PrepScholar

Choose Your Test

Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the 17 best writing contests for high school students.

author image

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 $12,500 scholarships
  • Deadline: Varies between December and January, depending on your region
  • Fee: $10 for single entry, $30 for portfolio

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards celebrate art by students in grades seven through twelve (age 13 or older) 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 (but are mostly in December and January), 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 $12,500 scholarship, and silver medal winners with distinction can earn a $2,000 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 $10 entry fee for individual submissions and $30 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 13, 2023 (submissions open in September)

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, creative writing, film, interactive and multimedia, music and dance, and poetry and spoken word 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.

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: January 31, 2023

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 poetry, with winners being published in the annual River of Words anthology .

Entries in all categories must be submitted by January 31, 2023. 

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 (ages 5 through 19). Students who have graduated from high school but are not yet in college are also eligible.

Adroit Prizes

  • Award Amount: $200 cash award
  • Deadline: Typically April of each year

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 (along with runners-up) have their works published 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 $15, which can be waived.

YoungArts Competition

  • Award Amount: Up to $10,000 cash awards
  • Deadline: October 15, 2022; application for 2024 opens June 2023

Open to students in a variety of 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_pinecone

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 1, 2023

This year's EngineerGirl Writing Contest asks students (though the name of the organization is "EngineerGirl," students of any gender may participate) to submit a piece of writing that shows how female and/or non-white engineers have contributed to or can enhance engineering’s great achievements. 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-7

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: April 3, 2023

The American Foreign Services Association sponsors a high school essay contest tasking students with selecting a country or region in which the United States Foreign Service has been involved at any point since 1924 and describe, in 1,500 words or less, how the Foreign Service was successful or unsuccessful in advancing American foreign policy goals in this country/region and propose ways in which it might continue to improve those goals in the coming years .

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 13, 2023

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 figures previously 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 19, 2023 (submissions open in November)

The SPJ/JEA high school essay contest , organized by the Society of Professional Journalists and the Journalism Education Association, asks students to  analyze the importance of independent media to our lives (as of now, the official essay topic for spring 2023 is TBD) . 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 .

body_play

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 professional development activities at the Kennedy Center
  • Deadline: January 4, 2023 (Application opens in October)

The VSA Playwright Discovery Program Competition asks students with disabilities to submit a ten-minute script exploring their personal experiences, including 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 ages 14 to 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: March (official 2023 deadline TBD)

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.

  • Award Amount: $50 - $200 cash prize
  • Deadline: 2023 deadline TBD (application opens January 2023)

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 $250, have their play published by YouthPLAYS, and receive a copy of Great Dialog , a program for writing dialog. One runner up will receive $100 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

  • Deadline: Spring of each year

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-1

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.

Creative Communications Poetry Contest

  • Award Amount: $25
  • Deadline: December

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: $500-$1500
  • Deadline: November 

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 $1500, one second-prize winner will receive $750, and a third-prize winner will receive $500. 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 renewable scholarship, $350 cash prize
  • Deadline: October 31, 2022

Women poets who are sophomores or juniors 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 their sophomore or junior year of 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 .

author image

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.

Student and Parent Forum

Our new student and parent forum, at ExpertHub.PrepScholar.com , allow you to interact with your peers and the PrepScholar staff. See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Ask questions; get answers.

Join the Conversation

Ask a Question Below

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

Improve With Our Famous Guides

  • For All Students

The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 160+ SAT Points

How to Get a Perfect 1600, by a Perfect Scorer

Series: How to Get 800 on Each SAT Section:

Score 800 on SAT Math

Score 800 on SAT Reading

Score 800 on SAT Writing

Series: How to Get to 600 on Each SAT Section:

Score 600 on SAT Math

Score 600 on SAT Reading

Score 600 on SAT Writing

Free Complete Official SAT Practice Tests

What SAT Target Score Should You Be Aiming For?

15 Strategies to Improve Your SAT Essay

The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 4+ ACT Points

How to Get a Perfect 36 ACT, by a Perfect Scorer

Series: How to Get 36 on Each ACT Section:

36 on ACT English

36 on ACT Math

36 on ACT Reading

36 on ACT Science

Series: How to Get to 24 on Each ACT Section:

24 on ACT English

24 on ACT Math

24 on ACT Reading

24 on ACT Science

What ACT target score should you be aiming for?

ACT Vocabulary You Must Know

ACT Writing: 15 Tips to Raise Your Essay Score

How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League

How to Get a Perfect 4.0 GPA

How to Write an Amazing College Essay

What Exactly Are Colleges Looking For?

Is the ACT easier than the SAT? A Comprehensive Guide

Should you retake your SAT or ACT?

When should you take the SAT or ACT?

Stay Informed

essay contest for high school students

Get the latest articles and test prep tips!

Looking for Graduate School Test Prep?

Check out our top-rated graduate blogs here:

GRE Online Prep Blog

GMAT Online Prep Blog

TOEFL Online Prep Blog

Holly R. "I am absolutely overjoyed and cannot thank you enough for helping me!”

What are your chances of acceptance?

Calculate for all schools, your chance of acceptance.

Duke University

Your chancing factors

Extracurriculars.

essay contest for high school students

23 Writing Competitions for High School Students

What’s covered:, why should you enter a writing competition, writing competitions for high school students, how do writing competitions affect my admissions chances.

Do you dream of writing the next great American novel? Are you passionate about poetry? Do you aspire to become a screenwriter? No matter what genre of writing you’re interested in—whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or something else entirely—there’s a writing competition focused on it.

Writing competitions provide great motivation to put pen to paper (or finger to key). Moreover, they’re an excellent step toward getting published, and can ultimately start you on the path to becoming a professional writer.

One of the best ways to improve your writing is simply to write—and competitions provide an excellent impetus to do so. Writing competitions also serve as an introduction to what life is like for many writers; participants entering writing competitions will receive a prompt or must think of an original idea, compose a piece of work, and submit it for review.

Another benefit of entering a writing competition for high schoolers is that many offer cash awards and scholarships, which can be used to help with the costs of college.

Additionally, many writing competitions are run by colleges and universities, so submitting them is a great way to introduce faculty to yourself and your work. If you win an award—especially a prestigious award—it can significantly improve your odds of college acceptance.

1. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose

Type: Poetry and Prose

Submission Fee: $15

Prize: $200

Deadline: May 1, 2023

Eligibility:

  • All secondary and undergraduate students

Guidelines:

  • Each student may send up to five total submissions across the genres of poetry and prose
  • Each poetry submission may include up to six poems (maximum of ten pages single-spaced). Each prose submission may include up to three works of fiction or creative nonfiction (combined word limit of 3,500 words; excerpts are acceptable).

Adroit Prizes are awarded to emerging high school and college writers in two categories: poetry and prose. Winning pieces are considered for publication in the Adroit Journal and winners receive an award of $200. The 2023 judges are Natalie Diaz and Ocean Vuong.

2. Ten-Minute Play Contest

Type: Plays

Submission Fee: N/A

Deadline: Passed, but the contest will reopen in 2024

Eligibility: Students in the eleventh grade in the U.S. (or international equivalent of the eleventh grade)

Guidelines: Applicants may submit only one play (10 pages maximum)

The Ten-Minute Play Contest is put on by Princeton University’s Lewis Center of the Arts. Applicants are allowed to submit one play that is no longer than 10 pages. Their submissions are judged by members of Princeton University’s Theater Program faculty.

3. Ayn Rand Anthem and The Fountainhead Essay Contests

Type: Essays

  • Anthem: $2,000
  • The Fountainhead : $5,000
  • Anthem: Grades 8-12
  • The Fountainhead : Grades 11-12
  • Anthem: Essays must be written in English only and between 600 and 1,200 words in length, double-spaced
  • The Fountainhead: Essays must be written in English only and between 800 and 1,600 words in length, double-spaced

In this essay competition, students pick one of three prompts about a topic related to Ayn Rand’s books and write an essay that goes through three stages of grading. Students are graded on their clarity, organization, understanding, and ability to stay “on topic.”

4. Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize

Type: Poetry

Prize: $500-$1,500

Eligibility: Students must be in the 11th grade in the U.S. or abroad

Guidelines: Applicants may submit up to 3 poems

The Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize is another contest run by Princeton University’s Lewis Center of the Arts. Winners are chosen by judges who are both poets and members of Princeton University’s creative writing faculty. Three monetary awards are available.

5. World Historian Student Essay Competition

Prize: $500

Eligibility: Students enrolled in grades K–12 in public, private, and parochial schools, and those in home-study programs

Guidelines: Essays should be approximately 1,000 words

Winners of this competition receive a $500 prize along with a free yearlong membership to the World History Association . To apply, you must submit an approximately 1,000-word essay responding to the following prompt:

  • Submit an essay that addresses the following topic and discusses how it relates to you personally and to World History: Your view of a family story related to a historical event or your personal family cultural background, or an issue of personal relevance or specific regional history/knowledge.

6. Jane Austen Society of North America Essay Contest

Prize: $250-$1,000

Deadline: June 1, 2023

Eligibility: Open to high school, undergraduate, and graduate students

  • Must be submitted by the student through the official Essay Contest Submission website
  • Entries may include a statement about the student’s mentor; however, a mentor statement is not required
  • The essay must be 6-8 pages in length, not including the Works Cited page
  • The essay must use MLA documentation, including a Works Cited page and parenthetical citations in the body of the text. Use endnotes only for substantive notes. Source material that is directly quoted, paraphrased, or summarized must be cited. Quotations from the Jane Austen work under discussion should be cited as well.

The Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) Essay Contest is an annual writing competition aimed at fostering an appreciation for its namesake’s work. The contest is broken down into three divisions—high school, college/university, and graduate school.

First-place winners are awarded a $1,000 prize along with free registration and lodging for two nights at JASNA’s Annual General Meeting—smaller monetary awards are also given to second- and third-place essayists.

This year’s essay topic:

  • In Pride and Prejudice and Jane Austen’s other novels, we see proposals and marriages that are motivated by love, as well as those that are better described as arranged marriages or marriages of convenience. Many cultures today also expect arranged marriages (not the same as forced). In your essay, compare and discuss the different types of marriages or courtships found in the novels, whether those relationships are new or longstanding.

7. Bennington College Young Writers Awards

Type: Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction

Deadline: November 1, 2023

Eligibility: Students in grades 9-12

  • Poetry: A group of three poems
  • Fiction: A short story (1,500 words or fewer) or one-act play (run no more than 30 minutes of playing time)
  • Nonfiction: A personal or academic essay (1,500 words or fewer)

Bennington College has a strong history of developing writers—it’s produced twelve Pulitzer Prize winners, three U.S. poet laureates, and countless New York Times bestsellers—and the Bennington College Young Writers Awards celebrate this legacy.

In addition to offering cash awards to winners and finalists in all three categories, winners and finalists who apply and are accepted to Bennington College are also eligible for substantial scholarships.

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

Type: Poetry and Essays

Deadline: November 16, 2023

  • You are required to have a team of 2 or more people
  • The team must be intergenerational

Guidelines: Maximum length of 500 words (approximately 2 pages)

This unique writing competition requires that entries must be submitted by a team of two people from different generations—for example, a high school student and a teacher. Contestants can compete in a number of categories and themes, each with unique submission requirements.

9. NSHSS Creative Writing Scholarship

Type: Fiction and Poetry

Prize: $2,000

Deadline: October 2, 2023

Eligibility: Rising high school students graduating in 2024, 2025, 2026, 2027, and recently graduated 2023 seniors

  • Poetry: Students may submit their original poetry in any style, from formal verse to free verse to experimental. The poem should be formatted as you wish it to appear in the publication.
  • Fiction: Students may submit a piece of short fiction, which must be no more than 5,000 words and should not be single-spaced. The entry may be any genre of the student’s choice, including graphic novel or story.
  • Must submit educator recommendation, academic resume, and current transcript with application

Winning works for this competition are chosen based on their creativity, technique, expression, and originality. Three winners are chosen in each category and each winner receives a $2,000 prize.

10. John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Contest

Prize: $100-$10,000

Eligibility: The contest is open to United States high school students in grades 9-12, U.S. students under the age of twenty enrolled in a high school correspondence/GED program,  and U.S. citizens attending schools overseas.

  • Essays can be no more than 1,000 words but must be a minimum of 700 words. Citations and bibliography are not included in the word count.
  • Essays must have a minimum of five sources.

The prestigious John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Contest is one of the most recognizable and prestigious writing competitions for high schoolers in the nation. Essays for the contest are required to describe an act of political courage by a U.S. elected official who served during or after 1917. The first-place winner of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Contest takes home a $10,000 award and second place receives a $3,000 prize.

11. YoungArts National Writing Competition

Deadline: Opens June 2023

Eligibility: 15- to 18-year-old visual, literary, or performing artist based in the United States

Guidelines: To be released

YoungArts supports talented young artists between the ages of 15 and 18 (or grades 10-12) in 10 disciplines, including writing. Applicants can submit entries in six genres—creative nonfiction, novel, play or script, poetry, short story, and spoken word.

12. SPJ/JEA High School Essay Contest

Submission Fee: $5

Prize: $300-$1,000

Eligibility: All students enrolled in grades 9-12 in U.S. public, private and home schools within the United States

  • The essay should be 300-500 words
  • Entries may be typed or handwritten but must be double-spaced

This high school writing contest is presented by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the Journalism Education Association (JEA) to increase awareness of the importance of independent media.

Last year’s prompt was:

  • While consumers are drawn toward tweets and sound bites, how can journalists tell more of the story without losing readers’ interest?

13. VSA Playwright Discovery Program Competitions

Eligibility: High school students with disabilities

  • 10-minute script
  • Entries may be the work of an individual student or a collaboration between two students that includes at least one student with a disability

This writing competition, presented by the Kennedy Center, is open to students ages 15-18 (or enrolled in high school) with disabilities. Writers may submit a “ten-minute” script in any genre, including plays, musicals, multimedia, video, film, TV, and podcasts.

Entries can be the work of an individual or the product of collaboration—provided that at least one of the collaborators has a disability. Multiple winners are chosen and given the chance to work with industry professionals, attend Kennedy Center professional development activities, and participate in networking opportunities.

14. Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest

Prize: $350

Eligibility: Women who are sophomores or juniors in high school or preparatory school

Guidelines: No more than two poems by any one student may be submitted

For almost six decades, the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest has provided recognition, scholarships, and awards to the best female high school sophomore and junior poets. Submissions are reviewed by faculty members of Hollins University’s creative writing program and students enrolled in its M.F.A. in creative writing.

The first-place winner receives a $350 cash prize, a renewable $5,000 scholarship to Hollins University if they choose to enroll there, as well as free tuition and housing at the university’s Hollinsummer creative writing program. Their winning work is also published in Cargoes , the university’s student literary magazine.

15. Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

Type: Various

Submission Fee: $10 for individual entry, $30 for portfolio (can use Fee Waiver Form)

Prize: Varies

Deadline: Opens in September

Eligibility: Teens in grades 7–12 (ages 13 and up)

Guidelines: Varies by category

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is the nation’s longest-running, most prestigious recognition program for creative teens. They offer 28 submission categories, including writing, critical essay, dramatic scripts, flash fiction, journalism, humor, novel writing, personal essay and memoir, poetry, science fiction and fantasy, and short story.

Works are judged by famous jurors who look for works that show originality, skill, and the emergence of a personal voice or vision. Students can earn a variety of scholarships through success in these competitions.

Works that celebrate individual differences or personal grief, loss, and bereavement are eligible for $1,000 scholarships. High school seniors submitting winning portfolios of six works are eligible for up to $12,500 in scholarships.

16. Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest

Type: Creative Writing and Poetry

Prize: $100-$1,500

Deadline: June 13, 2023

  • Students ages 11-18 from around the world
  • Students can participate as an individual or as a club, class, or group of any size
  • All students must provide the contact information for an Adult Sponsor (teacher, parent, mentor, etc.)
  • Creative Writing: no more than 5 pages (approximately 1,250 words)
  • Poetry: no more than 2 pages
  • A written reflection is required to accompany your submission, regardless of category. It is like the introduction to a book or an artist’s statement in a museum.

The 12th annual Ocean Awareness Contest is a platform for young people to learn about environmental issues through art-making and creative communication, explore their relationship to a changing world, and become advocates for positive change. Students can participate in six different categories, including poetry and spoken word, and creative writing.

This year’s prompt centers around climate issues:

  • Research and choose an inspirational scientist, activist, artist, educator, or other hero who is working to solve climate change issues. Create a piece of art, writing, or media that highlights their efforts, organizations, and/or positive impacts. We are familiar with the amazing work of environmental giants like Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough. We challenge you to introduce the Bow Seat community to a Climate Hero whose work we may not know about yet – but should.

17. John Locke Global Essay Competition

Submission Fee: N/A (unless late entry)

Prize: $2,000-$10,000 toward attending any John Locke Institute program

Deadline: June 30, 2023 (must register by May 31, 2023)

Eligibility: Candidates must be no older than 18 years old on June 30, 2023 (Candidates for the Junior Prize must be no older than 14 on the same date)

Guidelines: Each essay must address only one of the questions in your chosen subject category, and must not exceed 2,000 words (not counting diagrams, tables of data, footnotes, bibliography, or authorship declaration)

Students competing in this competition have the opportunity to write an essay in one of seven categories—philosophy, politics, economics, history, psychology, theology, and law. Each category has three prompts, from which students choose and respond to one.

Essays are judged on knowledge and understanding of the relevant material, the competent use of evidence, quality of argumentation, originality, structure, writing style, and persuasive force.

If you miss the deadline, you can submit a late entry up until July 10. Late entries will be charged a $20 late fee.

18. AFSA National High School Essay Contest

Prize: $2,500

  • Students whose parents are not in the Foreign Service are eligible to participate.
  • Students must be in grades 9-12 in any of the 50 states, Washington, D.C, the U.S. territories, or—if they are U.S. citizens/lawful permanent residents —attending high school overseas.

Guidelines: Your essay should be at least 1,000 words but should not exceed 1,500 words (word count does not apply to the list of sources)

The AFSA Essay Contest focuses on knowledge of foreign policy and the American Foreign Service. Last year’s prompt was:

  • In your essay, you will select a country or region in which the United States Foreign Service has been involved at any point since 1924 and describe, in 1,500 words or less, how the Foreign Service was successful or unsuccessful in advancing American foreign policy goals – including promoting peace – in this country/region and propose ways in which it might continue to improve those goals in the coming years.

The first-place winner receives $2,500, a paid trip to the nation’s capital with their parents from anywhere in the U.S., and an all-expenses-paid educational voyage courtesy of Semester at Sea. The runner-up wins $1,250 and full tuition to attend a summer session of the National Student Leadership Conference’s International Diplomacy program.

19. EngineerGirl Writing Contest

Prize: $100-$500

  • The contest is open to individual students 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).
  • You can also qualify with corresponding homeschool or international grade levels.
  • High school student essays must be no more than 750 words
  • You must also include a reference list of 3-10 resources

In this competition, students choose one of four prompts related to the 20 Greatest Engineering Achievements of the 20th Century and explore the technologies that have been developed in the last century and technologies that are being developed today. Students are judged based on their presentation and examples of engineering (~35%), their celebration of diversity (~50%), and their quality of writing (~15%).

20. The Blank Theatre Young Playwright’s Festival

Prize: Play is produced

Eligibility: Playwrights must be 19 years old or younger as of March 15, 2023; co-authored plays are welcome, provided all authors are 19 or younger

  • Original plays or musicals of any length or genre and on any subject
  • Up to three plays per playwright or team

While winners of this theater competition do not receive a cash prize, they have the unique opportunity to be mentored by leaders in the field, then will have their play directed and performed by professional artists during the following summer. The 12 best submissions are produced and professionally performed.

21. Saint Mary’s College of California River of Words Contest

Type: Poetry and Arts

  • The contest is open to K-12 students, ages 5-19
  • Students must be enrolled in school to be eligible
  • Participants may submit up to 5 entries for poetry and 5 entries for art (total of up to 10 entries)
  • Poems should not exceed 32 lines in length (written) or 3 minutes (signed)
  • Collaborative poems and artwork are accepted, but only one student (chosen as the group representative) will be eligible for any prizes awarded

The River of Words contest aims to promote environmental literacy through the exchange of arts and culture. River of Words has been inspiring educators and students through this competition for over 25 years.

The goal of River of Words is to connect youth with their watersheds—the environments they live in—through engagement with art and poetry related to the idea of “place.” They look for art and poetry that shows the connection between students and the worlds around them.

22. Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest

Prize: $10,000

Deadline: November 6, 2023

Eligibility: Open to all 12th grade, college, and graduate students worldwide

Guidelines: Essays must be between 800 and 1,600 words in length

In this essay competition, high school seniors pick one of three prompts about a topic related to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and write an essay that goes through three stages of grading. Students are graded on their clarity, organization, understanding, and ability to stay “on topic.”

23. Writopia Lab’s Worldwide Plays Festival

Prize: Play produced

Eligibility: Playwrights ages 6 to 18

  • 8 minutes maximum
  • Any genre or style
  • Plays should have no more than three characters
  • There can be no narrator of the play who is not emotionally invested in the story
  • Students must incorporate at least one of the following props or costumes —blue plates, a yellow blouse, a Valentine’s heart with the word “Love,” a flower crown, a plush hotdog, a Mardi Gras bead with jester heads, a pack of clothespins, Russian nesting dolls, a set of miniature cymbals, a lavender blouse, a lei, or a roll of aluminum foil

Since 2010, Writopia Lab has been producing, designing, and directing one-act plays submitted by young playwrights. These winning plays are then performed by New York City theater professionals. The contest looks for playwrights who embody fearlessness and imagination. Writopia Lab says, “Write deeply! Write fiercely! Write politically and personally! And don’t be afraid to write with a sense of play – they are called plays, after all.”

While we can’t know exactly how activities outside of the classroom will affect your college admissions odds, the 4 Tiers of Extracurricular Activities provide a helpful framework for understanding how colleges view your extracurriculars.

Extracurricular activities in Tiers 1 and 2 are reserved for the most exclusive and acclaimed awards, and can significantly improve your odds of college admission. By contrast, Tiers 3 and 4 are reserved for more common extracurriculars, and have less of an impact on your chances of college admission.

For example, if you place in a nationally renowned writing competition—a Tier 2 activity—this will positively affect your admissions chances. On the other hand, if you receive an honorable mention in your high school’s poetry contest—a Tier 4 activity—your admissions chances will not be significantly affected.

That said, if you are applying to an English Literature or Creative Writing program with a well-developed essay and recommendations that emphasize your commitment to language, participation in Tier 3 and 4 writing competitions could help admissions officers conceptualize your passion for your future career.

Curious how the writing competition you participated in will affect your college admission chances? CollegeVine can help! Our free chancing calculator uses a variety of factors—including grades, test scores, and extracurriculars—to estimate your odds of getting into hundreds of colleges and universities, while also providing insight into how to improve your profile.

Related CollegeVine Blog Posts

essay contest for high school students

  • Grades 6-12
  • School Leaders

Black History Month for Kids: Google Slides, Resources, and More!

The Best Student Writing Contests for 2023-2024

Help your students take their writing to the next level.

We Are Teachers logo and text that says Guide to Student Writing Contests on dark background

When students write for teachers, it can feel like an assignment. When they write for a real purpose, they are empowered! Student writing contests are a challenging and inspiring way to try writing for an authentic audience— a real panel of judges —and the possibility of prize money or other incentives. We’ve gathered a list of the best student writing contests, and there’s something for everyone. Prepare highly motivated kids in need of an authentic writing mentor, and watch the words flow.

1.  The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

With a wide range of categories—from critical essays to science fiction and fantasy—The Scholastic Awards are a mainstay of student contests. Each category has its own rules and word counts, so be sure to check out the options  before you decide which one is best for your students.

How To Enter

Students in grades 7-12, ages 13 and up, may begin submitting work in September by uploading to an online account at Scholastic and connecting to their local region. There are entry fees, but those can be waived for students in need.

2.  YoungArts National Arts Competition

This ends soon, but if you have students who are ready to submit, it’s worth it. YoungArts offers a national competition in the categories of creative nonfiction, novel, play or script, poetry, short story, and spoken word. Student winners may receive awards of up to $10,000 as well as the chance to participate in artistic development with leaders in their fields.

YoungArts accepts submissions in each category through October 13. Students submit their work online and pay a $35 fee (there is a fee waiver option).

3. National Youth Foundation Programs

Each year, awards are given for Student Book Scholars, Amazing Women, and the “I Matter” Poetry & Art competition. This is a great chance for kids to express themselves with joy and strength.

The rules, prizes, and deadlines vary, so check out the website for more info.

4.  American Foreign Service National High School Essay Contest

If you’re looking to help students take a deep dive into international relations, history, and writing, look no further than this essay contest. Winners receive a voyage with the Semester at Sea program and a trip to Washington, DC.

Students fill out a registration form online, and a teacher or sponsor is required. The deadline to enter is the first week of April.

5.  John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest

This annual contest invites students to write about a political official’s act of political courage that occurred after Kennedy’s birth in 1917. The winner receives $10,000, and 16 runners-up also receive a variety of cash prizes.

Students may submit a 700- to 1,000-word essay through January 12. The essay must feature more than five sources and a full bibliography.

6. Bennington Young Writers Awards

Bennington College offers competitions in three categories: poetry (a group of three poems), fiction (a short story or one-act play), and nonfiction (a personal or academic essay). First-place winners receive $500. Grab a poster for your classroom here .

The contest runs from September 1 to November 1. The website links to a student registration form.

7. The Princeton Ten-Minute Play Contest

Looking for student writing contests for budding playwrights? This exclusive competition, which is open only to high school juniors, is judged by the theater faculty of Princeton University. Students submit short plays in an effort to win recognition and cash prizes of up to $500. ( Note: Only open to 11th graders. )

Students submit one 10-page play script online or by mail. The deadline is the end of March. Contest details will be published in early 2024.

8. Princeton University Poetry Contest for High School Students

The Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize recognizes outstanding work by student writers in 11th grade. Prizes range from $100 to $500.

Students in 11th grade can submit their poetry. Contest details will be published this fall.

9. The New York Times Tiny Memoir Contest

This contest is also a wonderful writing challenge, and the New York Times includes lots of resources and models for students to be able to do their best work. They’ve even made a classroom poster !

Submissions need to be made electronically by November 1.

10.  Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest

The deadline for this contest is the end of October. Sponsored by Hollins University, the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest awards prizes for the best poems submitted by young women who are sophomores or juniors in high school or preparatory school. Prizes include cash and scholarships. Winners are chosen by students and faculty members in the creative writing program at Hollins.

Students may submit either one or two poems using the online form.

11.  The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers

The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers is open to high school sophomores and juniors, and the winner receives a full scholarship to a  Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop .

Submissions for the prize are accepted electronically from November 1 through November 30.

12. Jane Austen Society Essay Contest

High school students can win up to $1,000 and publication by entering an essay on a topic specified by the Jane Austen Society related to a Jane Austen novel.

Details for the 2024 contest will be announced in November. Essay length is from six to eight pages, not including works cited.

13. Rattle Young Poets Anthology

Open to students from 15 to 18 years old who are interested in publication and exposure over monetary awards.

Teachers may choose five students for whom to submit up to four poems each on their behalf. The deadline is November 15.

14. The Black River Chapbook Competition

This is a chance for new and emerging writers to gain publication in their own professionally published chapbook, as well as $500 and free copies of the book.

There is an $18 entry fee, and submissions are made online.

15. YouthPlays New Voices

For students under 18, the YouthPlays one-act competition is designed for young writers to create new works for the stage. Winners receive cash awards and publication.

Scroll all the way down their web page for information on the contest, which accepts non-musical plays between 10 and 40 minutes long, submitted electronically. Entries open each year in January.

16. The Ocean Awareness Contest

The 2024 Ocean Awareness Contest, Tell Your Climate Story , encourages students to write their own unique climate story. They are asking for creative expressions of students’ personal experiences, insights, or perceptions about climate change. Students are eligible for a wide range of monetary prizes up to $1,000.

Students from 11 to 18 years old may submit work in the categories of art, creative writing, poetry and spoken word, film, interactive media and multimedia, or music and dance, accompanied by a reflection. The deadline is June 13.

17. EngineerGirl Annual Essay Contest

Each year, EngineerGirl sponsors an essay contest with topics centered on the impact of engineering on the world, and students can win up to $500 in prize money. This contest is a nice bridge between ELA and STEM and great for teachers interested in incorporating an interdisciplinary project into their curriculum. The new contest asks for pieces describing the life cycle of an everyday object. Check out these tips for integrating the content into your classroom .

Students submit their work electronically by February 1. Check out the full list of rules and requirements here .

18. NCTE Student Writing Awards

The National Council of Teachers of English offers several student writing awards, including Achievement Awards in Writing (for 10th- and 11th-grade students), Promising Young Writers (for 8th-grade students), and an award to recognize Excellence in Art and Literary Magazines.

Deadlines range from October 28 to February 15. Check out NCTE.org for more details.

19. See Us, Support Us Art Contest

Children of incarcerated parents can submit artwork, poetry, photos, videos, and more. Submissions are free and the website has a great collection of past winners.

Students can submit their entries via social media or email by October 25.

20. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry & Prose

The Adroit Journal, an education-minded nonprofit publication, awards annual prizes for poetry and prose to exceptional high school and college students. Adroit charges an entry fee but also provides a form for financial assistance.

Sign up at the website for updates for the next round of submissions.

21. National PTA Reflections Awards

The National PTA offers a variety of awards, including one for literature, in their annual Reflections Contest. Students of all ages can submit entries on the specified topic to their local PTA Reflections program. From there, winners move to the local area, state, and national levels. National-level awards include an $800 prize and a trip to the National PTA Convention.

This program requires submitting to PTAs who participate in the program. Check your school’s PTA for their deadlines.

22. World Historian Student Essay Competition

The World Historian Student Essay Competition is an international contest open to students enrolled in grades K–12 in public, private, and parochial schools, as well as those in home-study programs. The $500 prize is based on an essay that addresses one of this year’s two prompts.

Students can submit entries via email or regular mail before May 1.

23. NSHSS Creative Writing Scholarship

The National Society of High School Scholars awards three $2,000 scholarships for both poetry and fiction. They accept poetry, short stories, and graphic novel writing.

Apply online by October 31.

Whether you let your students blog, start a podcast or video channel, or enter student writing contests, giving them an authentic audience for their work is always a powerful classroom choice.

If you like this list of student writing contests and want more articles like it, subscribe to our newsletters to find out when they’re posted!

Plus, check out our favorite anchor charts for teaching writing..

Are you looking for student writing contests to share in your classroom? This list will give students plenty of opportunities.

You Might Also Like

Best Student Contests and Competitions for 2023

Best 2024 Competitions for Students in Grades K-12

Competitions in STEM, ELA and the arts, and more! Continue Reading

Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved. 5335 Gate Parkway, Jacksonville, FL 32256

The Summer Cohort Early Application Deadline is February 18, 2024.  

Click here to apply.

