation, grants and funding, residency opportunities
Writing prompt availability: Mid-June
Submission deadline: Mid-October
This multidisciplinary competition has entry categories across 10 disciplines. Writing is one of them, and you may submit your writing in the form of creative nonfiction, novel, play or script, poetry, short story, or spoken word. To be eligible to apply you must be a U.S. sophomore, junior, or senior. The website features a great section with tips and testimonials from past winners and guest artists. Awards are not simply cash-based. Entry into this organization connects you to a lifelong network and access to master artists.
14. Creative Writing Scholarship
Hosting institution: National Society of High School Scholars
Awards: $2,000 prize (3 given out for fiction and 3 given out for poetry)
Writing prompt availability: Early May
Submission deadline: Early October
You can enter this contest in the fiction or poetry category, or both. Fiction must be no more than 5,000 words. Your poem must appear as you would like for it to be published. Judging criteria include creativity, technique, expression, and originality. In addition to your writing, you’ll need to submit a recommendation from a teacher, a school transcript, an academic resume, and a photo of yourself.
15. Young Lions Fiction Award
Hosting institution: New York Public Library
Submission deadline: Early September
The Young Lions Fiction Award was started by Ethan Hawke, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, Rick Moody, and Hannah McFarland as a safety net and support system for young writers. You must be 35 or younger to submit your work for consideration. The catch with this particular contest is that your submission must be in the form of a published novel or collection of short stories that was published within the year of the contest– galley proof is an acceptable format.
As most high school students won’t have a published book to submit, this contest is a bit of a stretch–it’s generally geared toward young writers in their 20s and 30s. That said, if you have published a book, this is an amazing opportunity and it is a very prestigious distinction to be among the five finalists.
16. Rachel Carson Intergenerational Sense of Wonder / Sense of the Wild Contest
Hosting institution: Rachel Carson Landmark Alliance
Awards: Publication on the contest website
Submission deadline: Mid-November
Unlike the other writing contests listed here, this writing submission is meant to be co authored by you and at least one older adult. This could be your parent, grandparent, teacher, neighbor, mentor, etc. The idea is that you and your coauthor are from two different generations and that will inspire both of you to look at nature differently. You can choose to write about 1 of 2 themes and you can also choose to write it as an essay or as a poem. (Either can have up to 500 words). You may also include an original photograph with your entry.
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17. High School Essay Contest
Hosting institutions: The Society of Professional Journalists and the Journalism Education Association
Awards: $1,000 scholarship (1st), $500 scholarship (2nd), $300 scholarship (3rd)
Submission deadline: Mid-February
Raising awareness of the importance of independent media in our lives is the key goal of this contest. The topic for 2023 was “While consumers are drawn toward tweets and sound bites, how can journalists tell more of the story without losing readers’ interest?” U.S. high school students in grades 9 through 12 are invited to respond to this prompt with an essay of 300-500 words.
The judging criteria include: adherence to the topic and a logical interpretation of the subject (40 pts); vocabulary and style (30 pts); grammar (20 points); neatness (5 pts); and proper format (5 pts).
18. Voice of Democracy
Hosting institution: Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)
Awards: $35,000 college scholarship (grand prize); $1,000-$2,100 (other national scholarships); $1,000 (each state winner)
Submission deadline: Late October
This audio-essay contest was created in 1947 to promote patriotism for our U.S. democracy. High school students are invited to express their patriotism via a recorded speech. Each year students win $1.3 million in educational scholarships and incentives from this VFW contest. The 2023-24 prompt is: “What are the greatest attributes of our democracy?”
Students will write and record their essay response. (The audio file should be 3-5 minutes long.) The judging criteria include originality (30 pts), organization and flow (35 pts), and speech delivery (35 pts). You submit your audio file and written essay to your local VFW Post, which you can find on the VFW site we link to above.
VFW has a writing contest for students in sixth through eighth grade, called Patriot’s Pen . The 2023-24 prompt for this contest is: “How are you inspired by America?”
19. World Historian Student Essay Competition
Hosting institution: World History Organization
Writing prompt availability: n/a
Submission deadline: Early May
Open to all students internationally (grades K-12), this contest provides a prompt based on world history education and how it impacts you. The prompt for 2023 asks you to think about a family story related to a historical event or your family’s cultural background. Your response must be an essay of approximately 1,000 words. Judging criteria include a clear thesis, concrete supporting examples, evidence of synthesis and evaluation, and organization. They are also looking at your overall ability to communicate how a better understanding of world history has changed you.
20. New Voices One-Act Competition
Hosting institution: YouthPLAYS
Awards: $250 and publication in YouthPLAYS (1st), $100 (runner-up)
Writing prompt availability: Early January
This contest accepts any unpublished, non-musical one-act play from anyone under age 19. Your play must be between 10-14 minutes in length (a read-through before you submit is recommended) and at least 10 pages long. The play should be suitable for a school production and should ideally feature youth characters in age-appropriate roles. Your cast must also have two or more characters and more female roles are encouraged.
How Students Can Benefit From Participating in Writing Competitions
Writing competitions offer high school students a unique opportunity to showcase their skills, gain recognition, and enhance their college admissions prospects. Here are 10 ways writing contests can make a positive impact and be beneficial for student participants:
1. Demonstrating your commitment to writing
When you actively engage in writing competitions, you demonstrate your passion and commitment to the craft. Admissions officers appreciate applicants who have pursued their interests with dedication.
2. Showcasing your skills
Writing contests allow you to showcase your writing skills , whether it's in the form of essays, poetry, or other creative works. High-quality submissions can impress admissions committees.
3. Building a strong portfolio
Over time, your participation in various writing competitions can help you build a diverse and impressive writing portfolio. This portfolio can be submitted as part of your college application to highlight your talents .
4. Gaining recognition
Winning or even being recognized as a finalist in a prestigious writing contest can significantly boost your application. Admissions officers are more likely to take notice of applicants with such accomplishments.
5. Differentiating yourself
In a competitive admissions landscape, it's essential to stand out from the crowd. Participation in writing competitions sets you apart and adds a unique dimension to your application.
6. Highlighting your interests
Writing competitions can be a reflection of your academic and personal interests. They show that you are intellectually curious and proactive in pursuing your passions .
7. Earning scholarships and awards
Many writing contests offer cash prizes or scholarships as rewards. These can help offset the cost of your education, making you a more attractive candidate to colleges.
8. Receiving Expert Feedback
Writing competitions often involve evaluation by expert judges. Constructive feedback from these judges can help you improve your writing skills, which is valuable both academically and in your application essays .
9. Enhancing Your Writing Abilities
Regularly participating in writing contests hones your writing abilities, making you a more effective communicator. This skill is beneficial for college coursework and beyond.
10. Reflecting On Personal Growth
As you participate in writing competitions, you may explore new topics and perspectives. This growth as a writer and thinker is something you can discuss in your application essays.
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23 Writing Competitions for High School Students
What’s covered:, why should you enter a writing competition, writing competitions for high school students, how do writing competitions affect my admissions chances.
Do you dream of writing the next great American novel? Are you passionate about poetry? Do you aspire to become a screenwriter? No matter what genre of writing you’re interested in—whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or something else entirely—there’s a writing competition focused on it.
Writing competitions provide great motivation to put pen to paper (or finger to key). Moreover, they’re an excellent step toward getting published, and can ultimately start you on the path to becoming a professional writer.
One of the best ways to improve your writing is simply to write—and competitions provide an excellent impetus to do so. Writing competitions also serve as an introduction to what life is like for many writers; participants entering writing competitions will receive a prompt or must think of an original idea, compose a piece of work, and submit it for review.
Another benefit of entering a writing competition for high schoolers is that many offer cash awards and scholarships, which can be used to help with the costs of college.
Additionally, many writing competitions are run by colleges and universities, so submitting them is a great way to introduce faculty to yourself and your work. If you win an award—especially a prestigious award—it can significantly improve your odds of college acceptance.
1. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose
Type: Poetry and Prose
Submission Fee: $15
Deadline: May 1, 2023
- All secondary and undergraduate students
- Each student may send up to five total submissions across the genres of poetry and prose
- Each poetry submission may include up to six poems (maximum of ten pages single-spaced). Each prose submission may include up to three works of fiction or creative nonfiction (combined word limit of 3,500 words; excerpts are acceptable).
Adroit Prizes are awarded to emerging high school and college writers in two categories: poetry and prose. Winning pieces are considered for publication in the Adroit Journal and winners receive an award of $200. The 2023 judges are Natalie Diaz and Ocean Vuong.
2. Ten-Minute Play Contest
Submission Fee: N/A
Deadline: Passed, but the contest will reopen in 2024
Eligibility: Students in the eleventh grade in the U.S. (or international equivalent of the eleventh grade)
Guidelines: Applicants may submit only one play (10 pages maximum)
The Ten-Minute Play Contest is put on by Princeton University’s Lewis Center of the Arts. Applicants are allowed to submit one play that is no longer than 10 pages. Their submissions are judged by members of Princeton University’s Theater Program faculty.
3. Ayn Rand Anthem and The Fountainhead Essay Contests
- Anthem: $2,000
- The Fountainhead : $5,000
- Anthem: Grades 8-12
- The Fountainhead : Grades 11-12
- Anthem: Essays must be written in English only and between 600 and 1,200 words in length, double-spaced
- The Fountainhead: Essays must be written in English only and between 800 and 1,600 words in length, double-spaced
In this essay competition, students pick one of three prompts about a topic related to Ayn Rand’s books and write an essay that goes through three stages of grading. Students are graded on their clarity, organization, understanding, and ability to stay “on topic.”
4. Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize
Eligibility: Students must be in the 11th grade in the U.S. or abroad
Guidelines: Applicants may submit up to 3 poems
The Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize is another contest run by Princeton University’s Lewis Center of the Arts. Winners are chosen by judges who are both poets and members of Princeton University’s creative writing faculty. Three monetary awards are available.
5. World Historian Student Essay Competition
Eligibility: Students enrolled in grades K–12 in public, private, and parochial schools, and those in home-study programs
Guidelines: Essays should be approximately 1,000 words
Winners of this competition receive a $500 prize along with a free yearlong membership to the World History Association . To apply, you must submit an approximately 1,000-word essay responding to the following prompt:
- Submit an essay that addresses the following topic and discusses how it relates to you personally and to World History: Your view of a family story related to a historical event or your personal family cultural background, or an issue of personal relevance or specific regional history/knowledge.
6. Jane Austen Society of North America Essay Contest
Deadline: June 1, 2023
Eligibility: Open to high school, undergraduate, and graduate students
- Must be submitted by the student through the official Essay Contest Submission website
- Entries may include a statement about the student’s mentor; however, a mentor statement is not required
- The essay must be 6-8 pages in length, not including the Works Cited page
- The essay must use MLA documentation, including a Works Cited page and parenthetical citations in the body of the text. Use endnotes only for substantive notes. Source material that is directly quoted, paraphrased, or summarized must be cited. Quotations from the Jane Austen work under discussion should be cited as well.
The Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) Essay Contest is an annual writing competition aimed at fostering an appreciation for its namesake’s work. The contest is broken down into three divisions—high school, college/university, and graduate school.
First-place winners are awarded a $1,000 prize along with free registration and lodging for two nights at JASNA’s Annual General Meeting—smaller monetary awards are also given to second- and third-place essayists.
This year’s essay topic:
- In Pride and Prejudice and Jane Austen’s other novels, we see proposals and marriages that are motivated by love, as well as those that are better described as arranged marriages or marriages of convenience. Many cultures today also expect arranged marriages (not the same as forced). In your essay, compare and discuss the different types of marriages or courtships found in the novels, whether those relationships are new or longstanding.
7. Bennington College Young Writers Awards
Type: Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction
Deadline: November 1, 2023
Eligibility: Students in grades 9-12
- Poetry: A group of three poems
- Fiction: A short story (1,500 words or fewer) or one-act play (run no more than 30 minutes of playing time)
- Nonfiction: A personal or academic essay (1,500 words or fewer)
Bennington College has a strong history of developing writers—it’s produced twelve Pulitzer Prize winners, three U.S. poet laureates, and countless New York Times bestsellers—and the Bennington College Young Writers Awards celebrate this legacy.
In addition to offering cash awards to winners and finalists in all three categories, winners and finalists who apply and are accepted to Bennington College are also eligible for substantial scholarships.
8. Rachel Carson Intergenerational Sense of Wonder/Sense of the Wild Contest
Type: Poetry and Essays
Deadline: November 16, 2023
- You are required to have a team of 2 or more people
- The team must be intergenerational
Guidelines: Maximum length of 500 words (approximately 2 pages)
This unique writing competition requires that entries must be submitted by a team of two people from different generations—for example, a high school student and a teacher. Contestants can compete in a number of categories and themes, each with unique submission requirements.
9. NSHSS Creative Writing Scholarship
Type: Fiction and Poetry
Deadline: October 2, 2023
Eligibility: Rising high school students graduating in 2024, 2025, 2026, 2027, and recently graduated 2023 seniors
- Poetry: Students may submit their original poetry in any style, from formal verse to free verse to experimental. The poem should be formatted as you wish it to appear in the publication.
- Fiction: Students may submit a piece of short fiction, which must be no more than 5,000 words and should not be single-spaced. The entry may be any genre of the student’s choice, including graphic novel or story.
- Must submit educator recommendation, academic resume, and current transcript with application
Winning works for this competition are chosen based on their creativity, technique, expression, and originality. Three winners are chosen in each category and each winner receives a $2,000 prize.
10. John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Contest
Eligibility: The contest is open to United States high school students in grades 9-12, U.S. students under the age of twenty enrolled in a high school correspondence/GED program, and U.S. citizens attending schools overseas.
- Essays can be no more than 1,000 words but must be a minimum of 700 words. Citations and bibliography are not included in the word count.
- Essays must have a minimum of five sources.
The prestigious John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Contest is one of the most recognizable and prestigious writing competitions for high schoolers in the nation. Essays for the contest are required to describe an act of political courage by a U.S. elected official who served during or after 1917. The first-place winner of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Contest takes home a $10,000 award and second place receives a $3,000 prize.
11. YoungArts National Writing Competition
Deadline: Opens June 2023
Eligibility: 15- to 18-year-old visual, literary, or performing artist based in the United States
Guidelines: To be released
YoungArts supports talented young artists between the ages of 15 and 18 (or grades 10-12) in 10 disciplines, including writing. Applicants can submit entries in six genres—creative nonfiction, novel, play or script, poetry, short story, and spoken word.
12. SPJ/JEA High School Essay Contest
Submission Fee: $5
Eligibility: All students enrolled in grades 9-12 in U.S. public, private and home schools within the United States
- The essay should be 300-500 words
- Entries may be typed or handwritten but must be double-spaced
This high school writing contest is presented by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the Journalism Education Association (JEA) to increase awareness of the importance of independent media.
Last year’s prompt was:
- While consumers are drawn toward tweets and sound bites, how can journalists tell more of the story without losing readers’ interest?
13. VSA Playwright Discovery Program Competitions
Eligibility: High school students with disabilities
- 10-minute script
- Entries may be the work of an individual student or a collaboration between two students that includes at least one student with a disability
This writing competition, presented by the Kennedy Center, is open to students ages 15-18 (or enrolled in high school) with disabilities. Writers may submit a “ten-minute” script in any genre, including plays, musicals, multimedia, video, film, TV, and podcasts.
Entries can be the work of an individual or the product of collaboration—provided that at least one of the collaborators has a disability. Multiple winners are chosen and given the chance to work with industry professionals, attend Kennedy Center professional development activities, and participate in networking opportunities.
14. Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest
Eligibility: Women who are sophomores or juniors in high school or preparatory school
Guidelines: No more than two poems by any one student may be submitted
For almost six decades, the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest has provided recognition, scholarships, and awards to the best female high school sophomore and junior poets. Submissions are reviewed by faculty members of Hollins University’s creative writing program and students enrolled in its M.F.A. in creative writing.
The first-place winner receives a $350 cash prize, a renewable $5,000 scholarship to Hollins University if they choose to enroll there, as well as free tuition and housing at the university’s Hollinsummer creative writing program. Their winning work is also published in Cargoes , the university’s student literary magazine.
15. Scholastic Art and Writing Awards
Submission Fee: $10 for individual entry, $30 for portfolio (can use Fee Waiver Form)
Deadline: Opens in September
Eligibility: Teens in grades 7–12 (ages 13 and up)
Guidelines: Varies by category
The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is the nation’s longest-running, most prestigious recognition program for creative teens. They offer 28 submission categories, including writing, critical essay, dramatic scripts, flash fiction, journalism, humor, novel writing, personal essay and memoir, poetry, science fiction and fantasy, and short story.
Works are judged by famous jurors who look for works that show originality, skill, and the emergence of a personal voice or vision. Students can earn a variety of scholarships through success in these competitions.
Works that celebrate individual differences or personal grief, loss, and bereavement are eligible for $1,000 scholarships. High school seniors submitting winning portfolios of six works are eligible for up to $12,500 in scholarships.
16. Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest
Type: Creative Writing and Poetry
Deadline: June 13, 2023
- Students ages 11-18 from around the world
- Students can participate as an individual or as a club, class, or group of any size
- All students must provide the contact information for an Adult Sponsor (teacher, parent, mentor, etc.)
- Creative Writing: no more than 5 pages (approximately 1,250 words)
- Poetry: no more than 2 pages
- A written reflection is required to accompany your submission, regardless of category. It is like the introduction to a book or an artist’s statement in a museum.
The 12th annual Ocean Awareness Contest is a platform for young people to learn about environmental issues through art-making and creative communication, explore their relationship to a changing world, and become advocates for positive change. Students can participate in six different categories, including poetry and spoken word, and creative writing.
This year’s prompt centers around climate issues:
- Research and choose an inspirational scientist, activist, artist, educator, or other hero who is working to solve climate change issues. Create a piece of art, writing, or media that highlights their efforts, organizations, and/or positive impacts. We are familiar with the amazing work of environmental giants like Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough. We challenge you to introduce the Bow Seat community to a Climate Hero whose work we may not know about yet – but should.
17. John Locke Global Essay Competition
Submission Fee: N/A (unless late entry)
Prize: $2,000-$10,000 toward attending any John Locke Institute program
Deadline: June 30, 2023 (must register by May 31, 2023)
Eligibility: Candidates must be no older than 18 years old on June 30, 2023 (Candidates for the Junior Prize must be no older than 14 on the same date)
Guidelines: Each essay must address only one of the questions in your chosen subject category, and must not exceed 2,000 words (not counting diagrams, tables of data, footnotes, bibliography, or authorship declaration)
Students competing in this competition have the opportunity to write an essay in one of seven categories—philosophy, politics, economics, history, psychology, theology, and law. Each category has three prompts, from which students choose and respond to one.
Essays are judged on knowledge and understanding of the relevant material, the competent use of evidence, quality of argumentation, originality, structure, writing style, and persuasive force.
If you miss the deadline, you can submit a late entry up until July 10. Late entries will be charged a $20 late fee.
18. AFSA National High School Essay Contest
- Students whose parents are not in the Foreign Service are eligible to participate.
- Students must be in grades 9-12 in any of the 50 states, Washington, D.C, the U.S. territories, or—if they are U.S. citizens/lawful permanent residents —attending high school overseas.
Guidelines: Your essay should be at least 1,000 words but should not exceed 1,500 words (word count does not apply to the list of sources)
The AFSA Essay Contest focuses on knowledge of foreign policy and the American Foreign Service. Last year’s prompt was:
- In your essay, you will select a country or region in which the United States Foreign Service has been involved at any point since 1924 and describe, in 1,500 words or less, how the Foreign Service was successful or unsuccessful in advancing American foreign policy goals – including promoting peace – in this country/region and propose ways in which it might continue to improve those goals in the coming years.
The first-place winner receives $2,500, a paid trip to the nation’s capital with their parents from anywhere in the U.S., and an all-expenses-paid educational voyage courtesy of Semester at Sea. The runner-up wins $1,250 and full tuition to attend a summer session of the National Student Leadership Conference’s International Diplomacy program.
19. EngineerGirl Writing Contest
- The contest is open to individual students in the following three competition categories—Elementary School Students (grades 3-5), Middle School Students (grades 6-8), or High School Students (grades 9-12).
- You can also qualify with corresponding homeschool or international grade levels.
- High school student essays must be no more than 750 words
- You must also include a reference list of 3-10 resources
In this competition, students choose one of four prompts related to the 20 Greatest Engineering Achievements of the 20th Century and explore the technologies that have been developed in the last century and technologies that are being developed today. Students are judged based on their presentation and examples of engineering (~35%), their celebration of diversity (~50%), and their quality of writing (~15%).
20. The Blank Theatre Young Playwright’s Festival
Prize: Play is produced
Eligibility: Playwrights must be 19 years old or younger as of March 15, 2023; co-authored plays are welcome, provided all authors are 19 or younger
- Original plays or musicals of any length or genre and on any subject
- Up to three plays per playwright or team
While winners of this theater competition do not receive a cash prize, they have the unique opportunity to be mentored by leaders in the field, then will have their play directed and performed by professional artists during the following summer. The 12 best submissions are produced and professionally performed.
21. Saint Mary’s College of California River of Words Contest
Type: Poetry and Arts
- The contest is open to K-12 students, ages 5-19
- Students must be enrolled in school to be eligible
- Participants may submit up to 5 entries for poetry and 5 entries for art (total of up to 10 entries)
- Poems should not exceed 32 lines in length (written) or 3 minutes (signed)
- Collaborative poems and artwork are accepted, but only one student (chosen as the group representative) will be eligible for any prizes awarded
The River of Words contest aims to promote environmental literacy through the exchange of arts and culture. River of Words has been inspiring educators and students through this competition for over 25 years.
