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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the 17 best writing contests for high school students.
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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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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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