One__3_-removebg-preview.png

Featured Posts

essay contest for high school students

10 Grants for First Generation College Students

essay contest for high school students

10 Colleges With Full-Ride Scholarships

National History Day's National Contest - 7 Stellar Reasons to Participate

National History Day's National Contest - 7 Stellar Reasons to Participate

8 Humanities Pre-College Programs You Should Check Out as a High Schooler

8 Humanities Pre-College Programs You Should Check Out as a High Schooler

IECA's Conference in 2024 - Should You Attend It?

IECA's Conference in 2024 - Should You Attend It?

A Comprehensive Review of the Big Future Toolkit by College Board for Independent Educational Consultants (IECs)

A Comprehensive Review of the Big Future Toolkit by College Board for Independent Educational Consultants (IECs)

essay contest for high school students

10 Tips to Help You Create an Amazing College Counselor Website

10 Great College Counselor Resources Worth Checking Out

10 Great College Counselor Resources Worth Checking Out

10 Scholarships for First Generation College Students

10 Scholarships for First Generation College Students

essay contest for high school students

10 AP Test Prep Resources for High School Students

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.

essay contest for high school students

6. AFSA's National High School Essay Contest

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.

essay contest for high school students

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.

Bonus entry: Atlas Shrugged novel Essay Contest

The Atlas Shrugged novel essay contest is open to all students globally. Atlas Shrugged is a heroic mystery novel written by Ayn Rand. Choose a prompt and write an 800-1,600 word essay in English. First prize: $10,000; 3 second prizes: $2,000; 5 third prizes: $1,000; 25 finalists: $100; 50 semifinalists: $50. Entry is free!

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.

The Best Essay Writing Contests of 2024

Writing competitions curated by Reedsy

  • Children's
  • Flash Fiction
  • Non-fiction
  • Science Fiction
  • Science Writing
  • Script Writing
  • Short Story
  • Young Adult

Manage a competition? Submit it here

RBE | We made a writing app for you (photo) | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.

Showing 46 contests

Anthology travel writing competition 2024.

Anthology Magazine

The Anthology Travel Writing Competition is open to original and previously unpublished travel articles in the English language by writers of any nationality, living anywhere in the world. We are looking for an engaging article that will capture the reader’s attention, conveying a strong sense of the destination and the local culture. Max 1000 words.

Entry requirements

Deadline: November 30, 2024

Essay, Non-fiction, Travel

International Voices in Creative Nonfiction Competition

Vine Leaves Press

Small presses have potential for significant impact, and at Vine Leaves Press, we take this responsibility quite seriously. It is our responsibility to give marginalized groups the opportunity to establish literary legacies that feel rich and vast. Why? To sustain hope for the world to become a more loving, tolerable, and open space. It always begins with art. That is why we have launched this writing competition.

Additional prizes

Book publication

Deadline: July 01, 2024

Essay, Memoir, Non-fiction, Novel

Young Sports Journalist 2024

The Young Sports Journalist Competition, 2024, seeks well-argued articles from aspiring journalists aged 14-21. Winning entries will be published online and printed in the Summer Issue of Pitch. Critiqued by our panel of accomplished judges, winners will also receive a £50 cash prize and offered work experience here at PITCH HQ. The competition runs from 7 February 2024 to 5 April 2024. And winners will be announced in May.

Publication in magazine and online

💰 Fee: FREE

Deadline: April 05, 2024

Essay, Non-fiction

Tusculum Review Nonfiction Chapbook Prize

The Tusculum Review

A prize of $1,000, publication of the essay in The Tusculum Review’s 20th Anniversary Issue (2024), and creation of a limited edition stand-alone chapbook with original art is awarded. Editors of The Tusculum Review and contest judge Mary Cappello will determine the winner of the 2024 prize.

Publication

Deadline: June 15, 2024

Creative Nonfiction Prize

Indiana Review

Send us one creative nonfiction piece, up to 5000 words, for a chance at $1000 + publication. This year's contest will be judged by Lars Horn.

Deadline: March 31, 2024

Essay, Fiction, Non-fiction

High School Academic Research Competition

Columbia Undergraduate Science Journal

The High School Academic Research Competition is where talented students from around the world compete to publish high-quality research on any topic. SARC challenges students to sharpen their critical thinking skills, immerse themselves in the research process, and hone their writing skills for success.

Indigo Research Intensive Summer Program

Deadline: March 20, 2024

Annual Student Essay Contest

Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum

For this year’s Essay Contest, we are asking students to think about why the story of the Oklahoma City bombing is important today.

Deadline: March 04, 2024

Solas Awards

Best Travel Writing

Extraordinary stories about travel and the human spirit have been the cornerstones of our books since 1993. With the Solas Awards we honor writers whose work inspires others to explore. We’re looking for the best stories about travel and the world. Funny, illuminating, adventurous, uplifting, scary, inspiring, poignant stories that reflect the unique alchemy that occurs when you enter unfamiliar territory and begin to see the world differently as a result. We hope these awards will be a catalyst for those who love to leave home and tell others about it.

Deadline: September 21, 2024

Annual Contest Submissions

So To Speak

So To Speak is seeking submissions for poetry, fiction, and non-fiction with an intersectional feminist lens! It is no secret that the literary canon and literary journals are largely comprised of heteronormative, patriarchal, cisgender, able-bodied white men. So to Speak seeks work by writers, poets, and artists who want to challenge and change the identity of the “canonical” writer.

Deadline: March 15, 2024

Essay, Fiction, Flash Fiction, LGBTQ, Non-fiction, Poetry

Brink Literary Journal Award for Hybrid Writing

The Brink Literary Journal Award for Hybrid Writing will be administered to the winner of a literary contest designed to champion innovative hybrid and cross-genre work.

Deadline: February 16, 2024 (Expired)

Essay, Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Memoir, Non-fiction, Poetry, Science Writing, Short Story

Rigel 2024: $500 for Prose, Poetry, Art, or Graphic Novel

Sunspot Literary Journal

Literary or genre works accepted. Winner receives $500 plus publication, while runners-up and finalists are offered publication. No restrictions on theme or category. Closes: February 29. Entry fee: $12.50. Enter as many times as you like through Submittable or Duotrope

$500 + publication

Runners-up and finalists are offered publication

Deadline: February 29, 2024

Essay, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Memoir, Non-fiction, Novel, Novella, Poetry, Script Writing, Short Story

Military Anthology: Partnerships, the Untold Story

Armed Services Arts Partnership

Partners are an integral aspect of military life, at home and afar, during deployment and after homecoming. Partnerships drive military action and extend beyond being a battle buddy, wingman, or crew member. Some are planned while others arise entirely unexpectedly. Spouses, family, old or new friends, community, faith leaders, and medical specialists all support the military community. Despite their importance, the stories of these partnerships often go untold. This anthology aims to correct that: We will highlight the nuances, surprises, joy, sorrow, heroism, tears, healing power, and ache of partnerships. We invite you to submit the story about partnerships from your journey, so we can help tell it.

$500 Editors' Choice award

$250 for each genre category (prose, poetry, visual art)

Deadline: March 01, 2024

Essay, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Humor, Memoir, Non-fiction, Poetry, Short Story

Stories of Inspiration

Kinsman Avenue Publishing, Inc

Nonfiction stories of inspiration wanted (between 500 to 2,000 words). Submissions should highlight the struggle and resilience of the human spirit, especially related to cultures of BIPOC or marginalized communities. Stories must be original, unpublished works in English. One successful entry will be awarded each month from April 2024 and will be included within Kinsman Quarterly’s online journal and digital magazine. Successful authors receive $200 USD and publication in our digital magazine. No entry fee required.

Publication in Kinsman Quarterly's online magazine

Deadline: December 31, 2024

NOWW 26th International Writing Contest

Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop (NOWW)

Open to all writers in four categories: poetry, short fiction, creative nonfiction, and critical writing.

2nd: $100 | 3rd: $50

Essay, Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, Short Story

Vocal Challenges

Enter themed storytelling contests to put your creativity to the test and be in with a chance of winning cash prizes and more. To submit, you'll need to sign up for a monthly fee of $9.99, or $4.99/month for 3 months.

$1,000 — $5,000

Deadline: March 07, 2024

Essay, Fiction, Memoir, Non-fiction, Short Story

Great American Think-Off

New York Mills Regional Cultural Center

The Great American Think-Off is an exhibition of civil disagreement between powerful ideas that connect to your life at the gut level. The Cultural Center, located in the rural farm and manufacturing town of New York Mills, sponsors this annual philosophy contest.

Deadline: April 01, 2024

The Hudson Prize

Black Lawrence Press

Each year Black Lawrence Press will award The Hudson Prize for an unpublished collection of poems or prose. The prize is open to new, emerging, and established writers.

Irene Adler Prize

Lucas Ackroyd

I’ve traveled the world from Sweden to South Africa, from the Golden Globes to the Olympic women’s hockey finals. I’ve photographed a mother polar bear and her cubs and profiled stars like ABBA, Jennifer Garner and Katarina Witt. And I couldn’t have done it without women. I’ve been very fortunate, and it’s time for me to give back. With the Irene Adler Prize, I’m awarding a $1,000 scholarship to a woman pursuing a degree in journalism, creative writing, or literature at a recognized post-secondary institution.

2x honorable mentions: $250

Deadline: May 30, 2024

Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award

Killer Nashville

The Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award is committed to discovering new writers, as well as superlative books by established authors and, upon discovery, sharing those writers and their works with new readers. There are a large number of both fiction and non-fiction categories you can enter.

Crime, Essay, Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Novel, Poetry, Science Fiction, Script Writing, Short Story, Thriller

World Historian Student Essay Competition

World History Association

The World Historian Student Essay Competition is an international competition open to students enrolled in grades K–12 in public, private, and parochial schools, and those in home-study programs. Membership in the World History Association is not a requirement for submission. Past winners may not compete in the same category again.

Deadline: May 01, 2024

Children's, Essay

100 Word Writing Contest

Tadpole Press

Can you write a story using 100 words or less? Pieces will be judged on creativity, uniqueness, and how the story captures a new angle, breaks through stereotypes, and expands our beliefs about what's possible or unexpectedly delights us. In addition, we are looking for writing that is clever or unique, inspires us, and crafts a compelling and complete story. The first-place prize has doubled to $2,000 USD.

2nd: writing coach package

Deadline: April 30, 2024

Essay, Fantasy, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Humor, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Science Fiction, Science Writing, Thriller, Young Adult, Children's, Poetry, Romance, Short Story, Suspense, Travel

Indignor Play House Annual Short Story Competition

Indignor House Publishing

Indignor House Publishing is proud to announce that our annual writing competition (INDIGNOR PLAYHOUSE Short Story Annual Competition) is officially open with expected publication in the fall of 2024. Up to 25 submissions will be accepted for inclusion in the annual anthology.

2nd: $250 | 3rd: $150

Fiction, Flash Fiction, Short Story, Crime, Essay, Fantasy, Horror, Humor, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Novella, Poetry, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult

Lazuli Literary Group Writing Contest

Lazuli Literary Group

We are not concerned with genre distinctions. Send us the best you have; we want only for it to be thoughtful, intelligent, and beautiful. We want art that grows in complexity upon each visitation; we enjoy ornate, cerebral, and voluptuous phrases executed with thematic intent.

Publication in "AZURE: A Journal of Literary Thought"

Deadline: March 24, 2024

Essay, Fiction, Poetry, Short Story, Flash Fiction, Non-fiction, Novella, Script Writing

swamp pink Prizes

From January 1st to January 31st, submit short stories and essays of up to 25 pages or a set of 1-3 poems. Winners in each genre will receive $2,000 and publication.

Deadline: January 31, 2024 (Expired)

Red Hen Press Women's Prose Prize

Red Hen Press

Established in 2018, the Women’s Prose Prize is for previously unpublished, original work of prose. Novels, short story collections, memoirs, essay collections, and all other forms of prose writing are eligible for consideration. The awarded manuscript is selected through a biennial competition, held in even-numbered years, that is open to all writers who identify as women.

Publication by Red Hen Press

Deadline: February 28, 2024

Fiction, Non-fiction, Short Story, Essay, Memoir, Novel

African Diaspora Awards 2024

Up to $1000 in cash prizes for the African Diaspora Award 2024. African-themed prose and poetry wanted. Top finalists are published in Kinsman Quarterly’s magazine and the anthology, “Black Butterfly: Voices of the African Diaspora.”

Publication in anthology, "Black Butterfly: Voices of the African Diaspora" and print and digital magazine

Deadline: June 30, 2024

Essay, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, Short Story

The Letter Review Prize for Unpublished Books

The Letter Review

The Letter Review Prize for Unpublished Books (Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction) is open to writers from anywhere in the world. Three Winners are awarded, and 20 entries are Shortlisted.

3 x $333 USD

Crime, Essay, Fantasy, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Horror, Humor, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Novel, Novella, Poetry, Romance, Science Fiction, Science Writing, Short Story, Thriller, Young Adult

The Letter Review Prize for Nonfiction

The Letter Review Prize for Nonfiction (0-5000 words) is open to writers from anywhere in the world and has no theme or genre restrictions. Winners are published and every entry is considered for publication. 20 entries are Shortlisted.

Publication by The Letter Review

Essay, Memoir, Non-fiction

Work-In-Progress (WIP) Contest

Unleash Press

We aim to assist writers in the completion of an important literary project and vision. The Unleash WIP Award offers writers support in the amount of $500 to supplement costs to aid in the completion of a book-length work of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. Writers will also receive editorial feedback, coaching meetings, and an excerpt/interview feature in Unleash Lit.

Coaching, interview, and editorial support

Deadline: July 15, 2024

Crime, Essay, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Novel, Novella, Poetry, Science Fiction, Science Writing, Young Adult

Aurora Polaris Creative Nonfiction Award

Trio House Press

We seek un-agented full-length creative nonfiction manuscripts including memoir, essay collections, etc. 50,000 - 80,000 words.

Deadline: May 15, 2024

National Essay Contest

U.S. Institute of Peace

This year, AFSA celebrates the 100th anniversary of the United States Foreign Service. Over the last century, our diplomats and development professionals have been involved in groundbreaking events in history – decisions on war and peace, supporting human rights and freedom, creating joint prosperity, reacting to natural disasters and pandemics and much more. As AFSA looks back on this century-long history, we invite you to join us in also looking ahead to the future. This year students are asked to explore how diplomats can continue to evolve their craft to meet the needs of an ever-changing world that brings fresh challenges and opportunities to the global community and America’s place in it.

Runner-up: $1,250

Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize

Gotham Writers Workshop

The Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize is a writing competition sponsored by the stage and radio series Selected Shorts. Selected Shorts is recorded for Public Radio and heard nationally on both the radio and its weekly podcast. This years entries will be judged by Carmen Maria Machado (In the Dream House, Her Body and Other Parties).

$1000 + free 10 week course with Gotham Writers

Crime, Essay, Fantasy, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Horror, Humor, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Romance, Science Fiction, Short Story, Thriller, Young Adult

Journalism Competition 2024

Write the World

What are the most important issues taking place close to home? Perhaps a rare bird sighting near your town? Or a band of young people in your province fighting for access to higher education? This month, immerse yourself in a newsworthy event inside the borders of your own country, and invite us there through your written reporting.

Best entry: $100

Runner up: $50 | Best peer review: $50

Deadline: July 22, 2024

Personal Essay Competition 2024

We want to hear about an experience in your life, rife with characters and description and conflict and scene… but we also want to hear how you make sense of this experience, how it sits with you, and why it has surfaced as writing. Open a window into your life and invite your readers to enter.

Deadline: June 24, 2024

Essay, Memoir

Environmental Writing 2024

The writer and activist Bill McKibben describes Environmental Writing as "the collision between people and the rest of the world." This month, peer closely at that intersection: How do humans interact with their environment? Given your inheritance of this earth, the world needs your voices now more than ever.

Deadline: April 22, 2024

Find the perfect editor for your next book

Over 1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy, come meet them.

