Essay Competitions High School Students

In a world where J.K. Rowling’s manuscript of “Harry Potter” was rejected 12 times and Kathryn Stockett’s manuscript of “The Help” was rejected 60 times, it can be easy to become despondent about publishing your fiction, even more so for teenage writers aching to voice their thoughts to the world.

However, there’s an abundance of writing competitions year round for teens and writing contests for high school students  — you just need to know where to look. 

Here, I compiled a list of 33 writing contests for teens. Genres include: fiction, poetry, nonfiction, screenplays, and plays.

Some of these contests may sound like the competition is too stiff, especially if the organization receives thousands of submissions every year. But speaking from personal experience, you never know unless you try. Rejections will pile up for young authors, but so will acceptances accompanied by whoops and fist pumps.

Additionally, the experiences offered by certain teen contests such as working with professionals, revisiting your work, and perhaps even seeing it come to life either in a publication or on stage is indescribably rewarding and gratifying. 

So, young writers, submit on!

1. Ocean Awareness Student Contest

The theme is “Making Meaning out of Ocean Pollution,” and it challenges you to research, explore, interpret, and say something meaningful about the connections between human activities and the health of our oceans. Prizes range from $100-$1,500.

Grades: Middle school – High school

Deadline: June

2. Rattle Young Poets Anthology

This is an anthology to look back on the past and view your younger work with pride. The author of the poem must have been age 15 or younger when the poem was written, and 18 or younger when submitted.

Ages: 18 or younger

Number of submissions: “Thousands” are submitted, 50 are chosen.

Deadline: June

 

3. Inkitt Novel Contest

If you have a novel over 20,000 words, submit it to this contest where a community of readers will read your story. The more they love it, the better chance you have of winning a publishing deal.

Think of it as American Idol for your novel.

Plus, all published authors with Inkitt receive these great perks:

  • $6,000+ invested into your book launch
  • 25% royalties on every copy sold
  • Cover design and professional editing
  • Publicity on Amazon (over 90% of their books become bestsellers right after launching)

This is a fantastic contest that can get you a ton of exposure and even result in a book deal. Read the reviews on their website and submit today. It’s free and easy to upload your manuscript and have readers start reading your work immediately.

4. Hypernova Lit

Any and all types of writing are welcome. Long short stories, short short stories, prose poetry, traditional poetry, blackout poetry, creative accounts of your life and experiences, essays about yourself, essays about what you love, plays, scripts, letters, lists, rants, lyrics, journal writing.

Ages: All

Deadline: Open Year-round

 

5. Princeton University Poetry Contest for High School Students 

The Princeton University Poetry Contest recognizes outstanding work by student writers in the 11th grade. Prizes: First Prize – $500, Second Prize – $250, Third Prize – $100.

Grades: 11

Deadline: Fall

6. The Bennington Young Writers Awards

Students in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades 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). First-place winners in each category are awarded a prize of $500; second-place winners receive $250.

Grades: 10-12

Deadline: Fall



 

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7. Canvas Literary Journal

Teen literary magazine published quarterly.

Seeking writers ages 13-18 to submit fiction, novel excerpts, poetry, plays, nonfiction, new media, and cross-genre.

Ages: 13-18

Deadline: Fall

 

8. The New Voices One-Act Competition for Young Playwrights

Submit your best one-act play (one per playwright!) to the New Voices competition and you can potentially win cash, software from fabulous sponsors Final Draft and Great Dialogue, and even publication!

Ages: 19 or younger

Submission period: Fall

9. Princeton University 10 Minute Play Contest

Eligibility for this annual playwriting contest is limited to students in the eleventh grade. Prizes: First Prize – $500, Second Prize – $250, Third Prize – $100. The jury consists of members of the Princeton University Program in Theater faculty.

Grades: 11

Deadline: Fall

10. Jet Fuel Review


Through Lewis University, Jet Fuel Review is run entirely by students under the supervision of faculty advisers Dr. Simone Muench and Dr. Jackie White.

Jet Fuel Review is looking for quality in writing, whether it be in poetry, prose, non-fiction, or artwork.