The goal of River of Words is to connect youth with their watersheds—the environments they live in—through engagement with art and poetry related to the idea of “place.” They look for art and poetry that shows the connection between students and the worlds around them.
22. Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest
Deadline: November 6, 2023
Eligibility: Open to all 12th grade, college, and graduate students worldwide
Guidelines: Essays must be between 800 and 1,600 words in length
In this essay competition, high school seniors pick one of three prompts about a topic related to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and write an essay that goes through three stages of grading. Students are graded on their clarity, organization, understanding, and ability to stay “on topic.”
23. Writopia Lab’s Worldwide Plays Festival
Prize: Play produced
Eligibility: Playwrights ages 6 to 18
- 8 minutes maximum
- Any genre or style
- Plays should have no more than three characters
- There can be no narrator of the play who is not emotionally invested in the story
- Students must incorporate at least one of the following props or costumes —blue plates, a yellow blouse, a Valentine’s heart with the word “Love,” a flower crown, a plush hotdog, a Mardi Gras bead with jester heads, a pack of clothespins, Russian nesting dolls, a set of miniature cymbals, a lavender blouse, a lei, or a roll of aluminum foil
Since 2010, Writopia Lab has been producing, designing, and directing one-act plays submitted by young playwrights. These winning plays are then performed by New York City theater professionals. The contest looks for playwrights who embody fearlessness and imagination. Writopia Lab says, “Write deeply! Write fiercely! Write politically and personally! And don’t be afraid to write with a sense of play – they are called plays, after all.”
While we can’t know exactly how activities outside of the classroom will affect your college admissions odds, the 4 Tiers of Extracurricular Activities provide a helpful framework for understanding how colleges view your extracurriculars.
Extracurricular activities in Tiers 1 and 2 are reserved for the most exclusive and acclaimed awards, and can significantly improve your odds of college admission. By contrast, Tiers 3 and 4 are reserved for more common extracurriculars, and have less of an impact on your chances of college admission.
For example, if you place in a nationally renowned writing competition—a Tier 2 activity—this will positively affect your admissions chances. On the other hand, if you receive an honorable mention in your high school’s poetry contest—a Tier 4 activity—your admissions chances will not be significantly affected.
That said, if you are applying to an English Literature or Creative Writing program with a well-developed essay and recommendations that emphasize your commitment to language, participation in Tier 3 and 4 writing competitions could help admissions officers conceptualize your passion for your future career.
Curious how the writing competition you participated in will affect your college admission chances? CollegeVine can help! Our free chancing calculator uses a variety of factors—including grades, test scores, and extracurriculars—to estimate your odds of getting into hundreds of colleges and universities, while also providing insight into how to improve your profile.
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15 Writing Competitions for High School Students
Whichever field you’re passionate about, being able to write well can help you make an impact. Be it in research, for a college application, in an assignment, or simply to express yourself, writing is essential to communicating your thoughts. The ability to write well can set you apart! This is why every year, organizations around the world host competitions to celebrate this skill in students. Participating in and doing well at these competitions does more than just make your college application look good - several writing competitions also offer the chance to win cash prizes and scholarships to summer programs! Writing contests often offer multiple levels of recognition, so you do not have to be the top winner to earn a title that will recognize your work and look good on applications! In this article, we bring to you 15 writing contests that offer high school students the chance to showcase their talent, and exercise their creativity through writing.
Here are 15 Writing Competitions for High School Students:
1. National Council of Teachers of English Achievement Awards
The National Council of Teachers of English hosts these awards every year to encourage high school students who write. Students submit one themed essay based on a specified prompt and one composition in any genre of their choice which displays their best work. A certificate and a letter are given to students who are assessed to have exceptional writing skills. Their names can be seen on the NCTE website as well. Juniors in high school who have been nominated by their English department are eligible to compete.
2. National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards
This contest accepts entries in a variety of genres, including critical essays, dramatic screenplays, flash fiction, personal essays, and short stories, and begins regionally and advances to the national level.
Regional competitions are held by local organizations, and the winners are sent to the national level for consideration. There is a $5 per entry or $20 per portfolio submission charge, however it can be waived for those who apply and meet the criteria for financial aid.
Students get Honorable Mentions, Silver or Gold Keys, or Nominations for the American Visions and Voices Medals at the regional level. Gold and Silver Medals, as well as the American Visions and Voices Medal, which acts as a "Best in Show" award for each region, are awarded to regional Gold Key winners. National award winners are invited to Carnegie Hall in New York City for a National Ceremony and Celebration. At the national level, there are various sponsored monetary rewards that vary by genre and sponsor, and certain National Medal winners will also be picked for college scholarships or summer programs.
Students in grades 7 through 12 in the United States are able to participate.
3. Princeton University Contests
Princeton University hosts two contests for high school juniors. One is a poetry contest judged by members of the Princeton University Creative Writing faculty. The other is a Ten-Minute Play Contest judged by members of the Princeton University Program in Theater faculty. Each contest has a first place prize of $500, second place prize of $250, and third place prize of $100.
4. The Bennington Young Writers Awards
This tournament is open to students in grades 10 through 12, and the judging panel includes faculty and students from Bennington College. Seven Pulitzer Prize winners, three US poet laureates, and a slew of New York Times bestsellers are among the college's graduates. Poetry, fiction, and nonfiction are all acceptable forms of submission (personal and academic essays). Each category's first-place winner receives $500, while second-place winners receive $250.
In 1981, the National YoungArts Foundation was established with the goal of identifying and supporting the next generation of artists in the artistic, literary, and performing arts. Each year, thousands of students apply, and the winners are selected to attend weeklong programs in Los Angeles, New York, and Miami. Students participate in workshops with master artists as part of these programs. A $35 application fee is required, however cost exemptions are available for those who qualify. Honorable Mentions from each region are asked to attend regional workshops. Finalists are invited to National YoungArts Week, where they will have the opportunity to meet with the judges and compete for cash prizes of up to $10,000. Finalists are also eligible for a nomination as a US Presidential Scholar in the Arts. Students in grades 10th to 12th are eligible to apply.
6. AFSA's National High School Essay Contest
The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) collaborate to host this annual contest, which aims to "engage high school students in learning and writing about issues of peace and conflict, encouraging appreciation for diplomacy's role in building partnerships that can advance peacebuilding and protect national security." One winner will receive a $2,500 cash prize, an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., and a full scholarship to the Semester at Sea Program for one semester upon admission at an accredited university. One runner-up will receive a cash reward of $1,250 as well as a full scholarship to the National Student Leadership Conference's International Diplomacy Program. Students whose parents are not in the Foreign Service are eligible to participate if they are in grades nine through twelve in the USA.
7. We the Students Essay Contest by Bill of Rights Institute
This essay contest, sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute, encourages students to think critically and creatively about people's rights and how they affect society. One grand prize winner will earn $5,000 in addition to a Constitutional Academy scholarship. Six runners-up will each receive $1,250, and eight honorable mentions will each receive $500. Citizens or legal residents of the United States between the ages of 14 and 19 are eligible.
8. Profile in Courage Essay Contest by JFK Presidential Library
This competition is based on JFK's book Profiles in Courage, which told the tales of eight U.S. senators who showed political courage by standing up for a larger good while sacrificing their careers in the process. Entrants must describe and analyze an act of political courage in the form of a similar profile for the competition. The first-place reward is $20,000 in this competition. Twenty-five smaller cash prizes ranging from $100 to $1,000 are also available.
The competition is open to high school students in the United States in grades nine through twelve.
9. VFW Voice of Democracy
Our Voice of Democracy audio-essay program, which began in 1947, gives high school students the opportunity to express themselves through a democratic and patriotic-themed recorded essay. Nearly 64,500 school kids from grades 9 to 12 from across the country join each year, for a chance to earn a piece of the more than $2 million in educational scholarships and incentives provided via the program. All student entries must be submitted to a local VFW Post that is supporting the event. Students in grades 9 through 12 are eligible to compete. 10. SPJ/JEA High School Essay Contest
This contest, sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists and the Journalism Education Association, urges students to consider the role of the press in American society. Essays should be between 300 and 500 words long.
The first-place winner receives a $1,000 scholarship, second-place receives $500, and third-place receives $300. The competition is accessible to students in grades 9 through 12 in the United States. The registration fee for the competition is $5.
11. Jane Austen Society Essay Contest
High school students can win up to $1,000 by entering an essay on a specified topic related to Jane Austen novels. In addition, each winner will receive a year of membership to the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) and a collection of Norton Critical Editions of Jane Austen's novels. The winning pieces appear on the JASNA website as well. The theme of the 2022 Essay Contest is based on Jane Austen's first published novel, Sense & Sensibility. Students from all around the world are welcome to enter, however all contributions must be written in English.
12. Engineer Girl Annual Essay Contest
Engineer Girl hosts an essay contest every year that focuses on the impact of engineering on the world. Prize money of up to $500 is available to students. This competition is a great way to combine English language writing with STEM research. Students can send in their submissions via the internet. The contest is open to individual girls and boys in the following three competition categories: Elementary School students (grades 3-5), Middle School students (grades 6-8), or High School students (grades 9-12). The word limit for submissions varies depending on the grade level.
13. Rachel Carson Intergenerational Sense of Wonder / Sense of the Wild Contest
Entries for this writing contest must be submitted by a team, consisting of at least two people, representing different generations (for example, a student and a teacher or a teenager and her grandmother). Submission categories include poetry and essays, along with optional photographic elements. Annual topics for the contest are tied to nature. Winners receive a certificate from the Rachel Carson Landmark Alliance, and have their winning entry posted on the RCLA website.
14. World Historian Student Essay Competition
The World Historian Student Essay Competition is an international competition open to students enrolled in grades K–12. Winners receive $500 and a one year membership in the World History Association. Each competitor submits an essay that addresses the issue: "In what way has the study of world history affected my understanding of the world in which I live?"
15. John Locke Essay Competition
The John Locke Essay Competition is hosted by the John Locke Institute, a non-profit educational organization based in Oxford, United Kingdom. The John Locke Institute promotes young people to develop the qualities that make great writers: independent thought, depth of knowledge, clear reasoning, critical analysis, and persuasive style. Senior professors from the University of Oxford assess the submissions. The judges select their favourite essay from each subject group, as well as an overall "best essay" from all seven subjects.
Bonus entry: Atlas Shrugged novel Essay Contest
The Atlas Shrugged novel essay contest is open to all students globally. Atlas Shrugged is a heroic mystery novel written by Ayn Rand. Choose a prompt and write an 800-1,600 word essay in English. First prize: $10,000; 3 second prizes: $2,000; 5 third prizes: $1,000; 25 finalists: $100; 50 semifinalists: $50. Entry is free!
Learn the art of academic writing with the Lumiere Research Scholar Program
If you are interested in a selective, structured research program, consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program , a selective online high school program for students founded by Harvard and Oxford researchers. The program pairs you with a full-time researcher to develop your own independent research project, in any discipline of your choice. Last year over 1500 students applied to 500 slots in the research program! You can find the application form here.
20 Writing Competitions for High School Students
Writing is an essential skill that plays a crucial role in the academic and professional success of students. Writing competitions are an excellent way for high school students to showcase their creativity, critical thinking, and written communication skills. These competitions provide a platform for young writers to gain recognition, receive feedback, and improve their craft. However, with so many writing competitions available, it can be challenging for students to know which ones are worth entering.
In this blog post, we have compiled a list of 20 writing competitions for high school students that are reputable, prestigious, and even offer valuable rewards! Whether you are passionate about poetry, fiction, non-fiction, or playwriting, there is a competition on this list that will suit your interests and showcase your talent. From regional to national and international competitions, there is an opportunity for every young writer to challenge themselves and shine.
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Scholastic art and writing awards.
The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is one of the most prestigious art and writing competitions for middle and high school students grades 7-12. High school students can submit creative works across 28 different categories, including short stories, personal essays, poetry, and screenplays. The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards recognize students both locally and nationally with awards, exhibitions, publications, and scholarships. National Medalists are eligible to win scholarships up to $12,500.
The Bennington Young Writers Awards
Bennington College has an impressive history of literary alumni, including three U.S. poet laureates, twelve Pulitzer Prize winners, four MacArthur Geniuses, two of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people, and countless of New York Times bestsellers. The Young Writers Awards were created to continue this legacy, promote writing excellence , and recognize talented high school writers. High school students in 9th-12th grades are encouraged to submit to poetry, fiction, and nonfiction categories.
John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest
Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy features the accounts of eight American senators who risked their political careers to uphold the nation's welfare. These leaders exemplified political bravery by taking a stance for the greater good, despite the influence of interest groups, party affiliations, or even their own constituents. To promote the concept of political courage, the Profile in Courage Essay Contest encourages students to craft an innovative and unique essay that showcases their comprehension of political courage as depicted in Profiles in Courage. High school students in grades 9-12 are eligible to apply.
NCTE Achievement Awards in Writing
The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) hosts the annual Achievement Awards in Writing, which recognizes high school sophomores and juniors for the best student writing. Students can submit a personal narrative, fictional story, informative or persuasive essay, series of poems, photo essay, or a graphic novel/narrative.
Princeton University Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize
The Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize recognizes high school juniors for outstanding poetry, judged by poets on the Princeton University creative writing faculty. Applicants can submit up to three poems to this writing competition. First, second, and third place winners will receive cash prizes. Honorable mentions will receive recognition.
YoungArts discovers talented young artists, magnifies their potential, and dedicates resources to their future creative aspirations. High school students ages 15-18 are invited to apply to the discipline of their choice: Classical Music, Dance, Design Arts, Film, Jazz, Photography, Theater, Visual Arts, Voice, and Writing. Winners will be invited to attend weeklong programs and workshops in Los Angeles, New York, and Miami. Finalists will be invited to National YoungArts Week and will be eligible for nomination as U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts, as well as financial awards of up to $10,000.
American Foreign Service Association National High School Essay Contest
The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) National High School Essay Contest is an annual competition open to all high school students in the United States. The contest encourages students to explore and analyze current international issues, develop their research and writing skills, and demonstrate their understanding of diplomacy and foreign policy. The winners receive cash prizes and a trip to Washington, D.C., where they can meet with diplomats and policymakers, as well as tour the capital's cultural sites.
The Ocean Awareness Student Contest
This Ocean Awareness Student Contest is an arts and writing competition for students ages 11-18. The goal of the Ocean Awareness Contest is to motivate students to learn about and examine environmental issues and become advocates for positive change through art and writing. The contest offers cash prizes for original work on ocean conservation themes, including poetry, prose, and visual art.
Bill of Rights Institute We The Students Essay Contest
Founded by the Bill of Rights Institute, the We The Students Essay Contest is an annual writing competition for high school students. The goal of the We The Students Essay Contest is to encourage high school students to think critically about the principles of the U.S. Constitution and its relevance to current events in the U.S. High school students interested in exploring the role of politics and government on our society are encouraged to participate and submit their writing works.
The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers
High school sophomores and juniors can participate in the Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize, which was established in 2007 to acknowledge exceptional young poets. The competition is named after Patricia Grodd, who generously supported the Kenyon Review and its initiatives, while also exhibiting a deep devotion to education and a profound fondness for poetry. The winner will be granted a full scholarship to the upcoming summer Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop. Additionally, the winner and two runners-up will have their poems featured in the print version of the Kenyon Review and online.
SPJ/JEA High School Essay Contest
SPJ/JEA is a writing competition for high school students to examine the role of media and journalism in our lives. “The Sigma Delta Chi Foundation of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Journalism Education Association want to increase high school students' knowledge and understanding of the importance of independent media to our lives.” National winners will be granted scholarship awards.
The Blank Theatre Young Playwrights Festival
The Blank Theatre Young Playwrights Festival is an annual event that celebrates the works of young and emerging playwrights. The competition is open to all high school students in the United States, and winners have the opportunity to see their plays performed by professional actors in a fully staged production. The Blank Theatre's mission is to provide a nurturing environment for young writers to develop their skills and talents while also promoting the importance of theatre in our culture. The festival has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, among others.
Jane Austen Society Essay Contest
The Jane Austen Society Essay Contest is an annual competition that invites high school and college students to submit their essays on Jane Austen's novels and their impact on literature and society. The contest is organized by the Jane Austen Society of North America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study and appreciation of Jane Austen's works. The contest is open to students from all over the world, and the winners receive cash prizes and a one-year membership in the Jane Austen Society. The contest aims to encourage young writers to engage with Austen's timeless themes and to inspire the next generation of Austen scholars and enthusiasts.
John Locke Essay Competition
The John Locke Essay Competition is a writing competition for young writers, named after the renowned English philosopher who championed individual rights and liberties. Participants are invited to submit an essay on a given topic related to politics, history, philosophy, theology, law, psychology or economics. The competition is organized by the John Locke Institute, an educational charity that seeks to promote critical thinking and the study of classical liberal ideas. The winners receive a cash prize, and the top essays are published on the institute's website. The competition provides young writers with a platform to share their ideas and engage in meaningful discussions about politics, economics, and philosophy.
Teen Ink is an online magazine that offers writing contests for high school students throughout the year, with prizes for the best submissions in various categories, including poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Students can submit poetry, articles, books, novels, art, photos, and videos.
EngineerGirl Writing Contest
Hosted by the National Academy of Engineering, EngineerGirl is an annual competition for elementary, middle, and high school students to write about engineering. High school students will write an essay responding to a specific prompt, exploring the role and impact that engineering has on our society.
World Historian Student Essay Competition
The World Historian Student Essay Competition is an annual writing competition for high school students around the world. The contest is organized by the World History Association, an organization dedicated to promoting the study of world history. Participants are asked to submit an essay on a given topic related to world history, and the winners are selected based on the quality of their writing and their historical analysis. The competition aims to encourage students to think critically about historical events and their impact on the world today. The winners receive a cash prize, a certificate of recognition, and their essays are published on the World History Association's website. The competition provides young writers with an opportunity to showcase their research and writing skills while also promoting the importance of studying world history.
The Voice of Democracy Essay Contest
The Voice of Democracy Essay contest is an annual scholarship competition sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). High school students in grades 9-12 are invited to submit an essay on a given theme related to patriotism and American history. The purpose of the contest is to encourage students to think critically about their responsibilities as citizens of the United States and to honor the sacrifices of our nation's veterans. The winners receive scholarships, and their essays are published in the VFW magazine. The Voice of Democracy Essay contest is a meaningful way for students to learn about the importance of patriotism and to honor the service of our veterans.
The Adroit Journal Prizes for Poetry and Prose
The Adroit Journal Prizes for Poetry and Prose are two separate annual writing competitions that recognize outstanding young writers in high school and college. The contests are organized by The Adroit Journal, a literary magazine that publishes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction by emerging writers. Participants are invited to submit their best work in either poetry or prose, and the winners receive a cash prize, publication in The Adroit Journal, and a mentorship from a noted writer in their genre. The Adroit Journal Prizes for Poetry and Prose are highly competitive and have become known for discovering and nurturing talented young writers. These contests provide a unique opportunity for young writers to gain recognition and exposure for their work, as well as to receive mentorship from established writers in their field.
The Ten-Minute Play Contest
The Ten-Minute Play Contest is an annual writing competition for high school students organized by the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University. The contest challenges participants to write an original ten-minute play that can be performed on stage. The contest is open to all high school students across the United States, and the winners receive a cash prize, publication in an anthology of plays, and a staged reading of their play by professional actors at Princeton University. The Ten-Minute Play Contest is a unique opportunity for young writers to explore their creativity and hone their skills in playwriting. The contest provides a platform for young writers to showcase their work and engage with professional actors and playwrights in a supportive environment.
One More Option: Inspirit AI
If you are interested in conducting your own research — and crafting your own research paper as a high school student — consider applying to the 1:1 Mentorship Program at Inspirit AI! Research experience is a great way to demonstrate and engage your passion for STEM and research writing, and our mentors – hailing from the world's top research institutions and tech companies – will walk you through an entire research project from start to end. Whether you are a coding novice or a virtuoso, our individualized mentorship program will help you develop an exceptional AI-focused research project. For more information, do not hesitate to contact Inspirit AI with questions.
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27 Writing Competitions for High School Students in 2023
- Last modified 2023-11-22
- Published on 2021-04-03
Feel free to save the infographic at the end of the article to keep track of all writing competitions for high school students happening 2023-2024. Please keep in mind that the infographic provides a deadline for competitions; however, each competition’s actual preparation time can vary, from 2 weeks to several months.
1. Ocean Awareness Writing Contest
Competition Introduction : The Ocean Awareness Competition provides a platform for young people to understand environmental issues through artistic creation and creative thoughts, explore their relationship with the changing world, and become advocates of positive change
Eligibility : International competition. Any student age 11-18 who is/was enrolled in middle or high school (secondary school) while the contest is open. Proof of age, identity, or eligibility may be required. Students who have started college or university are not eligible to participate in the Contest.
- Junior Division: 11-14 years old
- Senior Division: 15-18 years old
Competition theme : The theme of the 2024 Ocean Awareness Competition is “Tell Your Climate Story”
Competition time: The deadline for submission is June 10, 2024. Students can upload their submissions starting from September 5, 2023
The official website of the competition
2. New York Times Summer Reading Competition
Competition Introduction: Since 2010, the New York Times has held a summer reading competition for middle school students from all over the world every summer. So far, more than 50,000 middle school students have participated.
The Summer Reading Contest invites students to choose something in The Times that has sparked their interest, then tell us why. At the end of every week, judges from the Times newsroom pick their favorite responses, and the winner’s work will be published in NY Times.
