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  • Ishaan Chawdhary

15 Writing Competitions for High School Students


Whichever field you’re passionate about, being able to write well can help you make an impact. Be it in research, for a college application, in an assignment, or simply to express yourself, writing is essential to communicating your thoughts. The ability to write well can set you apart! This is why every year, organizations around the world host competitions to celebrate this skill in students. Participating in and doing well at these competitions does more than just make your college application look good - several writing competitions also offer the chance to win cash prizes and scholarships to summer programs! Writing contests often offer multiple levels of recognition, so you do not have to be the top winner to earn a title that will recognize your work and look good on applications! In this article, we bring to you 15 writing contests that offer high school students the chance to showcase their talent, and exercise their creativity through writing.

Here are 15 Writing Competitions for High School Students:

1. National Council of Teachers of English Achievement Awards

The National Council of Teachers of English hosts these awards every year to encourage high school students who write. Students submit one themed essay based on a specified prompt and one composition in any genre of their choice which displays their best work. A certificate and a letter are given to students who are assessed to have exceptional writing skills. Their names can be seen on the NCTE website as well. Juniors in high school who have been nominated by their English department are eligible to compete.



2. National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards


This contest accepts entries in a variety of genres, including critical essays, dramatic screenplays, flash fiction, personal essays, and short stories, and begins regionally and advances to the national level.

Regional competitions are held by local organizations, and the winners are sent to the national level for consideration. There is a $5 per entry or $20 per portfolio submission charge, however it can be waived for those who apply and meet the criteria for financial aid.

Students get Honorable Mentions, Silver or Gold Keys, or Nominations for the American Visions and Voices Medals at the regional level. Gold and Silver Medals, as well as the American Visions and Voices Medal, which acts as a "Best in Show" award for each region, are awarded to regional Gold Key winners. National award winners are invited to Carnegie Hall in New York City for a National Ceremony and Celebration. At the national level, there are various sponsored monetary rewards that vary by genre and sponsor, and certain National Medal winners will also be picked for college scholarships or summer programs.

Students in grades 7 through 12 in the United States are able to participate.



3. Princeton University Contests

Princeton University hosts two contests for high school juniors. One is a poetry contest judged by members of the Princeton University Creative Writing faculty. The other is a Ten-Minute Play Contest judged by members of the Princeton University Program in Theater faculty. Each contest has a first place prize of $500, second place prize of $250, and third place prize of $100.


4. The Bennington Young Writers Awards

This tournament is open to students in grades 10 through 12, and the judging panel includes faculty and students from Bennington College. Seven Pulitzer Prize winners, three US poet laureates, and a slew of New York Times bestsellers are among the college's graduates. Poetry, fiction, and nonfiction are all acceptable forms of submission (personal and academic essays). Each category's first-place winner receives $500, while second-place winners receive $250.

5. YoungArts


In 1981, the National YoungArts Foundation was established with the goal of identifying and supporting the next generation of artists in the artistic, literary, and performing arts. Each year, thousands of students apply, and the winners are selected to attend weeklong programs in Los Angeles, New York, and Miami. Students participate in workshops with master artists as part of these programs. A $35 application fee is required, however cost exemptions are available for those who qualify. Honorable Mentions from each region are asked to attend regional workshops. Finalists are invited to National YoungArts Week, where they will have the opportunity to meet with the judges and compete for cash prizes of up to $10,000. Finalists are also eligible for a nomination as a US Presidential Scholar in the Arts. Students in grades 10th to 12th are eligible to apply.





6. National High School Essay Contest by the United States Institute of Peace

The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) collaborate to host this annual contest, which aims to "engage high school students in learning and writing about issues of peace and conflict, encouraging appreciation for diplomacy's role in building partnerships that can advance peacebuilding and protect national security." One winner will receive a $2,500 cash prize, an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., and a full scholarship to the Semester at Sea Program for one semester upon admission at an accredited university. One runner-up will receive a cash reward of $1,250 as well as a full scholarship to the National Student Leadership Conference's International Diplomacy Program. Students whose parents are not in the Foreign Service are eligible to participate if they are in grades nine through twelve in the USA.

