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10 International Competitions for High School Students

Participating in international competitions can be a game-changer for high school students looking to make their mark on a global scale. Whether you're into STEM or the humanities, these contests offer a unique platform to showcase your skills, creativity, and hard work. Let's not forget the impact on college applications – excelling in these competitions can make you stand out in a sea of applicants, showing colleges your commitment, passion, and ability to compete at an international level.

Here are our picks for 10 international competitions for High School Students:

Location: Varies annually

Cost: Free to nominal fee, depending on location

Eligibility: High school students worldwide

Application Deadline: Varies annually

Dates/Duration: Annually, typically a few days in spring or early summer

The Bretton Woods Economics Competition is an esteemed international event that challenges high school students to tackle pressing global economic issues. Participants engage in rigorous analysis and debate, developing and presenting their ideas on a variety of topics ranging from international finance to economic development and policy. This competition not only allows students to deepen their understanding of economics in a global context but also encourages critical thinking, teamwork, and effective communication. It's a fantastic platform for aspiring economists to connect with peers from around the world and gain exposure to the complexities of the global economic landscape.

Location: Varies; often held in Europe or Asia

Cost: Participation fee required, plus travel expenses

Eligibility: High school teams with an adult supervisor

Application Deadline: Around February or March

Dates/Duration: The main event takes place in late October or early November

The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition is a unique global event that invites high school students to dive into the world of synthetic biology. Teams collaborate under the guidance of mentors to design, build, and test genetically engineered systems using standard biological parts. The culmination of their hard work is presented at the Grand Jamboree, offering students a platform to showcase their innovative projects, network with the international scientific community, and contribute to solving real-world problems through synthetic biology. It's an incredible opportunity for young scientists to get hands-on experience in research and biotechnology, pushing the boundaries of creativity and science.

Location: Budapest, Hungary for 2024 IYPT

Cost: Participation fee plus travel expenses

Eligibility: Teams of high school students

Application Deadline: Varies, typically in late winter or early spring

Dates/Duration: Annually, usually in July

The International Young Physicists' Tournament (IYPT), often referred to as the "Physics World Cup," is a prestigious global competition where teams of high school students tackle complex physics problems. Unlike traditional contests, the IYPT emphasizes collaborative problem-solving and critical thinking, as teams not only present their solutions but also engage in discussions and defend their findings against criticism from peers. This tournament is hosted in different countries each year, offering participants a unique opportunity to explore physics in depth, develop teamwork and communication skills, and connect with fellow young physicists from around the world.

Location: Varies; recent events in Asia and Europe

Cost: Registration fee plus travel expenses

Eligibility: Teams of 2-3 students, up to 19 years old

Application Deadline: Varies by country

Dates/Duration: Annually, with the final event typically in November

The World Robot Olympiad (WRO) is an international robotics competition that invites teams of young people to develop, design, and build robots to address challenges. This engaging contest emphasizes creativity, teamwork, and problem-solving skills, as participants use their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to compete in various categories tailored to different age groups, including high school students. The WRO fosters a hands-on approach to learning and innovation, providing a global platform for students to showcase their abilities in robotics and to connect with fellow robotics enthusiasts from around the world.

Location: The World Finals location varies; past events have been hosted in countries outside the U.S.

Cost: Varies; there are costs associated with building the car and traveling to competitions

Eligibility: Students aged 9-19, in teams of 3-6 members

Application Deadline: Varies by country

Dates/Duration: Annually, with the World Finals typically held towards the end of the year

The F1 in Schools STEM Challenge is an exciting global competition where students aged 9-19 form teams to design, analyze, manufacture, and race miniature Formula One cars. Utilizing professional-grade CAD/CAM software and engineering principles, teams are tasked with creating cars that are not only fast on the track but also aesthetically appealing and efficiently marketed. Beyond the engineering and racing aspects, students also delve into project management, teamwork, budgeting, and presentation skills. This comprehensive challenge mirrors the real-world processes of the Formula One racing world, offering students a unique, hands-on STEM learning experience while fostering an environment of competition, collaboration, and innovation.

Location: Regional and global rounds held in various countries outside the U.S.

Cost: Registration fee for teams.

Eligibility: Students of all ages, including high schoolers.

Application Deadline: Varies by regional round.

Dates/Duration: Annual cycle, culminating in the Tournament of Champions at Yale University 

Note: while the final event is in the U.S., the competition is truly global with qualifying rounds worldwide.