Competition schedule : Before the end of the competition (August), participants can choose any article, essay, video, interaction, podcast, or photo published in the New York Times to analyze, write about, and submit to the competition.
Every Tuesday after the start of the competition, the previous week’s winners will be announced and their writing pieces will be published.
Competition time: June 9 – August 18, 2023
Suitable for students: 13-19-year-old students from all over the world;
- Students aged 13-15 can submit via the form in the link to the weekly article, subject to parent or guardian consent;
- Students aged 16-19 can directly submit in the comments of the weekly articles.
Official website of the competition
3. Write the World Series Writing Contest
Competition Introduction: Write the World is an online community and writing competition for young writers. It is open to writers ages 13-18 and provides a platform for them to share their writing, receive feedback from their peers, and participate in writing challenges and contests. The website offers a range of resources and tools for writers, including writing prompts, writing tips, and the opportunity to join online writing groups and workshops. Write the World also hosts a number of writing contests throughout the year, with prizes ranging from publication and mentorship opportunities to cash awards.
Competition time: Varies
Suitable for students: 13-18-year-old students from all over the world
The official website of the competition
4. John Locke Essay Competition
Competition Introduction: The John Locke Essay Competition is organized by John Locke Institute, an independent education organization located in Oxford, UK. The John Locke Institute encourages young people to cultivate the characteristics that turn good students into great writers: independent thought, depth of knowledge, clear reasoning, critical analysis, and persuasive style. All of their essay prizes are judged by senior academics from the University of Oxford. The judges will choose their favorite essay from each subject category and an overall ‘best essay’ across seven subjects. Read more about the complete guide to John Locke Competition .
Competition time: June 30, 2023
Suitable for students: 2 Levels – High school students 18 years old or younger and Middle School students 14 years old or younger at the submission deadline.
Official website of the competition.
5. National Scholastic Art and Writing Competition
Competition Introduction: The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is the longest-running, oldest, and most prestigious literary and art competition in the United States, aiming to find creative works and original technical skills by students in grades 7-12. Since 1923, the Academic Art and Writing Award has recognized the vision, originality, and talent of young people, and has provided opportunities and academic awards for creative young people to express their talent. The high school award is a symbol of the pursuit of excellence and will help students stand out in university and scholarship applications .
Competition time: Deadlines vary by region and can be as early as December 1
Suitable for students: Teens in grades 7–12 (ages 13 and up) can apply in 28 categories of art and writing.
6. Young Authors Writing Competition
Competition Introduction: Young Authors Writing Competition is sponsored by the English and Creative Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago. The competition has grown into a yearly international contest of high school writers. You may enter up to two works (in separate files) in each category of Creative Nonfiction and Fiction. In the Poetry category, you may enter up to two files, but each can have 1-5 poems. You can submit up to six files (two in each category). You cannot upload three or more files in the same category.
Competition time: The deadline was January 31, 2023
Suitable for students: Open to students in grades 9-12 worldwide
7. River of Words Poetry and Art Contest
Competition Introduction: River of Words Poetry and Art Contest is a free, international youth poetry and art contest — the largest in the world — inspires children ages 5 to 19 to translate their observations into creative expression. River of Words® (ROW) is a program of The Center for Environmental Literacy and a part of the Kalmanovitz School of Education, at Saint Mary’s College of California.
Competition deadline: January 31, 2024
Suitable for students: K through 12th-grade students, ages 5-20. Students must be enrolled in school to be eligible. All entries must be submitted by a parent, guardian, educator, or facilitator unless the student is 18 years old or older.
8. Harvard International Economics Essay Contest (HIEEC)
Competition Introduction: The Harvard Undergraduate Economics Association (HUEA) is organizing its flagship Harvard International Economics Essay Contest with the collaboration of the Harvard College Economics Review. HIEEC allows students to demonstrate an accomplished level of writing and understanding of economic theory. Students hone their academic and professional skills through the contest and exhibit their knowledge.
Competition deadline: Late-October/early-November
Suitable for students: Students in grades 9 to 12
9. Annual DNA Day Essay Contest
Competition Introduction: The annual DNA Day Essay Contest is hosted by the American Society of Human Genetics, supporting National DNA Day. DNA Day commemorates the completion of the Human Genome Project in April 2003 and the discovery of the double helix of DNA in 1953. In celebration of DNA Day, the American Society of Human Genetics hosts the Annual DNA Day Essay Contest.
Competition deadline: March 1, 2023
Suitable for students: Open to students in grades 9-12 worldwide. Parents may submit essays if the student is home-schooled.
10. New York Times STEM Writing Contest
Competition Introduction: The New York Times Annual STEM Writing Contest invites students to choose an issue or question in science, technology, engineering, math, or health. Then, students will write an engaging 500-word explaining it to a general audience to help them understand and engage them in the topic.
Competition date: Jan 18 to Feb 15, 2023
Suitable for students: This contest is open to students ages 13 to 19 in middle or high school worldwide. College students cannot submit an entry. However, high school students (including postgraduate students) taking one or more college classes can participate. Students attending their first year of a two-year CEGEP in Quebec Province can also participate. In addition, students aged 19 or under who have completed high school but are taking a gap year or are otherwise not enrolled in college can participate. The children and stepchildren of New York Times employees are not eligible to enter this contest. Nor are students who live in the same household as those employees.
11. Princeton University 10-minute Play Contest
Competition Introduction: The Princeton Ten-minute Play Contest is hosted by the Lewis Art Center of Princeton University. The annual competition’s judging committee comprises faculty and staff from the Program in Theater of Princeton University. They are all members of Princeton University.
Competition date: January 17, 2023 to March 31, 2023
Suitable for students: U.S. domestic or international students studying in the eleventh grade. International students in the equivalent of eleventh grade in the US
Official website of the competition.
12. Write the World Series - Opinion Writing
Competition Introduction: Write the World, developed by David Weinstein – who’s currently working at Harvard University, is dedicated to improving the writing of high school students through a global online community and guided interactive process. The monthly competition is developed around a particular idea or genre of writing, such as poetry, fantasy, sports journalism, or flash fiction. Through multiple competitions throughout the year, students are encouraged to develop their voices, refine their editing skills, and publish on an international platform. Write the World helps students develop the writing strategies and communication tools essential for success in school, career, and life. Students can receive peer and expert feedback before submitting their final piece.
Competition date: March 21, 2023
Suitable for students: Young writers ages 13-18
More information on the competition.
13. Ayn Rand Essay Contests
Competition Introduction: The Ayn Rand Institute Essay Contests are created by the Ayn Rand organization, in memory of this great novelist. The contests motivate students to engage deeply with Rand’s ideas by reflecting on her novels’ profound and influential themes. Students who participate in the contest must read their chosen book meticulously, tackle its intricate concepts, and extend the limits of their writing abilities. The aim is to foster in students a profound admiration for Rand’s literary works and pique their curiosity about the underlying philosophy.
Competition date: April 27, 2023 for Anthem and The Fountainhead; and November 6, 2023 for Atlas Shrugged
Suitable for students: Students from grades 8 to 12 from around the world are welcome to apply
14. Young Reporters for the Environment Competition
Competition Introduction: Young Reporters for the Environment Competition is operated by Foundation for Environmental Education. YRE gives young people aged 11-25 a platform to research environmental issues and promote solutions through investigative reporting, photography, and video journalism. Competition Structure: There are three ways to participate in the YRE International Competition: General YRE International Competition, Litter Less Campaign Competition, and International Collaboration
Competition date: Competitions open during end of March
Suitable for students: Three age categories in the International Competition: 11-14, 15-18, and 19-25
15. New York Times Student Editorial Contest
Competition Introduction: New York Times invited students to write short, evidence-based persuasive essays through the New York Times Students Editorial Contest. Students can choose a topic of interest, then gather evidence from sources within and outside The NY Times and write a concise editorial (450 words or fewer) to convince readers of their view. The Editorial should focus on a topic that matters to students, cite reliable sources that illustrate different perspectives, and persuade readers of the student’s opinions. Last year, the competition received a peak of 16,664 submissions came in, about 5,000 more than ever before.
Competition date: March 15 to April 19, 2023.
Suitable for students: You must be a student ages 13 to 19 in middle or high school to participate. All students must have parent or guardian permission to enter.
16. Jane Austen Society of North America
Competition Introduction: JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America) conducts an annual student Essay Contest to foster the study and appreciation of Jane Austen’s works in new generations of readers.
Competition date: June 1, 2023
Suitable for students: Students and home-schooled students enrolled at the high school level during the contest year
17. Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest
Competition Introduction: Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest is created by Winning Writers, the organization finding and creating quality resources for poets and writers. Winning Writers is among the “101 Best Websites for Writers” (Writer’s Digest, 2015-2019). The judges are Soma Mei Sheng Frazier, the winner of CutBank’s 2018 contest, released in 2019, and Michal Jones, Pushcart Prize-nominated poet, and parent in Oakland, California.
Competition date: April 15 – September 30, 2023
Suitable for students: No restriction on the age of the author. All countries eligible except Syria, Iran, North Korea, and Crimea (due to US government restrictions)
18. Marshall Society Essay Competition
Competition Introduction: Established in 1927, the Marshall Society is the Economics Society of the University of Cambridge. The competition invites pre-university students to write a convincing and well-structured essay related to economic theories.
Competition date: TBD
Suitable for students: Preuniversity students around the world
19. Bennington College Young Writers Award
Competition Introduction: Bennington College Young Writers Awards are created by Bennington College, to promote excellence in writing at the high school level and to recognize outstanding writing achievement by high school students. The competition runs annually from September 1 to November 1. Over 5,000 students submitted poetry, fiction, and nonfiction to the Young Writers Awards competition each year. Each year, students in the 9th-12th grades are invited to enter one of the following categories with the following submission:
Poetry: A group of three poems Fiction: A short story (1,500 words or fewer) or one-act play (run no more than 30 minutes of playing time) Nonfiction: A personal or academic essay (1,500 words or fewer)
Competition date: September 1 to November 1
Suitable for students: 9th-12th grades, welcome submissions from both US and international students.
20. Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize
Competition Introduction: The Leonard Milberg High School Poetry Prize recognizes outstanding work by student writers in the 11th grade in the U.S. or abroad. Contest judges are poets on the Princeton University Creative Writing faculty, which includes Michael Dickman, Paul Muldoon, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, James Richardson, Tracy K. Smith, Susan Wheeler, Jenny Xie, and Monica Youn.
Competition date: November 26, 2023
Suitable for students: Students in the 11th grade in the U.S or around the world
21. New York Times Personal Narrative Writing Contest
Competition Introduction: The New York Times Personal Narrative Writing Contest invites middle and high school students ages 11-19 to tell a short story in 100 words or less. Your work will be read by New York Times journalists, Learning Network staff members, and educators from around the United States.
Competition date : October – November
Suitable for students: Students ages 13 to 19 who are in middle or high school worldwide.
22. New York Times Annual Student Review Contest
Competition Introduction: The NY Times invites students to play critic and write an original review for their New York Times Student Review Contest. Students can review anything that fits into a category of creative expression that The New York Times covers — from architecture to music.
Competition date: November 1 – December 6
Suitable for students: Students ages 11-19 anywhere in the world attending middle or high school can participate
23. John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest
Competition Introduction: In Profile in Courage, John F. Kennedy tells the stories of eight U.S. senators who risked their careers to do the right thing for their country. These leaders demonstrated political courage by standing up for the public good despite pressure from interest groups, political parties, and even constituents. The JFK Courage Essay Contest asks students to write an original and creative essay demonstrating an understanding of the political courage described in John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage.
Competition date: January 12, 2024
Suitable for students: High school students in the United States and its territories in grades 9-12
24. New York Times 100-Word Tiny Memoir Contest
Competition Introduction: The New York Times invites all junior and senior high school students to write a memoir in less than 100 words that is very meaningful to each person. This can be a special situation, a scene, or a meaningful event. New York Times hopes to hear unique stories from the “young writers” in their own words. The judges hope to see how the “young authors” solve a problem in this short story and see the larger meaning behind the story.
Competition date: October 12
Suitable for students: Writers of all ages and levels of experience
25. SPJ/JEA High School Essay Contest
Competition Introduction: The SPJ/JEA High School Essay Contest is a joint initiative of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the Journalism Education Association (JEA). The contest is open to high school students in the United States and is designed to promote the importance of journalism and the free press.
The contest is held annually and students can submit essays responding to a specific prompt. The essays are judged by a panel of journalists, media educators, and other media professionals, who evaluate them based on their clarity, organization, and adherence to the contest theme.
Competition date: Feb 19, 2023, 11:59 p.m. Central time
Suitable for students: All students enrolled in grades 9-12 in U.S. public, private, and home schools within the United States
26. The Concord Review (TCR)
Competition Introduction: The Concord Review (TCR) is an academic journal dedicated to publishing historical research papers of high school students in English. With the spring issue, the quarterly journal has published 1,362 research papers from authors in 46 states and 41 countries. Many of the authors of TCR have gone to prestigious universities and colleges across the US and around the world.
Competition date: Summer: February 1. Fall: May 1. Winter: August 1. Spring issue: November 1.
Suitable for students: Students must complete the paper before finishing secondary school and you have not yet enrolled in a college or university
27. The Foyle Young Poets
Competition Introduction: Founded in 1998, the Foyle Young Poets Competition is a highly regarded global contest that attracts thousands of entries annually from aspiring poets around the globe. The competition is free to enter and allows young writers to showcase their work, gain recognition for their talents, and receive support and guidance from established poets. Many previous winners have succeeded in the literary world, becoming published authors and receiving numerous accolades for their work.
Competition date: Midnight July 31, 2023 (BST)
Suitable for students: Everyone aged between 11-17 on 31st July 2023.
28. F(r)iction Contest
Competition Introduction: F(r)iction is a triannual publication that boasts work from both industry legends and emerging writers. Each issue is carefully curated to evaluate an important cultural topic from vastly different perspectives. They accept short fiction, creative nonfiction, flash fiction, comics, and poetry submissions all year round, and also host contests featuring celebrity guest judges and cash prizes twice a year (each spring and fall). Every piece published in F(r)iction is also accompanied by custom artwork.
Competition date: April 27, 2023
Submission length: Short stories: 1,001 – 7,500 words; Flash fiction: up to 1,000 words per piece; Poetry: up the three pages per poem
Prizes: $300 (Poetry and Flash), $500 (Creative Nonfiction), or $1,000 (Short Fiction)
Entry fee: $10 – $15
Judges: Jennifer Wortman (Short Fiction), Charlie Clare Burgess (Creative Nonfic), Exodus Oktavia Brownlow (Flash Fiction), Kyle Carrero Lopez (Poetry)
In 2022, the nation’s art and writing contest (Scholastic Art & Writing Awards) announced their winners. Excitingly, Aralia students received a total of 81 awards, which consisted of 25 Golden Key Awards, 26 Silver Key Awards, and 30 Honorable Mentions! More information about the awards can be found here .
In order to achieve these great results, most of the award-winning students have participated in the writing competition preparation program with the instruction and leadership of Aralia’s famous writing teachers. Aralia’s tutors are inspired teachers and professors who are committed to student success. They are recognized in their field or are currently teaching at top high schools and colleges/universities in the US.
Further your writing skills with Aralia
This class is offered in the summer every year. Students from 13 to 18 years old wanting to learn how to shape their written English into effective and publishable creative pieces will find this particular Writing Competition course very exciting. The class will be shown a range of tools to learn the nuances of controlled, purposeful writing, including: figurative language, effective structuring and specific forms that they will apply to their own pieces.
How can I improve my writing? 20 Tips to Improve Your Writing
How can I stand out in writing competitions? The only 5 tips you need to know are here: 5 Tips to Stand Out in a Writing Competition
Heard about John Locke Essay Competition but not sure where to start? Read this Complete Guide to John Locke Essay Competition
Finished your writing work but not sure where to submit it? Where to Submit Your Writing Works: 5 Main Platforms will answer your questions
Interested in learning more?
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The Best Student Writing Contests for 2023-2024
Help your students take their writing to the next level.
When students write for teachers, it can feel like an assignment. When they write for a real purpose, they are empowered! Student writing contests are a challenging and inspiring way to try writing for an authentic audience— a real panel of judges —and the possibility of prize money or other incentives. We’ve gathered a list of the best student writing contests, and there’s something for everyone. Prepare highly motivated kids in need of an authentic writing mentor, and watch the words flow.
1. The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards
With a wide range of categories—from critical essays to science fiction and fantasy—The Scholastic Awards are a mainstay of student contests. Each category has its own rules and word counts, so be sure to check out the options before you decide which one is best for your students.
How To Enter
Students in grades 7-12, ages 13 and up, may begin submitting work in September by uploading to an online account at Scholastic and connecting to their local region. There are entry fees, but those can be waived for students in need.
2. YoungArts National Arts Competition
This ends soon, but if you have students who are ready to submit, it’s worth it. YoungArts offers a national competition in the categories of creative nonfiction, novel, play or script, poetry, short story, and spoken word. Student winners may receive awards of up to $10,000 as well as the chance to participate in artistic development with leaders in their fields.
YoungArts accepts submissions in each category through October 13. Students submit their work online and pay a $35 fee (there is a fee waiver option).
3. National Youth Foundation Programs
Each year, awards are given for Student Book Scholars, Amazing Women, and the “I Matter” Poetry & Art competition. This is a great chance for kids to express themselves with joy and strength.
The rules, prizes, and deadlines vary, so check out the website for more info.
4. American Foreign Service National High School Essay Contest
If you’re looking to help students take a deep dive into international relations, history, and writing, look no further than this essay contest. Winners receive a voyage with the Semester at Sea program and a trip to Washington, DC.
Students fill out a registration form online, and a teacher or sponsor is required. The deadline to enter is the first week of April.
5. John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest
This annual contest invites students to write about a political official’s act of political courage that occurred after Kennedy’s birth in 1917. The winner receives $10,000, and 16 runners-up also receive a variety of cash prizes.
Students may submit a 700- to 1,000-word essay through January 12. The essay must feature more than five sources and a full bibliography.
6. Bennington Young Writers Awards
Bennington College offers competitions in three categories: poetry (a group of three poems), fiction (a short story or one-act play), and nonfiction (a personal or academic essay). First-place winners receive $500. Grab a poster for your classroom here .
The contest runs from September 1 to November 1. The website links to a student registration form.
7. The Princeton Ten-Minute Play Contest
Looking for student writing contests for budding playwrights? This exclusive competition, which is open only to high school juniors, is judged by the theater faculty of Princeton University. Students submit short plays in an effort to win recognition and cash prizes of up to $500. ( Note: Only open to 11th graders. )
Students submit one 10-page play script online or by mail. The deadline is the end of March. Contest details will be published in early 2024.
8. Princeton University Poetry Contest for High School Students
The Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize recognizes outstanding work by student writers in 11th grade. Prizes range from $100 to $500.
Students in 11th grade can submit their poetry. Contest details will be published this fall.
9. The New York Times Tiny Memoir Contest
This contest is also a wonderful writing challenge, and the New York Times includes lots of resources and models for students to be able to do their best work. They’ve even made a classroom poster !
Submissions need to be made electronically by November 1.
10. Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest
The deadline for this contest is the end of October. Sponsored by Hollins University, the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest awards prizes for the best poems submitted by young women who are sophomores or juniors in high school or preparatory school. Prizes include cash and scholarships. Winners are chosen by students and faculty members in the creative writing program at Hollins.
Students may submit either one or two poems using the online form.
11. The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers
The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers is open to high school sophomores and juniors, and the winner receives a full scholarship to a Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop .
Submissions for the prize are accepted electronically from November 1 through November 30.
12. Jane Austen Society Essay Contest
High school students can win up to $1,000 and publication by entering an essay on a topic specified by the Jane Austen Society related to a Jane Austen novel.
Details for the 2024 contest will be announced in November. Essay length is from six to eight pages, not including works cited.
13. Rattle Young Poets Anthology
Open to students from 15 to 18 years old who are interested in publication and exposure over monetary awards.
Teachers may choose five students for whom to submit up to four poems each on their behalf. The deadline is November 15.
14. The Black River Chapbook Competition
This is a chance for new and emerging writers to gain publication in their own professionally published chapbook, as well as $500 and free copies of the book.
There is an $18 entry fee, and submissions are made online.
15. YouthPlays New Voices
For students under 18, the YouthPlays one-act competition is designed for young writers to create new works for the stage. Winners receive cash awards and publication.
Scroll all the way down their web page for information on the contest, which accepts non-musical plays between 10 and 40 minutes long, submitted electronically. Entries open each year in January.
16. The Ocean Awareness Contest
The 2024 Ocean Awareness Contest, Tell Your Climate Story , encourages students to write their own unique climate story. They are asking for creative expressions of students’ personal experiences, insights, or perceptions about climate change. Students are eligible for a wide range of monetary prizes up to $1,000.
Students from 11 to 18 years old may submit work in the categories of art, creative writing, poetry and spoken word, film, interactive media and multimedia, or music and dance, accompanied by a reflection. The deadline is June 13.
17. EngineerGirl Annual Essay Contest
Each year, EngineerGirl sponsors an essay contest with topics centered on the impact of engineering on the world, and students can win up to $500 in prize money. This contest is a nice bridge between ELA and STEM and great for teachers interested in incorporating an interdisciplinary project into their curriculum. The new contest asks for pieces describing the life cycle of an everyday object. Check out these tips for integrating the content into your classroom .
Students submit their work electronically by February 1. Check out the full list of rules and requirements here .
18. NCTE Student Writing Awards
The National Council of Teachers of English offers several student writing awards, including Achievement Awards in Writing (for 10th- and 11th-grade students), Promising Young Writers (for 8th-grade students), and an award to recognize Excellence in Art and Literary Magazines.