Submission periods: August to October; January to March

 

11. Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

Since 1923, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have recognized the vision, ingenuity, and talent of our nation’s youth. Through the Awards, students receive opportunities for recognition, exhibition, publication, and scholarships. 

Students across America submitted nearly 320,000 original works during our 2016 program year across 29 different categories of art and writing. 

Grades: 7-12

Submissions period: September to December



In this handbook for young writers, “Spilling Ink,” professional authors give advice to teens who want to become authors.

By mixing personal anecdotes with practical advice, this book offers everything a young author will need to create incredible stories.



12. One Teen Story

One Teen Story is an award-winning literary magazine for readers and writers of young adult literature. Subscribers receive one curated and edited work of short fiction each month in the mail or on their digital devices.

Ages: 13-19

Submission period: September to May

13. The Claremont Review

The editors of the Claremont Review publish the best poetry, short stories, short plays, visual art, and photography by young adults. We publish work in many styles that range from traditional to modern. 

We prefer pieces that explore real characters and reveal authentic emotion. 

Ages: 13-19

Submission period: September to April

 

14. Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest

Sponsored by Hollins University, the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest is in its fifty-second year. The contest awards prizes for the best poems submitted by young women who are sophomores or juniors in high school or preparatory school. Prizes up to $5,000 are awarded to winners. Winners are chosen by students and faculty members in the creative writing program at Hollins.

Grades: 11-12

Deadline: October

15.VSA Playwright Discovery Competition

Each year, young writers with and without disabilities, in U.S. grades 6-12 (or equivalents) or ages 11-18 for non-U.S. students, are asked to explore the disability experience through the art of script writing for stage or screen.

Writers may craft scripts from their own experiences and observations, create fictional characters and settings, or choose to write metaphorically or abstractly about the disability experience. Winners in these divisions will receive $500 for arts programs at their schools.

Grades: 6-12 OR Ages: 11-18

Deadline: October

16. YoungArts

The National YoungArts Foundation identifies and nurtures the most accomplished young artists in the visual, literary, design and performing arts and assists them at critical junctures in their educational and professional development. 

Additionally, YoungArts Winners are eligible for nomination as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students who exemplify academic and artistic excellence. 

Ages: 15-18 OR Grades: 10-12

Deadline: October 

17. The Critical Junior Poet’s Award Contest

The Critical Pass Review is now accepting submissions online for its Critical Junior Poet’s Award Contest, an editor’s choice award for exceptional promise in the art of poetry. Applicants between the ages of 13 and 18 can enter for free. The winner will receive a $100 cash prize, a $20 iTunes card, a CD of master poets reading their poetry, publication of his/her winning work in The Critical Pass Review‘s Summer 2016 issue, and more.

Ages: 13-18

Submissions period:November to March



“Leap Write In!” is from acclaimed author Karen Benke, who does a fantastic job helping teen writers to generate ideas for their next story.

This book has an amazing spread of writing prompts, all designed to get your heart on the page and the reader’s heart in their throat. 



18. The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers

The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers recognizes outstanding young poets and is open to high school sophomores and juniors throughout the world. The contest winner receives a full scholarship to the Kenyon Review Young Writers workshop.

Grades: 10-11

Deadline: November

19. Santa Fe University of Arts & Design High School Creative Writing Competition

The Glazner Creative Writing Contest is an opportunity for high school juniors and seniors to compete for a chance at publication in Santa Fe University of Art and Design’s online journal, Jackalope Magazine. To enter, students must submit up to 10 pages of work in any genre to our contest email address (ude.y1520728625tisre1520728625vinue1520728625fatna1520728625s@tse1520728625tnoc1520728625).

Grades: 11-12

Deadline: November to December

20. Young Authors Writing Competition (Columbia College Chicago)

The Young Authors Writing Competition is a national competition for high school writers of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry. It began as a local contest in 1995, and since then has expanded into a national competition that has received tens of thousands of submissions from students across the country. 1st Place: $300, 2nd Place: $150, and 3rd Place: $50.

