SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

The 20 Best Writing Contests for High School Students

Posted by Melissa Brinks | Aug 25, 2019 12:00:00 PM

Other High School

 

feature_write

If you’re a writer—fiction, non-fiction, or fanfiction—you can put those skills to work for you. There are tons of writing contests for high school students, which can award everything from medals to cash prizes to scholarships if you win.

Not only will a little extra money, whether cash or scholarships, help you when it comes time to pay for college, but the prestige of a respected reward is also a great thing to include on your college application.

Read on to learn more about what writing contests for high school students there are, how to apply, and what you could win!

 

Writing Contests With Multiple Categories

Some high school contests accept entries in a variety of formats, including the standard fiction and non-fiction, but also things like screenwriting or visual art. Check out these contests with multiple categories:

 

Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

  • Award Amount: $1,000 to $10,000 scholarships
  • Deadline: Varies
  • Fee: $5 for single entry, $20 for portfolio

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards celebrate art by students in grades seven through twelve on a regional and national scale. These awards have a huge number of categories and styles, including cash prizes or scholarships for some distinguished award winners. Categories include science-fiction and fantasy writing, humor, critical essays, and dramatic scripts, among others.

Deadlines vary by region, so use Scholastic’s Affiliate Partner search to find out when projects are due for your area.

Scholastic partners with other organizations to provide prizes to winners, so what you can win depends on what you enter and what competition level you reach. Gold medal portfolio winners can earn a $10,000 scholarship, and silver medal winners with distinction can earn a $1,000 scholarship, as well as many other options in different categories.

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards are open to private, public, or home-schooled students attending school in the US, Canada, or American schools in other countries. Students must be in grades seven through twelve to participate. Eligibility varies between regions, so consult Scholastic’s Affiliate Partner search tool to figure out what applies to you.

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards have a $5 entry fee for individual submissions and $20 for portfolio submissions, which may be waived for students in need. These fees may vary depending on location, so be sure to check your local guidelines.

 

Ocean Awareness Contest

  • Award Amount: Scholarships up to $1,500
  • Deadline: June of each year (submissions open in September)
  • Fee: None

The Ocean Awareness Contest asks students to consider the future of a coastal or marine species that is under threat from climate change. Submissions are accepted in a variety of art forms, but all must consider the way that climate change impacts ocean life.

Submissions for all categories, including art, poetry, prose, film, and music are due in June, although the exact date varies slightly each year..

Winners may receive prizes of up to a $1,500 scholarship, depending on which division they fall into and what prize they win. Additional scholarships are available to students who demonstrate originality in their voice for ocean activism, as well as students located in Boston, Massachusetts.

The contest is open to all international and US students between the ages of 11 and 18.

 

River of Words

  • Award: Publication in the River of Words anthology
  • Deadline: December 1, 2019 for US students, February 1, 2020 for international students and those in Arizona or Georgia
  • Fee: None

The River of Words contest asks students to consider watersheds—an area that drains into the same body of water—and how they connect with their local community. Students can explore this concept in art or writing, with winners being published in the annual River of Words anthology.

Entries in all categories must be submitted by December 1, 2019 for students in the US, or February 1, 2020 for international students and students in Arizona or Georgia.

The River of Words contest is primarily for recognition and publication, as the website doesn't list any prize money. The contest includes specific awards for certain forms, such as poetry, some of which may have additional prizes

The contest is open to International and US students from kindergarten to grade 12. High school students older than 19 are also eligible. 

 

Adroit Prizes

  • Award Amount: $200 cash
  • Deadline: Typically April
  • Fee: $12

Sponsored by the Adroit Journal, the Adroit Prizes reward high school students and undergraduate students for producing exemplary fiction and poetry. Students may submit up to six poems or three works of prose (totaling 3,500 words) for consideration. Submissions typically open in spring.

Winners receive $200 and publication in the Adroit Journal. Finalists and runners-up receive a copy of their judge’s latest published work.

The contest is open to secondary and undergraduate students, including international students and those who have graduated early. The Adroit Prizes has a non-refundable fee of $12, which can be waived.

 

YoungArts Competition

  • Award Amount: Up to $10,000 cash awards
  • Deadline: October 11, 2019
  • Fee: $35

Open to students in a variety of different disciplines, including visual arts, writing, and music, the YoungArts competition asks students to submit a portfolio of work. Additional requirements may apply depending on what artistic discipline you’re in

Winners can receive up to $10,000 in cash as well as professional development help, mentorship, and other educational rewards.

Applicants must be 15 to 18-year-old US citizens or permanent residents (including green card holders) or in grades 10 through 12 at the time of submission. There is a $35 submission fee, which can be waived.

 

body_pineconeA pine cone is an essential part of any writer's toolkit.

 

Fiction Writing Contests for High School Students

Many contests with multiple categories accept fiction submissions, so also check out the above contests if you're looking for places to submit original prose.