Deadlines range from October 28 to February 15. Check out NCTE.org for more details.
19. See Us, Support Us Art Contest
Children of incarcerated parents can submit artwork, poetry, photos, videos, and more. Submissions are free and the website has a great collection of past winners.
Students can submit their entries via social media or email by October 25.
20. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry & Prose
The Adroit Journal, an education-minded nonprofit publication, awards annual prizes for poetry and prose to exceptional high school and college students. Adroit charges an entry fee but also provides a form for financial assistance.
Sign up at the website for updates for the next round of submissions.
21. National PTA Reflections Awards
The National PTA offers a variety of awards, including one for literature, in their annual Reflections Contest. Students of all ages can submit entries on the specified topic to their local PTA Reflections program. From there, winners move to the local area, state, and national levels. National-level awards include an $800 prize and a trip to the National PTA Convention.
This program requires submitting to PTAs who participate in the program. Check your school’s PTA for their deadlines.
22. World Historian Student Essay Competition
The World Historian Student Essay Competition is an international contest open to students enrolled in grades K–12 in public, private, and parochial schools, as well as those in home-study programs. The $500 prize is based on an essay that addresses one of this year’s two prompts.
Students can submit entries via email or regular mail before May 1.
23. NSHSS Creative Writing Scholarship
The National Society of High School Scholars awards three $2,000 scholarships for both poetry and fiction. They accept poetry, short stories, and graphic novel writing.
Apply online by October 31.
Whether you let your students blog, start a podcast or video channel, or enter student writing contests, giving them an authentic audience for their work is always a powerful classroom choice.
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Plus, check out our favorite anchor charts for teaching writing..
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The Big List of Student Contests and Competitions
50+ contests for STEM, ELA and the arts, and more! Continue Reading
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Writing Competitions For High School Students
Do you want to join a high school essay competition? But you’re struggling to find the right one for you? This list of 20 high school essay competitions is a wonderful way to boost your academic confidence.
Essays exercise your communication and critical thinking skills, and a student’s essay reveals much about their confidence, brain power, social skills, and commitment. There’s a reason why universities require personal statements.
Suppose you want to sharpen your writing skills to outstanding university levels and get a chance to win academic scholarships to renowned institutions, cash prizes and recognition. Then, you need to join high school essay competitions!
Not convinced yet? Here are more reasons why entering (and potentially winning) essay competitions will make your university application more attractive. Universities will see that:
- You learned more about your chosen subject beyond what your teachers taught you in your high school curriculum.
- You’re committed and proactive because you went the extra mile.
- Since you have had to juggle researching and writing for this essay with your other academic and extracurricular commitments, you have superb time management skills.
- Research and writing are your strengths.
- You have the confidence to try even if you’re not sure you’ll win!
Afraid you won’t win the competition? Don’t worry!
Even just entering the competition signals all the good qualities just mentioned. Remember, the effort of applying itself shows how proactive and confident you are. So including your essay writing competition experience in your personal statement and talking about it in your interviews will make you stand out. Your teachers can also write about it on your college application essay or, if you’re going to a UK university, in your UCAS reference.
Now that you know why you should join high school essay competitions, check out the Top 20 Essay Competitions for high school students.
1. Immerse Education Essay Competition
In 2012, Immerse Education was founded to provide 13-18-year-old students exceptional educational experiences at the University of Oxford, Cambridge University, University of Sydney, and University College London.
What does “exceptional educational experiences” mean exactly? It means you’ll have the opportunity to learn from world-leading Oxbridge, Cambridge, and Ivy League Tutors. Are you planning to take Architecture at the university? Then taking the Architecture Residential Programme or Online Insights course at Immerse Education will introduce you to topics such as Foundations of Architecture and Architectural Styles through Time. You’ll then present your work on Theoretical Design.
Not only will you have the much-needed exposure to understand university-level architecture, but you’ll also gain like-minded friends for life.
You can choose from over 20 subjects. From architecture and engineering to medicine and law!
Participating in Immerse Education courses will give you a tremendous advantage over your competition. Listing Immerse in your personal essay application will instantly make you stand out. Not to mention the high-level academic writing skills you will have developed at this point.
Now that you know what Immerse is about, why should you apply for the Immerse Education essay competition?
Because winning will give you a 100% scholarship!
Over 10 winners will be chosen to receive such a fantastic prize. Runners-up will receive partial scholarships up to 70%.
Who are eligible to join? 13-18-year-old students of all nationalities! You’ve got nothing to lose and lots to gain from joining this essay competition. So don’t let the opportunity pass you by!
Open For Entries: March 16, 2022
Essay Competition Deadline: August 31, 2022
Entry Fee: None
Award Amount: 10x 100% scholarships and up to 70% scholarships for runner ups
2. Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Essay Competition
The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers has been supporting the future of creativity for 99 years through the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. So what is the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers? It’s a nonprofit organisation aiming to present the creative work of exceptional young talents. In doing so, they give talented students in grades 7-12 opportunities to earn scholarships, exhibitions, and publications.
They have various scholarship awards to offer. For instance, National Medalists are entitled to scholarships amounting to $10,000. For those who wish to explore personal grief and loss through writing, six students can win the National New York Life Award and receive $1,000 scholarships. Then there is the Civic Expression Award offering $1,000 scholarships to six winners whose works spread awareness on social or political issues.
What about the Exhibitions? Writings from each year’s National Medalists will be displayed in several institutions. Including the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Arnot Art Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.
Winners also enjoy being featured in several publications, such as Best Teen Writing , Healing Through Creativity, and the yearbook.
Who are the eligible high school students? Those who live in the US and Canada. Public, private, and home-schooled high schoolers are qualified. How about international students? Those who attend American schools in other countries are also allowed to join. You may want to know that the qualifications may differ per region. So it’s best to check in with your specific address.
What are the categories for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Essay Competition? The categories include humour, dramatic scripts, flash fiction, novel writing, and poetry.
Scope: US and Canada
Open For Entries: September
Essay Competition Deadline: Deadlines vary between December and January, depending on your region
Entry Fee: $7 per individual entry and $25 per portfolio.
Award Amount: $1,000 to $10,000 scholarships
3. National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Essay Competition
What is the purpose of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Essay Competition? To inspire high school juniors to express themselves through writing. As well as to openly recognise the best student writing.
How can students join the NCTE essay competition? Via nomination by English Teachers in Canada, the United States, the Virgin Islands, and American Schools abroad. Chosen participants will have to submit two types of essays: best writing and themed writing.
The NCTE shows the themed writing prompts on their website to encourage discussions among teachers and students. The contestants can write their theme write-up in any genre, such as Science & Technical, History, and Social Studies. Any writing format is also acceptable. Think personal essay, scientific report, news article, graphic novel, and more. All entries are submitted electronically in a PDF format.
Your writing needs to reflect independent thinking to increase your chances of winning. Respond to the prompt with a sense of purpose and completeness. Ensure each sentence builds upon the other to cumulate in a thought-provoking piece.
Scope: US, Canada, Virgin Islands, American Schools abroad
Open For Entries: Until November 15
Essay Competition Deadline: February 15
Award Amount: None. Instead, the winner will receive the Superior Writing certificate. All nominated contestants will receive a Recognition certificate.
4. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry & Prose Essay Competition
High school students worldwide are eligible to compete in The Adroit Prizes. The two genres you can write in are Poetry and Prose. Do you want to submit your writing in prose? You can give up to 3 writings at a time, with a 9,000 word limit across the pieces. For poetry, you can submit 6 at a time, with no word count limit.
Winning entries will be featured in the Adroit Journal. And their authors will receive a cash prize of $200. So what is the Adroit Journal all about? Founded by poet Peter LaBerge in November 2010, it strives to showcase the future of prose, poetry, and art.
The Adroit Journal has been featured in notable publications such as The Paris Review, New York Times, Teen Vogue, and Best American Poetry. Do you know it has been the #1 Poetry Market for the past two years? It has had the Most Submission Responses Reported within that period.
It has heralded brilliant voices through the years, including Rita Dove, Ned Vizzini, Ocean Vuong, and Terrance Hayes. Yours could be next!
Open For Entries: Yet to be announced (must subscribe to the email list to stay updated)
Essay Competition Deadline: Yet to be announced (must subscribe to the email list to keep updated)
Award Amount: $200
5. National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) Creative Writing Scholarship Essay Competition
One of the co-founders of National Society of High School Scholars came from the family who instituted the Nobel Prizes. His name? Claes Nobel. Together with James Lewis, Claes established the NSHSS in 2022. To honour academic excellence in top-calibre high school students.
How? By providing them with the network and resources they need to become the leaders of tomorrow. Of course, that means helping them succeed in college and in their future careers. What are these resources, you ask? College fairs, scholarships, partner discounts, career opportunities and more. NSHSS has a vast network. Connecting promising students with valuable partnerships is key to their future.
A great example of NSHSS’ initiative is the NSHSS Creative Writing Scholarship. Aspiring high school students who are set to graduate between 2022-2025 are eligible to join. They can submit entries in two categories: Poetry and Fiction.
If you want to try out Poetry, you’re free to write it according to your personal preference. Whether it be formal verse, free verse, or experimental. Please format it according to how you want it to appear in the publication.
Want to submit Fiction instead? Great! The word limit is 5,000 words in any genre and not single-spaced. You can pass submissions for both entries if you like. Just limit to one per category. If you win, you get $2,000 scholarships, and your work will be published on the NSHSS website!
Open For Entries: May 13, 2022
Essay Competition Deadline: October 31, 2022
Award Amount: $2,000
6. Young Writers Awards Essay Competition
Bennington College created the Young Writers Awards to celebrate its outstanding literary legacy. It raised 3 U.S. poet laureates, 12 Pulitzer Prize winners, and countless New York Times bestsellers throughout its teaching.
What better way to continue the legacy than by promoting writing excellence at the high school level? Bennington encourages 9th-12th grade students (US and International) to submit their best work in one of the three categories. Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction.
If you choose to go for Poetry, you’ll need to provide a group of three poems. Going for Fiction instead? You can submit a short story not longer than 1,500 words. A one-act play that runs less than 30 minutes is also welcome. But what if you prefer to write Nonfiction? Awesome! Give an academic or personal essay amounting to 1,500 words or less.
Bennington will choose 3 winners in each category to fill the positions of first, second, and third place. First-place winners garner a prize of $1,000. For second-place winners? $500. While third-place winners secure $250.
That’s not all. Should finalists and winners study at Bennington, they’ll have the pleasure of undergraduate scholarship assistance! Finalists gain a $10,000 scholarship yearly, for a total of $40,000 for 4 years of study. What about the winners? They’ll gain a yearly $15,000 scholarship for four years. Adding up to $60,000.
Scope: US and International
Open For Entries: September 1
Essay Competition Deadline: November 1
Award Amount: $1,000 for First-place winners, $500 for second-place winners, $250 for third-place winners; Plus $40,000 worth of scholarships at Bennington for finalists and $60,000 for winners
7. Young Arts Essay Competition
Pursuing arts can be a long, difficult road for young artists without financial and social support. That’s what YoungArts aim to relieve. It’s one of the few US organisations that support artists in all 10 disciplines, including dance, classical music, theatre, and writing.
Who are eligible to apply? US citizens, permanent residents, or green card holders in high school grades 10-12. Six genres are open to aspiring young writers: Creative Nonfiction, Novel, Poetry, Play or Script, Short Story, and Spoken Word. If you make it to the Finals, you’ll be invited to the National YoungArts Week. Here you’ll meet with the judges and compete with fellow finalists.
What are the perks of winning in YoungArts? For starters, award winners can receive cash prizes anywhere from $100 to $10,000.
But it doesn’t stop there. Because once you win YoungArts, they’ll take you under their wing and help you navigate and succeed in your career as an artist. You’ll be part of a robust community of distinguished artists. With mentors who will give you the guidance you’ll need to excel in your field.
Plus, you’ll have a lifetime of creative opportunities and professional support at every stage of your artistic development. And do you know that you’ll have the chance of getting nominated for the US Presidential Scholar in the Arts? It’s one of the highest honours any high school student can achieve. Exemplifying what it means to be academically and artistically excellent.
Open For Entries: June 7, 2022
Essay Competition Deadline: October 14, 2022
Entry Fee: $35
Award Amount: $100 to $10,000
8. Ocean Awareness Essay Competition
Linda Cabot launched Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs in 2011. It’s a nonprofit organisation established in Massachusetts, USA. Do you know where the name “Bow Seat” came from? It’s from a documentary entitled From the Bow Seat that Linda and her daughters filmed.
The documentary discusses the environmental issues wrecking the Gulf of Maine. It was in this undertaking that Linda discovered the undeniable power of art. How it can move hearts in a way that textbooks and lectures by themselves could not. And so, Bow Seat hopes to inspire the younger generation to use their artistic talent in calling attention and awareness to care for the world’s oceans.
Who are qualified to join this international contest? Middle and high school students who are 11-18 years old. You can submit pieces in Creative Writing or Poetry.
For Creative Writing, you can submit both fiction and nonfiction. Short stories are perfect for fiction. For nonfiction? You can write blog posts, journal articles, or personal narratives.
Do you want to try out Poetry? Spoken word, free, or formal verse are all accepted. Your writing should reflect the theme for the given year (since they change it yearly.)
Winners receive cash prizes ranging from $100-$1,500 depending on your division (junior or senior) and position (gold, silver, bronze, pearl, or honourable mention).
Open For Entries: September 2022
Essay Competition Deadline: June 2023
Award Amount: $100-$1,500
For The Junior Division
- Gold Award – $1,000
- Silver Award – $750
- Bronze Award – $250
- Pearl Award – $150
- Honourable Mention – $100
For The Senior Division
- Gold Award – $1,500
- Silver Award – $1,000
- Bronze Award – $500
- Pearl Award – $300
- Honourable Mention – $250
9. Ayn Rand Essay Competition
The Ayn Rand Essay Competition increases awareness of Ayn Rand’s philosophy and novels. She has over 37 million books sold; among her most notable works are Anthem , The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged .
Her death in 1982 only increased her presence. You can see her in a US postage stamp, university courses, and an Oscar-nominated documentary. What keeps her voice prevalent? Her philosophy.
You see, Ayn Rand believes that philosophy is what drives men to shape their individual lives and, ultimately, human history. She calls her particular brand of philosophy “Objectivism.” Or less formally, “a philosophy for living on earth.”
Two categories for the global Essay Competition are available for high school students: Anthem and The Fountainhead . In addition, contestants must discuss specific essay topics in their 600-1,200 word essays. It changes each year, and you can check what they are when the competition begins.
Cash prizes are available for 5 positions: 1st place (1 winner), 2nd place (3 winners), 3rd place (5 winners), finalist (25 winners), and semi-finalist (50 winners.)
Who can join the Anthem category? 8th-12th graders. What are the cash prizes for the winners? It ranges from $25 to $2,000.
What about The Fountainhead? For this category, 11-12th graders can join. The cash prizes for winners range from $25 to $5,000.
How do the judges choose the winning essays? Depending on how well the student justifies their point of view regarding Anthem’s/The Fountainhead’s philosophy. It doesn’t matter whether the Institute agrees with it or not. What’s essential is how clear, logical, and persuasive the writing is.
Open For Entries: Yet to be announced
Essay Competition Deadline: Yet to be announced
Award Amount: $25 – $5,000
- 1st Place – $2,000
- 2nd Place – $500
- 3rd Place – $100
- Finalist – $50
- Semi-Finalist – $25
- 1st Place – $5,000
- 2nd Place – $1,250
- 3rd Place – $250
- Finalist – $100
- Semi-Finalist -$25
10. River of Words® (ROW) Essay Competition
Saint Mary’s College of California’s Center for Environmental Literacy organised the international River of Words® contest. For what purpose? To inspire students to express their environmental observation through art. ROW has been encouraging students and teachers alike to savour watersheds.
“Wait, what? Watersheds?” You may ask in wonder. Yes! The theme of the River of Words contest is all about watersheds. What are watersheds, and why are they so important?
A watershed is a land area that receives water via precipitation (rainfall and snowmelt.) The water then drains into the same body of water. Hence, every living and nonliving thing you see is part of your watershed!
It’s vital to care for watersheds because wherever it is located, the water eventually drains somewhere . And they all create an interconnected system where each affects the other. So a problem in one watershed can have a massive effect on another! Do you want to care for the environment? Start with your own watershed.
Who are qualified to join the ROW contest? Students who aren’t in college yet. Basically 5-19-year-old children. Raise the banner, high schoolers!
What types of writing does ROW accept? Poetry not longer than 32 lines. There are several recognitions given to worthy poems. There’s the Monkey’s Raincoat Prize for outstanding haiku poems. And the One Square Block prize for poems that discusses the interaction between the natural world and manmade creations.
All winning entries will be showcased in the River of Words anthology.
Essay Competition Deadline: December 1 (except Georgia and Arizona)
Award Amount: None
11. American Foreign Services Association (AFSA) Essay Competition
The American Foreign Services Association (AFSA) is the sole representative of the US Foreign Service, established in 1924. It serves to protect the well-being and interests of AFSA members. One of the ways to achieve this is to increase awareness among the American populace about AFSA’s vital role in supporting American leadership worldwide.
And so, it established the yearly High School Essay Contest. To help the younger generation become more acquainted with AFSA and its mission for America.
Who are eligible to participate? Students in grades 9-12 in any of the 50 states, US territories, the District of Columbia, and US citizens studying abroad. The winner will receive $2,500 and a scholarship to participate in Semester at Sea. Plus, an all-expense paid trip to Washington DC from anywhere in the US. For the winner and their parents.
The runner-up will get $1,250 and a scholarship for the National Student Leadership Conference’s International Diplomacy Program.
Here’s a glimpse of what the essay looks like. It has to be between 1,000 to 1,250 words. Each year, the AFSA hands out prompts in three questions about national security and US foreign policy.
Essay Competition Deadline: April (Usually)
Award Amount: $2,500
12. John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Contest Essay Competition
The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Contest is an initiative of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. The library and museum pay tribute to John Kennedy by keeping his memory alive. Scholars and students go here when they need to research the service and political life of the late president. In touring the place, you’ll witness his life, leadership and legacy through historical materials.
The contest inspires the younger generation to get to know more about the political figures who demonstrated acts of courage and service. Who can join the essay competition? United States high school students grades 9-12.
The theme for the essay is political courage. Choose an elected official who served when John F. Kennedy was born (1917) or after. What service did they do to merit the honour of being described as “courageous?”
Talk about the issue they faced, whether it be of local, state, or national significance, in a 700-1,000 word essay. The winners will receive cash prizes ranging from $100 to $10,000.
Open For Entries: September 1, 2022
Essay Competition Deadline: January 13, 2023
Award Amount: First-place: $10,000 , Second-place: $3,000 , 5 Finalists: $1,000 each, 8 Semi-finalists: $100 each
13. Lewis Center for the Arts Essay Competition
Princeton University offers several programs in the Arts, such as Creative Writing, Visual Arts, and Theater, through its Lewis Center for the Arts. It’s an initiative to expand creative opportunities at Princeton.
Why is it named “Lewis,” you asked? To honour Mr Lewis, who donated an extraordinary $101 million gift to herald in a new age of the arts. What better way to cultivate participation and enrichment for the arts than by sponsoring scholarships and contests?
One such contest is the writing competition. Princeton hosts two contests for 11th-grade high school students: Ten-Minute Play and Poetry. For the Ten-Minute play, participants can only submit one entry with a maximum of 10 pages. That is, one page is equal to 1 minute.
Scope: US and International
Award Amount: $500 for First-place, $250 for Second-place, and $100 for Third-place
14. SPJ/JEA (Journalism Education Association) High School Essay Competition
The Journalism Education Association (JEA) is a nonprofit, scholastic journalism organisation. It serves to educate teachers and advisers on how best to educate students. To achieve this goal, they organise workshops and provide online resources.
One of the excellent ways to promote journalism is by conducting High School Essay competitions. It’s open to US 9th-12th graders.
Each year, JEA gives a writing prompt. The spring 2022 topic revolves around using social media for free speech within ethical bounds. The word limit for the essay is between 300 and 500 words.
What are the prizes for the winners? Scholarships ranging from $300 to $1,000 – funded by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.
Entry Fee: $5
Award Amount: $1,000 scholarship for First-place, $500 scholarship for Second-place, and $300 for Third-place
15. Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) Essay Competition
What is the Jane Austen Society of North America? It’s a non-profit organisation dedicated to garnering as many readers as possible who will appreciate and study Jane Austen’s works and her life. Joan Austen-Leigh, Henry G. Burke, and J. David Grey founded JASNA in 1979. It has grown to become the largest society dedicated to Jane Austen, with over 5,000 members.
JASNA believes that literature is powerful in changing and enriching lives. Especially the writings of great authors, such as Jane Austen herself. To cultivate the new generations’ study and appreciation of Jane Austen’s works, JASNA arranges a Student Essay Contest every year.
Who are qualified to join? High school students from anywhere in the world! College and Graduate students are also invited.
What rewards will the winners enjoy? Scholarships ranging from $250-$1,000. The winners will also receive Norton Critical Editions of Jane Austen’s novels. Plus, one-year JASNA memberships.
Will the winning essays enjoy exposure on the JASNA website? Yes!
Open For Entries: February 2023
Essay Competition Deadline: date
Award Amount: $1,000 scholarship for First-place, $500 scholarship for Second-place, and $250 scholarship for Third-place
16. World Historian Student Essay Competition
The primary mission of the World History Association (WHA) is to promote world history. How? By encouraging its publication, research, and teaching. And so, the association engages with teachers, students, and scholars of world history all over the globe. Keeping the conversation and enthusiasm for world history alive.