1 million authors trust the editors on Reedsy, come meet them.

Reedsy Marketplace UI

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy, come meet them.

Enter your email or get started with a social account:

Top 20 Best Writing Contests for High School Students

Jin Chow with Tree Background

By Jin Chow

Co-founder of Polygence, Forbes 30 Under 30 for Education

13 minute read

person wearing a sweater, writing with a pencil

Writing contests are a great way to focus on a topic that excites you, organize your thoughts, showcase your research and/or creativity, join a community, gain recognition, and even win cash, scholarships, and all-expenses-paid travel. The other nice thing about writing is that you can do it on your own time, and it doesn’t cost a dime. You can fit it around other summer activities or on weekends. You don’t need to win first place in these competitions to reap the benefits either. Many competitions offer all sorts of prizes at various levels, and you may get invaluable feedback from expert judges that will help you in your future writing projects–and, yes, winning looks great on college applications too!

We’ve organized this list of teenage writing contests alphabetically, by the hosting institution. It covers a broad swath of subjects, including: scientific research; persuasive essays; poetry; comics; and philosophical arguments.

Pro tip : Most of these competitions publish past winners on their websites. Read these winning entries to get inspired and to get a sense of the format, length, tone, and subject matter that’s considered winning material. It’s also just fascinating to read this great writing.

Want to work on a writing project but want feedback? Check out our Polygence mentors . Most of these competitions don’t mind if you polish your work with a mentor if the work and ideas behind your entry are your own.

Writing Contests for High School Students

As entry requirements, writing prompt availability (if applicable), application and submission deadlines, and judging criteria may change year to year, be sure to refer to the specific contest websites for those that catch your attention.

1. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose

Hosting institution: The Adroit Journal

Awards: $200

Writing prompt availability: n/a

Submission deadline: Mid-May

The submission guidelines for this writing contest are very nuanced; in short, you can send up to 5 “packets” of writing. Each “packet” can consist of either 6 poems or 3 prose pieces (fiction or creative nonfiction, and a total of 3,500 words combined). Winners and runners-up will be published in The Adroit Journal .

This contest is open to students internationally and winners are announced in mid-October. Each year, the contest features a different set of esteemed judges. Judges in 2023 were Natalie Diaz (poetry) and Ocean Vuong (prose). 

Note: this writing contest has a non-refundable $15 submission fee; students can apply for financial assistance if needed

2. National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

Hosting institution: Alliance for Young Artists & Writers

Awards: Scholarships of up to $12,500

Submission deadline: December or January, depending on your region

The prestigious Scholastic Art & Writing Awards has been around since 1923 and has an impressive list of past winners including Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, John Updike, and Sylvia Plath. There are 11 writing categories including humor, flash fiction, poetry, short stories, journalism, and more.

You may win at the regional level and then be automatically entered into the national contest. Winners at the national level are invited to attend a star-studded ceremony in New York City and your writing will be published in the annual anthology Best Teen Writing.

As timelines will vary based on your specific region and which writing contest you enter, the calendar on the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers site is a great resource for students to refer to for information about important dates and deadlines.

Learn more about Why You Should Apply for the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards !

3. National High School Essay Contest

Hosting institutions: American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP)

1st: $2,500 and a paid trip to the nation’s capital from anywhere in the U.S. for the winner and his or her parents, plus an all-expense paid educational voyage courtesy of Semester at Sea

2nd: $1,250 and full tuition to National Student Leadership Conference’s International Diplomacy summer program

Writing prompt availability: Fall

Submission deadline: April 1, 2024

Every year, this essay contest invites high school students  to explore a topic that touches upon issues of peace building and the protection of national security. Your response to this prompt should be an essay of 1,000-1,500 words. Winning essays are also published on the website so you can see past topics and research.

You must be a U.S. high school student to participate and meet all eligibility requirements (e.g., your parents cannot be in the Foreign Service). It’s best to refer to AFSA’s site for the most up-to-date information about very specific writing contest rules and guidelines. The judging criteria include the quality of analysis, quality of research, form, style, and mechanics.

4. Young Writers Awards

Hosting institution: Bennington College

Awards: $500 (1st in each category), $250 (2nd in each category)

YWA winners who enroll at Bennington receive a $15,000 scholarship each year -  for a total of $60,000 

Submission deadline: Early November

Bennington College has quite a literary pedigree, with alumni that have garnered twelve Pulitzer Prize winners, three U.S. poet laureates, four MacArthur Geniuses, countless New York Times bestsellers, and two of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people. In honor of its legacy, Bennington College started this contest to celebrate great writing by high school students.

You’re invited to submit writing in one of the following categories: poetry (3 poems), fiction (up to 1500 words), or nonfiction (up to 1500 words). All work must be reviewed, approved, and sponsored by a teacher. Homeschool students may use a mentor.

Express Your Creative Side

Interested in visual arts, music, or literature? We can match you with an expert mentor who will help you explore your creative streak!

Motivated student standing on books holding a graduation hat

5. My Impact Challenge

Hosting institution: Bill of Rights Institute

Awards: Up to $10,000, with $40,000 in total prizes 

Writing prompt availability: n/a

Submission deadline: May 19, 2024

In this contest, a 1,200-word essay is part of a larger project that also includes a service project that you’ve completed along with a 2,000-word report detailing your inspiration, project plan, details of how you executed the plan, and how your understanding of civic virtue and your community grew as a result. Visual documentation of your project is also required. You’ll be judged on the impact your project had on the community, knowledge gained, originality, mechanics, and your understanding of civic virtue.

Get more information about the submission guidelines and judging rubric for My Impact Challenge on the Bill of Rights Institute website.

6. Ocean Awareness Contest

Hosting institution: Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs

Awards: Up to $1,000

Writing prompt availability: Early September

Submission deadline: June 10, 2024

This international writing contest was created to raise awareness about environmental issues through creative communication. Students aged 11 through 18 are eligible to participate.

The prompt for 2023 involved thinking about climate change and posing possible solutions for the climate crisis. The idea is to move beyond the bad news and celebrate the work that is being done by countless “climate heroes”—the scientists, activists, artists, and educators striving to make our world more habitable.

The writing prompt for the 2024 Ocean Awareness Contest is Tell Your Climate Story . Your submission can take the form of creative writing, film, interactive and multimedia, poetry, and spoken word.

The Ocean Awareness Contest FAQs on the Bow Seat site are an excellent resource to find out more specific information about how to participate in this writing competition.

7. Essay Contest

Hosting institution: Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA)

Awards: $1,000 scholarship + free trip to conference (1st), $500 scholarship (2nd), $250 scholarship (3rd)

Writing prompt availability:  Currently Available

Submission deadline: June 1, 2024

If you love Jane Austen novels, you must enter this contest! Each year, JASNA asks students from all around the world to think about a topic inspired by a work by Jane Austen and how this topic reflects on our culture today. The 2023 JASNA Essay Contest topic was about marriages and proposals , as inspired by the theme in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The 2024 JASNA Essay Contest topic will be announced in November 2023. Your original insights and clear, correct writing should then take the form of a 6-8 page essay written in English. Past essay winners are published on the website.

8. Profile in Courage Essay Contest by JFK Presidential Library

Hosting institution: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Awards: $10,000 (1st), $3,000 (2nd), $1,000 (five other finalists), $100 (eight semifinalists)

Writing prompt availability: Available Now

Submission deadline: January 12, 2024

Inspired by JFK's book, Profiles in Courage, this writing contest invites you to describe and analyze an act of political courage by a U.S. elected official serving after JFK was born (1917). Essays must be between 700 and 1,000 words and include a minimum of five sources. Judges are looking for originality, supporting evidence, source material, high-quality writing, and organization. They also want to see evidence that you understand the meaning of political courage.

Note: students must provide the name of a nominating teacher on their registration form, so make sure you coordinate with an educator who can serve in that capacity. Refer to the Profile in Courage Essay Contest eligibility requirements for more information.

9. John Locke Essay Competition

Hosting institution: John Locke Institute

Awards: Awards: $2,000 scholarship (for 1st in each of the 8 categories)

Application deadline: Late May

Submission deadline: Late June

Ready to think deep thoughts? This contest gives you the chance to refine your skills in argumentation (e.g,, independent insights, depth of knowledge, clear reasoning, critical analysis, and rhetoric) and have your work assessed by experts. You can choose from 1 of 3 challenging questions posed in 7 different categories (Philosophy, Politics, Economics, History, Psychology, Theology, and Law) in the form of a 2,000-word (max) essay. There’s also a junior category for students who are under age 15 (i.e., 14 or younger).

Your entry will be judged by a panel of Oxford and Princeton faculty. Winning essays are posted on the John Locke Institute website , and you can check out the fascinating archive.

Read our blog post, Everything You Should Know about the John Locke Institute Essay Competition to learn more about this writing contest!

10. High School Poetry Prize and Ten-Minute Play Contest

Hosting institution: Lewis Center for the Arts - Princeton University

Poetry: $1,500 (1st), $750 (2nd), $500 (3rd)

Play: $500 (1st), $250 (2nd), $100 (3rd)

Writing prompt availability: Late October (Poetry)

Submission deadlines:

Poetry: Late November

Play: April 1, 2024

Princeton University has two writing contests that are open to 11th grade students and it is possible to enter both of them:

Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize : students may submit up to three poems and it is okay if they have also been submitted to other writing contests

Ten-Minute Play Contest : submissions are limited to one play per student

Entries for both contests are judged by Princeton faculty.

11. EngineerGirl Writing Contest

Hosting institution: National Academy of Engineering

Awards: $500 (1st), $250 (2nd), $100 (3rd)

Writing prompt availability: September

Submission deadline: Early February

This essay contest features a new writing prompt every year dealing with engineering’s impact on the world. The 2023 contest focused on diversity in engineering and how that might future design solutions . The prompt for the 2024 EngineerGirl Writing Contest is The Secret Life of Everyday Items . High school students are limited to 750 words and must cite anywhere from 3-10 resources. Winning and honorable mention entries are published on the website.

12. Achievement Awards in Writing

Hosting institution: National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)

Awards: First-class awards will be published on the NCTE website

Writing prompt availability: August

Submission deadline: February 15, 2024

Each year, the National Council of Teachers of English posts a thought-provoking prompt and participants in 10th and 11th grades are welcome to respond in up to 10 pages. 

The writing prompt for the 2023 contest was based on Malala Yousafzai’s address to the United Nations; the prompt for 2024 comes from Michele Obama’s book, Becoming:

“If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you'll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others.”

Writing contest entries are not limited to informative or persuasive essays. They can also take the form of a research report, a personal narrative, a fictional story, a series of poems, a photo essay, or a comic or graphic narrative.

Other NCTE Writing Contests for Students

Promising Young Writers

Open to 8th graders

Submission deadline is mid-February

National Writing Award: The Humanities and a Freer Tomorrow - in partnership with the National Humanities Alliance

Open to 11th and 12th graders

Submission deadline is late October

13. YoungArts Writing Competition

Hosting institution: The National Foundation for the Advancement of Artists

Awards: Prizes up to $10,000, Entry to National YoungArtsWeek, Presidential Scholar In the Arts designation, grants and funding, residency opportunities

Writing prompt availability: June 2024

Submission deadline: Mid-October

This multidisciplinary competition has entry categories across 10 disciplines. Writing is one of them, and you may submit your writing in the form of creative nonfiction, novel, play or script, poetry, short story, or spoken word. To be eligible to apply you must be a U.S. sophomore, junior, or senior. The website features a great section with tips and testimonials from past winners and guest artists. Awards are not simply cash-based. Entry into this organization connects you to a lifelong network and access to master artists.

14. Creative Writing Scholarship

Hosting institution: National Society of High School Scholars

Awards: $2,000 prize (3 given out for fiction and 3 given out for poetry)

Writing prompt availability: Early May

Submission deadline: Early October

You can enter this contest in the fiction or poetry category, or both. Fiction must be no more than 5,000 words. Your poem must appear as you would like for it to be published. Judging criteria include creativity, technique, expression, and originality. In addition to your writing, you’ll need to submit a recommendation from a teacher, a school transcript, an academic resume, and a photo of yourself.

15. Young Lions Fiction Award

Hosting institution: New York Public Library

Three (3) $2,000 awards for the Fiction category

Three (3) $2,000 awards for the Poetry category

Submission deadline: Early September

The Young Lions Fiction Award was started by Ethan Hawke, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, Rick Moody, and Hannah McFarland as a safety net and support system for young writers. You must be 35 or younger to submit your work for consideration. The catch with this particular contest is that your submission must be in the form of a published novel or collection of short stories that was published within the year of the contest– galley proof is an acceptable format.

As most high school students won’t have a published book to submit, this contest is a bit of a stretch–it’s generally geared toward young writers in their 20s and 30s. That said, if you have published a book, this is an amazing opportunity and it is a very prestigious distinction to be among the five finalists.

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

Hosting institution: Rachel Carson Landmark Alliance

Awards: Publication on the contest website

Submission deadline: Mid-November

Unlike the other writing contests listed here, this writing submission is meant to be co authored by you and at least one older adult. This could be your parent, grandparent, teacher, neighbor, mentor, etc. The idea is that you and your coauthor are from two different generations and that will inspire both of you to look at nature differently. You can choose to write about 1 of 2 themes and you can also choose to write it as an essay or as a poem. (Either can have up to 500 words). You may also include an original photograph with your entry.

Work with an expert mentor to explore your passion

At Polygence, we precisely match you with a mentor in your area of interest. Together, you can explore and deepen your passions.

Student standing on large books with graduation hat

17. High School Essay Contest

Hosting institutions: The Society of Professional Journalists and the Journalism Education Association

Awards: $1,000 scholarship (1st), $500 scholarship (2nd), $300 scholarship (3rd)

Submission deadline: Feb. 19, 2024

Raising awareness of the importance of independent media in our lives is the key goal of this contest. The topic for 2023 was “While consumers are drawn toward tweets and sound bites, how can journalists tell more of the story without losing readers’ interest?” U.S. high school students in grades 9 through 12 are invited to respond to this prompt with an essay of 300-500 words.

The judging criteria include: adherence to the topic and a logical interpretation of the subject (40 pts); vocabulary and style (30 pts); grammar (20 points); neatness (5 pts); and proper format (5 pts).

18. Voice of Democracy

Hosting institution: Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)

Awards: $35,000 college scholarship (grand prize); $1,000-$21,000 (other national scholarships); $1,000 (each state winner)

Submission deadline: Late October

This audio-essay contest was created in 1947 to promote patriotism for our U.S. democracy. High school students are invited to express their patriotism via a recorded speech. Each year students win $1.3 million in educational scholarships and incentives from this VFW contest. The 2023-24 prompt is: “What are the greatest attributes of our democracy?”

Students will write and record their essay response. (The audio file should be 3-5 minutes long.) The judging criteria include originality (30 pts), organization and flow (35 pts), and speech delivery (35 pts). You submit your audio file and written essay to your local VFW Post, which you can find on the VFW site we link to above.

Patriot’s Pen

VFW has a writing contest for students in sixth through eighth grade, called Patriot’s Pen . The 2023-24 prompt for this contest is: “How are you inspired by America?”

19. World Historian Student Essay Competition

Hosting institution: World History Organization

Awards: $500

Writing prompt availability: n/a 

Submission deadline: May 1st, 2024

Open to all students internationally (grades K-12), this contest provides a prompt based on world history education and how it impacts you. The prompt for 2023 asks you to think about a family story related to a historical event or your family’s cultural background. Your response must be an essay of approximately 1,000 words. Judging criteria include a clear thesis, concrete supporting examples, evidence of synthesis and evaluation, and organization. They are also looking at your overall ability to communicate how a better understanding of world history has changed you.