Grades: 9-12

Submission period: November to January

21. Odyssey Con

The OddContest is an annual competition for speculative (science fiction, fantasy, or horror) stories or prose poems no longer than 500 words. Prizes: $50 to first place; Odyssey Con membership and free books to top 3.

Ages: 18 or younger

Deadline: January

22. Young Playwrights INC.

Selected writers will be invited to New York, expenses paid, for our Young Playwrights Conference to work with some of this country’s most exciting professional theater artists, and to hear their plays read in our Off-Broadway Readings Series.

Ages18 or younger

Deadline: January

23. University of Iowa – Hemingway Festival High School Writing Contest

Accepting Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Poetry, and Essays.

Winners and Finalists will be recognized at the 7th Annual University of Idaho Hemingway Festival, and cash prizes will be awarded in each category. Winners will also be considered for publication in an online University of Idaho publication. There will be one winner and one Finalist in each category with one Overall Grand Prize Winner. Cash prizes up to $500.

Grades: 11-12

Deadline: January

24. Interlochen Review

Interlochen Arts Academy is a high school boarding school and summer camp. It online literary journal accepts submissions from high school students in five categories: Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, Screen/Stageplay and Hybrid form. Up to 6 pieces total.

Grades: 9-12

Submissions Period: February to March

25. Aerie International Journal

Aerie International was born of a desire to offer outstanding young writers and artists an opportunity to share, edit, and publish their work internationally. What makes this journal unique is that it is designed, edited and published entirely by high school students. Students whose work is selected received $100 in addition to a copy of the magazine.

Grades: 9-12

Deadline: February 

26. Chapman Art and Writing Holocaust Contest 

Focusing on themes central both to the Holocaust and to ethical decision making in our world today, the contest gives students from public, private and parochial schools the opportunity to share their creative works in response to survivors’ oral testimonies.

Participating schools may submit a total of three entries from three individual students in the following categories: art, film, prose, and/or poetry.

Grades: 9-12

Deadline: February 



“Writing Magic” is for every young author who wants to create a world that magically transports the reader.

She focuses on the core advice every writer needs: how to write beginnings and endings, how to create unforgettable characters, and how to write snappy dialogue that keeps readers laughing and crying.



27. Writopia Lab Worldwide Plays Festival

The festival includes plays written in workshops at Writopia’s labs across the country and plays submitted to our competition from playwrights around the world from playwrights in 1st through 12th grade (ages 6 to 18). Plays are professionally produced in New York.

Grades: 1-12 OR Ages: 6-18

Deadline: February

28. The Blank Theater’s Young Playwrights’ Festival


Since 1993, 12 plays are chosen by a panel of theatre professionals from submissions across America. Winning playwrights are provided careful mentoring and direction from industry professionals to help prepare their work for public performance and hone their skills, talent and confidence. Nowhere else in the nation can young playwrights receive the prize of seeing their vision come to life on stage in a professional production featuring known actors from film, television and theatre. The plays are crafted by seasoned professional directors and each is given several public performances in a month-long Festival.

Ages: 9-19

Deadline: March

29. Austin International Poetry Festival (AIPF)

Each year the Austin International Poetry Festival (AIPF) recognizes youth poets by publishing their work together in a truly diverse anthology. We welcome international poets from kindergarten through high school grade level or age to submit up to three poems.

Grades: K-12

Deadline: March 

30. Winter Tangerine

Winter Tangerine is a literary journal dedicated to the electric. To the salt. The sugar. We want bitter honey, expired sweets. We want catalysts. Accepting submissions of poetry, prose, drama, visual art, and short film.

Ages: All

Submission period: April to October 

 

31. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose

The Adroit Journal, published at the University of Pennsylvania is open to all writers. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose are awarded annually to two students of secondary or undergraduate status whose written work “inspires the masses to believe beyond feeling the work.” In other words, we strive to receive the absolute best work from emerging young writers in high school and college, and the best of the best will receive these two lovely awards.