To further encourage appreciation of world history, it carries out the World Historian Student Essay Competition. What is it? It’s an international writing competition open to grades K-12 students (take home the bacon high schoolers!) The issue you need to address in the essay is: “In what way has the study of world history affected my understanding of the world in which I live?”
What will the winner receive? $500! Plus a 1-year WHA membership.
Open For Entries: Before May 1
Essay Competition Deadline: May 1
Award Amount: $500
17. Nancy Thorp Essay Competition
For young sophomore and junior women in high school or preparatory school, the Nancy Thorp Essay Competition is created just for you by Hollins University. Nancy Thorp has been providing prizes, scholarships, and recognition to the best women poets for almost 60 years.
Who is Nancy Thorp? She was a young poet and a part of the 1960 Hollins class. Her family instituted the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest after her death in 1962. To motivate and recognise promising young poets.
What will the winners receive? The first-place winner will receive a $350 cash prize and a renewable $5,000 scholarship at Hollins University if they choose to enrol. For the second-place winner? A renewable $1,000 scholarship at Hollins University.
Award Amount: First-place: $350 cash prize and renewable $5,000 scholarship at Hollins University; Second Place: renewable $1,000 scholarship at Hollins University
18. We The Students Essay Competition
We The Students Scholarship Essay Contest is run by the Bill of Rights Institute (BRI.) Do you know that the BRI is a massive network of over 50,000 civics and history educators? It’s a nonprofit organisation focused on educating civics, teachers, and students on how to live the ideals of a just and free society.
How does it achieve its mission? By developing teaching programmes and educational resources on American government and history. Also, by sponsoring the student essay contest.
Who are eligible to join the We The Students writing competition?14-19-year-old students enrolled in any US school, including any of its territories and districts.
What will the essay be about? Every time the competition opens for new entries, they’ll display an essay prompt on their website. The 2022 essay prompt, for instance, centred on the importance of understanding one’s natural rights to building a free society. Essays should have between 500-800 words.
What will the winners receive? Cash prizes ranging from $500 to $7,500. The First-place winner will receive an additional reward – a scholarship to the Constitutional Academy.
Open For Entries: December 15
Essay Competition Deadline: April 15
Award Amount: One First-Place Winner – $7,500; 5 Runners Up – $1,500 each; 10 Honourable Mentions – $500 each
19. Voice of Democracy Essay Competition
The US Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFA) established the Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition in 1947. Over 25,000 high school students from all over the country participate in the competition. A total of $2 million worth of educational scholarships and prizes will be divided among the winners.
Who are the VFA? The VFA is a US nonprofit organisation committed to serving veterans. How? By ensuring that the veterans receive the respect and entitlement that they deserve. The members of the VFA are mostly military service members and veterans.
VFA’s Voice of Democracy essay competition furthers this end by helping raise patriotism and appreciation of veterans among the new generations. There’s a different theme for each year. What was the theme for the 2022-2023 entries? It’s about “Why is the Veteran Important?”
Who are eligible to join? American middle school and high school students from grades 9-12. What will the high school winner earn? A $30,000 college scholarship!
Since it’s an audio-essay competition, the participant must submit an audio recording of their essay. The delivery has the same points as the content (35 points.) So speaking in a clear and authoritative voice is paramount!
Open For Entries: Before October 31
Essay Competition Deadline: October 31
Award Amount: $30,000 college scholarship
20. John Locke Essay Competition
Who is behind the John Locke essay competition? The John Locke Institute. What does it hope to achieve? To embolden the young to nurture within them the characteristics that transform good students into brilliant writers! These characteristics include critical analysis, independent thinking, a love of knowledge, and clear reasoning.
To fully appreciate this mission, you’ll need to know who John Locke is. John Locke was an Oxford Philosopher in the 17th century. His philosophy of education zeroed in on raising a student to love and esteem knowledge. Not so much with teaching all that is knowable.
And so, entering the John Locke Essay competition is one way of building upon one’s love of knowledge and refining one’s argumentation skills. There are seven categories open for essay writers: History, Economics, Theology, Psychology, Philosophy, Politics, and Law.
Who are eligible to join? Global students younger than 18 years old (e.g. high school students). There are several questions listed under each category. However, the candidate must answer only one question from their chosen subject.
A category winner will gain a $2,000 scholarship for any John Locke programme. How about the overall best essay winner? They’ll receive a $10,000 scholarship for any of the John Locke gap year courses and/or summer schools.
Award Amount: $2,000-$10,000 scholarship for John Locke programmes
There you have it! Did you enjoy the round-up of the Top 20 Essay Competitions for high school students? We sure hope you did!
If you’re unsure what competition to try, you may want to get your feet wet with our essay competition . Thousands of students apply every year to attend our life-changing summer course and Immerse’s essay contest is free to enter. You’ve got nothing to lose and a potential 100% scholarship to gain!
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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the 17 best writing contests for high school students.
Other High School
If you're a writer—fiction, non-fiction, or fanfiction—you can put those skills to work for you. There are tons of writing contests for high school students, which can award everything from medals to cash prizes to scholarships if you win .
Not only will a little extra money, whether cash or scholarships, help you when it comes time to pay for college, but the prestige of a respected reward is also a great thing to include on your college application.
Read on to learn more about what writing contests for high school students there are, how to apply, and what you could win !
Writing Contests With Multiple Categories
Some high school contests accept entries in a variety of formats, including the standard fiction and non-fiction, but also things like screenwriting or visual art. Check out these contests with multiple categories:
Scholastic Art and Writing Awards
- Award Amount: $1,000 to $12,500 scholarships
- Deadline: Varies between December and January, depending on your region
- Fee: $10 for single entry, $30 for portfolio
The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards celebrate art by students in grades seven through twelve (age 13 or older) on a regional and national scale. These awards have a huge number of categories and styles, including cash prizes or scholarships for some distinguished award winners . Categories include science-fiction and fantasy writing, humor, critical essays, and dramatic scripts, among others.
Deadlines vary by region (but are mostly in December and January), so use Scholastic's Affiliate Partner search to find out when projects are due for your area.
Scholastic partners with other organizations to provide prizes to winners, so what you can win depends on what you enter and what competition level you reach. Gold medal portfolio winners can earn a $12,500 scholarship, and silver medal winners with distinction can earn a $2,000 scholarship , as well as many other options in different categories.
The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards are open to private, public, or home-schooled students attending school in the US, Canada, or American schools in other countries. Students must be in grades seven through twelve to participate. Eligibility varies between regions, so consult Scholastic's Affiliate Partner search tool to figure out what applies to you .
The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards have a $10 entry fee for individual submissions and $30 for portfolio submissions, which may be waived for students in need . These fees may vary depending on location, so be sure to check your local guidelines .
Ocean Awareness Contest
- Award Amount: Scholarships up to $1,500
- Deadline: June 13, 2023 (submissions open in September)
The Ocean Awareness Contest asks students to consider the future of a coastal or marine species that is under threat from climate change. Submissions are accepted in a variety of art forms, but all must consider the way that climate change impacts ocean life .
Submissions for all categories, including art, creative writing, film, interactive and multimedia, music and dance, and poetry and spoken word are due in June, although the exact date varies slightly each year.
Winners may receive prizes of up to a $1,500 scholarship , depending on which division they fall into and what prize they win.
The contest is open to all international and US students between the ages of 11 and 18.
River of Words
- Award: Publication in the River of Words anthology
- Deadline: January 31, 2023
The River of Words contest asks students to consider watersheds—an area that drains into the same body of water—and how they connect with their local community. Students can explore this concept in art or poetry, with winners being published in the annual River of Words anthology .
Entries in all categories must be submitted by January 31, 2023.
The River of Words contest is primarily for recognition and publication, as the website doesn't list any prize money . The contest includes specific awards for certain forms, such as poetry, some of which may have additional prizes .
The contest is open to International and US students from kindergarten to grade 12 (ages 5 through 19). Students who have graduated from high school but are not yet in college are also eligible.
- Award Amount: $200 cash award
- Deadline: Typically April of each year
Sponsored by the Adroit Journal, the Adroit Prizes reward high school students and undergraduate students for producing exemplary fiction and poetry. Students may submit up to six poems or three works of prose (totaling 3,500 words) for consideration. Submissions typically open in spring .
Winners receive $200 and (along with runners-up) have their works published in the Adroit Journal . Finalists and runners-up receive a copy of their judge's latest published work.
The contest is open to secondary and undergraduate students, including international students and those who have graduated early . The Adroit Prizes has a non-refundable fee of $15, which can be waived.
- Award Amount: Up to $10,000 cash awards
- Deadline: October 15, 2022; application for 2024 opens June 2023
Open to students in a variety of disciplines, including visual arts, writing, and music, the YoungArts competition asks students to submit a portfolio of work. Additional requirements may apply depending on what artistic discipline you're in .
Winners can receive up to $10,000 in cash as well as professional development help, mentorship, and other educational rewards.
Applicants must be 15- to 18-year-old US citizens or permanent residents (including green card holders) or in grades 10 through 12 at the time of submission . There is a $35 submission fee, which can be waived.
Fiction Writing Contests for High School Students
Many contests with multiple categories accept fiction submissions, so also check out the above contests if you're looking for places to submit original prose.
EngineerGirl Writing Contest
- Award Amount: $100 - $500 cash prize
- Deadline: February 1, 2023
This year's EngineerGirl Writing Contest asks students (though the name of the organization is "EngineerGirl," students of any gender may participate) to submit a piece of writing that shows how female and/or non-white engineers have contributed to or can enhance engineering’s great achievements. Word counts vary depending on grade level.
At every grade level, first-place winners will receive $500, second-place winners will receive $250, and third-place winners will receive $100 . Winning entries and honorable mentions will also be published on the EngineerGirl website.
Students of any gender from third to 12th grade may submit to this contest. Home-schooled and international students are also eligible.
Nonfiction Contests for High School Students
Like fiction, non-fiction is often also accepted in contests with multiple categories. However, there are quite a few contests accepting only non-fiction essays as well.
The American Foreign Services Association Essay Contest
- Award Amount: $1,250 to $2,500
- Deadline: April 3, 2023
The American Foreign Services Association sponsors a high school essay contest tasking students with selecting a country or region in which the United States Foreign Service has been involved at any point since 1924 and describe, in 1,500 words or less, how the Foreign Service was successful or unsuccessful in advancing American foreign policy goals in this country/region and propose ways in which it might continue to improve those goals in the coming years .
One winner will receive $2,500 as well as a Washington D.C. trip and a scholarship to attend Semester at Sea . One runner-up receives $1,250 and a scholarship to attend the International Diplomacy Program of the National Student Leadership Conference.
Entries must be from US students in grade nine through 12, including students in the District of Columbia, US territories, or US citizens attending school abroad, including home-schooled students.
John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Contest
- Award Amount: $100 - $10,000
- Deadline: January 13, 2023
The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage contest tasks students with writing an essay between 700 and 1,000 words on an act of political courage by a US elected official serving during or after 1917 , inspired by John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage . Each essay should cover the act itself as well as any obstacles or risks the subject faced in achieving their act of courage. Essays must not cover figures previously covered in the contest, and should also not cover John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, or Edward M. Kennedy.
One first-place winner will receive $10,000, one second-place winner will receive $3,000, five finalists will receive $1,000 each, and eight semi-finalists will win $100 each.
The contest is open to students in grades nine through 12 who are residents of the United States attending public, private, parochial, or home schools . Students under the age of 20 in correspondence high school programs or GED programs, as well as students in US territories, Washington D.C., and students studying abroad, are also eligible.
SPJ/JEA High School Essay Contest
- Award Amount: $300 - $1,000 scholarships
- Deadline: February 19, 2023 (submissions open in November)
The SPJ/JEA high school essay contest , organized by the Society of Professional Journalists and the Journalism Education Association, asks students to analyze the importance of independent media to our lives (as of now, the official essay topic for spring 2023 is TBD) . Essays should be from 300 to 500 words.
A $1,000 scholarship is given to a first-place winner, $500 to second-place, and $300 to third-place.
The contest is open to public, private, and home-schooled students of the United States in grades 9-12 .
Playwriting Contests for High School Students
For those who love the stage, playwriting contests are a great option. An original play can earn you great rewards thanks to any of these contests!
VSA Playwright Discovery Program Competition
- Award: Participation in professional development activities at the Kennedy Center
- Deadline: January 4, 2023 (Application opens in October)
The VSA Playwright Discovery Program Competition asks students with disabilities to submit a ten-minute script exploring their personal experiences, including the disability experience . Scripts may be realistic, fictional, or abstract, and may include plays, screenplays, or musical theater.
All entries are due in January. Scripts may be collaborative or written by individuals, but must include at least one person with a disability as part of the group .
One winner or group of winners will be selected as participants in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Winners will have access to professional assistance in developing their script as well as workshops and networking opportunities.
This contest is open to US and international students in ages 14 to 18 . Groups of up to five members may collaborate on an essay, but at least one of those students must have a disability.
Worldwide Plays Festival Competition
- Award: Professional production in New York
- Deadline: March (official 2023 deadline TBD)
In the Worldwide Plays Festival Competition , students from around the world can submit an eight-minute script for a play set in a part of a neighborhood —specifically, at a convenience store, outside a character's front door, or at a place where people convene. Each play must have roles for three actors, should not have a narrator who isn't also a character, and should not contain set changes.
Entries are due in February. Winners will have their play produced by professionals at an off-Broadway New York theater . Scholarships are also available for winners.
Any student, including US and international, in first through 12th grade may submit work for consideration.
- Award Amount: $50 - $200 cash prize
- Deadline: 2023 deadline TBD (application opens January 2023)
Students may submit a one-act, non-musical play of at least ten pages to YouthPLAYS for consideration . Plays should be appropriate for high school audiences and contain at least two characters, with one or more of those characters being youths in age-appropriate roles. Large casts with multiple female roles are encouraged.
One winner will receive $250, have their play published by YouthPLAYS, and receive a copy of Great Dialog , a program for writing dialog. One runner up will receive $100 and a copy of Great Dialog.
Students must be under the age of 19, and plays must be the work of a single author.
The Lewis Center Ten-Minute Play Contest
- Deadline: Spring of each year
Students in grade 11 may submit a ten-minute play for consideration for the Lewis Center Ten-Minute Play Contest . Plays should be 10 pages long, equivalent to 10 minutes.
One first-prize winner will receive $500, one second-prize winner will receive $250, and one third-prize will receive $100.
All entries must be from students in the 11th grade .
Poetry Writing Contests for High School Students
For those who prefer a little free verse or the constraints of a haiku, there are plenty of poetry-specific contests, too.
Creative Communications Poetry Contest
- Award Amount: $25
- Deadline: December
Students in ninth grade or below may submit any poem of 21 lines or less (not counting spaces between stanzas) for consideration in the Creative Communications Poetry Contest .
Students may win $25, a free book, and school supplies for their teacher .
Public, private, or home-schooled US students (including those in detention centers) in kindergarten through ninth grade may enter.
Leonard L. Milberg '53 High School Poetry Prize
- Award Amount: $500-$1500
- Deadline: November
Students in 11th grade may submit up to three poems for consideration in the Leonard L. Milberg '53 High School Poetry Prize . Submissions are due in November .
One first-prize winner will receive $1500, one second-prize winner will receive $750, and a third-prize winner will receive $500. Poems may be published on arts.princeton.edu. All entrants must be in the 11th grade.
Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest
- Award Amount: $500 - $5,000 renewable scholarship, $350 cash prize
- Deadline: October 31, 2022
Women poets who are sophomores or juniors in high school may submit two poems for consideration for the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest .
One first-place winner will receive a $350 cash prize, publication in and ten copies of Cargoes , Hollins' student magazine, as well as a renewable scholarship of up to $5,000 for Hollins and free tuition and housing for the Hollinsummer creative writing program. One second-place winner will receive publication in and two copies of Cargoes, a renewable scholarship to Hollins of up to $1,000, and a $500 scholarship to attend Hollinsummer.
Applicants must be female students in their sophomore or junior year of high school .
If you're looking for more money opportunities for college , there are plenty of scholarships out there— including some pretty weird ones .
For those who've been buffing up their test scores , there are tons of scholarships , some in the thousands of dollars.
If you're tired of writing essays and applying for scholarships, consider some of these colleges that offer complete financial aid packages .
Melissa Brinks graduated from the University of Washington in 2014 with a Bachelor's in English with a creative writing emphasis. She has spent several years tutoring K-12 students in many subjects, including in SAT prep, to help them prepare for their college education.
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90+ Best Writing Competitions for High School Students
Do you like to write, or do you have something to say about an issue or topic that you’re interested in? If so, you need to check out our huge list of 90+ writing competitions for high school students! With so many competitions in different genres, we’re sure there’s one that’s “write” for you!
The 4 main types of writing competitions for high school students.
There are plenty of writing contests out there for young writers to enter! The most popular types of writing competitions for high school students generally fall into four categories:
Creative Writing (Multiple Genres). These contests usually have several different categories of competition, which can include fiction, flash fiction, creative non-fiction, graphic novels , and poetry . Fiction categories often require traditional short stories, whereas flash fiction categories ask for very (very!) short stories. Creative non-fiction categories usually require an essay on a personal or academic topic. Poetry typically includes any written form.
Playwriting/Screenwriting. These contests require high school students to write short plays (such as one-act plays or 10-minute plays) or scripts for film/video . Entries that stand out have original characters and storylines that are engaging and well-written.
Poetry. While creative writing contests often have a division for poetry (as we noted above), there are also many writing competitions for high school students dedicated exclusively to poetry. There are even some high school writing competitions that focus on specific types of poetry such as spoken word/slam poetry, haiku, and sonnet . Students are asked to submit either a single poem or a collection of their work.
Themed or Prompt-Based Writing Competitions. Some competitions ask students to write about a specific theme or respond to a specific question or prompt. typically in an essay format, but occasionally in a poetry or creative writing format. These writing competitions for high school students cover a range of themes, such as economics, environmental issues, heritage, history, problem-solving, science, and social justice .
Why Should You Enter Writing Competitions for High School Students?
There are many ways that entering writing competitions for high school students can help you move forward in school and life:
Recognition. Winning or placing in writing competitions for high school students can give you a sense of accomplishment and highlight your talent.
Feedback. Some writing competitions for high school students will give you feedback, which can help you improve your writing skills and learn more about the kind of writing that interests you.
Challenge. A high school writing competition is a great way to challenge yourself creatively and try new forms and styles of writing.
Exposure. By participating in writing competitions for high school students, you have the chance to get your work seen by others, either through publication or other writing-related opportunities.
Community. Writing competitions for high school students can connect you with teachers and professional writers who share your interest in writing and can serve as mentors and references.
College Applications and Resumes. Winning or placing in writing competitions for high school students is a great addition to college applications and resumes. It shows that you have talent and dedication and can help you stand out in the crowd of other students requesting acceptance to competitive colleges and internships.
Prizes! Most writing competitions for high school students offer great prizes like cash (who doesn’t like cash?), scholarships, mentorship, publication opportunities, free attendance at writing workshops and retreats, and books or gift cards.
Creative Writing Competitions for High School Students 2023
1. adroit prizes for poetry and prose.
The Adroit Prizes for Poetry & Prose is an annual international writing competition for high school students (and college students). Two winners are selected each year, one for poetry and one for prose. Each student may enter up to 5 submissions. Poetry submissions can have up to six poems (maximum of ten pages single-spaced), while prose submissions can include up to three works of fiction or creative nonfiction (combined word limit of 3,500 words). Winners will receive $200 and have their work featured in the Adroit Journal, with runners-up and finalists also receiving recognition. There is a non-refundable submission fee of $15, but financial assistance is available upon request.
- Geographic Eligibility: International
- Grades: 9-12
- Focus: All Poetry and Prose
- Cost: Fee to Participate, Fee Waiver Available
2. Ann Arbor District Library: “It’s All Write!” Teen Writing Contest
The Ann Arbor District Library “It’s All Write!” Teen Writing Contest is open only to Michigan students in grades 6-12. The contest offers three competition categories – Poetry, Flash Fiction, and Short Story. Entries are judged at three different grade levels: Grades 6-8, Grades 9 & 10, and Grades 11 & 12. The top three writers in each age group will receive cash prizes, with 1st Place winning $100, 2nd Place winning $75, and 3rd Place winning $50. Young Adult authors will serve as judges for the contest. The contest is growing annually and is a statewide event.
- Geographic Eligibility: Michigan
- Grades: 6-12
- Focus: Fiction (Flash Fiction and Short Story) and Poetry (all written forms)
3. Alabama Writers’ Forum: High School Literary Arts Awards Competition
The Alabama Writers’ Forum High School Literary Arts Awards Competition is open to Alabama high school students in grades 9-12. Leading authors and Alabama educators serve as judges for the competition. There are several categories for individual competition including Creative Nonfiction (Long Essay and Short Essay), Fiction, Poetry, and Senior Portfolios. Prizes range from $25 to $500, and there are also certificates of merit and judges’ special recognition awards.
- Geographic Eligibility: Alabama
- Focus: Creative Nonfiction (Long Essay and Short Essay), Fiction, Poetry (all written forms), Senior Portfolios
4. Audobon Canyon Ranch: Annual Last House Writing Contest
The Annual Last House Writing Contest invites youth ages 13-17 to submit an original, unpublished essay or short story on a changing theme with a maximum of 500 words for children and youth (8-17 years old) and 750 words for adults. There is no entry fee for children and youth, and a fee of $40 for adults. Prizes include a $500 grand prize, gift certificates, and certificates for first, second, and third place in each age category, as well as publication in Audubon Canyon Ranch publications.