20. New Voices One-Act Competition

Hosting institution: YouthPLAYS

Awards: $250 and publication in YouthPLAYS (1st), $100 (runner-up)

Writing prompt availability: Early January

Submission deadline: May 1, 2024

This contest accepts any unpublished, non-musical one-act play from anyone under age 19. Your play must be between 10-14 minutes in length (a read-through before you submit is recommended) and at least 10 pages long. The play should be suitable for a school production and should ideally feature youth characters in age-appropriate roles. Your cast must also have two or more characters and more female roles are encouraged.

How Students Can Benefit From Participating in Writing Competitions

Writing competitions offer high school students a unique opportunity to showcase their skills, gain recognition, and enhance their college admissions prospects. Here are 10 ways writing contests can make a positive impact and be beneficial for student participants:

1. Demonstrating your commitment to writing

When you actively engage in writing competitions, you demonstrate your passion and commitment to the craft. Admissions officers appreciate applicants who have pursued their interests with dedication.

2. Showcasing your skills

Writing contests allow you to showcase your writing skills , whether it's in the form of essays, poetry, or other creative works. High-quality submissions can impress admissions committees.

3. Building a strong portfolio

Over time, your participation in various writing competitions can help you build a diverse and impressive writing portfolio. This portfolio can be submitted as part of your college application to highlight your talents .

4. Gaining recognition

Winning or even being recognized as a finalist in a prestigious writing contest can significantly boost your application. Admissions officers are more likely to take notice of applicants with such accomplishments.

5. Differentiating yourself

In a competitive admissions landscape, it's essential to stand out from the crowd. Participation in writing competitions sets you apart and adds a unique dimension to your application.

6. Highlighting your interests

Writing competitions can be a reflection of your academic and personal interests. They show that you are intellectually curious and proactive in pursuing your passions .

7. Earning scholarships and awards

Many writing contests offer cash prizes or scholarships as rewards. These can help offset the cost of your education, making you a more attractive candidate to colleges.

8. Receiving Expert Feedback

Writing competitions often involve evaluation by expert judges. Constructive feedback from these judges can help you improve your writing skills, which is valuable both academically and in your application essays .

9. Enhancing Your Writing Abilities

Regularly participating in writing contests hones your writing abilities, making you a more effective communicator. This skill is beneficial for college coursework and beyond.

10. Reflecting On Personal Growth

As you participate in writing competitions, you may explore new topics and perspectives. This growth as a writer and thinker is something you can discuss in your application essays.

Related Content

How to Develop Writing Habits in High School

Creative Writing Research and Passion Project Ideas for Middle and High School Students

How Passion Projects, Positive Storytelling and Portfolios Can Support Student Mental Health

How I Advocated for Students as an Admission Officer when they Wrote About Passion Projects

Reasons Research Mentorship is Critical for High School Students

What Sets Polygence Apart from Other Research Programs for Middle and High School Students

Feeling Inspired?

Interested in doing an exciting research project? Click below to get matched with one of our expert mentors!

essay contest for high school students

Teacher Seminars In Person : Join us in California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Virginia this summer. Apply by March 5, 2024.

  • AP US History Study Guide
  • History U: Courses for High School Students
  • History School: Summer Enrichment
  • Lesson Plans
  • Classroom Resources
  • Spotlights on Primary Sources
  • Professional Development (Academic Year)
  • Professional Development (Summer)
  • Book Breaks
  • Inside the Vault
  • Self-Paced Courses
  • Browse All Resources
  • Search by Issue
  • Search by Essay
  • Become a Member (Free)
  • Monthly Offer (Free for Members)
  • Program Information
  • Scholarships and Financial Aid
  • Applying and Enrolling
  • Eligibility (In-Person)
  • EduHam Online
  • Hamilton Cast Read Alongs
  • Official Website
  • Press Coverage
  • Veterans Legacy Program
  • The Declaration at 250
  • Black Lives in the Founding Era
  • Celebrating American Historical Holidays
  • Browse All Programs
  • Donate Items to the Collection
  • Search Our Catalog
  • Research Guides
  • Rights and Reproductions
  • See Our Documents on Display
  • Bring an Exhibition to Your Organization
  • Interactive Exhibitions Online
  • About the Transcription Program
  • Civil War Letters
  • Founding Era Newspapers
  • College Fellowships in American History
  • Scholarly Fellowship Program
  • Richard Gilder History Prize
  • David McCullough Essay Prize
  • Affiliate School Scholarships
  • Nominate a Teacher
  • Eligibility
  • State Winners
  • National Winners
  • Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize
  • Gilder Lehrman Military History Prize
  • George Washington Prize
  • Frederick Douglass Book Prize
  • Our Mission and History
  • Annual Report
  • Contact Information
  • Student Advisory Council
  • Teacher Advisory Council
  • Board of Trustees
  • Remembering Richard Gilder
  • President's Council
  • Scholarly Advisory Board
  • Internships
  • Our Partners
  • Press Releases

Programs & Events

Student opportunities, david mccullough essay prizes.

David McCullough in front of a student-painted American flag at Trinity School..

David McCullough at Trinity School in Manhattan, October 15, 2019

The Gilder Lehrman Institute is now accepting submissions for the 2024 David McCullough Essay Prizes. The contest has been recently overhauled, and will recognize fourteen outstanding high school student research and interpretive essays with cash prizes of up to $5,000. This contest is named in memory of David McCullough (1933–2022)—a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and Gilder Lehrman Life Trustee—and honors his career telling America’s stories and examining its histories. Learn more about his life and legacy here .

High school students attending schools in our Affiliate School Program are eligible and encouraged to participate. (Email [email protected] if you are not sure whether your school is an Affiliate School.) They are invited to submit an original essay, written independently or for a 2023–2024 class, that has been revised, expanded, and adapted to conform with the new McCullough Prize specifications. The two essay categories are as follows:

Research Essay: Students are invited to submit a research essay incorporating primary and secondary sources on a topic in American history from 1491 to 2001.

Interpretive Essay: Students are invited to submit an interpretive essay focusing on close reading and analysis of one primary source from American history, 1491 to 2001, in the Gilder Lehrman Collection of more than 85,000 historical documents.

More requirements for both essay categories can be found in these updated David McCullough Essay Prizes 2024 Rubrics .

All participants will receive a certificate of participation suitable for framing. Prize winners in each of our two categories—research essays and a new interpretive essay category—will receive cash awards as follows:

  • 1st Prize: $5,000 (plus a $500 prize awarded to the school)
  • 2nd Prize: $1,500 (plus a $500 prize awarded to the school)
  • Five 3rd Prizes: $500 each

To be considered for the David McCullough Essay Prizes, students, or their teachers or parents, can submit the student entry by 8:00 p.m. ET on Friday, June 28, 2024 . A panel of Gilder Lehrman master teachers will choose the pool of finalists, from which a jury of eminent historians will choose the winners. Essays will be evaluated for their historical rigor, the clarity and correctness of their style, their use of evidence, and their qualities of empathy and imagination. Winners will be notified and announced no later than Friday, September 13, 2024.

General Requirements

Font and Page Style: Papers should be submitted in 12-point, Times New Roman font with one-inch margins at the top, bottom, and sides. Essays should be free of teacher commentary or other notes.

Organization: Top essays have an introduction, body, and conclusion and a clearly stated, well-developed thesis statement with supportive historical evidence.

Essay Topics: Essays can be on any topic related to American history from 1491 to 2001. Essays in the interpretative category must feature a primary source (letter, broadside, art, political cartoon, speech, etc.) from the Gilder Lehrman Collection .

Virtual Research Night

To help students, teachers, and parents prepare for the David McCullough Essay Prizes, the Institute is hosting a Virtual Research Night led by Professor Kenya Davis-Hayes (Professor of History, California Baptist University and a Scholar Judge for the prizes) to support student research at the high school level. The program will also feature members of the Gilder Lehrman Institute staff to highlight primary and secondary sources and strategies for high-quality research and writing. Register here for the Virtual Research Night on Thursday, February 29, 7 p.m. ET.

Dawe, Philip (ca. 1750-1785) The Bostonian's Paying the Excise-man, or Tarring & Feathering

Philip Dawe, The Bostonian's Paying the Excise-man, or Tarring & Feathering , London, 1774. (The Gilder Lehrman Institute, GLC04961.01)

Past Winners

SL

2023 Contest Winners

Read the eleven prize winners, selected from more than one hundred and fifty students’ entries.

2022 Contest Winners

Read the eleven prize winners, selected from more than seventy rising 11th and 12th grade students' entries.

2021 Winners

Read the twelve prize winners, selected from more than seventy rising 11th and 12th grade students' entries.

2020 Contest Winners

Read the twelve prize winners, selected from more than 200 rising 11th and 12th grade students' entries.

Stay up to date, and subscribe to our quarterly newsletter.

Learn how the Institute impacts history education through our work guiding teachers, energizing students, and supporting research.

  • Link to facebook
  • Link to linkedin
  • Link to twitter
  • Link to youtube
  • Writing Tips

7 Essay Writing Contests to Look Out For in 2023

7 Essay Writing Contests to Look Out For in 2023

  • 7-minute read
  • 28th December 2022

Essay contests are not only a great way to exercise your essay-writing skills but also an awesome way to win cash prizes, scholarships, and internship or program opportunities. They also look wonderful on college applications as awards and achievements.

In this article, you’ll learn about 7 essay writing contests to enter in 2023. Watch the video below, or keep reading to learn more.

1. Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest 

essay contest for high school students

Deadline: Now–April 30, 3023

Who may enter:

This is an international contest for people of all ages (except for residents of Syria, Iran, North Korea, Crimea, Russia, and Belarus due to US government restrictions).

Contest description:

●  The contest is organized by Winning Writers, located in MA, USA.

●  They accept stories and essays on any theme, up to 6,000 words each. This contest defines a story as any short work of fiction and an essay as any short work of nonfiction.

●  Your stories and essays must be submitted in English.

●  You may submit published or unpublished work.

Entry fee: USD 22 per entry

●  Story: First Prize is USD 3,000.

●  Essay: First Prize is USD 3,000.

●  10 Honorable Mentions will receive USD 300 each (any category).

●  The top 12 entries will be published online.

Official website

Please visit the competition’s official website for more information on judges and submissions.

2. 2023 Calibre Essay Prize 

essay contest for high school students

Deadline: Now–January 15, 2023, 11:59 pm

Who may enter: All ages and any nationality or residency are accepted.

●  This contest is hosted by the Australian Book Review.

●  Your essay must be between 2,000 and 5,000 words.

●  You may submit nonfiction essays of all kinds, e.g., personal, political, literary, or speculative.

●  You may enter multiple essays but will need to pay separate fees for each one.

●  Your essay must be unpublished.

Entry fee: AU 30 for non-members

Prize: AU 7,500

Official website:

For more information on this contest, please visit its official website.

3. John Locke Institute Essay Competition 

essay contest for high school students

Deadline: June 30, 2023

●  Students from any country.

●  Students aged 15 to 18 years by the competition deadline.

●  Students aged 14 years or younger by the competition deadline are eligible for the Junior prize.

●  The contest is organized by the John Locke Institute.

●  Your essay cannot exceed 2,000 words.

●  There are seven subjects or categories for essay submissions: Philosophy, Politics, Economics, History, Psychology, Theology, and Law.

Entry fee: Free to enter

●  The best overall essay winner receives an honorary John Locke Fellowship, which comes with a USD 10,000 scholarship to attend one or more summer schools or gap year courses.

●  There is also a prize for the best essay in each category. The prize for each winner of a subject category and the Junior category is a scholarship worth USD 2,000 toward the cost of a summer program.

●  All winning essays will be published on the Institute’s website.

For more information about this competition and the John Locke Institute, please visit the official website . Also, be sure to check out our article on all you need to know about this contest.

4. The American Foreign Service Association 2023 Essay Competition 

essay contest for high school students

Deadline: April 3, 2023

●  Students in grades 9–12 in any of the 50 states, DC, the US territories, or if they are US citizens or lawful permanent residents attending high school overseas.

●  Students attending a public, private, or parochial school.

●  Home-schooled students.

●  Your essay should be 1,000–1,500 words.

Find this useful?

Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox.

●  You will select a country or region in which the United States Foreign Service has been involved at any point since 1924 and describe how the Foreign Service was successful or unsuccessful in advancing American foreign policy goals – including promoting peace – in this country or region and propose ways in which it might continue to improve those goals in the coming years.

●  Your essay should follow MLA guidelines.

●  Your essay should use a variety of sources.

●  The first-place winner receives USD 2,500, a paid trip to the nation’s capital from anywhere in the U.S. for the winner and their parents, and an all-expense-paid educational voyage courtesy of Semester at Sea.

●  The runner-up receives USD 1,250 and full tuition to attend a summer session of the National Student Leadership Conference’s International Diplomacy program.

Please visit the American Foreign Service website for more information.

5. The Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) 2023 Essay Contest 

essay contest for high school students

Deadline: Mid-February 2023–June 1, 2023

Who may enter: High school (including homeschooled), college, and graduate students worldwide.

●  The 2023 essay contest topic is marriages and proposals.

●  High school students may focus on Pride and Prejudice only or bring in other Austen works.

●  Undergraduate and graduate students should discuss at least two Austen novels of their choice.

●  Your essay must be in MLA format and 6 to 8 pages (not including your Works Cited page).

●  Your essay must be written in English.

●  First place wins a USD 1,000 scholarship.

●  Second place wins a USD 500 scholarship.

●  Third place wins a USD 250 scholarship.

●  Winners will also receive one year of membership in JASNA, publication of their essays on this website, and a set of Norton Critical Editions of Jane Austen’s novels.

For more information and submission guidelines, please visit JASNA’s official website .

6. 2023 Writing Contest: Better Great Achievements by EngineerGirl

Deadline: February 1, 2023

●  Students in Grades 3–12. If international or homeschooled, please select your grade level based on if you were attending a public school in the U.S.

●  This contest is organized by EngineerGirl.

●  Students should write a piece that shows how female or non-white engineers have contributed to or can enhance engineering’s great achievements.

●  You should choose one of the 20 Greatest Engineering Achievements of the 20th Century as a topic and explore the technologies developed in the last century and the new ones being developed today. Make sure to follow the specific guidelines for your grade level.

●  Essays should be 650–750 words based on your grade level.

●  Please visit the contest’s website to see specific requirements based on your grade.

Winners in each grade category will receive the prizes listed below:

●  First-place winners will be awarded USD 500.

●  Second-place entries will be awarded USD 250 .

●  Third-place entries will be awarded USD 100 .

For more information and submission guidelines, please visit the official website .

7. World Historian Student Essay Competition

Deadline: May 1, 2023

Who may enter: Students enrolled in Grades K–12 in public, private, and parochial schools and home-study programs worldwide.

●  Your essay must address the following issue: In what way has the study of world history affected my understanding of the world in which I live?

●  Your essay should be 1,000 words.

Prizes: USD 500

For more information and submission requirements, please visit the contest’s official website.

Essay contests are a great way to expand your writing skills, discuss a topic that is important to you, and earn prize money and opportunities that will be great for you in the long term. Check out our articles on writing thesis statements, essay organization, and argumentative writing strategies to ensure you take first place every time.

If you need help with your essays and would like to make sure that every comma is in place, we will proofread your first 500 words for free !

Share this article:

' src=

Post A New Comment

Got content that needs a quick turnaround? Let us polish your work. Explore our editorial business services.

3-minute read

How to Come Up With Newsletter Ideas

If used strategically, email can have a substantial impact on your business. In fact, according...

4-minute read

Free Online Peer Review Template

Having your writing peer-reviewed is a valuable process that can showcase the strengths and weaknesses...

How to Embed a Video in PowerPoint

Including a video in your PowerPoint presentation can make it more exciting and engaging. And...

