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10 New York Times Writing Contests for High School Students

Entering writing contests is a fantastic way for high school students to hone their craft, gain recognition, and even win some cool prizes. The New York Times, known for its high journalistic standards and influence, offers several opportunities for budding writers to showcase their talents. Participating in these contests can help students build their portfolios, boost their confidence, and potentially open doors to future academic and career opportunities. Let's dive into ten exciting writing contests hosted by The New York Times that you won't want to miss.


What are New York Times Writing Contests?

New York Times Writing Contests are annual competitions organized by one of the most prestigious newspapers in the world, aimed at encouraging young writers to express their ideas and creativity. These contests cover a wide range of genres and formats, from personal narratives and essays to reviews and editorials. Open to high school students, these contests provide a unique platform for young voices to be heard on significant topics and current events. By participating, students can develop their writing skills, receive feedback from professionals, and gain national recognition for their work. Whether you're passionate about storytelling, journalism, or persuasive writing, the New York Times has a contest that can help you take your writing to the next level.


Is the New York Times Writing Contests prestigious?

Yes – the New York Times Writing Contests are considered some of the most prestigious competitions for high school students. Winning or even being recognized as a finalist in these contests is a significant achievement, given the rigorous standards and wide readership of the Times. The contests attract talented young writers from across the country, making the competition fierce and the recognition highly esteemed. 


Participating in these contests can not only enhance a student's writing portfolio but also add a notable accolade to their college applications. Being associated with the New York Times, a globally respected institution, lends a mark of distinction that can open doors to further academic and professional opportunities.


10 New York Times Writing Contests

While there are many contests available, here is our selection for the top 10 picks for high school students:


Deadline: November 2024 (Estimated)


The Personal Narrative Writing Contest invites high school students to share true stories from their own lives. This contest focuses on authenticity and personal experience, encouraging students to reflect on meaningful moments and articulate them in a compelling way. Winners get their narratives published in The New York Times, providing a platform for their voices to be heard by a wide audience.


Deadline: May 2025 (Estimated)


In the Editorial Contest, students are asked to write opinion pieces on topics they feel passionately about. This contest challenges young writers to build persuasive arguments, backed by evidence, to sway public opinion. It's an excellent opportunity for those interested in journalism or advocacy to develop their voice and analytical skills.


Deadline: December 2024 (Estimated)


In the Review Contest, students critique a book, movie, album, theater performance, or any other form of art or media. The goal is to analyze and evaluate the subject critically, providing an insightful and well-supported opinion. This contest helps students hone their critical thinking and writing skills while engaging with culture and media. However, the media that you are critiquing in your submission must have been released in the current year (ie. not in 2023!).


Deadline: August 16, 2024 


The Summer Reading Contest invites students to submit responses to articles published in The New York Times over the summer. Each week, participants choose an article that interests them, write a short commentary on why they found it compelling, and submit their response. The contest encourages consistent engagement with current events and diverse topics, while also fostering critical thinking and writing skills. Winners are selected weekly, providing multiple opportunities for recognition throughout the summer.


Deadline: May 2025 (Estimated)


The Podcast Contest asks students to create and submit original podcasts on topics of their choice. These podcasts should be short, and not exceed five minutes in length. This contest allows participants to explore storytelling through audio, requiring skills in writing, interviewing, and sound editing. It's a great opportunity for those interested in multimedia journalism and podcast production.


Deadline: February 2025 (Estimated)


The Informational Writing Contest is a chance for teenagers to write clear, concise, and engaging step-by-step guides on any topic they are passionate about. This contest encourages participants to think like educators, breaking down complex processes into easy-to-follow instructions. It challenges students to blend creativity with practicality, ensuring their guides are both informative and interesting to readers. Winning entries are featured on The New York Times website, offering a platform for young writers to share their expertise with a wide audience.


Deadline: March 2025 (Estimated)


The Vocabulary Video Challenge tasks students with creating 15-second videos that creatively and accurately define a word from The New York Times Learning Network’s Word of the Day feature. This contest encourages participants to think outside the box, using visual storytelling to bring vocabulary to life. It's an engaging way for students to expand their language skills while also honing their ability to communicate effectively through multimedia. Winning videos are showcased on The New York Times website, providing recognition for students' creativity and linguistic prowess – very useful for college applications!


Deadline: March 2025 (Estimated)


In the Photo Esay Contest, students can capture and explore their communities through a series of photographs accompanied by written reflections. This contest encourages participants to observe their surroundings closely, telling a story about their environment, people, and daily life. It's a unique opportunity to blend visual and written storytelling, showcasing both photographic skills and narrative abilities. 


Deadline: January 2025 (Estimated)


The One-Pager Challenge asks students to respond creatively to any article in The New York Times by summarizing their thoughts and insights on a single page. This contest encourages concise and impactful writing, allowing participants to express their understanding and opinions succinctly. It’s a great exercise in critical thinking and brevity, helping students to synthesize information and articulate their views effectively. Most of all, the contest should be fun, since students are welcome to comment on an article on any topic they find interesting.


Deadline: Open all year round


If you’re looking for more frequent writing opportunities rather than participating in contests that take place annually, then the Conversation Challenge may be a better fit for you. You can react to the news via the New York Times daily writing prompts, and each week, they will publish a selection of their comments in a roundup for the world to read. Not only will you have consistent writing exercises throughout the year, but also you’ll be deeply informed on current events. 


Our Thoughts

Participating in The New York Times writing contests provides high school students with invaluable opportunities to develop their writing skills, engage with current events, and express their creativity. These contests cater to a wide range of interests, from narrative storytelling and opinion writing to multimedia projects and photo essays. Each contest encourages critical thinking, creativity, and clear communication, offering students a chance to gain recognition and showcase their talents. Engaging in these contests can be a transformative experience, helping young writers find their voice and connect with a broader audience.



One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are interested in doing university-level research in literature, journalism, 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. 


Image Source: New York Times

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