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YoungArts: 6 Reasons Why You Should Participate

The National Foundation for Young Arts, now known as YoungArts, is a non-profit organization that furthers the growth of young artists in the United States. Being a YoungArts scholar is a coveted achievement, and comes with awards, scholarships, as well as professional support.


YoungArts finalists receive anywhere between $100 to $10,000, as well as nominations to national scholarships. The National YoungArts Competition, a competition for high school students that has seen over 7,000 applications each year, with only a few hundred students making it to the list of finalists.


In this blog, we’ll cover all there is to know about YoungArts, including details about one of its most popular programs, the National YoungArts Competition and 6 compelling reasons why you should apply. You’ll have a solid idea of what the competition is about, what it offers to its winners, as well as its eligibility and important dates and deadlines.


The organization is based on the mission of identifying and investing in young artists, and providing them with lifelong opportunities and support.


YoungArts also hosts a variety of other opportunities that promote art, including performance-based events, scholarships, and networking events, which we’ll cover towards the end of the blog.


Note that YoungArts invites young artists from across the country, for over 10 artistic disciplines, so you can expect the competition and scholarship selection process to be quite competitive.


What is the National YoungArts Competition?

If you are a budding artist in the disciplines of classical music, dance, design, film, jazz, voice, writing, visual arts, photography, and theater, the National YoungArts Competition is a prestigious competition/scholarship that you can consider applying to.


The competition allows entries from students aged 15-18 from all around the country, and their submissions are judged by accomplished judges (artists) in the category you've chosen to apply for. The competition is one of its kind in the country, the first to recognise the growing need to support young artists right out of high school.


The competition is a great opportunity for high school students to showcase their talent in any of the 10 disciplines offered, and stand a chance to join a community of talented young artists.


How does the competition work?

If you wish to apply for the YoungArts National Competition, you must first choose one (or more!) of the 10 artistic disciplines offered by the YoungArts foundation, and check out submission requirements for that specific discipline.


If you choose to send in an entry for Classical Music, you will have to send in entries that adhere to the media requirements (such as video quality, video.image ratio, sound quality, and performance length).


Once you send in your entries before the application deadline, your submission will be assessed using a blind adjudication process that includes multiple rounds of review by a panel of judges.


If selected as a YoungArts Competition Finalist, you will receive monetary rewards, national titles, as well as an invitation to perform at the National YoungArts Week.


How can you apply?

You can apply to the National YoungArts Competition using this link. Additionally, you must take a thorough look at the submission criteria for each of the disciplines, that you can find here.


How competitive and prestigious is YoungArts?

YoungArts saw over 7000 applications from across the country for its last competition, and selected close to 700 winners.


The National Competition is incredibly competitive, and if selected as a winner, a prestigious accomplishment for you.


The acceptance/selection rate of the YoungArts National Competition is about 10%, a number you should keep in mind while preparing your submission and application.


What do you stand to win?

YoungArts offers hefty prizes to its winner, including cash prizes, national and regional recognition, professional support, as well as membership to a community of artists around the country.


If selected as a finalist for the competition, you will be awarded at one of three levels - Finalist, Honorable Mention and Merit.


Each of these positions are given cash prizes between $100 to $10,000, a cash prize that can be used to pay for college tuition, skill development in your discipline, or even travel! You can check out a complete list of cash prizes that YoungArts offers here.


Additionally, all YoungArts Finalists receive a medallion, creative and professional support for a lifetime, and access to YoungArts Post.


The latter is a private, online community for YoungArts artists where you can look for guidance, mentorship, work opportunities, or ask and answer questions!


Finally, 20 YoungArts finalists are nominated each year for the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars scholarship, which is one of the nation’s highest honors for artists in high school.


Who is eligible?

The YoungArts competition is open for all high school students who

  • Are in grades 10–12 or aged 15–18 on December 1, 2023

  • Are a United States citizen, a permanent resident or are legally able to receive taxable income in the U.S.

  • Have not been awarded the title of “Finalist” under any discipline or category in previous editions of the YoungArts Competition.


What are the important deadlines?

YoungArts selects finalists on the basis of the quality of work submitted, and does not focus on selecting a particular number of finalists based on the applications received. This means that you should apply as soon as possible, and focus on submitting 100% original, high quality work.


Applications for the YoungArts National Competition usually open up in the first week of June, and close in the second week of October.


While the period for accepting applications is quite long, you should apply as soon as possible.


As for when YoungArts Finalists are notified, you should receive an email notifying you of your status a month or so before the National YoungArts Week. So, if the National YoungArts Week is to be held in January, you should receive an update by December.