What Is a Patent?

A patent is a form of intellectual property that restricts who can copy your invention....

How to Add Speaker Notes in PowerPoint

Adding speaker notes to your PowerPoint allows you to present with confidence while avoiding information...

How to Download a PowerPoint Presentation

PowerPoint is Microsoft’s presentation software. It’s frequently used by families, students, and businesses to create...

Logo Harvard University

Make sure your writing is the best it can be with our expert English proofreading and editing.

  • Department of State

American Foreign Service Association

  • Publications
  • AFSA Scholarships
  • AFSA High School Essay Contest
  • AFSA Resources for Students
  • Education Supplement
  • Foreign Affairs Internships and Other Foreign Service-Related Opportunities
  • Educational Resources for Students and Teachers
  • Foreign Service HS Clubs - Get Involved!
  • Educational Partners
  • Awards & Honors

National High School Essay Contest

You are here, in this section, applications are now open for the 2024 essay contest.

Apply at https://afsascholarships.communityforce.com

The application deadline is 11:59 p.m. EDT on April 1, 2024

essay contest for high school students

2024 Essay Contest Topic

This year, AFSA celebrates the 100th anniversary of the United States Foreign Service. Over the last century, our diplomats and development professionals have been involved in groundbreaking events in history – decisions on war and peace, supporting human rights and freedom, creating joint prosperity, reacting to natural disasters and pandemics and much more. As AFSA looks back on this century-long history, we invite you to join us in also looking ahead to the future. This year students are asked to explore how diplomats can continue to evolve their craft to meet the needs of an ever-changing world that brings fresh challenges and opportunities to the global community and America’s place in it.

Over the past 100 years the Foreign Service has faced a multitude of challenges such as world war, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, humanitarian disasters, global pandemics, and economic crises. In a 1,000-1,500-word essay please identify what you believe will be the biggest challenge to face the Foreign Service in the future. The essay will describe this challenge and clearly define how American diplomats can help mitigate it.

Successful essays will use past or current diplomatic efforts to support what you believe to be the best course of action to tackle this obstacle.

For more information on Essay Contest Rules and Guidance please visit this page . For additional resources and to view the 2024 Study Guide please visit this page .

AFSA Announces the Winner of the 2023 High School Essay Contest

essay contest for high school students

The American Foreign Service Association’s national high school essay contest completed its twenty-third year with over 400 submissions from 44 states.

Three randomized rounds of judging produced this year’s winner, Justin Ahn, a junior from Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Massachusetts. In his essay, “Mending Bridges: US-Vietnam Reconciliation from 1995 to Today,” Justin focuses on the successful reconciliation efforts by the Foreign Service in transforming US-Vietnam relations from post-war tension to close economic and strategic partnership.

Justin traveled to Washington in AUgust 2023, where he met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. He also received a full tuition scholarship to an educational voyage with Semester at Sea.

Niccolo Duina was this year’s runner-up. He is a senior at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas. Niccolo attended the international diplomacy program of the National Student Leadership Conference in summer 2023.

There were eight honorable mentions:

  • Santiago Castro-Luna – Chevy Chase, Maryland
  • Dante Chittenden – Grimes, Iowa
  • Merle Hezel – Denver, Colorado
  • Adarsh Khullar – Villa Hills, Kentucky
  • Nicholas Nall – Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Ashwin Telang – West Windsor, New Jersey
  • Himani Yarlagadda – Northville, Michigan
  • Sophia Zhang – San Jose, California

Congratulations! We thank all students and teachers who took the time to research and become globally engaged citizens who care about diplomacy, development, and peacebuilding.

If you are not graduating this year, please consider submitting another essay for next year’s contest. The new prompt will be published in fall 2023.

PRIVACY POLICY:

AFSA collects your information for this contest and for AFSA partners. You may be signed up to receive updates or information from AFSA and our partners. You will receive confirmation from AFSA that your submission has been received and a notification if you are the winner or an honorable mention in June . You may also receive a message from our sponsor regarding their program offerings.

PLEASE NOTE:

essay contest for high school students

Students whose parents are not in the Foreign Service are eligible to participate if they are in grades nine through twelve in any of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories, or if they are U.S. citizens attending high school overseas. Students may be attending a public, private, or parochial school. Entries from home-schooled students are also accepted. Previous first-place winners and immediate relatives of directors or staff of AFSA, NLSC and Semester at Sea are not eligible to participate. Previous honorable mention recipients are eligible to enter. $2,500 to the writer of the winning essay, in addition to an all-expense paid trip to the nation’s capital from anywhere in the U.S. for the winner and his or her parents, and an all-expense paid educational voyage courtesy of Semester at Sea.

The winner's school also receives a donation of 10 copies of AFSA's Inside a U.S. Embassy: Diplomacy at Work

essay contest for high school students

The Fund for American Diplomacy is AFSA's 501(c)(3) charitable organization that supports AFSA’s outreach goals. AFSA National High School Essay contest is AFSA’s main outreach initiative to high school students. We appreciate your willingness to contribute. Rest assured that your contribution will be put to good use. Donations to the FAD are fully tax deductible.

Contest Information

  • Current & Past Winning Essays
  • Rules and Guidelines
  • Writer's Resources
  • Writer's Checklist
  • Description of the Foreign Service
  • What Diplomats Do and Why It Matters
  • Oral Histories and Country Readers
  • Semester at Sea
  • Educational Voyage Details
  • National Student Leadership Conference

essay contest for high school students

  • Phone: (617) 993-4823

essay contest for high school students

  • February 24, 2023

10 Writing Competitions for High School Students in 2023-2024

Are you a high school student who likes to write here are ten writing competitions for high school students in 2023-2024..

essay contest for high school students

Are you an aspiring novelist, a hobby writer, or a burgeoning poet? Have you tried your hand at nonfiction essays or playwriting? If so, you might be a great candidate for a national, regional, or state writing competition for high school students. Although specifics of each competition vary widely, these are usually great opportunities to showcase your talents, win some scholarship money, and buff up your writer’s resume. You might even get the chance to publish your work in a major journal or literary magazine or gain a mentor.

Here are ten writing competitions with deadlines during the 2023-2024 school year that you can start preparing yourself for right now. While most of these competitions are only for U.S. citizens, some are open to international students as well. Check each competition’s webpage for more information.

YoungArts Competitions for High School Students

Genres: Classical Music, Dance, Design Arts, Film, Jazz, Photography, Theater, Visual

Arts, Voice, Writing

Award: Up to $10,000 and national recognition

Eligibility: US citizens and permanent resident/green card recipients in grades 10-12 or

15-18 years of age on December 1, 2023

Fee: $35 (waivers available)

Deadline: October 15, 2023 at 11:59 pm EST

YoungArts is one of the most prestigious artistic competitions in the country, encompassing a wide variety of disciplines and forms. Through this competition, the National YoungArts Foundation identifies the most accomplished young artists in the visual, literary, and performing arts, and provides them with creative and professional development opportunities throughout their careers.

Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

Genres: Nonfiction, Novel, Play or Script, Poetry, Short Story, Spoken Word

Award: Up to $12,500 and national, state, and/or regional recognition

Eligibility: Grade 7-12 or 13+ years old

Fee: $7 per individual, $25 per portfolio (waivers available)

Deadline: December 2023/January 2024 (depends on region)

The Awards give students opportunities for recognition, exhibition, publication, and scholarships. All entries are considered for Gold Key, Silver Key, Honorable Mention, American Voices Nominee, and American Visions Nominee awards. These are presented to students along with celebration ceremonies and exhibitions in each region.

The American Foreign Services Association Essay Contest

Genres: Nonfiction

Award: Up to $2,500 and an all-expense paid educational voyage courtesy of

Semester at Sea; runner-up received $1,250 and a full scholarship to attend

the International Diplomacy Program of the National Student Leadership

Eligibility: U.S. citizens in grades 9-12 whose parents are not in the Foreign Service

Deadline: April 3, 2023

The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA)’s National High School Essay Contest encourages students to think about how and why the United States engages globally to build peace, and about the role that diplomacy plays in advancing U.S. national security and economic prosperity.

This year, students are asked to explore a topic that touches upon this important history and sheds light on how vital it is for America to have a robust professional corps focused on diplomacy, development, and peace in the national interest.

VFW Voice of Democracy

Award: Up to $35,000 in scholarships

Eligibility: U.S. Citizens in grades 9-12

Deadline: October 31, 2023 (TBD)

Established in 1947, the Voice of Democracy audio-essay program provides high school students with the unique opportunity to express themselves in regard to a democratic and patriotic-themed recorded essay. Each year, nearly 64,500 9-12 grade students from across the country enter to win their share of more than $2 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the program. All student entries must be submitted to a sponsoring local VFW Post.

Bennington Young Writers Awards

Genres: Nonfiction, Fiction, Poetry

Award: Up to $1,000 and potential scholarships at Bennington College up to $60,00

Eligibility: U.S. and international students in grades 9-12

Deadline: November 1, 2023 (TBD)

Bennington launched the Young Writers Awards to promote excellence in writing at the high school level. All entries must be original work reviewed, approved, and sponsored by a high school teacher. Winners’ works will be published on Bennington’s website.

Atlas Shrugged – Essay Contest

Award: First prize: $10,000; 3 second prizes: $2,000; 5 third prizes: $1,000; 25

finalists: $100; 50 semifinalists: $50

Eligibility: High school, college, and graduate students

Deadline: November 6, 2023

The Atlas Shrugged novel essay contest is open to all students globally. Atlas Shrugged is a heroic mystery novel written by Ayn Rand. Choose a prompt and write an 800-1,600 word essay. The Ayn Rand Insititute holds two other contests covering Rand’s work with deadlines in Spring 2023.

The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers

Genres: Poetry

Award: Scholarships to Young Writers Workshop, publication

Eligibility: Grades 10 & 11

Deadline: November 1-30, 2023 (TBD)

Hosted annually by the Kenyon Review, the Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize was created in 2007 to recognize outstanding young poets. The Kenyon Review also hosts a Short Fiction and Short Nonfiction competition yearly for a wide variety of authors.

Center for Environmental Literacy — River of Words

Award: Recognition and publication

Eligibility: Grades K-12 and/or ages 5-19

Deadline: December 2023/February 2024 (TBD)

River of Words® (ROW) is a program of The Center for Environmental Literacy and a part of the Kalmanovitz School of Education. Acknowledged pioneers in the field of place-based education, River of Words has been inspiring educators and their students for over twenty-five years with an innovative blend of science and the arts. This free, annual, international youth poetry and art contest — the largest in the world — inspires children ages 5 to 19 to translate their observations into creative expression.

John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest

Award: Up to $10,000

Eligibility: U.S. citizens in grades 9-12

Deadline: January 2024 (TBD)

The Profile in Courage Essay Contest challenges students to write an original and creative essay that demonstrates an understanding of political courage as described by John F. Kennedy in Profiles in Courage . This is a great fit for any student interested in government, politics, or history.

The Concord Review

Genres: Nonfiction, historical research

Award: Publication and potential to win The Emerson Prize

Eligibility: Work completed while you were a high school student

Deadline: Rolling basis

The Concord Review was founded in March 1987 to recognize and publish exemplary history essays by high school students in the English-speaking world. Although this is not a traditional writing competition, it offers students the opportunity to publish their historical research and gain recognition throughout the academic year. Outstanding submissions may even receive the Emerson Prize, an award named after essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. The entry fee is steeper than most, but it comes with a year-long subscription to The Concord Review.

What are you waiting for? Polish your submissions and share your work today!

If you’re looking for help editing your scholarship applications or general college admissions consulting , don’t hesitate to set up a free consultation today.

  • Extracurricular Activities

essay contest for high school students

The Best Internship Opportunities for High School Students

essay contest for high school students

Weighted vs. Unweighted GPA: What’s the Difference?

essay contest for high school students

What is a Good SAT Score? What is a Good ACT Score? 

essay contest for high school students

  • Partnerships
  • Our Insights
  • Our Approach

Our Services

  • High School Roadmaps
  • College Applications
  • Graduate School Admissions
  • H&C Incubator
  • [email protected]

Terms and Conditions . Privacy policy

©2024 H&C Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

essay contest for high school students

The 35 Best Writing Contests for High School Students

essay contest for high school students

Writing Contests With Multiple Categories

Participating in writing contests can be a great way for aspiring writers to showcase their talent, gain recognition, and even win prizes or scholarships. Writing contests with multiple categories offer a broader scope for creativity and allow writers to choose from a variety of themes or genres. Below is a list of writing contests with multiple categories that cater to different interests and writing styles:

1. Scholastic Art & Writing Awards: This prestigious contest offers multiple categories, including short stories, poetry, personal essays, journalism, science fiction, and more. It is open to students in grades 7-12 and awards scholarships to winners.

Website: https://www.artandwriting.org/

2. Writer's Digest Annual Writing Competition: With multiple categories like poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and screenplay, this contest attracts writers of all levels. Participants have the chance to win cash prizes and get their work published in Writer's Digest magazine.

Website: https://www.writersdigest.com/writers-digest-competitions

3. The Bridport Prize: This UK-based contest includes categories for short stories, poetry, flash fiction, and first novels. It attracts international writers and offers significant cash prizes to winners.

Website: https://www.bridportprize.org.uk/

4. New Voices Award: Sponsored by Lee & Low Books, this contest is specifically for children's picture books written by unpublished authors of color. It has multiple categories for different age groups.

Website: https://www.leeandlow.com/writers-illustrators/new-voices-award

5. Narrative Magazine's Annual Contest: Narrative Magazine offers various categories like fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and micro-fiction. It is open to all writers and provides cash prizes and publication opportunities.

Website: https://www.narrativemagazine.com/winter-spring-2023-story-contest

6. Glimmer Train Family Matters Contest: This contest focuses on family-themed short stories and essays. It offers separate categories for fiction and non-fiction and provides cash prizes and publication in Glimmer Train.

Website: https://www.glimmertrain.com/pages/guidelines/short_story_award_for_new_writers_guidelines.php

7. The Writer's Loft Flash Fiction Contest: This contest is dedicated to flash fiction and includes multiple categories based on word count. It is open to all writers and provides cash prizes to winners.

Website: https://writersloft.submittable.com/submit

8. The Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards: For self-published authors, this contest offers various categories, such as fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and more. Winners receive cash prizes and exposure to potential readers.

Website: https://www.writersdigest.com/writers-digest-competitions/self-published-book-awards

9. Sequestrum Editor's Reprint Award: This contest accepts previously published works in various categories, such as fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. It provides cash prizes and publication in Sequestrum.

Website: https://www.sequestrum.org/editors-reprint-award

10. The Moth Short Story Prize: This international contest offers multiple categories for short stories, and winners receive cash prizes and have their work published in The Moth magazine.

Website: https://themothmagazine.com/a1-page.asp?ID=6516&page=6

When participating in writing contests, make sure to carefully review the guidelines and submission requirements for each category. Writing contests with multiple categories offer writers diverse opportunities to showcase their skills and explore various genres, making it a rewarding experience for all participants.

Fiction Writing Contests for High School Students

Participating in fiction writing contests can be an excellent opportunity for high school students to showcase their creative talents, gain recognition, and even win prizes or scholarships. Below is a list of fiction writing contests specifically designed for high school students:

1. The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards: One of the most prestigious contests for young writers, the Scholastic Awards offer multiple categories, including short stories, flash fiction, and science fiction. It is open to students in grades 7-12 and awards scholarships to winners.

2. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose: This contest is exclusively for high school students and includes categories for fiction, flash fiction, and poetry. Winners receive cash prizes and publication in Adroit Journal.

Website: https://www.theadroitjournal.org/

3. YoungArts Competition: While primarily focused on the arts, YoungArts also offers a writing category, including fiction and creative non-fiction. It accepts submissions from students in grades 10-12 and provides financial awards and mentorship opportunities.