The World Scholar's Cup is a global academic competition that encourages students to explore a broad range of subjects, from science and history to literature and art, all within the context of an annual theme. It's designed to be more than just a contest; it fosters a sense of global community, teamwork, and the joy of learning through collaborative events such as team debates, collaborative writing, and a quiz-style challenge known as the Scholar's Bowl. Participants, known as "scholars," also have the chance to engage with students from around the world, making it a culturally enriching experience that celebrates diversity and the pursuit of knowledge. The competition is known for its welcoming, inclusive atmosphere and its emphasis on empowering students to become confident in their abilities to discuss and analyze complex topics.

Location: The summit is held outside the U.S., with virtual participation options.

Cost: Free to enter.

Eligibility: High school students aged 14-18 from any country.

Application Deadline: Typically in early winter.

Dates/Duration: Annual competition with submissions in winter and the summit in spring.

The Diamond Challenge is an innovative competition for high school entrepreneurs from around the globe. It offers students the opportunity to transform their entrepreneurial ideas into reality. Participants are tasked with developing a viable business concept, which they then present to a panel of judges. The challenge emphasizes the practical aspects of business planning, creativity, and strategic thinking, providing participants with invaluable feedback, mentorship, and the chance to win awards and scholarships. The Diamond Challenge not only cultivates young entrepreneurs' business acumen but also fosters leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving skills, making it a comprehensive platform for aspiring business leaders.

Location: Online submission; winners are recognized at the Breakthrough Prize ceremony.

Cost: Free to enter.

Eligibility: Students aged 13-18 from around the world.

Application Deadline: Typically in June.

Dates/Duration: Annually.

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is a global competition that invites students aged 13-18 to share their passion for science and mathematics. Participants create short, imaginative videos that simplify complex scientific theories and concepts, making them accessible and engaging to a broader audience. The challenge encourages creativity, clarity of expression, and the ability to inspire through storytelling. Winners are recognized for their exceptional ability to communicate complex ideas in compelling ways and receive significant educational prizes, including scholarships and a grant for their school's science lab. It's a unique platform for young scientists and mathematicians to showcase their talents and potentially transform the way people understand the world around them.

Location: Various international locations, outside the U.S.

Cost: €499

Eligibility: High school students aged 14-19.

Application Deadline: Varies, generally in the winter months.

Dates/Duration: Typically in spring or early summer.

The International Environmental Project Olympiad (INEPO) is a prestigious competition that invites high school students from around the globe to present innovative solutions to environmental challenges. Participants work on projects that address issues in areas such as renewable energy, waste management, water conservation, and biodiversity, among others. The goal of INEPO is to foster a deeper understanding of environmental issues among young people and encourage them to apply scientific principles and creative thinking to real-world problems. Through their participation, students not only gain valuable research experience but also have the opportunity to share their ideas with an international community, promoting global collaboration and awareness of environmental sustainability.

Location: Online, with the global summit held in various international locations.

Cost: $499 for finalists attending the summit.

Eligibility: Students aged 13-18 from around the world.

Application Deadline: Typically in the fall.

Dates/Duration: Annual cycle, with the summit in spring.

The Conrad Challenge is an annual, multi-phase innovation and entrepreneurship competition that encourages high school students worldwide to become entrepreneurial problem solvers, addressing pressing global challenges. Teams of 2-5 students, aged 13-18, collaborate to create sustainable solutions in categories such as aerospace, cyber-technology, health, and nutrition, among others. The challenge emphasizes the practical application of STEM concepts, creativity, and critical thinking, guiding students from idea conception to potential commercialization. Finalist teams are invited to the Innovation Summit, where they present their solutions to a panel of industry experts, competing for seed funding, patent support, and commercial opportunities. It's an exceptional platform for young innovators to turn their visions into reality and make a positive impact on the world.

Diving into the world of international competitions for high school students opens up a universe of possibilities that stretch far beyond traditional academics. These competitions not only challenge young minds to tackle real-world problems but also foster a spirit of global collaboration and innovation. They're a testament to the power of youth engagement in solving global issues, emphasizing the importance of creativity, teamwork, and critical thinking. For students, participating in these contests is more than a competition; it's an opportunity to grow, learn, and connect with a global community of like-minded peers, shaping them into the problem-solvers and leaders of tomorrow.

One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are interested in doing university-level research in STEM or other subjects, which can become a topic to talk about in your college application, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Lydia is currently a junior at Harvard University, studying Molecular and Cellular Biology and Economics. In high school, she was the captain of her high school’s Academic Decathlon team and attended the Governor's School of Engineering and Technology. She aims to become a life sciences consultant after graduation. 

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