What do you need to apply to the YoungArts National Competition?

Apart from your submission (adhering to the guidelines given for each discipline), you’ll also be required to submit certain documents to demonstrate your eligibility, such as

  1. a United States birth certificate or passport/permanent resident/green card/employment authorization card/social security card

  2. a government issued photo ID


To successfully complete your application, a fee of $35 is required, but YoungArts offers waivers to students who are unable to pay the application fee due to financial constraints. You can read more about applying for this waiver here.


You can check out winning entries from past editions of the competition, as well as performance of finalists at the National YoungArts week here.


What is National YoungArts Week?

National YoungArts Week is a prestigious, end-of-competition program of the National YoungArts Foundation. The event is a week-long one, held in Miami, Florida, and invites YoungArts winners for artistic development and collaboration.


As part of the National YoungArts week, you will engage in workshops, master classes, and collaborations hosted by renowned artists and industry professionals.


The National YoungArts Week is a unique immersive experience that can help you refine your skills, gain exposure in the world of art and culture, interact with fellow artists, and network with industry professionals and YoungArts alumni!


What is the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts program?

Every year, 20 YoungArts winners are nominated for the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts, a highly exclusive and prestigious national award. As a scholar, you are honored for your artistic achievements and receive special benefits, including an invitation to the National Recognition Program in Washington, D.C. You will have the opportunity to showcase your work, engage in cultural and educational activities, and interact with leaders in the arts, education, and government. The U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts program provides national recognition and support to its winners.


Now, let’s take a deep dive into the competition, and 6 reasons why you should participate.


6 reasons to participate in the National YoungArts Competition

1. Program prestige

YoungArts is a prestigious organization, and is held in high regard amongst both young and experienced artists alike. The National YoungArts Competition invites thousands of applications yearly, across the 10 disciplines it allows entries for, and selects only a few hundred winners. Participating and winning the title of “finalist” is a coveted achievement, and is looked upon favorably by admissions officers due to its prestige.


2. Cash prizes and other incentives for winners

Finalists receive cash prizes of up to $10,000, that they are free to use for their travel, college tuition, or even personal savings goals, along with a medallion, creative and professional support from YoungArts for a lifetime, and access to YoungArts Post.


As a member of the YoungArts post, you join a community of artists from across the world. You also receive guidance, mentorship, work opportunities, and the opportunity to ask and answer questions on the platform!


3. Strong and active alumni network

YoungArts boasts of a large and influential circle of alumni, some of which include Viola Davis, Timothée Chalamet, Jessica Darrow, and Nicki Minaj.

As a YoungArts finalist, you have the chance to interact with YoungArts alumni from across the world, and even give back to the community after a considerable amount of experience as an artist after high school.


Being part of the YoungArts community can be a good starting point for you to look for work opportunities, mentorship opportunities, international exposure and networking opportunities.


4. Addition to your creative portfolio

YoungArts invites 100% original and highly creative submissions across all its disciplines. Your entry for the National Competition can be an important component of your artist portfolio when you apply to college. If selected as a finalist, your performance at the National YoungArts week can also be included in your portfolio, and resume, while applying to your dream schools.


5. National recognition for finalists

As a YoungArts finalist you are recognized for your work on a national level, and invited to the National YoungArts Week, where you get to meet and interact with fellow finalists before your showcase. Additionally, 20 finalists are also nominated for the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts scholarship.


This is a prestigious national award, and comes with an invite to the National Recognition Program in Washington, D.C. Mentioning this nomination (or scholarship) is a recognizable achievement, and can be used as part of your personal statement or letter of motivation too!


6. Profile boost

As we’ve covered before, participating in the YoungArts National Competition, as well as the other opportunities it organizes for artists adds greatly to your profile, since these competitions invite thousands of submissions and entries.


Mentioning the title of “YoungArts finalist” or “YoungArts Scholar” is a section on your profile that reflects upon your expertise and skill as an artist. Sending in solid entries for your submission not only demonstrates your motivation and dedication towards the art form you wish to pursue at an undergraduate level, but also that you have the skills required for an award-winning submission.



Other Opportunities at YoungArts

YoungArts also offers multiple opportunities for artists, details of which you can check out here. Note that these opportunities are highly competitive and prestigious, so you should work on your application and submission accordingly.




Participating in national-level challenges such as the National YoungArts Competition can be a great way to showcase your skill and talent as an artist. Mentioning any experience or recognition with such an organization adds to your resume, especially if you wish to pursue a career in art.


If you are interested in doing university-level research in art, history, and culture, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. 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.


Image Source: YoungArts logo




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