If you’re interested in applying to art or design-related schools, you’ll need to showcase a successful portfolio. One way to boost your application - and to highlight your ability - is to win competitions at the high school level. You can do this across mediums - ceramics, digital art, and more.
We've compiled a list of 10 great art and design competitions open to high school students. Participating in these contests provides you with experience, exposure, and inspiration for your future projects.
If you regularly browse the internet, chances are, you've seen some of Google's commemorative artworks on the Google Homepage. As a participant in Doodle for Google, you get to design your own Google logo based on the theme given and stand a chance to get your artwork published all over the globe!
This year's theme is "Use your imagination to create a Google Doodle based on what you’re grateful for". You are free to create a doodle with any art material and must submit your doodle via a form on the Doodle for Google website.
Along with your art submission, you are also expected to send a writeup explaining why you've drawn what you've drawn, and how that doodle represents all that you're grateful for.
Entries are judged on the State, and National levels based on creativity, originality, and communication of theme.
Application Deadline: March 7, 2023
Prizes: A $30,000 college scholarship, a $50,000 technology package for your school, Google hardware, Google swag, and a 24-hour feature of your artwork on Google's homepage.
Eligibility: All high school students from anywhere in the world can doodle for Google!
Are you passionate (or curious!) about using data and design to create an impact in your community? If yes, the Cooper Hewitt Design Competition is a great platform to showcase your skills and improve your communication skills! Once you register, you will be guided on data visualization techniques - techniques you can use to communicate and solve real-world challenges. You are allowed to use both secondary and primary data for your submission.
Your entry will be screened in two stages, and all finalists will be assigned a mentor, an expert in the field of data design. At the end of the challenge, you are to virtually present your projects at the Virtual Judging Weekend at Cooper Hewitt. For your submission, make sure to keep these criteria in mind - innovation, impact, relevance, and communication.
Dates: April to 11th June 2023
Application Deadline: 13th February 2023
Prizes: Certificates, a gift package worth $500 from SHOP Cooper Hewitt, and a Family membership to Cooper Hewitt.
Eligibility: Students aged 13-19 can register individually or in teams of up to 3 students
EarthX aims to promote awareness of sustainable initiatives and action against climate change amongst students through the medium of art. EarthX's Eco-Art Competition allows you to submit 2D/3D entries based on its yearly theme. You can use any medium(s) to create your artwork, as long as it fulfills the following criteria - Artistic Merit, Adherence to the Theme, Creative Interpretation, and Impact.
This year's theme is "Protectors for the Planet". This theme can be interpreted in various ways, and you can create art based on how you can contribute towards a healthier planet, recognition of activists, local leaders who are making an effort to protect the planet every day, etc.
Application Deadline: January 24, 2023
Prizes: Cash prizes of up to $500
Eligibility: All high school students are eligible
The UN World Wildlife Day Art Contest, one of the most prestigious art competitions for high school students around the world, invites entries based on the theme ‘Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation’. For this theme, you are to focus on a species that has benefitted from people working together to protect and care for it, a partnership of sorts. Your submission can explore the efforts of local leaders, scientists, the government, or even communities that have worked to conserve the Earth's biodiversity, one species at a time.
Your artwork must be created using any of the following - markers, crayons, colored pencils, and/or paint.
Last year, the contest received over 1500 submissions from students from over 60 countries - an experience you shouldn't miss out on.
You can take a look at winning entries from past years here.
Application Deadline: February 6th, 2023
Prizes: The winning entry will be presented at the World Wildlife Day Event on March 3rd, 2023
Eligibility: Any high-school student can participate
A highly prestigious annual visual arts competition, the Congressional Art Competition has been inviting entries from high school students since 1982! The competition is aimed at encouraging artistic challenge amongst students in every Congressional district in the USA.
As a participant, you are expected to submit any 2D artwork, be it prints, mixed media works, paintings, drawings, collages,computer-generated art, or photographs.
Since 1982, the competition has seen over 650,000 entries, out of which the winning pieces are displayed at the U.S. Capitol for one year!
Application Deadline: Varies from state to state, usually around April 15, 2023
Prizes: Recognition at the U.S. Capitol
Location: In-person submission of entries
Eligibility: All high school students based in any Congressional district of the US can participate
An art competition cum scholarship, the NSHSS Visual Arts Competition invites entries across two broad categories - Photography/Digital Photography, and Painting/Drawing/Mixed Media/Digital Art.