Grades: 9+

Submission Period: To be announced

 

32. Hanging LooseMagazine

Hanging Loose Magazine is a professional magazine that welcomes high school submissions. Payment plus 2 copies. Send 3 to 6 poems, or 1 to 3 short stories, or an equivalent combination of poetry and prose to High School Editor, Hanging Loose, 231 Wyckoff Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217. Identify yourself as a high school age writer.

Grades: 9-12

Deadline: Open Year-round

 

 

Other Resources:

Poetry Space

An online publishing opportunity for young writers.

www.poetryspace.co.uk/young-writers-space/

 

The New Pages Young Author’s Guide

A resource for young authors to find places to submit their work!

http://newpages.com/npguides/young_authors_guide.htm

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​Looking for a way to challenge your skills, inspire growth in yourself, and motivation to try your hardest? Check out this list of 50 competitions that might help you do just that!

Academic

  • National Economics Challenge - While not available in all states, EconChallenge is an online competition for high school students. Winning teams can eventually compete at the national level.
  • LifeSmarts - Run by the National Consumers League, LifeSmarts competitions encourage high schoolers to learn more about the issues faced by consumers today.
  • MIT Inspire - MIT Inspire is the nation's first comprehensive research competition in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. High school students in the US can apply.
  • National Geographic Bee - This competition held by National Geographic encourages students to learn more about geography.
  • National High School Mock Trial Championship - Initiated in Iowa, this championship allows high school students to achieve a greater understanding through competition and education.
  • Kids Philosophy Slam - The Philosophy Slam tests kids' critical thinking skills. Winners can earn the title of "The Most Philosophical Student in America".
  • National History Day Competition - The National History Day program is a year-long education program that culminates in a national contest every June.
  • University Interscholastic League - UIL offers academic competitions in several areas such as Journalism, Speech & Debate, STEM Activities, and Theatre & Film.
  • American Model United Nations International - Model UN strives to create a realistic simulation of a United Nations conference, allowing students to practice diplomacy.

ART and MUSIC 

  • National YoungArts Foundation - Talented individuals age 15-18 who get accepted to the competition participate in week long intensives in their discipline. During these intensives, students are judged and have a chance to win up to $10,000 in cash rewards and are eligible for a nomination as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the arts.
  • Doodle 4 Google - Submit a design to Google for a chance to have your artwork appear on millions of computer screens as the Google Logo.
  • Vans Custom Culture - In this competition, Vans encourages high schools to come together to submit a custom design based around a specific theme. The winning high school will receive $50,000 towards their school's art program.
  • Congressional Art Competition - This competition sponsored by the Congressional Institute recognizes high school students' artistic talents. Winning artwork is displayed in the White House for one year.
  • National Geographic Student Photo Competition - Talented photography students grades 9-12 can submit their photos that capture the student's sense of exploration and adventure.
  • International Children's Painting Competition on the Environment - An annual international competition held by the UN Environment program for kids aged 5-13. It focuses on environmental awareness and global peace.
  • The Lynn Freeman Olson Competition - This competition sponsored by the National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC) provides monetary awards to students of various ages who enter their composition.
  • Stillman Kelley/Thelma Byrum Awards - This instrumental competition, also sponsored by NFMC honors talented musicians under the age of 19.
  • MTNA Student Competitions - The Music Teachers National Association holds 5 annual competitions in which students compete at state, division, and national levels for merit based awards.
  • American Protege - Singers of all ages can compete in an American Protege competition which has categories for vocalities, string instrumentalists and more.
  • NATS Singing Competition - The National Association of Teachers of Singing holds a series of competitions to showcase young, talented, singers.

Physical Activity

  • Dance Masters of America - Members of Dance Masters of America can compete in various categories and several types of dance media.
  • NASKA - Members of the National American Sport Karate Association can compete in competitions in their division.
  • Ski Team - You can find a ski team near you to participate in statewide and nationwide ski and snowboarding competitions.
  • UCA Cheer - The Universal Cheerleaders Association holds camps and competitions around the nation.
  • Jiu-Jitsu - Interested in competing in Jiu-Jitsu? The North American Jiu-Jitsu Federation has all the information about training and competitions.
  • Figure Skating - The US Figure Skating Association has information regarding state Elementary, Middle and High School figure skating competitions that can eventually lead to National or even International competitions.