Website: https://youngarts.org/

4. Skipping Stones Youth Honor Awards: This contest encourages young writers to explore themes of multiculturalism, environmental stewardship, and social justice through fiction. It is open to students aged 7-17, and winners receive a subscription to Skipping Stones magazine.

Website: https://www.skippingstones.org/

5. The Claremont Review: Specifically for young writers aged 13-19, The Claremont Review accepts submissions of fiction, poetry, and art. Winners are featured in the magazine and receive cash prizes.

Website: https://www.theclaremontreview.ca/

6. Justis International Writing Competition: This global contest accepts fiction submissions from high school students worldwide. It provides an excellent platform for young writers to share their work on an international stage.

Website: https://www.justiswritingcompetition.com/

7. The Blank Theatre's Young Playwrights Festival: Although primarily focused on playwriting, this festival also accepts submissions of original short stories and monologues. It is open to students aged 19 and under.

Website: https://www.theblank.com/young-playwrights/

8. The Bennington Young Writers Awards: High school students in grades 10-12 can submit their fiction and poetry to this contest. Winners receive cash prizes and have the opportunity to attend a summer writing workshop at Bennington College.

Website: https://www.bennington.edu/events/young-writers-awards

9. Princeton University Poetry Contest for High School Students: This annual contest is open to high school students across the globe and includes a category for fiction. Winners receive cash prizes and have their work published in Princeton's journal, "The Princeton Tiger."

Website: https://www.princetontigerpoetry.com/

10. River of Words Youth Poetry and Art Contest: While primarily focused on poetry and art, this contest also accepts illustrated short stories. It is open to students aged 5-19, and winners receive cash prizes and have their work published in the River of Words anthology.

Website: https://www.riverofwords.org/

When entering fiction writing contests, students should carefully read the guidelines and submission requirements for each contest. These contests offer a platform for young writers to express their creativity and passion for storytelling, making it a valuable experience on their writing journey.

Nonfiction Contests for High School Students

Participating in nonfiction writing contests can be a rewarding experience for high school students who are interested in expressing their thoughts, experiences, and perspectives through essays, memoirs, and other forms of nonfiction writing. Below is a list of nonfiction writing contests specifically designed for high school students:

1. The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest: This contest is open to U.S. high school students in grades 9-12. Participants are required to submit an original essay of 700-1,000 words, focusing on an act of political courage by a U.S. elected official. Winners receive cash prizes and scholarships.

Website: https://www.jfklibrary.org/learn/education/profile-in-courage-essay-contest

2. The New York Times Learning Network Student Contests: The New York Times offers various nonfiction writing contests for high school students throughout the year. These contests may focus on topics like current events, personal reflections, or even social issues. Winning entries may be published on The New York Times website.

Website: https://www.nytimes.com/section/learning/contest

3. The Princeton University Ten-Minute Play Contest: Although primarily focused on playwriting, this contest also accepts nonfiction submissions in the form of monologues or dialogues. It is open to high school students in the United States, and winners receive cash prizes.

Website: https://arts.princeton.edu/academics/lewis-center-writing/ten-minute-play-contest/

4. The Fleet Reserve Association Essay Contest: This national contest is open to U.S. students in grades 7-12. It invites students to write essays on patriotic themes related to American history and values. Winners receive cash prizes and have the chance to compete at the national level.

Website: https://www.fra.org/fra/Web/Events_and_Programs/7_12th_Grade_Essay_Contest/Web/Content/7-12th_Grade_Essay_Contest.aspx

5. The World History Association Student Essay Contest: High school students from around the world can participate in this contest, which focuses on historical nonfiction essays. Winners receive cash prizes and have their work published in The World History Bulletin.

Website: https://www.thewha.org/student-essay-contest

6. The John Locke Institute Essay Competition: This international contest invites high school students to submit nonfiction essays on various philosophical topics. Winners receive cash prizes and have their essays published on the institute's website.

Website: https://www.johnlocke.ac.uk/essay-competition

7. The EngineerGirl Essay Contest: Organized by the National Academy of Engineering, this contest is open to both boys and girls in grades 3-12. It encourages students to explore engineering and technology through nonfiction essays. Winners receive cash prizes.

Website: https://www.engineergirl.org/108804/2022-essay-contest

8. The Ayn Rand Institute Essay Contests: Ayn Rand's novels serve as the inspiration for these contests, which include categories for high school students. Participants are required to write essays based on the themes presented in Rand's works. Cash prizes and scholarships are awarded to winners.

Website: https://www.aynrand.org/students/essay-contests

When participating in nonfiction writing contests, students should carefully review the guidelines and submission requirements for each contest. These contests offer students a platform to share their unique perspectives and insights, and winning entries can lead to recognition and valuable writing experience.

Playwriting Contests for High School Students

Participating in playwriting contests can be a great opportunity for high school students with a passion for theater and storytelling. These contests provide a platform to showcase their creativity and talent in playwriting. Below is a list of playwriting contests specifically designed for high school students:

1. The Young Playwrights Inc. National Playwriting Competition: This contest is open to high school students in the United States. Participants are invited to submit original plays of any genre, with a running time of 1 to 45 minutes. Winners receive cash prizes and have their plays performed by professional actors.

Website: https://youngplaywrights.org/programs/national-playwriting-competition/

2. The Blank Theatre's Young Playwrights Festival: Open to U.S. high school students, this contest seeks original plays with a running time of 12 to 25 minutes. Selected winners have their plays produced and performed by industry professionals in a theater festival in Los Angeles.

Website: https://www.theblank.com/programs/young-playwrights/

3. The British Theatre Challenge: While primarily an international contest, this playwriting competition accepts submissions from high school students worldwide. Participants are asked to submit short plays with a running time of 10 to 30 minutes. Winners have the chance to see their plays performed in London.

Website: https://www.skylightrain.com/britishtheatrechallenge/

4. The Young Voices Foundation Playwriting Competition: This contest is open to high school students in the United States and Canada. Participants are encouraged to submit plays that explore social issues and relevant themes. Selected winners have their plays performed by professional actors in New York City.

Website: https://youngvoicesfoundation.org/playwriting-competition/

5. The Boston University Playwriting Competition: This contest is open to U.S. high school students. Participants are invited to submit original one-act plays with a running time of 30 to 45 minutes. Winners receive cash prizes and have their plays performed at Boston University.

Website: https://www.bu.edu/cfa/academics/theatre/fall-theatre/playwriting-competition/

6. The Writers & Illustrators of the Future Contest: Although primarily focused on science fiction and fantasy, this contest also accepts submissions of one-act plays from high school students. Winners receive cash prizes and have their plays published in an anthology.

Website: https://www.writersofthefuture.com/enter-writer-contest/

7. The Georgia High School Playwriting Competition: Open to high school students in Georgia, this contest invites original plays in any genre. Winners receive cash prizes and have their plays performed by professional actors.

Website: https://www.georgiastateschooloftheatre.com/high-school-playwriting-competition

Participating in playwriting contests allows high school students to showcase their creativity, hone their writing skills, and gain recognition for their work. Before submitting their plays, students should carefully review the guidelines and requirements of each contest. Winning entries can lead to exciting opportunities, such as having their plays performed on stage or published in anthologies.

Participating in writing contests can be an excellent way for high school students to showcase their creativity, hone their writing skills, and gain recognition for their talent. These contests provide a platform for young writers to express themselves, explore different genres, and connect with a community of like-minded individuals. Winning or being recognized in these contests can boost confidence, open doors to future opportunities, and even lead to scholarships or publication opportunities. Overall, these writing contests offer valuable experiences that can inspire and encourage the next generation of writers to continue pursuing their passion for literature and storytelling.

You Might Also Like

essay contest for high school students

Apply for Federal Grants for College Education

Federal Grants are the popular sources of funding for higher education. If you are unaware of federal grants for college and how it works, then read our blog.

essay contest for high school students

How to Leverage your Summer to Boost Admissions

Summer programs offer students the chance to explore new areas, interests, and exciting fields. Here you can check some summer programs - Read our blog

essay contest for high school students

Know How to Build a Great College List

Want to choose best college for your study? Get some amazing guidelines that will help you to create a great college list for your admission - Read our blog

AP Guru has been helping students since 2010 gain admissions to their dream universities by helping them in their college admissions and SAT and ACT Prep

Free Resources

11 Writing Contests for High School Students with Cash Awards

Calling All High School Student Writers! If you’re searching for scholarships or finding ways to fund your future education, look no further than these wonderful writing contests. 

If you are a talented young writer , you can find plenty of contests that will allow you to submit your writing for consideration. Many of them offer cash prizes and/or scholarships. 

Below are 11 writing contests for high school students, but you can find plenty of other niche and general contests by searching online.

1. Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards celebrate art created by students aged 13 and older in grades 7 to 12 on a regional and national scale. You are allowed to submit in various categories and styles, with the chance to win awards with cash prizes or scholarships. Types include science fiction and fantasy writing, critical essays, humor, dramatic scripts, and more.

Prizes may vary. Gold medal portfolio winners can earn a $10,000 scholarship, and silver medal winners with distinction can earn a $1,000 scholarship. There are more options for various categories. Fees to apply vary by region, but the cost is generally $7 for a single entry and $25 for a portfolio entry.

Since these contests vary, you can use Scholastic’s Affiliate Partner search to determine when projects are due for your specific category.

2. Young Lions Fiction Award

Are you 35 years old or under? This prestigious opportunity is right for you. The incredible and historic New York Public Library sponsors this award. Writers are welcome to submit a novel or collection of short stories. Each year, a reading committee of Young Lions members, writers, editors, and librarians selects five finalists. It then moves on to a panel of judges who will choose the winner.

The winner of this award will receive a $10,000 scholarship.

The deadline to apply is usually in September of the scholarship year. And, even better, it is entirely free to apply! 

3. Ocean Awareness Contest

All students ranging from age 11 to age 18 from around the world are encouraged to participate in the Ocean Awareness Contest by submitting an original piece of artistic work. These submissions can be in visual art, creative writing, film, interactive/ multimedia, performing arts, poetry, or spoken word.

The Junior Division is for students ages 11 to 14, and the Senior Division is for students ages 15 to 18.

In the Junior Division, the Gold Award is $1,000, Silver $750, Bronze $250, and Honorable Mention $50. In the Senior Division, the Gold Award is $1,500, Silver $1,000, Bronze $500, and Honorable Mention $100.

Students can choose from five different prompts and respond through their choice of submission.

4. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose

Are you a Senior in high school or at the undergraduate level? Are you obsessed with words stories, and driven to write? Then the Adroit Prize for Poetry and Prose might be yours. The Adroit Prizes awards two students with talent and aptitude in poetry or prose each year. 

Submissions may include up to six poems (maximum of ten pages single-spaced) and/or up to three works of prose (combined word limit of 3,500 words). Students may submit excerpts of longer pieces if they choose. 

Simultaneous submissions are also accepted as long as students acknowledge in their cover letter that the work has been submitted elsewhere. Students may only submit one work per genre, per year, but they can submit entries to the poetry and prose categories in a given year. The submission fee is $13, but students can fill out a form if they need financial assistance.

All submissions will be considered for publication in the Adroit Journal, and winners will be awarded $200. 

The deadline for this prize is typically in April of every year.

5. NSHSS Creative Writing Scholarship

High school students interested in creative writing are encouraged to submit their work for this fantastic scholarship. Sponsored by the National Society of High School Scholars, this scholarship is for those students with a passion for the written word and a story to tell. Students can submit any work of their choosing as long as the work itself has yet to be previously published. These works can be in either poetry, fiction, or both. 

In the poetry category, students may submit their original poetry in any style, from formal verse to free verse, and experiment. Please note: the poem should be formatted as you wish it to appear in publication.

In the fiction category, students may submit a piece of short fiction, at most 5,000 words, double-spaced. The student may choose any genre, including graphic novels or short stories.

A prize of $2,000 will be awarded to one student winner in each category.

6. YoungArts Competition

Emerging artists ages 15 through 18—or grades 10 through 12—are encouraged to apply for this award in various disciplines, including visual arts, writing, and music. Each student must submit a portfolio of their work. The winner is selected through a blind adjudication process by an independent panel of highly accomplished artists. 

There is a $35 application fee, but it can be waived based on financial restraints.

Winners of the YoungArts Competition receive monetary awards up to $10,000. But the money is just one part of this award. The selected students will also receive creative and professional development experiences with renowned guest artists and be eligible for a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the arts nomination! 

You can sign up for application news and updates by visiting the website.

7. The American Foreign Services Association Essay Contest

US students grades 9 through 12, as well as students in the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, or U.S. citizens attending school abroad or at home, are welcome to submit an essay identifying the United States’ strengths and weaknesses in establishing peace in foreign countries. Essays must be between 1,000 and 1,250 words and answer three questions about US foreign policy and national security.

The winner will receive not only a $2,500 cash prize but they will also win a Washington D.C. trip and a scholarship to attend Semester at Sea. A runner-up will receive $1,250 and a scholarship to attend the International Diplomacy Program of the National Student Leadership Conference.

There is no application fee.

8. The Lewis Center Ten-Minute Play Contest

If you love plays and think you have something to say, feel free to apply and see if it makes your day. Students in the eleventh grade (or international equivalent) are eligible for the annual Lewis Center Ten-Minute Playwriting Contest. Each year’s jury consists of members from the Princeton University Program in Theater faculty.

Applicants may submit only one play of 10 pages maximum. 

The award for first prize is $500, second prize is $250, and third prize is $100.

9. We the Students Essay Contest

Have you ever wondered what it's like to live in modern-day America? Then this contest might be just for you. Run by the Bill of Rights Institute, the contest asks students to answer, “What are the essential qualities of a citizen in your community in 21st-century America?” This essay must land somewhere between 500 and 800 words. 

To apply, students must be US citizens or legal residents between 14 and 19 attending public, private, charter, or religious schools in the U.S., U.S. territories or districts, or Armed Forces schools abroad. Home-schooled students and those enrolled in correspondence or GED programs can also apply.

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

10. Young Writers Awards

There is something special about promoting students to write to express themselves in a healthy, controlled manner that may further their education beyond the classroom. And it does not hurt to start young. To promote this cause, Bennington College invites submissions from grades 9 through 12 for this annual award.

Students may submit work in three different categories:

  • Poetry: a group of three poems
  • Fiction: a short story (1,500 words or fewer) or a one-act play (no more than 30 minutes of playing time)
  • Nonfiction: a personal or academic essay (1,500 words or fewer)

A first-, second-, and third-place winner is selected in each category. First-place winners receive $500, second place receives $250, and third place receives $125.

The competition typically runs from September 3 to November 1 each year, with winners posted on the website in mid-April. And the best part? There is no fee to enter!

11. YouthPLAYS

Playwriting is an art form; the only way to improve is to start as soon as possible. That is why students under 19 are highly encouraged to submit a one-act, non-musical play of at least ten pages for consideration. The play presented should be the work of a single author, appropriate for high school audiences, and contain at least two characters, with one or more of those characters being youths in age-appropriate roles. The contest encourages large casts with multiple female roles.

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.

These writing contests are a fantastic way to expand your portfolio, improve your writing, and connect with fellow writers. While each contest offers a unique experience, the experience of writing, submitting, collaborating, and sharing your work will bolster your confidence moving forward into wherever you take your career moving forward.

Follow us on Social Media

United States Institute of Peace

National high school essay contest.

USIP partners with the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) on the annual National High School Essay Contest. The contest each year engages 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. 

Wilson King Photo

The winner of the contest receives a $2,500 cash prize, an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to meet U.S. Department of State and USIP leadership, and a full-tuition paid voyage with Semester at Sea upon the student’s enrollment at an accredited university. The runner-up receives a $1,250 cash prize and a full scholarship to participate in the International Diplomacy Program of the National Student Leadership Conference. 