 

EngineerGirl Writing Contest

  • Award Amount: $100 - $500 cash prize
  • Deadline: February
  • Fee: None

This year's EngineerGirl Writing Contest asks students (though the name of the organization is “EngineerGirl,” students of any gender may participate) to write a fictional story in which a female main character uses engineering to solve a problem. Word counts vary depending on grade level.

At every grade level, first-place winners will receive $500, second-place winners will receive $250, and third-place winners will receive $100. Winning entries and honorable mentions will also be published on the EngineerGirl website.

Students of any gender from third to 12th grade may submit to this contest. Home-schooled and international students are also eligible.

 

body_laptop-7I recommend turning on the light or lighting a candle for extra visibility.

 

Nonfiction Contests for High School Students

Like fiction, non-fiction is often also accepted in contests with multiple categories. However, there are quite a few contests accepting only non-fiction essays as well.

 

The American Foreign Services Association Essay Contest

  • Award Amount: $1,250 to $2,500
  • Deadline: March 
  • Fee: None

The American Foreign Services Association sponsors a high school essay contest tasking students with identifying the United States’ strengths and weaknesses in establishing peace in foreign countries. In an essay between 1,000 and 1,250 words, students must answer three questions about US foreign policy and national security.

One winner will receive $2,500 as well as a Washington D.C. trip and a scholarship to attend Semester at Sea. One runner-up receives $1,250 and a scholarship to attend the International Diplomacy Program of the National Student Leadership Conference.

Entries must be from US students in grade nine through 12, including students in the District of Columbia, US territories, or US citizens attending school abroad, including home-schooled students.

 

John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Contest

  • Award Amount: $100 - $10,000
  • Deadline: January 17, 2020
  • Fee: None

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage contest tasks students with writing an essay between 700 and 1,000 words on an act of political courage by a US elected official serving during or after 1917, inspired by John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. Each essay should cover the act itself as well as any obstacles or risks the subject faced in achieving their act of courage. Essays must not cover previous figures covered in the contest, and should also not cover John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, or Edward M. Kennedy.

One first-place winner will receive $10,000, one second-place winner will receive $3,000, five finalists will receive $1,000 each, and eight semi-finalists will win $100 each.

The contest is open to students in grades nine through 12 who are residents of the United States attending public, private, parochial, or home schools. Students under the age of 20 in correspondence high school programs or GED programs, as well as students in US territories, Washington D.C., and students studying abroad, are also eligible.

 

SPJ/JEA High School Essay Contest

  • Award Amount: $300 - $1,000 scholarships
  • Deadline: February (submissions open in November)
  • Fee: $5

The SPJ/JEA high school essay contest, organized by the Society of Professional Journalists and the Journalism Education Association, asks students to analyze the role of the Fourth Estate—the press—in American society. Essays should be from 300 to 500 words.

A $1,000 scholarship is given to a first-place winner, $500 to second-place, and $300 to third-place.

The contest is open to public, private, and home-schooled students of the United States in grades 9-12.

 

The National World War II Museum Essay Contest

  • Award Amount: $500 - $1,000
  • Deadline: December 
  • Fee: None

The National World War II Museum contest asks writers to consider the importance of art and artists during war. Students will read and think about a Bob Hope quote—”I was offering time and laughs — the men and women fighting the war were offering up their lives. They taught me what sacrifice was all about.”—and respond to the question of what the duties of art and artists are during times of conflict.

The essay deadline is in December, but entries will close when 500 essays have been received. If you're interested in participating, get your essay in soon!

The contest is open to US high school students, including those in US territories or on military bases abroad.

 

We the Students Essay Contest

  • Award Amount: $500 - $5,000 cash prize
  • Deadline: February
  • Fee: None

For this contest, run by the Bill of Rights Institute, students must answer the question, “What are the essential qualities of a citizen in your community in 21st century America?” in between 500 and 800 words.

Entries are due in February. There is no entry fee.

One national winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize as well as a scholarship to Constitutional Academy. Six runners up will receive $1,250 each, and eight honorable mentions will receive $500 each.

All US citizens or legal residents between the ages of 14 and 19 attending public, private, charter, or religious schools in the US, US territories or districts, at Armed Forces schools abroad are eligible to enter. Home-schooled students and those enrolled in correspondence or GED programs are also eligible.

 

body_playIf you're a playwright, there're contests for you, too.

 

Playwriting Contests for High School Students

For those who love the stage, playwriting contests are a great option. An original play can earn you great rewards thanks to any of these contests!

 

VSA Playwright Discovery Program Competition

  • Award: Participation in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival
  • Deadline: January 
  • Fee: None

The VSA Playwright Discovery Program Competition asks students with disabilities to submit a ten-minute script exploring the disability experience. Scripts may be realistic, fictional, or abstract, and may include plays, screenplays, or musical theater.