7. We the Students Essay Contest by Bill of Rights Institute


This essay contest, sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute, encourages students to think critically and creatively about people's rights and how they affect society. One grand prize winner will earn $5,000 in addition to a Constitutional Academy scholarship. Six runners-up will each receive $1,250, and eight honorable mentions will each receive $500. Citizens or legal residents of the United States between the ages of 14 and 19 are eligible.

8. Profile in Courage Essay Contest by JFK Presidential Library

This competition is based on JFK's book Profiles in Courage, which told the tales of eight U.S. senators who showed political courage by standing up for a larger good while sacrificing their careers in the process. Entrants must describe and analyze an act of political courage in the form of a similar profile for the competition. The first-place reward is $20,000 in this competition. Twenty-five smaller cash prizes ranging from $100 to $1,000 are also available.

The competition is open to high school students in the United States in grades nine through twelve.

9. VFW Voice of Democracy


Our Voice of Democracy audio-essay program, which began in 1947, gives high school students the opportunity to express themselves through a democratic and patriotic-themed recorded essay. Nearly 64,500 school kids from grades 9 to 12 from across the country join each year, for a chance to earn a piece of the more than $2 million in educational scholarships and incentives provided via the program. All student entries must be submitted to a local VFW Post that is supporting the event. Students in grades 9 through 12 are eligible to compete. 10. SPJ/JEA High School Essay Contest

This contest, sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists and the Journalism Education Association, urges students to consider the role of the press in American society. Essays should be between 300 and 500 words long.

The first-place winner receives a $1,000 scholarship, second-place receives $500, and third-place receives $300. The competition is accessible to students in grades 9 through 12 in the United States. The registration fee for the competition is $5.


11. Jane Austen Society Essay Contest

High school students can win up to $1,000 by entering an essay on a specified topic related to Jane Austen novels. In addition, each winner will receive a year of membership to the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) and a collection of Norton Critical Editions of Jane Austen's novels. The winning pieces appear on the JASNA website as well. The theme of the 2022 Essay Contest is based on Jane Austen's first published novel, Sense & Sensibility. Students from all around the world are welcome to enter, however all contributions must be written in English.



12. Engineer Girl Annual Essay Contest


Engineer Girl hosts an essay contest every year that focuses on the impact of engineering on the world. Prize money of up to $500 is available to students. This competition is a great way to combine English language writing with STEM research. Students can send in their submissions via the internet. The contest is open to individual girls and boys in the following three competition categories: Elementary School students (grades 3-5), Middle School students (grades 6-8), or High School students (grades 9-12). The word limit for submissions varies depending on the grade level.

13. Rachel Carson Intergenerational Sense of Wonder / Sense of the Wild Contest

Entries for this writing contest must be submitted by a team, consisting of at least two people, representing different generations (for example, a student and a teacher or a teenager and her grandmother). Submission categories include poetry and essays, along with optional photographic elements. Annual topics for the contest are tied to nature. Winners receive a certificate from the Rachel Carson Landmark Alliance, and have their winning entry posted on the RCLA website.



14. World Historian Student Essay Competition

The World Historian Student Essay Competition is an international competition open to students enrolled in grades K–12. Winners receive $500 and a one year membership in the World History Association. Each competitor submits an essay that addresses the issue: "In what way has the study of world history affected my understanding of the world in which I live?"



15. John Locke Essay Competition


The John Locke Essay Competition is hosted by the John Locke Institute, a non-profit educational organization based in Oxford, United Kingdom. The John Locke Institute promotes young people to develop the qualities that make great writers: independent thought, depth of knowledge, clear reasoning, critical analysis, and persuasive style. Senior professors from the University of Oxford assess the submissions. The judges select their favourite essay from each subject group, as well as an overall "best essay" from all seven subjects.


Learn the art of academic writing with the Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are interested in a selective, structured research program, consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded by Harvard and Oxford researchers. The program pairs you with a full-time researcher to develop your own independent research project, in any discipline of your choice. Last year over 1500 students applied to 500 slots in the research program! You can find the application form here.










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