This challenge aims to support bright, deserving students in their artistic journey, as well as showcase art by some of the finest upcoming young artists. You can submit entries in both categories, and stand a chance to win cash prizes. Along with your art, you are also required to submit the following (according to the official NSHSS Website) -
Title and description of your submission (up to 200 words)
Digital files of your artwork uploaded to the application
Pictures/videos/media showing your leadership in action (optional)
Color headshot suitable for website posing
Current Transcript (can be official or unofficial)
Application Deadline: October 13, 2023
Prizes: Cash prizes of up to $2000 in both categories
Location: Virtual Submission
Eligibility: All high-school students based in the USA can participate
A fresh, exciting competition for any sneakerhead + artist, Vans' Custom Culture challenge aims to shed light on the diminishing arts education budgets provided to high-school students. For this competition, students are required to customize plain Vans sneakers based on the year's theme.
For example, 2022's themes were Hometown Pride and VanD(IY)oren Legacy.
Along with your customized sneaker, you are also required to send a writeup of not more than 500 words, on how the grand cash prize will have a positive impact on your high school's art program.
Tip: You can also participate in the Bonus Challenge, which requires you to customize your shoe with materials found in your natural environment, or materials that were owned by your school before you designed the shoe.
Dates: March 7 - April 15, 2023 (based on last year's deadline)
Application Deadline: February 4, 2023 (based on last year's deadline)
Prizes: Cash prizes of up to $50,000
Eligibility: All high school students are encouraged to apply
YoungArts is one of the first organizations in the country that support artists across more than 10 disciplines, including Design Arts, Dance, Music, Visual Arts, and Film. The National YoungArts scholars receive financial support to pursue their discipline at higher education institutes and are provided with a network of artists and industry experts, as well as recognition on a national level.
If you're a budding artist, the National YoungArts competition is a great opportunity.
As a participant, you are required to submit your entries for as many disciplines as you like, and your entries will then be judged by a panel of esteemed artists. Finalists receive lifetime support from YoungArts, as well as other awards.
Note: YoungArts also has a ton of other programs and activities that are held all year round, so make sure to keep an eye out for them!
Application Deadline: June 2023 (for the 2024 challenge)
Prizes: Access to YoungArts Post, medals, cash awards, industry exposure, and access to a network of over 200,00 artists.
Eligibility: All high-school students aged 15-18
An annual awards program that has been supporting artistic teens since 1923, the Scholastic Art Awards is another prestigious challenge that you should consider participating in. It allows entries in 15+ categories, some of them being:
Entries are judged by a panel of industry experts, and winners receive loads of prizes, as well as financial support from Scholastic to pursue a career in an artistic discipline of their choice. Your work is judged at the regional and national levels, and you can even enter your entire portfolio instead of a single entry!
Application Deadline: Deadlines vary by region and can be as early as December 1
Prizes: Cash prizes of up to $12,500, scholarships, and awards
Eligibility: All high school students residing in the USA are eligible to apply
10. The Lumen Prize
A competition aimed at supporting and showcasing some of the finest digital art, the Lumen Prize is an excellent opportunity for any artist working with art that engages with technology.
Your entry is judged in two stages - the International Selectors Committee, made up of academics, curators, and art critics first makes a longlist of entries, which is then sent to Lumen's Jury Panel for shortlisting.
Along with your entry, you are also asked to turn in the following descriptions -
Please provide your artistic concept, ideas, or influences. Limit your description to approximately 250 words.
Artwork technical description
List the hardware and software you used, including anything originally coded or designed by you. Please specify the physical dimensions, if applicable.
Note: You can check out past recipients of the Lumen Award here!
Dates: Judging process goes on from July 27 to October 19, 2023 (based on last year's timetable)
Application Deadline: March 7th, 2023
Prizes: Cash prizes of up to $4000, with a total prize fund of $13,500.
Eligibility: Open to all high school students
Alongside building upon your creative portfolio, you can also choose to work on a research program during the summer. This is a great way to show depth in your area of interest and build a project you can showcase in your application.
Lumiere Research Scholar Program is a selective online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. In the program, you work 1-1 with a researcher to develop your own research project. Last year, we had over 2100 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.
Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.