All entries are due in January. Scripts may be collaborative or written by individuals, but must include at least one person with a disability as part of the group

One winner or group of winners will be selected as participants in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Winners will have access to professional assistance in developing their script as well as workshops and networking opportunities.

This contest is open to US and international students in grades six to 12, or between the ages of 11 and 18. Groups of up to five members may collaborate on an essay, but at least one of those students must have a disability. 

 

Worldwide Plays Festival Competition

  • Award: Professional production in New York
  • Deadline: February 
  • Fee: None

In the Worldwide Plays Festival Competition, students from around the world can submit an eight-minute script for a play set in a part of a neighborhood—specifically, at a convenience store, outside a character’s front door, or at a place where people convene. Each play must have roles for three actors, should not have a narrator who isn’t also a character, and should not contain set changes.

Entries are due in February. Winners will have their play produced by professionals at an off-Broadway New York theater. Scholarships are also available for winners.

Any student, including US and international, in first through 12th grade may submit work for consideration.

 

YouthPLAYS

  • Award Amount: $50 - $200 cash prize
  • Deadline: Early 2020
  • Fee: None

Students may submit a one-act, non-musical play of at least ten pages to YouthPLAYS for consideration. Plays should be appropriate for high school audiences and contain at least two characters, with one or more of those characters being youths in age-appropriate roles. Large casts with multiple female roles are encouraged.

One winner will receive $200, have their play published by YouthPLAYS, and receive a copy of Great Dialog, a program for writing dialog. One runner up will receive $50 and a copy of Great Dialog.

Students must be under the age of 19, and plays must be the work of a single author.

 

The Lewis Center Ten-Minute Play Contest

  • Award Amount: $100 - $500 cash prize
  • Deadline: Spring
  • Fee: None

Students in grade 11 may submit a ten-minute play for consideration for the Lewis Center Ten-Minute Play Contest. Plays should be 10 pages long, equivalent to 10 minutes. 

One first-prize winner will receive $500, one second-prize winner will receive $250, and one third-prize will receive $100.

All entries must be from students in the 11th grade.

 

body_poetry-1Make Dickinson proud in these poetry writing contests.

 

Poetry Writing Contests for High School Students

For those who prefer a little free verse or the constraints of a haiku, there are plenty of poetry-specific contests, too. 

 

Just Poetry!!!

  • Award Amount: $100 to $500 scholarship
  • Deadline: Ongoing
  • Fee: None

Students may submit one poem of up to 20 lines for consideration. Winners are selected from all submissions to Just Poetry!!! throughout the year rather than as part of a single contest

One “Poet of the Year” will receive a $500 college scholarship, four “Best of Issue” winners will receive a $100 scholarship each, and four “Editor’s Choice” winners will receive a $100 scholarship each.

All US high school students may enter.

 

Creative Communications Poetry Contest

  • Award Amount: $25
  • Deadline: August and December
  • Fee: None

Students in ninth grade or below may submit any poem of 21 lines or less (not counting spaces between stanzas) for consideration in the Creative Communications Poetry Contest.

Students may win $25, a free book, and school supplies for their teacher.

Public, private, or home-schooled US students (including those in detention centers) in kindergarten through ninth grade may enter.

 

Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize

  • Award Amount: $100 - $500
  • Deadline: November
  • Fee: None

Students in 11th grade may submit up to three poems for consideration in the Leonard L. Milberg '53 High School Poetry Prize. Submissions are due in November.

One first-prize winner will receive $500, one second-prize winner will receive $250, and a third-prize winner will receive $100. Poems may be published on arts.princeton.edu. All entrants must be in the 11th grade.

 

Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest

  • Award Amount: $500 - $5,000 scholarship, $350 cash prize
  • Deadline: Fall
  • Fee: None

Women poets in high school may submit two poems for consideration for the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest

One first-place winner will receive a $350 cash prize, publication in and ten copies of Cargoes, Hollins’ student magazine, as well as a renewable scholarship of up to $5,000 for Hollins and free tuition and housing for the Hollinsummer creative writing program. One second-place winner will receive publication in and two copies of Cargoes, a renewable scholarship to Hollins of up to $1,000, and a $500 scholarship to attend Hollinsummer.

Applicants must be female students in high school.

 

What’s Next?

If you're looking for more money opportunities for college, there are plenty of scholarships out there—including some pretty weird ones

For those who've been buffing up their test scores, there are tons of scholarships, some in the thousands of dollars. 

If you're tired of writing essays and applying for scholarships, consider some of these colleges that offer complete financial aid packages

 

Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
Melissa Brinks
About the Author

Melissa Brinks graduated from the University of Washington in 2014 with a Bachelor's in English with a creative writing emphasis. She has spent several years tutoring K-12 students in many subjects, including in SAT prep, to help them prepare for their college education.



Get Free Guides to Boost Your SAT/ACT
100% Privacy. No spam ever.

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!