STEM Competitions

  • Society for the Science and Public Science Fairs - Win a SSP affiliated science fair and get an automatic nomination to the Broadcom MASTERS (grades 6-8) or ISEF (grades 9-12) competitions.
  • AEOP - The Army Education Outreach Program provides both students and teachers a collaborative, cohesive, portfolio of Army-sponsored STEM programs that effectively engage, inspire, and attract the next generation of STEM talent through K through college programs and expose them to DoD STEM careers.
  • Google Science Fair - This is a science and technology competition for anyone, team or individual, around the world ages 13-18. Participants are rewarded for being creative, inspiring, and designing projects that will make an impact on local or global communities.
  • STEM Video Game Challenge - This competition aims to encourage critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and communication in Middle School and High School students by challenging them to create an original video game.
  • Stockholm Junior Water Prize - The Water Environment Federation has created a competition for students in grades 9-12 who have conducted a water-science research project.
  • FIRST Lego League - FLL aims to create future problem-solvers by asking students to apply STEM concepts to real-world problems. The presentation of the project also challenges the students' communication and creativity.
  • Technology Student Association - The TSA believes in the need for a technology literate society. Middle School and High School students can create a variety of projects applicable to agriculture, web design, and many other fields.
  • Verizon App Challenge - In this competition, Verizon Innovative Learning invites 6-12th graders to create a mobile app that will solve a problem in their community.
  • Mathcounts - MATHCOUNTS enables middle school students of all abilities to gain confidence in their math ability. Not only can students participate in one of their competitions, but members can also enter their own teaching videos into a video challenge.
  • Science Bee - The National Science Bee takes place during the Academic Bee and Bowl. Students K-8 are asked to answer a set of 35 science related questions ranging from biology to the history of science.
  • FIRST Robotics - FIRST Robotics competitions allow members to embrace their competitive side. Under the supervision of a mentor, students build robots to play a field-game against other competitors.
  • Math Bee - The National Math Bee is an online math competition for children in grades 1-6, allowing them to hone their math skills. After succeeding in the classroom, school wide, district and state competitions, students compete in the National Math Bee Championship.
  • Caribou Mathematics Competition - There are six online competitions held throughout the year offered for students in grades 3-12. 
  • CleanTech - CleanTech asks students to use STEM concepts in order to research and design a product that will deal with an environmentally related issue.

Volunteering

  • Destination Imagination - Students form teams of up to 7 and design and carry out a project that will help their community. This organization also provides Fine Arts and STEM challenges.
  • President's National Service Award - The President's National Service Award encourages people of all ages to volunteer. By volunteering at a Certifying Organization for the required number of hours, you will be recognized the this award.
  • National Student Volunteer Award - Volunteering students are rewarded for their dedication, leadership, innovation, and impact they have made on their community. Your school needs to apply for this award.
  • Governor's Volunteer Award - Governor's Volunteer Awards are meant to recognize accomplished volunteers in an individual state, and therefore vary based on where you live.
  • C-Span's Student Cam - Students in grades 6-12 can submit a short documentary about topics that affect our communities and nation.

Writing

  • Anne Frank Essay Contest - Sponsored by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, students in grades 5-8 can submit an essay for the chance to win three round trip tickets to visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
  • Americanism Essay Contest - Open for students grades 7-12, students are awarded a monetary prize and plaque for the winning essay.
  • Ayn Rand Institute Contest - This contest is open to students grade 8-12 and offers cash prizes for the top Ayn Rand-themed essays.
  • Creative Communication Poetry Contest - Open for students of all ages, this contest aims to highlight the work of talented writers by publishing the winners in a book.
  • National High School Essay Contest - This contest sponsored by the U.S. Foreign Service, gives high school students important international topics to think and write about.

This list covers only a small number of the many competitions out there, but hopefully it opens your eyes to the many types of contests out there!​

** We just added 40 More Competitions Every Student Needs to Know About​

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