- Geographic Eligibility: National
- Ages: 8-17 and adults
- Focus: Creative Nonfiction (Short Essay), Fiction (Short Story)
5. Bennington College: Young Writers Awards
The Bennington College Young Writers Awards is an international, annual writing competition for high school students in grades 9-12. Students may enter in one of the following categories: poetry (a group of three poems), fiction (a short story or one-act play), or nonfiction (a personal or academic essay). All entries must be original work and sponsored by a high school teacher. First-place winners in each category are awarded a prize of $1,000; second-place winners receive $500; third-place winners receive $250. Young Writers Award finalists and winners are also eligible for significant undergraduate scholarships at Bennington.
- Focus: Fiction (short story), Creative Nonfiction (personal or academic essay), Playwriting (one-act play), Poetry (all written forms)
6. Brooklyn Public Library: Teen Writing Contest & Ned Vizzini Teen Writing Prize
The Brooklyn Public Library Teen Writing Contest accepts all types of poetry and prose submissions from New York City teen writers in grades 6-12. Winners are awarded the Ned Vizzini Teen Writing Prize, with cash awards ($500; $250), and their pieces will be published in the Teen Writing Journal distributed by the Brooklyn Public Library. The top winners also are honored at a reception where they can showcase their work and meet published young adult authors who will provide their advice and experiences.
- Geographic Eligibility: New York City
- Focus: All Prose and Poetry
7. Columbia College Chicago: The Young Authors Writing Competition
The Columbia College Chicago: The Young Authors Writing Competition is a national writing competition for high school students (grades 9-12) in three categories: creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. Students may enter up to two works in each category of Creative Nonfiction and Fiction. In the Poetry category, students may enter up to two files, and each of them can have 1-5 poems. Each individual entry has a limit of ten pages. The winners receive cash prizes and online publication.
- Focus: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Poetry (all written forms)
8. Chicago Literary Hall of Fame: Randall Albers Young Writers Award
The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame: Randall Albers Young Writers Award is a writing competition for high school students (grades 9–12) in the Chicago area focused on fiction and nonfiction. Prizes are: the 1st Place-$500; 2nd Place-$250; 3rd Place-$150; and 4th Place-$100. Each winner also receives a writing consultation with one of the editors for DePaul’s Blue Book: Best American High School Writing , and their winning pieces may be eligible for inclusion in the publication. The winner and finalists will be listed on the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame website and will have the opportunity to read from their entries during an awards ceremony.
- Geographic Eligibility: Illinois (Chicago)
- Focus: Fiction, Creative Nonfiction
9. Columbus State University: The Carson McCullers Literary Awards
The Carson McCullers Literary Awards is a competition for Georgia and Alabama high school students in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, expository essay, playwriting, and screenwriting. There are cash prizes for winners in each category as follows: $300 for first place in each category, $200 for second place, and $100 for third place.
- Geographic Eligibility: Alabama, Georgia
- Focus: Creative Nonfiction, Expository Essay, Fiction, Playwriting, Poetry (all written forms), Screenwriting
10. Interlochen Center for the Arts: Virginia B. Ball Creative Writing Scholarship Competition
The Virginia B. Ball Creative Writing Scholarship Competition is for students in grades 8-11. Students must submit five to seven samples of original work representing at least two of the following genres: poetry, fiction, personal essay/memoir, screenwriting, playwriting, hybrid genre, experimental/unclassifiable writing, and comics. The winner receives a full-tuition scholarship to Interlochen Arts Academy. Past winners of the Virginia B. Ball Creative Writing Competition Scholarship have gone on to win other prestigious awards, attend top universities, and publish books and features in respected publications. Many have become Presidential Scholars in the Arts.
- Grades: 8-11
- Focus: Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry (all written forms), Playwriting, Screenwriting
11. Interlochen Review – Arts, Writing, Playwriting and Songwriting Submissions
The Interlochen Review is an online literary journal produced by the creative writing students of Interlochen Arts Academy. High school writers, singer-songwriters, and artists (grades 9-12 or high school postgraduate year) from around the world are invited to submit their work. The competition is looking for a diverse range of voices and welcomes work that exhibits passion, skill, and an innovative approach to the craft. For the writing categories, students may submit up to 6 pieces total in the following categories: (1) Fiction (under 5,000 words, includes flash fiction); (2) Poetry (includes long-form poems and prose poetry); (3) Nonfiction (under 5,000 words – includes lyric essays and flash essays); (4) Hybrid (includes film essay/poem, photo essay, new media writing, performance documentation, mixed-media experiments, etc.); (5) Songwriting – (students must provide audio along with their lyrics); and (6) Scripts/Screenplays (below 40 pages). Selected entries will be published in the Interlochen Review.
- Geographic Eligibility: International
- Focus: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Poetry (all written forms), Songwriting, Screenplay
12. KET Education Young Writers Contest
The KET Education Young Writers Contest is for Kentucky students in grades K-12. The contest has four categories: Illustrated Story, Graphic Novel, Poetry, and Short Story, and the entries are judged by KET judges and partners such as Western Kentucky University and Bellarmine University. Prizes are awarded at different grade levels within each category, with the first-place winners receiving $100 Amazon gift cards, second-place winners receiving $50 Amazon gift cards, and third-place winners receiving $25 Amazon gift cards.
- Geographic Eligibility: Kentucky
- Grades: K-12
- Focus: Graphic Novel, Illustrated Story, Short Story, Poetry (all written forms)
13. Leyla Beban Young Authors Foundation: Bluefire “$1000 for 1000 Words” Fiction Writing Contest
The Bluefire “$1000 for 1000 Words” Fiction Writing Contest is open to students in grades 6 through 12 worldwide. Students are required to submit an outstanding short fiction piece of exactly 1000 words. A cash prize of $1000 is awarded to the best submission in each of the middle school and high school grades. Also, one winner is chosen from each grade level for a $100 cash prize, and those selected for publication in the journal receive a $50 cash prize.
- Focus: Fiction
14. One Teen Story Teen Writing Contest
The One Teen Story Teen Writing Contest asks writers aged 13-19 to submit their original unpublished short stories (fiction). The story can be of any genre, as long as it features interesting teen characters and has a beginning, middle, and end. The winning stories will be published in One Teen Story magazine and the winners will receive $500 and 25 copies of the magazine featuring their work. Honorable mentions will be chosen in three age categories and announced on the website and social media. Stories should be between 2,000 to 4,500 words and must be the writer’s original work.
- Ages: 13-19
- Focus: Fiction (Short Story)
15. Penguin Random House: Creative Writing Awards
The Penguin Random House Creative Writing Awards recognize high school seniors who show exceptional talent in original poetry, fiction/drama, memoir/personal essay, and spoken-word compositions. The Maya Angelou Award for Spoken Word, Amanda Gorman Award for Poetry, Fiction/Drama, and Michelle Obama Award for Memoir each come with a $10,000 prize. Additionally, 75 Honorable Mention recipients will receive a “Creativity Kit” gift from Penguin Random House. The awards are open to all public high school seniors in the US who plan to enroll in an accredited two-year or four-year college, university, or vocational-technical school in the fall of the competition year. The program is highly competitive, with only the first 1,000 applications being considered. The Creative Writing Awards have a proven track record of empowering and celebrating hundreds of young writers each year, and past recipients have gone on to become professional and award-winning authors.
- Focus: Fiction/Drama, Memoir/Personal Essay, Poetry (including Spoken Word)
16. Polyphony Literary Magazine Writing Contests
Polyphony Lit accepts submissions of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction from high school students worldwide (ages 14-18) for publication in their annual volume and/or for their seasonal writing contests. Submissions for Volume 19 are accepted from November 1, 2021, to April 30, 2023, and submissions for the seasonal contests are accepted on different schedules. The editorial team consists of more than 150 high school students from around the world, and every submission is read and evaluated. Submissions are free for the annual volume and some seasonal contests, while others cost $5. Winners receive the Polyphony Lit Writing Award, get published in the annual volume, receive a full scholarship for Polyphony’s editor training course, and are eligible for the Claudia Ann Seaman Awards. Seasonal contests include the Latin Heritage Contest, the Fall Contest, the Black History Month Contest; the Winter Contest, the Pride Month Contes, and the Summer Contest.
- Ages: 14-18
- Focus: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Poetry (all written forms)
- Cost: Some free, some $5
17. Rider University: Annual High School Writing Contest
The Rider University Annual High School Writing Contest accepts submissions of Creative Nonfiction (essay), Fiction (short story), and Poetry. Submissions require teacher nominations, and each teacher may nominate up to five pieces of student work. Prizes: 1st – $100, 2nd – $50, 3rd – $25. All Finalists receive a Certificate of Honorable Mention. All Winners are considered for publication in Venture, Rider’s literary magazine.
- Focus: Creative Nonfiction (essay), Fiction (short story), Poetry (all written forms)
18. Ringling College of Art and Design: Storytellers of Tomorrow Writing Contest
The Ringling College of Art and Design Storytellers of Tomorrow Writing Contest is a writing competition for high school students, who are invited to submit unpublished, original stories in English up to 2,000 words in length. Categories include Fiction (Short Story and Flash Fiction), Genre Fiction (fantasy, mystery, science fiction, and thriller), and Nonfiction (Autobiographical essays, personal essays, creative nonfiction, story-based travel writing, nature writing, science writing, and/or biography). All winners will receive cash prizes and a Ringling College Creative Writing T-shirt. The top winner in each category will also have a 1:1 consultation with a literary agent or editor and their work to be published in Shift, the college’s Creative Writing Program’s literary arts journal. Also, one student will be selected as a Judges’ Award recipient and will receive a scholarship to attend Ringling College’s 2023 summer Pre-College program.
- Focus: Fiction (Short Story, Flash Fiction), Genre Fiction (Fantasy, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller), Nonfiction (Essay, Memoir, Creative Nonfiction, Story-Based Travel Writing, Nature Writing, Science Writing, Biography)
19. Roadrunner Review: High School Writing Contest
The Roadrunner Review High School Writing Contest is open to high school students worldwide, and submissions are accepted in any genre but are limited to one entry. Prose entries must be no longer than 1000 words, and poetry entries may include up to three poems. The winning entry will be published in the Summer issue of The Roadrunner Review, and honorable mentions will be acknowledged in a blog post. The contest is free to enter, and the winner is chosen by The Roadrunner Review staff. The prize is $100.
- Focus: Poetry (all written forms), Prose (all forms)
20. Scholastic Art & Writing Awards
The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is a large and prestigious competition for teens in grades 7 – 12 (ages 13 and up) who can apply in 28 categories of art and writing. Entries are first judged at a regional level. Winners from the regional levels then compete nationally. Writing categories include: Critical Essay, Dramatic Script, Flash Fiction, Journalism, Humor, Novel Writing, Personal Essay & Memoir, and Poetry. Entry fees are $7 per individual entry and $25 per portfolio (but fees may be waived for students with financial need). Prizes include recognition, scholarships, and exhibition/publication.
- Geographic Eligibility: Regional and National
- Grades: 7-12
- Focus: Critical Essay, Dramatic Script, Flash Fiction, Journalism, Humor, Novel Writing, Personal Essay & Memoir, Poetry (all written forms)
21. South Carolina Department of Education: Archibald Rutledge Scholarship Program
The Archibald Rutledge Scholarship Program is a competition for twelfth-grade students enrolled in public schools in South Carolina who excel in creative writing, dance, music, theatre, or visual arts. Writing categories for this competition include Creative Writing (journals, diaries, letters, memoirs, essays, poetry, storytelling, speeches, and free writing) and Playwriting (a one-act script with a run time of 8-15 minutes). To be eligible, a student must: (1) be a U.S. citizen; (2) have attended public school in South Carolina for the past two years; and (3) plan to attend a South Carolina college or university.
- Geographic Eligibility: South Carolina
- Focus: Creative Writing (journals, diaries, letters, memoirs, essays, poetry, storytelling, speeches, and free writing) and Playwriting (a one-act play)
22. The Telling Room Writing Contest
The Writing Contest — The Telling Room is an annual competition that invites youth from all over Maine, ages 10-18, to show off their writing chops! All submissions must be related to the annual theme, and all forms of creative writing are considered, including: poetry, prose, fiction, nonfiction, screenwriting, playwriting, and songwriting. The grand prize winner receives a $250 award. The winning piece is published in the Telling Room’s annual spring anthology and also may be published in other publications and media.
- Geographic Eligibility: Maine
- Ages: 10-18
- Focus: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Playwriting, Poetry (all written forms), Songwriting
23. Thea Foundation Creative Writing and Spoken Word Scholarship Competitions
The Thea Foundation Creative Writing Scholarship Competition and Spoken Word Competition are open to high school seniors enrolled in either public, private, or home schools in Arkansas. Categories include fictional short story, prose, or poetry. Winners receive scholarships ranging from $3,000 – $10,000, which are awarded to the student’s institution of choice.
- Geographic Eligibility: Arkansas
- Focus: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction (short story), Poetry (all written forms and Spoken Word)
24. Walgreens Expressions Challenge: Creative Writing
The Walgreens Expressions Challenge includes a creative writing competition for high school students in the U.S. aged 13-18. The challenge accepts up to 1,000-word short stories, poetry, and essays. Participants are encouraged to draw inspiration from topics such as social media, cyberbullying, mental health, gender identity, social justice, and drug abuse. There is also a Spoken Word category that requires video/audio-recorded poetry. Prizes are given for first, second, and third place, with amounts ranging from $1,500 to $2,000. Four $1,000 cash prizes also will be awarded to entries in each category based solely on the number of votes they receive, and four educators will be awarded $1,000 for their support and embrace of the challenge in their classroom.
- Geographic Eligibility: National
- Grades/Ages: 9-12 and 13-18
- Focus: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Poetry (all written forms and spoken word)
25. Western Kentucky University English High School Writing Contests
The Western Kentucky University English High School Writing Contests are annual writing contests in literature, composition, and creative writing for Kentucky high school students. The WKU English Department sponsors annual writing contests in literature, composition, and creative writing for Kentucky high school students. Finalists, their teachers, and family participate in a reception and ceremony and winners receive cash prizes: First Place-$150; Second Place-$100; Third Place-$50.
- Geographic Eligibility: Kentucky
- Focus: Composition, Creative Writing, Literature
26. William Faulkner Literary Competition
The William Faulkner Literary Competition includes a Short Story (Fiction) contest for high school students in Mississippi. The first prize is $250, the second prize is $150, and the third prize is $100, and there is no entry fee. Entries must be original, unpublished, short fiction with up to 10,000 words. Entries must be submitted by an English teacher representing the school, or for home-schooled students, by their parents. Winning entries also will be published on the Faulkner Literary Committee’s official websites.
- Geographic Eligibility: Mississippi
27. Write the World Competitions
Write the World is a non-profit organization that helps young writers aged 13-19 develop writing, critical thinking, reading, and communication skills. Write the World Competitions are held monthly and rotate through different genres of writing or themes, such as poetry, novel writing, spoken word, creative nonfiction, themed writing, songwriting, food writing, fantasy, sports journalism, flash fiction, and more. The winning entrant receives $100, and the runner-up and best peer reviewer receive $50. The competitions are judged by respected writers from across the globe, and all three winners are featured on the platform.
- Focus: Varies by month, rotates through all genres
28. YoungArts – The National Foundation for the Advancement of Artists: Awards
The YoungArts National Arts Competition is a national competition for young artists in the United States that includes writing as one of its artistic disciplines. The writing category encompasses creative nonfiction, novel, play or script, poetry, short story, and spoken word. To be eligible, applicants must be in grades 10-12 or 15-18 years old on December 1 of the year they are applying and must be a citizen, permanent resident, or legally able to receive taxable income in the United States. Applicants must apply online and pay an application fee or submit fee waiver documentation. Cash awards are given at three levels: Finalist ($1,000 – $10,000): Honorable Mention ($250); Merit ($100). All winners also receive a medallion, a lifetime of creative and professional support, and access to YoungArts Post—a private, online portal for YoungArts artists to connect, share their work, and discover new opportunities. Finalists who attend National YoungArts Week and meet the eligibility requirements are also considered for nomination to the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, the nation’s highest honor for artistically talented high school seniors.
- Grades/Ages: 10-12 or 15-18
- Focus: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction (Short Story), Novel, Playwriting, Poetry (all written forms and Spoken Word), Screenwriting
Poetry Writing Competitions for High School Students 2023
Note: many of the competitions in the “creative writing competitions for high school students” and “themed or question-based writing competitions for high school students” above also have a poetry category, so be sure to check those sections as well this section is for competitions that focus exclusively on non-themed/open-topic poetry and spoken word submissions. , 29. austin poets international presents: youth anthology .
Austin Poets International Presents offers young poets in grades K-12 a chance to be included in its annual youth anthology. Youth Poets who have a poem accepted for the youth anthology receive a free copy of the anthology and are invited to read their poem at the Austin International Poetry Festival.
- Focus: Poetry (all written forms)
30. Gannon University National High School Poetry Contest
The Gannon University National High School Poetry Contest is open to students anywhere in the U.S. who are in grades 9-12. Students may submit any accepted form of poetry (including rhyme, free verse, Haiku, etc.) up to a maximum of 40 lines. Prizes include cash awards, a book, and publication in the Gannon Writing Awards program.
31. Haiku Society of America: Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition
The Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition is for students in grades 7-12. Haiku and senryu are specific types of short-form poetry (typically 3 lines and 17 syllables) that originated in Japan. Six poems are selected each year and awarded a scholarship prize of $100. The winning haiku/senryu and list of winners are published in the HSA magazine Frogpond and on the HSA website. The high school of each student winner will receive a one-year subscription to Frogpond .
- Focus: Poetry (Haiku and Senryu)
32. Hollins University: The Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest
The Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest is for young women who are sophomores or juniors in high school. The First Place winner receives a $350 cash prize; a $20,000 scholarship to Hollins University; publication in Cargoes , the Hollins University award-winning student literary magazine; and free tuition and housing for the Hollins summer creative writing program (for rising 9-12th grade students). The Second Place winners receive a $4,000 scholarship to Hollins University, publication in Cargoes, and a $500 scholarship to apply toward Hollins summer program.
- Grades: 10, 11
- Outreach: Female
33. Kenyon Review: The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers
The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers is open to high school sophomores and juniors throughout the world. The poems by the winner and two runners-up will be published in the Kenyon Review , and the winner receives a full scholarship to the Kenyon Review Young Writers workshop.
34. Michigan State University Center for Poetry: Richard Benvenuto High School Poetry Competition
The Benvenuto High School Poetry Competition accepts both text and spoken-word submissions from Michigan high school students. The winners receive prizes ranging from $25 to $100 and are invited to Michigan State University for a reading/performance of their winning entries. Optional prompts are provided for inspiration.
- Grades: 9 – 12
- Focus: Poetry (all written forms and spoken word)
35. Poetry Society: The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award
The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award accepts entries from 11-17-year-olds worldwide. The competition is free to enter and poems can be of any length and on any theme. Winners will receive prizes including further mentoring and development opportunities from The Poetry Society, and former winners have gone on to become successful poets.
- Ages: 11-17
36. Princeton Lewis Center: Leonard L Milber ’53 High School Poetry Prize
The Princeton Lewis Center: Leonard L Milber ’53 High School Poetry Prize recognizes outstanding work by student writers in the 11th grade in the U.S. or abroad. Contest judges are poets on the Princeton University creative writing faculty. First Prize – $500, Second Prize – $250, Third Prize – $100.
37. Smith College: High School Poetry Prize for Girls
The Smith College Poetry Prize for High School Girls is an annual competition open to female sophomores and juniors in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York. The winner receives a $500 prize and the opportunity to read her work at Smith College. Students may submit one poem each with a maximum of 25 lines. The winner and three finalists will read their poems at the judge’s reading and will receive a signed copy of a book of poems by the judge.
- Geographic Eligibility: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont
38. Society of Classical Poets: International High School Poetry Competition
The Society of Classical Poets International High School Poetry Competition is open to all high school students (ages 13-19) from around the world. Poems must contain meter (each line of poetry must have a similar number of syllables). Students may submit up to 3 poems that total 108 lines or less. First Prize is $200 and publication in the Society’s website and The Society of Classical Poets Journal. There is a $5 submission fee.
- Grades/Ages: 9-12 and 13-19
- Focus: Poetry (written and metered)
- Cost: Fee to Participate
39. Youth Poet Laureate National and Regional Competitions
The National Youth Poet Laureate Competition is a program that identifies powerful youth poets with a history of artistic success, civic and community engagement, social impact, and youth leadership. The competition is open to former local Youth Poet Laureates, aged between 13 and 19, from over 70 partner cities participating in the national network. Four Youth Poet Laureate Regional Ambassadors are chosen, one from each of the 4 regions in the nation, and all nominations are judged using the same rubric. The Regional winners are also finalists for the National Youth Poet Laureate title and will receive various benefits, including an all-expense-paid trip to perform at the National Youth Poet Laureate commencement in May, an artwork/poster featuring their likeness and poetry, and professional development opportunities. We weren’t able to find a complete list of all the local Youth Poet Laureate Competitions, but it looks like the number of local and state partners is growing every day and they are pretty easy to find doing an internet search. Just enter “youth poet laureate” in your search engine followed by the name of your nearest larger city or your state.
Playwriting/Screen Writing Competitions for High School Students 2023
Note: many of the competitions in the “creative writing competitions for high school students” section above also have a playwriting/screenwriting category, so be sure to check that section as well this section is for competitions that focus exclusively on playwriting/screenwriting. , 40. baltimore center stage: young playwrights festival.
The Baltimore Center Stage Young Playwrights Festival invites Maryland students in grades K-12 to submit their short plays on a changing annual theme. Six winners are chosen to have their plays produced professionally and to receive mentorship from the Baltimore Center Stage team.
- Geographic Eligibility: Maryland
- Focus: Playwriting
41. Blank Theatre Young Playwright’s Festival
The Blank Theatre Young Playwright’s Festival (YPF) is a nationwide playwrighting competition for young people between the ages of 9 and 19. The 12 winning original plays or musicals (on any subject and of any length) will come to life on stage in a professional production featuring known actors from film, television, and theatre.
- Focus: Playwriting (including Musicals)
42. California Young Playwrights Contest
The California Young Playwrights Contest is an annual statewide by Playwrights Project open to all Californians under the age of 19 as of June 1 of the contest year. All contest entrants who request feedback receive an individualized script evaluation. Finalists are then paired with writing mentors over the summer to further develop their plays and their plays are performed via Zoom. Winning plays, selected from the finalists, are produced live as part of the Playwrights Project’s annual festival of Plays by Young Writers. Winners between the ages of 15-18 will receive a full professional production. Winners aged 14 and under will see their plays performed as rehearsed readings.
- Geographic Eligibility: California
- Ages: 18 and under
43. Capital Repertory Theatre – Collaborative School of the Arts: Young Playwright Contest
The Collaborative School of the Arts: Young Playwright Contest is for students between the ages of 13 and 19 who live within a 90-mile radius of Albany, New York. Students are asked to submit short plays up to 10 minutes (when acted out) and roughly 10-12 pages in length that include a specific line that changes each year. Winners have their short plays professionally produced on the Capital Repertory Theatre stage.
- Geographic Eligibility: New York (Albany)
44. City Theatre Company: Young Playwrights Contest
City Theatre Company’s Young Playwrights Contest is open to current 7-12th grade students in southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia. The play should be a one-act and should ideally be 25 pages or shorter, with no more than 8 characters. The company is looking for plays with unique voices, points of view, and interesting stories. Any subject or theme is welcome. After submitting the play, it is read by at least two theatre professionals, and feedback is given to the playwright.
- Geographic Eligibility: Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia
45. Eugene O’Neill Theater Center: Young Playwrights Festival
The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center: Young Playwrights Festival is a national playwriting competition for students between the ages of 12-18 who have written an original short play (10-15 pages). Students whose plays are selected for the festival work with a creative team composed of National Theater Institute alumni — a director, dramaturg, designer, and actors to develop and stage their script.
- Ages: 12-18
46. Horizon Theatre Company: New South Young Players Festival
The New South Young Playwrights Festival is an annual event hosted by the Horizon Theatre Company in Atlanta, Georgia, where high school and college students are invited to submit one-act plays for consideration. Selected playwrights participate in a week-long festival that includes workshops, seminars, and rehearsals with professional actors, directors, and playwrights. The festival culminates in a public reading and showcase of the writers’ short plays. In-person participation typically includes housing and travel stipends, and in 2021 and 2022, the festival was held virtually. The festival is open to all subject matters and writing styles, and between 20 and 25 winners are selected each year.
47. Kennedy Center: VSA Playwright Discovery Competition
The Kennedy Center VSA Playwright Discovery Competition invites y oung writers with disabilities, ages 15-18 (or enrolled in high school), to submit a ‘ten-minute script’ of any genre. Scripts may be for plays, musicals, multimedia, video, film, TV, podcasts, or other writing for performance. Entries may be the work of an individual student or a collaboration of two students that includes at least one student with a disability. A panel of theater professionals selects division winners. Multiple winners will receive exclusive access to participate in virtual professional development activities provided by the Kennedy Center. Winners will have the opportunity to work with industry professionals in the further development of their script, as well as participate in networking opportunities.
- Grades/Ages: 9-12 and 15-18
- Focus: Playwriting/Screenwriting
- Outreach: Disability
48. Philadelphia Young Playwrights Annual Playwriting Festival
Philadelphia Young Playwrights Annual Playwriting Festival is a playwriting competition for young people in grades K-12 or under the age of 19. The festival is open to students from Eastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey, or Delaware, or from any student who has participated in one of the organization’s classes during the current. Monologues and screenplays are not eligible, nor are adaptations of other authors’ works. The winners of the festival will have the opportunity to participate in a rehearsal and play revision process with a creative team of theater artists and may also receive mentorship opportunities with the organization’s staff. First, second, and third-place winners will receive different levels of support and opportunities for development.
- Geographic Eligibility: Eastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey, or Delaware
- Grades/Ages: K-12 and under 19
- Focus: Playwriting
49. PlayGround Young Playwrights Contest
The PlayGround Young Playwrights Contest is for students in grades 9-12 who attend high school in one of the nine counties in the San Francisco Bay Area. The contest requires students to write an original 10-minute play. The top four playwrights receive a professional staged reading of their play at the PlayGround Festival of New Works at Potrero Stage.
- Geographic Eligibility: San Francisco Bay Area
- Grades/Ages: 9-12
50. Princeton University – Lewis Center: Ten-Minute Play Contest
The Princeton University – Lewis Center: Ten-Minute Play Contest is an annual playwriting contest for students in the eleventh grade in the U.S. (or the international equivalent of the eleventh grade). Each year the jury consists of members of the Princeton University Program in Theater faculty. Prizes: First Prize – $500, Second Prize – $250, Third Prize – $100.
51. Syracuse Stage: Young Playwrights Festival
The Syracuse Stage Young Playwrights Festival is a yearly contest for high school students in Central New York organized by Syracuse Stage and Syracuse University’s Department of Drama. The contest invites students to submit original ten-minute plays or other performance pieces in either a traditional 10-minute play format (with up to 4 characters and around 10 pages) or in a non-traditional performance writing category (such as monologues, performance-based storytelling, etc.). Semifinalists attend a workshop where their plays are read and critiqued, and finalists have their plays performed as staged readings by Syracuse University Drama students. Submissions must be 10 pages or less.
- Geographic Eligibility: Central New York
Student Ten-Minute Playwriting Festival Submission Guidelines – Theatre Odyssey
52. Theatre Odyssey: Annual Student Ten-Minute Playwriting Festival
The Theatre Odyssey Student Ten-Minute Playwriting Festival is open to legal residents of Florida’s Gulf Coast area who are in grades 9 through 12 or equivalent. Plays should be between 9 and 11 minutes long, have no more than five characters, and be in the genre of comedy, drama, mystery, thriller, or monologue. Originality is important, and plays must not have been previously produced for a paying audience. Up to eight plays will be selected for production, and the best play and runner-up will receive cash scholarships of $1000 and $500, respectively.
- Geographic Eligibility: Florida Gulf Coast (Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, and Sumter counties)
53. Trinity Rep: Write Here! Write Now – Student Playwriting Competition
The Trinity Rep: Write Here! Write Now! Student Playwriting Competition invites New England high school students in grades 9-12 to submit an original short play (6-10 pages). Winners will participate in a workshop to develop their plays. The staged readings of the winning plays are performed by professional actors, and the winners receive a scholarship towards Trinity Rep’s Young Actors Studio after-school class and 20 free tickets for their school to a Project Discovery student matinee.
- Geographic Eligibility: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
54. Wharton Center for Performing Arts: Young Playwrights Festival
The Wharton Center Annual Young Playwrights Festival invites Michigan high school students to submit a one-act play for a juried competition. 12 semifinalists will be chosen, and from those 12 the jury will select six finalists whose plays will be produced. The six finalists will each receive a $200 cash award and a professional theater mentor to revise their play. The plays are performed at the Fairchild Theatre at Michigan State University. The guidelines include being an original work, with no more than four characters, simple props, costumes, settings, effects, and a maximum length of 12 pages.
55. Writopia Lab’s Worldwide Plays Festival
Writopia Lab’s Worldwide Plays Festival is an annual Off-Broadway festival of one-act plays written by playwrights ages 6 to 18 and produced, designed, directed, and acted by New York City theater professionals. Each year, the festival is themed after different settings that each play must take place in. Plays should be no longer than eight minutes in length.
56. YouthPlays: New Voices One-Act Competition for Young Playwrights
The YouthPlays New Voices One-Act Competition for Young Playwrights offers cash prizes and representation of the winning play. Plays must be unpublished, non-musical one-acts between 10-40 minutes in length, with two or more characters and a young character in a prominent, age-appropriate role. The author must be 19 years old or younger as of May 1 of the contest year, and each author may submit only one play. The winner receives $250 and publication by YouthPLAYS, while the runner-up receives $100.
- Ages: Under 19
Themed or Question-Based Writing Competitions for High School Students 2023
57. 1455 Literary Arts: Annual Young Poet’s Contest
The 1455 Annual Young Poets Contest awards $500 to a single, unpublished poem of any length and style based on an annually changing theme. The contest is open to young poets aged 13-18. The winner will have the opportunity to read their poem at a reception during the 1455 StoryFest, and the winning and select other poems will be considered for publication in a special annual Young Poets issue of Movable Type, 1455’s e-magazine.
- Ages: 13-18
58. Harvard Crimson: Global Essay Competition
The Harvard Crimson Global Essay Competition (HCGEC) is an international online writing competition for high school students aged 13-18 who are interested in writing. Participants select one of three prompts from creative, argumentative, or journalistic tracks to write a 500-word essay. The top five essays from each region of the world are invited to the global final round where four global winners per track are chosen. The competition is hosted by The Harvard Crimson and Crimson Education, and winners receive prizes such as internships with The Harvard Crimson and having their work featured on the Official HCGEC Website. The competition costs US$15 to register.
- Focus: Creative, Persuasive, or Journalistic Essay
59. New York Times Learning Network: Student Contests
The New York Times Learning Network: Student Contests invites middle and high school students ages 13-19 to participate in a range of themed writing contests throughout the year. Past contests have included the Editorial Contest, the STEM Writing Contest, the Review Contest, and the Narrative Writing Contest. Each contest has its own unique requirements and prizes, and they are open to students in different grade levels.
- Grades: 6-12 and 13-19
- Focus: Creative Writing, Essay
60. Stossel In the Classroom Essay Contest
Stossel in the Classroom is an essay contest for students in grades 5-12 (ages 10-18) residing in North America, Hawaii, or a U.S. military address. Students can choose from three topics and submit their essays directly or have them submitted by a teacher or parent. Essays must be between 500-1,000 words and meet the eligibility requirements. The contest period is from September 1 to March 31. There are two competition divisions: High School and Middle School, and prizes range from $50-$2,500.
- Grades/Ages: 5-12 and 10-18
- Focus: Essay
61. Youth Communication: Teen Writing Contest
The Youth Communication: Teen Writing Contest takes place every three months. Youth Communication highlights five recent articles from YouthCOMM, and participants are asked to write a response to the author of a story, expressing how they related to the story, what lessons they learned, or other ways the story impacted them. Each contest awards three winners with prizes of $150 (1st prize), $75 (2nd prize), and $50 (3rd prize), and winning letters are published on the contest’s website. To be eligible for entry, participants must be between the ages of 14 and 19 and letters should be no more than 300 words.
- Ages: 14-19
Americanism-Themed Writing Competitions for High School Students
62. fleet reserve association: americanism essay contest.
The Fleet Reserve Association Americanism Essay Contest is open to all U.S. students in grades 7 through 12, including those who are home-schooled. Students are invited to submit a 350-word essay on a specific topic related to Americanism through an FRA member or local FRA branch. (Check the website to fund your local FRA branch.) Local winners compete at the regional level, and regional winners compete for national prizes. The grand national winner receives $1,500, and other winners receive $1,000 for first place, $750 for second place, and $500 for third place, along with a plaque and certificate of recognition.
63. Veterans of Foreign Wars: Voice of Democracy Audio Essay Competition
The VFW Voice of Democracy Audio Essay Competition is an annual audio-essay program for high school students. The competition offers students the opportunity to express their views on democratic and patriotic themes. Over 25,000 students from 9th to 12th grade participate in the program each year, with more than $1.3 million in scholarships and incentives awarded. The top winner receives a $35,000 scholarship, and other national scholarships range from $1,000 to $21,000. Applicants must read the rules and eligibility requirements and submit their essays to their local VFW Post.
Economics-Themed Writing Competitions for High School Students
64. harvard international economics essay contest.
The Harvard International Economics Essay Contest is a writing competition for high school students sponsored by the Harvard Undergraduate Economics Association (HUEA) and Harvard College Economics Review (HCER). Students must construct a convincing argument using economic theory and real-world examples and choose one of four prompts to write about within a strict limit of 1500 words. Winning essays will be published in the Harvard Economics Review, and the top three winners will be published online, with a further 20 receiving honors of “Highly Commended.” The reading fee for each essay submission is $20 (which can be waived for students with financial need).
Environment-Themed Writing Competitions for High School Students
65. bowseat ocean awareness contest.
The Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest is an opportunity for young people aged 11-18 to learn about environmental issues by creating art and expressing their views creatively, becoming advocates for positive change. Submissions should respond to the annual theme and can take many forms, including poetry/spoken word, and creative writing. Students aged 11-14 are eligible for the Junior division, and those aged 15-18 are eligible for the Senior division. Each category is judged separately, with Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Honorable Mention winners in each category, and cash prizes ranging from $100 – $1,500. Additionally, the We All Rise Prize sponsors ten $750 awards each in the Junior and Senior Divisions to students in the US who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or Latine and demonstrate notable artistic achievement in their chosen category, as part of Bow Seat’s efforts to engage more youth of color in environmental advocacy.
- Ages: 11-18
- Focus: Creative Writing, Poetry (including Spoken Word)
- Outreach: Black, Hispanic and Latino/x
66. California Coastal Commission: K-12 Coastal Art & Poetry Contest
The California Coastal Commission: K-12 Coastal Art & Poetry Contest is open to students in grades K-12 who are residents of California. Students are invited to submit their “California coastal” or ocean-themed poetry and art. Winners receive a $100 gift card to an art supply store or bookstore (teachers of winning students will be rewarded with a prize as well). Poetry may be submitted in English or Spanish and can be submitted both online and through mail.
- Focus: Poetry (all forms)
67. Pulitzer Center: Fighting Words Poetry Contest
The Fighting Words Poetry Contest is a competition that invites K-12 students from around the world to use poetry as a means of responding to current events and underreported stories. Students read one of the stories reported by the Pulitzer Center and then write poems that make connections between those stories and their local and personal contexts. Poems must include lines from the reported stories. Students are free to write in any language and may submit multilingual poems. The first-place winner will receive $300 and their poem will be published on the Pulitzer Center website. The second-place winner will receive $200, and the third-place winner will receive $100, with both of their poems also published on the Pulitzer Center website. Finalists will receive $75 each, and their poems will also be published on the website.
68. Saint Mary’s College of California – Center for Environmental Literacy : River of Words Contest
The River of Words Contest is an international youth poetry and art contest that encourages students between the ages of 5 and 19 to use creative expression to translate their observations of the physical world they live in. The goal of the competition is to connect young people with their watersheds, and the environments they live in, through art and poetry that shows a real connection to the world around them. The contest is open to K-12 students and offers 4 Grand Prizes for the poetry category, one of which is specifically for students in grades 9-12. The winner receives a cash prize and will be published in the annual River of Words anthology. There are also other specific prizes: one International Grand Prize for either art or poetry, which is awarded to one entry across all age categories; the Monkey’s Raincoat Prize for haiku poem(s); the On Writing award for poems that approach the nature of writing; the One Square Block prize for poems that examine the interaction between the manmade and natural world; and the Shasta Bioregion Award for outstanding entries from Northern California. The number of entries awarded these prizes is up to the discretion of the judges but is typically 1-3 per prize category. Finalists also may be published alongside the winners, depending on the number and quality of submissions.
- Grades/Ages: K-12 and 5-19
Government & Politics-Themed Writing Competitions for High School Students
69. american foreign service association: national high school essay contest.
The American Foreign Service Association: National High School Essay Contest is a writing competition for high school students (grades 9 – 12) in the U.S., who are invited to write an essay of between 1,000-1,500 words on a changing topic related to U.S. diplomacy. The winner receives: (1) $2500; (2) an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. from anywhere in the U.S. including (his/her/their parents); and (3) an all-expense paid educational voyage courtesy of Semester at Sea. The runner-up receives $1,250 and full tuition to attend a summer session of the National Student Leadership Conference’s International Diplomacy program. Student registration forms must have a teacher or sponsor’s name.
70. National Center for State Courts: Civics Education Essay Contest
The National Center for State Court’s Civics Education Essay Contest allows students in grades 3-12 to demonstrate their understanding of the U.S. government and its importance. The contest is held annually by the National Center for State Courts in recognition of Law Day. To be eligible, students must be enrolled in a public, private, or home school program in the United States and have permission from a parent, guardian, or teacher over 18. Elementary and middle school students should write essays of no more than 100 words, while high school students should limit their essays to 250 words. Nine winners will receive cash prizes totaling $3,000 and the publication of their essays on the NCSC website.
- Grades: 3-12
Heritage-Themed Writing Competitions for High School Students
71. optimum/suddenlink hispanic heritage essay contest.
The Optimum/Suddenlink Hispanic Heritage Essay Contest asks students to submit an essay of 500 words on a changing theme related to Hispanic heritage. This contest is open to students in grades 6-12 who live in areas serviced by Optimum and Suddenlink (check the website). There are separate prizes for middle and high school categories, and grand prize finalists will receive a $1,500 scholarship.
- Geographic Eligibility: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia
- Outreach: Hispanic and Latino/x
72. Polyphony Lit Latin Heritage Contest
The Polyphony Lit Latin Heritage Contest is an annual writing contest for high school students (or equivalent, aged 14-18) worldwide focused on Latin heritage. Submissions of poetry may be up to 80 lines, and fiction and creative non-fiction submissions must be 1,800 words or fewer, double-spaced. Winners are: (1) awarded the Polyphony Lit Writing Award (no cash value); (2) published in the journal; (3) offered full scholarship for Polyphony’s editor training course; and (4) eligible for the Claudia Ann Seaman Awards ($200).
- Grades/Ages: 9-12 and 14-18
- Focus: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Poetry
73. National Genealogical Society: Rubincam Youth Writing Competition
The National Genealogical Society Rubincam Youth Writing Competition invites students to submit a narrative essay in a biographical format about a principal individual, either male or female, who may be a biological or adoptive relative, a foster parent, or a guardian. The submission should contain 750 to 1200 words and four to five written pages and should demonstrate the student’s basic understanding of various genealogical records. Two awards are given annually: one in the junior category (grades 6-8) and one in the senior category (grades 9-12). The award winner receives a cash prize ($250 – junior/$500 senior), a plaque, and a one-year NGS membership (non-print). Presentation details of the winning submission may appear in NGS Magazine.
74. State of Florida Hispanic Heritage Month Essay Contest
The State of Florida Hispanic Heritage Month Essay Contest is an essay contest (500 words or less) on a changing theme related to Hispanic heritage sponsored by the Governor of Florida. Students in grades 4-12 who attend a Florida school (public, charter, private, home, or virtual) can enter. Six winners are selected: two elementary school students (grades 4–5), two middle school students (grades 6–8), and two high school students (grades 9–12). Each winner receives a 2-year Florida College Plan scholarship and a $100 gift card for school supplies.
- Geographic Eligibility: Florida
- Grades: 4-12
History-Themed Writing Competitions for High School Students
75. concord review.
The Concord Review offers high school students the opportunity to publish their historical research and gain recognition throughout the academic year. Outstanding submissions may even receive the Emerson Prize, an award named after essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. The entry fee ($70) includes a year-long subscription to The Concord Review. The average length of accepted essays is 8,000 words.
76. Chapman University: Annual Holocaust Art & Writing Contest
The Chapman University Annual Holocaust Art & Writing Contest invites participating schools to submit a total of three entries (one entry per student) related to the Holocaust and a changing prompt in any combination of the following categories: art, film, poetry, or prose. Students will be eligible to win a first-prize award of $400 or second prize of $200 in each category. Educators and schools will also be eligible to win a first prize of $200 or a second prize of $100 each. First-place student winners in the United States, their parents/guardians, and teachers are invited to participate in an expense-paid study trip to visit the Holocaust Museum LA, the Museum of Tolerance, the Japanese American National Museum, and other sites in Los Angeles, as well as to meet with members of The 1939 Society, a community of Holocaust survivors, descendants, and friends.
77. National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR): George S. and Stella M. Knight Essay Contest
The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution George S. and Stella M. Knight Essay Contest is open to all US Citizens and Legal Resident high school students (grades 9-12) interested in the American Revolution. The essay must be 800-1,200 words and focus on an event, person, philosophy, or ideal associated with the American Revolution, Declaration of Independence, or the framing of the United States Constitution. The contest is conducted in three phases: the local chapter, state-level society, and national phases. Prizes range from $6,000 for first place to $500 for fifth place. The winning essay will be published in the SAR Magazine and on the SAR or State Knight Essay Contest webpage.
78. National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR): Joseph S. Rumbaugh Historical Oration Contest
The Joseph S. Rumbaugh Historical Oration Contest is open to all high school students in public, parochial, private, or home schools in grades 9-12. Participants must write an original oration of 5-6 minutes on an event, personality, or document related to the Revolutionary War. The oration will be judged based on composition, delivery, historical accuracy, and relevance to the 250th anniversary. The contest begins at the local chapter level, with opportunities to advance to state and national levels. Prizes range from $8,000 for first place to $200 for non-finalist national contestants. Interested applicants should contact their local SAR chapter for further details on local and state deadlines.
- Focus: Essay and Oration
79. World History Association: World Historian Student Essay Competition
The World Historian Student Essay Competition is open to students in grades K-12 from public, private, and home-study programs worldwide. The essay should address one of the provided topics, relating it to personal experience and world history. The winner will receive a $500 prize and a one-year membership to the World History Association. Essays will be checked for plagiarism and should be approximately 1,000 words in length. Past winners may not compete in the same category again.
Journalism-Themed Writing Competitions for High School Students
80. society of professional journalists and the journalism education association high school essay contest.
The Society of Professional Journalists and the Journalism Education Association High School Essay Contest invites U.S. students in grades 9 – 12 to write a 300-500 essay on a particular topic related to journalism. National winners receive scholarship awards and their essays are published on the website. First Place: $1,000 scholarship; Second Place: $500 scholarship; Third Place: $300 scholarship. There is a fee of $5 to enter.
Law-Themed Writing Competitions for High School Students
81. harvard undergraduate law review: fall essay contest.
The Harvard Undergraduate Law Review Fall Essay Contest is an international essay competition (750-1000 words) for high school students (grades 9-12) on a changing theme related to the law. The essay should focus on a law, case, aspect of the legal system, the intersection between law and another discipline, etc. in an argumentative and analytical format. All winning pieces will be published on the HULR website and featured on its social media. In addition, the winners will receive gift cards and a book prize.
Problem-Solving-Themed Writing Competitions for High School Students
82. future problem solving program international: scenario writing competition.
Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI) is a dynamic international program involving thousands of students annually from around the world from different age groups: Junior Division (grades 4-6), Middle Division (grades 7-9), and Senior Division (grades 10-12). FPSPI provides a curriculum and competitive opportunities for students to learn critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills. The Scenario Writing component is one of six competitive components of the FPSPI competition. In the Scenario Writing competition, students create a short story (1500 words or less) that is set at least 20 years in the future that revolves around one of FPSPI’s four annual global problem/challenge topics. The first step in participating in this competition is to find your local state affiliate (there is a list on the website). Then you need to find a coach to register you and receive materials. Coaches can be a parent, other experienced FPSer/mentors, or a teacher. Materials are provided to enhance the learning process and provide support and feedback. Everyone starts with practice topics and preliminary project deadlines to support learning through feedback/assessment. After the practice topics, competitive topics are offered for regional/state or national finals which can qualify students for the International Conference. At the International Conference, students will get a chance to compete and collaborate with over 2,000 other problem solvers from all over the globe! There is a fee to participate in this program.
- Focus: Creative Writing (Short Story)
83. Goi Peace Foundation
The Goi Peace Foundation International Essay Contest for Young People is an annual competition with the aim of promoting a culture of peace and sustainable development. Essays must be 700 words or less in English, French, or 1600 characters or less in Japanese, and must be submitted online. Participants compete in one of two age categories: Children (ages up to 14) or Youth (ages 15 – 25) The awards include certificates, gifts, and cash prizes of up to 100,000 yen (approx. US$740).
- Ages: Up to 25
84. UNESCO Clubs Worldwide Youth Multimedia Competition
The UNESCO Clubs Worldwide Youth Multimedia Competition invites young people in three age categories (Juniors – ages 10-14; Youth – ages 15-19; and Young Adults – ages 20-24) to answer a specific question (that changes each year) related to solving a pressing world problem. One of the ways that participants can answer the question is through a 500-700 written essay. The three finalists in each age group will receive an official plaque engraved with their name and a certificate. They also will have an invitation to UNESCO’s Builders of the Universe Camp in Maryland (USA). The invitation will include a scholarship for the fee for the camp, food, accommodations, and transport to and from the airport. In addition, the top 9 winners will be recognized and showcased in global events during the year and publicized on the UNESCO website.
- Ages: 10-24
Science-Themed Writing Competitions for High School Students
85. american society of human genetics: annual dna day essay contest.
The American Society of Human Genetics Annual DNA Day Essay Contest invites students in grades 9-12 worldwide to write an essay of up to 750 words that examines and questions a specific topic related to genetics. Essays must be well-reasoned arguments that demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of scientific concepts associated with the essay question. The ASHG publishes the winning essays on its website, and the winners receive cash prizes: First Place ($1,000), Second Place ($600), Third Place ($400), and Honorable Mention (10 prizes of $100).
86. Association for Women in Mathematics + Math for America: Student Essay Contest
The Association for Women in Mathematics and Math for America Essay Contest aims to increase awareness of women’s contributions to the mathematical sciences. Students (in three categories: grades 6-8, 9-12, and undergraduates) are invited to write a biographical essay of 500-1000 words based on an interview with a woman currently working or retired from a mathematical sciences career. The AWM website provides resources on potential women to interview. The winners (including honorable mentions) receive a monetary prize, membership in the Association for Women in Mathematics, a certificate, and their name and affiliation published in the Newsletter for the AWM. In addition, all of the essays are published online, and the Grand Prize winner‘s essay is published in the AWM Newsletter.
- Grades: 6-12 and college
87. Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science: Building the Modern M.D. High School Competition
The Building the Modern M.D. Competition encourages young people who are interested in medicine to think about the subject of healthcare in a broader social context. The competition is open to current high school students who choose a topic in healthcare related to one of eight humanities categories and explore it by reading scholarly journal publications. (The eight humanities categories are: anthropology, the arts, economics, gender, government, history, philosophy, and religion. Examples of how these topics relate to healthcare could include: the use of music in psychotherapy (arts) or Medicare / Medicaid policy (economics or government)). Participants then write a 2000-3000-word review article summarizing their findings. Winners are chosen in each category, and their articles will be published in a special issue of the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science. Honorable mention awards will be given to applicants who presented strong papers that were ultimately not chosen to be published. The competition webpage has training materials that guide students through the competition, including choosing topics, getting sources, reading various types of scientific literature, and writing their papers.
88. EngineerGirl Writing Contest
The EngineerGirl Essay Contest asks students to write an essay on an annual topic dealing with engineering and its impact on the world. The contest is open to individual students in the following three competition categories: Elementary School Students (grades 3–5), Middle School Students (grades 6–8), or High School Students (grades 9–12). Judges include professionals from various engineering fields. Essays are judged on how well written and persuasive they are, as well as how well they demonstrate engineering’s positive and essential role in society, and why engineering needs unique and diverse perspectives from people from a wide range of backgrounds. 1st place wins $500, 2nd place wins $250, and 3rd place wins $100. Winning entries (including honorable mentions) are published on the EngineerGirl website.
89. Naval Horizons Essay Contest
The Naval Horizons Essay Contest is a STEM-related essay contest sponsored by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps open to legal residents of the United States (U.S.) who are registered students in grades 9 – 12 and attending public, private, or home school in the U.S. (including U.S. territories or possessions and schools operated by the U.S. for the children of American personnel overseas). To participate, students first learn about Naval STEM challenges and our scientists and engineers by watching a series of videos. Students then write an essay (500 – 1,500 words) explaining how the Navy’s research and people inspire them. Judges select up to 5,000 winners. All winners receive a $200 cash prize. Exceptional essays are highlighted on a Naval STEM web page and are designated Naval Horizons Highest Honors.
Social-Justice-Themed Writing Competitions for High School Students
90. National Youth Foundation: I Matter Poetry Contest
The National Youth Foundation: I Matter Poetry Contest (started by a teen!) invites U.S. and international students in grades K – 12 to submit a work of poetry that educates the world about why Black Lives Matter. The top prize is $500 and the winning entry will be posted on the NYF social media pages.
91. Pulitzer Center: Local Letters for Global Change
Pulitzer Center: Local Letters for Global Change is a letter-writing contest for K-12 students worldwide hosted by the Pulitzer Center. Students are required to write a one-page letter to a local elected representative, citing a Pulitzer Center news story that highlights a global issue they want to be prioritized. The letter should also propose a solution and explain how it relates to their local community. Letters can be written in English or Spanish and will be judged separately in high school, middle school, and elementary categories. Three first-place winners will receive $100 for their classrooms, and their letters, photos, and bios will be published on the Pulitzer Center website. Finalists will also have their letters, photos, and bios published on the website.
Want to See More? Check Out the Lateenz Teen Resources catalog of High School Internships , Programs , Competitions, and Scholarships
This is just a small sample of the many competitions you can find in our database. And, even if you’re not interested in competing, there are many programs and internships that offer more great opportunities in journalism, writing, and other areas! Be sure to check them out!
The Ultimate List of Student Writing Contests
No one would argue against the importance of writing. Writing expresses who we are as individuals; writing makes our ideas, thoughts, and memories visible. For students, writing is the primary basis upon which one’s learning and development are assessed, whether it is a book review for an English class, a research brief for a STEM class, or the college admissions essays. Writing is undeniably one of the most important skills any student must master.
Becoming a better writer takes time and practice--you have to keep writing, a lot. There are no shortcuts or secret formulas. While some students may be more talented with writing, writing is first and foremost a skill that can be honed, developed, and perfected. “Keep writing” is easier said than done, however. For the majority of students who are not passionate writers, how can you stay motivated and disciplined to keep writing?
Participate in writing contests! There are many writing contests for students from kindergarten to high school, with different types of awards from medals to cash prizes to scholarships. No matter what the award is, participating in writing contests will push you to stay focused and keep improving. Moreover, the prestige of a respected award will certainly boost your college application profile, giving you an edge in a selection process that is fiercely competitive.
Contrary to conventional belief, you don’t have to be a humanities enthusiast to participate in these writing contests. There is a great variety of topics to choose from: history, supernatural, foreign affairs, STEM, business, and even restaurant reviews! The categories range from poetry to play to academic essay. No matter what your academic interest is or where your writing skills shine, there is a writing contest for you. Below is our carefully curated list of the best student writing contests. Find the ones that fit your interest and skill set and start writing!
Contests of Essays and Reviews
Scholastic art and writing awards.
Organization: Alliance for Young Artists & Writers
Category: 28 categories, including critical essays, journalism, personal essay, among others
Subject/topic: Free to choose
Award Amount: $1,000 to $10,000
Eligibility: Grades 7-12 (ages 13 and up)
Wharton Youth Comment & Win Contest
Organization: U of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business
Category: Review and reflection
Subject/topic: Entrepreneurship, economics, leadership, business, finance and careers
Award Amount: Recognition from Wharton
Deadline: 4 rounds from June to August
Eligibility: Grades 9-12
Bennington Young Writers Awards
Organization: Bennington College
Category: 3 categories, including personal or academic essay, poetry, play
Award Amount: $125 to $500
Deadline: Usually in November
Eligibility: Grades 10-12
The American Foreign Services Association Essay Contest
Organization: American Foreign Services Association
Subject/topic: International relations and foreign affairs
Award Amount: $1,250-$2,500
Deadline: Usually April
John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Contest
Organization: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Subject/topic: An act of political courage by a US elected official
Award Amount: $100-$10,000
Deadline: Usually January
We the Students Essay Contest
Organization: Bill of Rights Institute
Subject/topic: Government, democracy, civics, public policy, among others
Award Amount: $500-$7,500
Deadline: Usually February
Eligibility: Ages 14-19
Voice of Democracy Audio-Essay Contest
Organization: Veterans of Foreign Wars
Category: Audio essay
Subject/topic: Democracy and patriotism
Award Amount: $1,000-$30,000
Deadline: Usually October
Patriot’s Pen Essay Contest
Subject/topic: American history, society, and citizenship
Award Amount: $500-$5,000
Eligibility: Grades 6-8
John Locke Essay Competition
Organization: John Locke Institute
Subject/topic: Philosophy, politics, economics, history, psychology, theology and law
Award Amount: $2,000 to $10,000
Deadline: Usually June
Eligibility: Ages 18 and under
New York Times STEM Writing Contest
Organization: The New York Times
Subject/topic: Science, technology, engineering, math or health
Award Amount: None
Eligibility: Ages 11-19
New York Times Summer Reading Contest
Deadline: June to August
New York Times Student Review Contest
New york times personal narrative writing contest.
Deadline: Usually November
New York Times Editorial Writing Contest
New york times review contest.
EngineerGirl Writing Contest
Organization: National Academy of Engineering
Award Amount: $100-$500
Eligibility: Grades 3-12
SPJ/JEA High School Essay Contest
Organization: Journalism Education Association
Award Amount: $300-$1,000
YoungArts’ National Arts Competition
Organization: National YoungArts Foundation
Category: Multiple categories, including writing, art, and music
Award Amount: Up to $10,000
Eligibility: Grades 10-12 or ages 15-18
NCTE Student Writing Awards
Organization: National Council of Teachers of English
Eligibility: Grade 11
NCTE Promising Young Writers Awards
Eligibility: Grade 8
World Historian Student Essay Contest
Organization: World History Association
Award Amount: $500
Deadline: Usually May
Eligibility: Grades K-12
Jane Austen Society Essay Contest
Organization: Jane Austen Society of North America
Subject/topic: Jane Austen’s works
Award Amount: $250-$1,000
Contests of Poetry, Play, and Fiction
Category: 28 categories, including science fiction, among others
Young Lions Fiction Award
Organization: New York Public Library
Award Amount: $10,000
Deadline: Usually in September
Eligibility: Ages 35 or under
Category: 3 categories, including poetry, play, personal or academic essay,
Organization: The National Poetry Quarterly
Deadline: March, June, September, December
Creative Communications Poetry Contest
Organization: Creative Communication
Award Amount: $25
Deadline: Usually December
Eligibility: Grades K-9
Leonard L. Milberg ‘53 High School Poetry Prize
Organization: Princeton University
The Lewis Center Ten-Minute Play Contest
Award Amount: $100 to $500
Deadline: Usually March
Worldwide Plays Festival Competition
Organization: Writopia Lab
Award Amount: Professional production in New York
Eligibility: Grades 1-12
NSHSS Creative Writing Scholarship Contest
Organization: National Society of High School Scholars
Category: Poetry and fiction
Award Amount: $2,000
The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose
Organization: The Adroit Journal
Category: Poetry and prose
Award Amount: $200
Award Amount: $50-$200
Eligibility: Ages 19 and under
Nancy Thorp Poetry Prize
Organization: Hollins University
Award Amount: $350-$5,000
Eligibility: Female students in grades 10-11
Ocean Awareness Contest
Organization: Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs
Category: Multiple categories, including poetry, prose, art, among others
Subject/topic: Ocean awareness
Award Amount: Up to $1,500
Eligibility: Ages 11-18
River of Words
Organization: Saint Mary’s College of California
Subject/topic: Environmental literacy
Eligibility: Ages 5-19
Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers
Organization: Kenyon Review
Award Amount: Scholarship to attend the Kenyon Review Young Writers workshop
Eligibility: Grades 10-11
Geek Partnership Society Writing Contest
Organization: Geek Partnership Society
Category: Multiple categories, including fiction, poetry, and comics
Subject/topic: Science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural, alternate history
Award Amount: Up to $100
Deadline: Usually July
Eligibility: Any age
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11 Writing Contests for High School Students with Cash Awards
Calling all high school student writers! If you’re looking for scholarships or ways to fund your future education, look no further than writing contests.
If you are a talented writer, you can find plenty of contests that will allow you to submit your writing for consideration. Many of them offer cash prizes and/or scholarships.
Below are 11 writing contests for high school students, but you can find plenty of other contests, both niche and general, by searching online.
1. Scholastic Art and Writing Awards
The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards celebrate art created by students age 13 and older in grades 7 through 12 on both a regional and national scale. You can submit in a huge variety of categories and styles, and you can enter awards that have cash prizes or scholarships.
Categories include science fiction and fantasy writing, critical essays, humor, dramatic scripts, and more.
Prizes vary as well. Gold medal portfolio winners can earn a $10,000 scholarship, and silver medal winners with distinction can earn a $1,000 scholarship, and there are more options for various categories. Fees to apply also vary by region, but the fee is generally $7 for a single entry and $25 for a portfolio entry.
Since these contests vary, you can use Scholastic’s Affiliate Partner search to find out when projects are due for your specific area.
2. Young Lions Fiction Award
To apply for this award, sponsored by the New York Public Library, any writer age 35 or younger may submit a novel or collection of short stories.
Each year, a reading committee of Young Lions members, writers, editors, and librarians select five finalists, and a panel of judges selects the winner.
The winner of this award will receive a $10,000 scholarship.
The deadline to apply is usually in September of the scholarship year, and it’s free to apply.
3. Ocean Awareness Contest
Students ages 11 through 18 from around the world are invited to participate in the Ocean Awareness Contest by submitting work in the form of visual art, creative writing, film, interactive and multimedia, performing arts, and poetry and spoken word.
The Junior Division is for students ages 11 through 14, and the Senior Division is for students ages 15 through 18.
In the Junior Division, the Gold Award is $1,000, Silver $750, Bronze $250, and Honorable Mention $50. In the Senior Division, the Gold Award is $1,500, Silver $1,000, Bronze $500, and Honorable Mention $100.
The 2021 theme is WATER RISING, and students can choose from five different prompts to which they will respond through their choice of submission.
4. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose
Each year, the Adroit Prizes awards two students who must be in high school or studying at the undergraduate level.
Submissions may include up to six poems (maximum of ten pages single-spaced) and/or up to three works of prose (combined word limit of 3,500 words). Students may submit excerpts of longer works if they choose.
Simultaneous submissions are also accepted, as long as students acknowledge in their cover letter that the work has been submitted elsewhere. Students may only submit one work per genre, per year, but they may submit entries to both the poetry and prose categories in a given year.
The submission fee is $13, but students can fill out a form if they need financial assistance.
All submissions will be considered for publication in the Adroit Journal , and winners will be awarded $200.
The deadline for this prize is typically in April each year.
5. NSHSS Creative Writing Scholarship
High school students of all ages are eligible for this creative writing scholarship, sponsored by the National Society of High School Scholars. Students can submit work (that has not been previously published) in one or both categories: poetry and fiction.
In the poetry category, students may submit their original poetry in any style, from formal verse to free verse and experiment. The poem should be formatted as you wish it to appear in publication.
In the fiction category, students may submit a piece of short fiction, no more than 5,000 words and not single-spaced. The student may choose any genre, including graphic novel or short story.
A prize of $2,000 will be awarded to one student winner in each category.
Though the submissions are closed for the 2020 scholarship, the 2021 scholarship applications will be open, likely sometime in the spring of 2021.
6. YoungArts Competition
Emerging artists ages 15 through 18, or grades 10 through 12, are invited to apply for this award in various disciplines, including visual arts, writing, and music, by submitting a portfolio of work. The winner is selected through a blind adjudication process conducted by an independent panel of highly accomplished artists.
There is a $35 application fee, but it can be waived.
Winners of the YoungArts Competition receive financial awards up to $10,000, creative and professional development experiences with renowned guest artists, and eligibility for a nomination as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the arts.
The application for the 2021 competition is closed, but the 2022 YoungArts application will open in the summer of 2021. By visiting the website, you can sign up for application news and updates.
7. The American Foreign Services Association Essay Contest
US students grade 9 through 12, as well as students in the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, or US citizens attending school abroad or at home are welcome to submit an essay identifying the United States’ strengths and weaknesses in establishing peace in foreign countries. The essay must be between 1,000 and 1,250 words and answer three questions about US foreign policy and national security.
The winner will receive a $2,500 cash prize as well as a Washington D.C. trip and a scholarship to attend Semester at Sea. A runner-up will receive $1,250 and a scholarship to attend the International Diplomacy Program of the National Student Leadership Conference.
The deadline to apply is April 5, 2021, and there’s no application fee.
8. The Lewis Center Ten-Minute Play Contest
Students in the eleventh grade (or international equivalent) are eligible for this annual playwriting contest. Each year, the jury consists of members of the Princeton University Program in Theater faculty.
Applicants may submit only one play of 10 pages maximum.
The award for first prize is $500, second prize $250, and third prize $100.
Entries for the 2021 prize are due by March 31, 2021 at 11:59 pm EST.
9. We the Students Essay Contest
This contest, run by the Bill of Rights Institute, asks students to answer the question, “What are the essential qualities of a citizen in your community in 21st century America?” in an essay between 500 and 800 words.
Students must be US citizens or legal residents between the ages of 14 and 19 attending public, private, charter, or religious schools in the U.S., U.S. territories or districts, or Armed Forces schools abroad to apply. Home-schooled students and those enrolled in correspondence or GED programs are also eligible to apply.
One national winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize and a scholarship to Constitutional Academy. 6 runners-up will receive $1,250 each, and eight honorable mentions will receive $500 each.
The deadline to enter is April 15, 2021 at 11:59 pm PST.
10. Young Writers Awards
To promote excellence in writing at the high school level, Bennington College invites submissions from students in grades 9 through 12 for this annual award.
Students may submit work in three different categories:
- Poetry: a group of three poems
- Fiction: a short story (1,500 words or fewer) or a one-act play (no more than 30 minutes of playing time)
- Nonfiction: a personal or academic essay (1,500 words or fewer)
A first, second, and third place winner is selected in each category. First place winners are awarded $500, second place $250, and third place $125.
There is no fee to enter this competition, which typically runs from September 3 to November 1 each year, with winners posted on the website in mid-April.
Students under the age of 19 may submit a one-act, non-musical play of at least ten pages for consideration. The play submitted should be the work of a single author, appropriate for high school audiences, and contain at least two characters, with one or more of those characters being youths in age-appropriate roles. The contest encourages large casts with multiple female roles.
One winner will receive $200, have their play published by YouthPLAYS, and receive a copy of Great Dialog, a program for writing dialog. One runner-up will receive $50 and a copy of Great Dialog.
The deadline to apply is May 1, 2021.