2023 National High School Essay Contest

The American Foreign Service Association’s national high school essay contest completed its twenty-third year with over 400 submissions from 44 states. Three randomized rounds of judging produced this year’s winner, Justin Ahn, a junior from Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Massachusetts. In his essay, “Mending Bridges: U.S.-Vietnam Reconciliation from 1995 to Today,” Ahn focuses on the successful reconciliation efforts by the Foreign Service in transforming U.S.-Vietnam relations from post-war tension to close economic and strategic partnership.

Ahn will travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with a member of the Department of State’s leadership and receive a full tuition scholarship to an educational voyage with Semester at Sea.

Niccolo Duina was this year’s runner-up. He is currently a junior at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas. Duina will be attending the international diplomacy program of the National Student Leadership Conference this summer.

There were eight honorable mentions:

  • Santiago Castro-Luna – Chevy Chase, Maryland
  • Dante Chittenden – Grimes, Iowa 
  • Merle Hezel – Denver, Colorado
  • Adarsh Khullar – Villa Hills, Kentucky
  • Nicholas Nall – Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Ashwin Telang – West Windsor, New Jersey
  • Himani Yarlagadda – Northville, Michigan 
  • Sophia Zhang – San Jose, California

Congratulations! We thank all students and teachers who took the time to research and become globally engaged citizens who care about diplomacy, development and peacebuilding.

2023 National High School Essay Contest Topic

In 2024, the U.S. Foreign Service will celebrate its 100th birthday. The Foreign Service is an important element of the American approach to peacebuilding around the world. Over the last century, U.S. diplomats have been involved in some of the most significant events in history — making decisions on war and peace, responding to natural disasters and pandemics, facilitating major treaties, and more.

As AFSA looks back on their century-long history, we invite you to do the same. This year, students are asked to explore a topic that touches upon this important history and sheds light on how vital it is for America to have a robust professional corps focused on diplomacy, development and peace in the national interest.

In your essay, you will select a country or region in which the U.S. Foreign Service has been involved in at any point since 1924 and describe — in 1,500 words or less — how the Foreign Service was successful or unsuccessful in advancing American foreign policy goals, including promoting peace, in this country/region and propose ways in which it might continue to improve those goals in the coming years.

Contest deadline: April 3, 2023

Download the study guide for the 2023 National High School Essay Contest. This study guide provides students with a basic introduction to the topic and some additional context that can assist them in answering the question. It includes the essay question, prizes and rules for the contest; an introduction to diplomacy and peacebuilding; key terms; topics and areas students might explore; and a list of other useful resources.

Learn more about the contest rules and how to submit your essay on the American Foreign Service Association’s contest webpage .

2022 National High School Essay Contest

Katherine Lam, a freshman from University High School in Tucson, Arizona, is the 2022 National High School Essay Contest winner. In her essay, “Competition and Coaction in Ethiopia: U.S. and Chinese Partnerships for International Stabilization,” Lam focuses on how the Foreign Service has partnered with other U.S. government agencies, nongovernmental organizations and — most notably — China to promote peace and development in Ethiopia. Lam will travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with a member of the U.S. Department of State’s leadership and gain full tuition for an educational voyage with Semester at Sea.

Olivia Paulsen was this year’s runner-up. She is a currently a junior receiving a home-schooled education in Concord, Massachusetts. Paulsen will be attending the international diplomacy program of the National Student Leadership Conference this summer.

The 2022 honorable mentions were: Josh Diaz (Little Rock, AR); Grace Hartman (Bethlehem, PA); Elena Higuchi (Irvine, CA); Ovea Kaushik (Oklahoma City, OK); Evan Lindemann (Palm Desert, CA); Percival Liu (Tokyo, Japan); Alexander Richter (San Jose, CA); and Gavin Sun (Woodbury, MN).

USIP congratulates all the winners of the 2022 National High School Essay Contest.

Partnerships for Peace in a Multipolar Era

The current multipolar era poses challenges for U.S. foreign policy but also provides new opportunities for partnership across world powers—including emerging great powers like China and Russia—to build peace in conflict-affected countries. Describe a current situation where American diplomats and peacebuilders are working with other world powers, as well as local and/or regional actors, in a conflict-affected country to champion democracy, promote human rights, and/or resolve violent conflict.    A successful essay will lay out the strategies and tactics U.S. Foreign Service Officers and American peacebuilders are employing to build successful partnerships with other world and regional powers and with local actors in the chosen current situation.  The essay will also describe specific ways that these partnerships are helping to promote stability and build peace.

Contest deadline: April 4, 2022

Download the study guide for the 2022 National High School Essay Contest. This study guide provides students with a basic introduction to the topic and some additional context that can assist them in answering the question. It includes the essay question, prizes, and rules for the contest; an introduction to diplomacy and peacebuilding; key terms; topics and areas students might explore; and a list of other useful resources.

Learn more about the contest rules and how to submit your essay on the American Foreign Service Association’s contest webpage.  

2021 National High School Essay Contest

Mariam Parray, a sophomore from Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas, is the 2021 National High School Essay Contest winner. In her essay, “Diplomats and Peacebuilders in Tunisia: Paving the Path to Democracy,” Ms. Parray focuses on how the Foreign Service partnered with other U.S. government agencies and NGOs to effect a peaceful democratic transition in Tunisia. She emphasizes the importance of multifaceted approaches as well as the importance of bringing marginalized groups into the fold. Mariam will travel to Washington to meet with a member of the Department of State’s leadership and will also gain a full tuition to an educational voyage with Semester at Sea. Harrison McCarty was this year’s runner-up. Coincidentally, he is also a sophomore from Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas. Harrison will be attending the international diplomacy program of the National Student Leadership Conference this summer. The 2021 honorable mentions were: Louisa Eaton (Wellesley, MA); Samuel Goldston (Brooklyn, NY); Lucy King (Bainbridge Island, WA); Haan Jun Lee (Jakarta, Indonesia); Khaled Maalouf (Beirut, Lebanon); Madeleine Shaw (Bloomington, IN); Allison Srp (Austin, MN); and Daniel Zhang (Cortland, NY).

USIP congratulates all the winners of the 2021 National High School Essay Contest. 

Diplomats and Peacebuilders: Powerful Partners

What characteristics lead to a successful effort by diplomats and peacebuilders to mediate or prevent violent conflict? The United States Foreign Service—often referred to as America’s first line of defense—works to prevent conflict from breaking out abroad and threats from coming to our shores. Peacebuilders work on the ground to create the conditions for peace and resolve conflicts where they are most needed. 

Successful essays will identify, in no more than 1,250 words, a situation where diplomats worked on a peacebuilding initiative with partners from the country/region in question, nongovernmental organizations, and other parts of the U.S. government, and then go on to analyze what characteristics and approaches made the enterprise a success.  

Contest deadline: April 5, 2021

Download the study guide for the 2021 National High School Essay Contest. This study guide provides students with a basic introduction to the topic and some additional context that can assist them in answering the question. It includes key terms in conflict management and peacebuilding and examples of peacebuilding initiatives, with reflection questions for independent learners to dig more deeply or for teachers to encourage class reflection and discussion. We hope this study guide will be a useful resource for educators and students participating in this contest, and for educators who want their students to learn more about this year’s contest topic.

2020 National High School Essay Contest

Jonas Lorincz, a junior from Marriotts Ridge High School in Marriottsville, MD, is the 2020 National High School Essay Contest winner. In his essay, “Verification, Mediation, and Peacebuilding: The Many Roles of the U.S. Foreign Service in Kosovo,” Mr. Lorincz focused on the importance of interagency cooperation in mediating the crisis in Kosovo – primarily looking into how diplomats and other civilian agencies engaged in peacebuilding throughout the conflict.

Claire Burke was this year’s runner-up. She is a junior at Mill Valley High School in Shawnee, KS. 

The 2020 honorable mentions were: Grace Cifuentes (Concord, CA), Grace Lannigan (Easton, CT), Seryung Park (Tenafly, NJ), Vynateya Purimetla (Troy, MI), David Richman (Norfolk, VA), Madeleine Shaw (Bloomington, IN), Sara Smith (Fargo, ND), and Jack Viscuso (Northport, NY).  USIP congratulates all the winners of the 2020 National High School Essay Contest. 

2020 National High School Essay Contest Topic

Why Diplomacy and Peacebuilding Matter

How do members of the Foreign Service work with other civilian parts of the U.S. Government to promote peace, national security and economic prosperity?

Qualified essays focused on a specific challenge to U.S. peace and prosperity and included one example of the work of the Foreign Service and one or more examples of collaboration between America’s diplomats and other civilian (i.e. non-military) U.S. Government agencies or organizations.

2019 National High School Essay Contest

In its 21st year, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA)’s National High School Essay Contest encouraged students to think about how and why the United States engages globally to build peace, and about the role that the Foreign Service plays in advancing U.S. national security and economic prosperity.

For the second year in a row, the National High School Essay Contest focused on an important aspect of operating in countries affected by or vulnerable to violent conflict: effective coordination of the many different foreign policy tools the United States has at its disposal. Whether you were addressing the prompt for a second year or new to the contest, the contest will have challenged you to expand your understanding of the role of the Foreign Service and other actors in foreign policy, identify case studies, and provide a sophisticated analysis in a concise manner.

The essay prompt and a helpful study guide are included below; you can find out more information about the rules and how to submit by checking out AFSA’s essay contest page .

2019 Essay Question

The United States has many tools to advance and defend its foreign policy and national security interests around the world—from diplomatic approaches pursued by members of the Foreign Service, to the range of options available to the U.S. military. In countries affected by or vulnerable to violent conflict, peacebuilding tools are important additions to the national security toolkit.

In such complex environments, cooperation across agencies and approaches is challenging, but it can also blend knowledge and skills in ways that strengthen the overall effort to establish a lasting peace. On the other hand, lack of coordination can lead to duplication of effort, inefficient use of limited resources and unintended consequences.

In a 1,000-1,250-word essay, identify two cases—one you deem successful and one you deem unsuccessful—where the U.S. pursued an integrated approach to build peace in a conflict-affected country. Analyze and compare these two cases, addressing the following questions:

  • What relative strengths did members of the Foreign Service and military actors bring to the table? What peacebuilding tools were employed? Ultimately, what worked or did not work in each case?
  • How was each situation relevant to U.S. national security interests?
  • What lessons may be drawn from these experiences for the pursuit of U.S. foreign policy more broadly?

Download the study guide for the 2019 AFSA National High School Essay Contest

2018 National High School Essay Contest

Jennifer John from Redwood City, CA is the 2018 National High School Essay Contest winner, surpassing close to 1,000 other submissions. Her essay examined to what extent U.S. interagency efforts in Iraq and Bosnia were successful in building peace. Aislinn Niimi from Matthews, NC was the runner up.

The 2018 honorable mentions were: Alex, DiCenso (North Kingstown, RI),Alexandra Soo (Franklin, MI), Caroline Bellamy (Little Rock AR), Colin LeFerve (Indianapolis, IN), Elizabeth Kam (Burlingham, CA), Emma Singh (Tenafly NJ), Emma Chambers (Little Rock AR),  Francesca Ciampa (Brooksville, ME), Greta Bunce (Franktown, VA), Isaac Che (Mount Vernon OH), Isabel Davis (Elk River MN), Katrina Espinoza (Watsonvile, CA), Molly Ehrig (Bethlehem, PA), Payton McGoldrick (Bristow, VA), Rachel Russell (Cabin John, MD), Sarah Chapman (Tucson, AZ), Shalia Lothe (Glen Allen VA), Sohun Modha (San Jose CA), Suhan Kacholia (Chandler, AZ), Supriya Sharma (Brewster, NY), Sydney Adams (Fort Wayne, IN), Tatum Smith (Little Rock AR), and William Milne (Fort Wayne, IN).  

2017 National High School Essay Contest

Nicholas Deparle, winner of the 2017 AFSA National High School Essay Contest, comes from Sidwell Friends School in Washington DC. A rising senior at the time, Mr. Deparle covers the Internally Displaced Persons crisis in Iraq and potential ideas to help resolve the issue.  Read his winning essay here . Mr. Manuel Feigl, a graduate of Brashier Middle College Charter High School in Simpsonville, SC took second place.

This year there were twenty honorable mentions: Mohammed Abuelem ( Little Rock, Ark.), Lucas Aguayo-Garber (Worcester, Mass.), Rahul Ajmera (East Williston, N.Y.), Taylor Gregory (Lolo, Mont.), Rachel Hildebrand (Sunnyvale, Calif.), Ryan Hulbert (Midland Park, N.J.), India Kirssin (Mason, Ohio), Vaibhav Mangipudy (Plainsboro, N.J.), William Marsh (Pittsburgh, Penn.), Zahra Nasser (Chicago, Ill.), Elizabeth Nemec (Milford, N.J.), David Oks (Ardsley, N.Y.), Max Pumilia (Greenwood Village, Colo.), Nikhil Ramaswamy (Plano, Texas), Aditya Sivakumar (Beaverton, Ore.), Donovan Stuard (Bethlehem, Penn.), Rachel Tanczos (Danielsville, Penn.), Isabel Ting (San Ramon, Calif.), Kimberley Tran (Clayton, Mo.), and Chenwei Wang (Walnut, Calif.).

2017 Essay Contest Topic

According to the United Nations, 65 million people worldwide have left their homes to seek safety elsewhere due to violence, conflict, persecution, or human rights violations. The majority of these people are refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Imagine you are a member of the U.S. Foreign Service —– a diplomat working to promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the United States abroad – and are now assigned to the U.S. embassy in one of these four countries.

  • Turkey (Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs)
  • Kenya (Bureau of African Affairs)
  • Afghanistan (Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs)
  • Iraq (Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs)

Your task is to provide recommendations to address the refugee/IDP crisis facing the country in which you are now posted. Using the resources available to you as a member of the Foreign Service, write a memo to your Ambassador outlining how the United States might help address the current unprecedented levels of displacement. You may choose to address issues related to the causes of refugee crisis, or to focus on the humanitarian crisis in your host country.

A qualifying memo will be 1,000-1,250 words and will answer the following questions:

  • How does the crisis challenge U.S. interests in the country you are posted and more broadly?
  • Specifically outline the steps you propose the U.S. should take to tackle the roots or the consequences of the crisis, and explain how it would help solve the issue or issues you are examining. How will your efforts help build peace or enhance stability?
  • How do you propose, from your embassy/post of assignment, to foster U.S. government interagency cooperation and cooperation with the host-country government to address these issues?  Among U.S. government agencies, consider U.S. Agency for International Development, the Foreign Commercial Service and the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Memo Template

TO: Ambassador ______________________

FROM: Only use your first name here

RE: Think of this as your title, make sure to include the country you are writing about

Here you want to lay out the problem, define criteria by which you will be deciding the best steps the U.S. could take, and include a short sentence or two on your final recommendation. Embassy leadership is very busy and reads many memos a day —– they should be able to get the general ““gist”” of your ideas by reading this section.

Background:

This section should provide any background information about the crisis or conflict relevant to your proposed policy. Here, you should mention why the issue is important to U.S. interests, especially peace and security.

Proposed Steps:

This is where you outline your proposed policy. Be specific in describing how the U.S. might address this issue and how these steps can contribute to peace and security. Include which organizations you propose partnering with and why.

Recommendation:

This is where you write your final recommendations for embassy leadership. Think of this as a closing paragraph.

Companion Guide for the 2017 National High School Essay Contest

It is no easy task to jump into the role of a diplomat, especially when confronted by such an urgent crisis. USIP, in consultation with AFSA, developed a guide to provide a basic introduction to the topic and some additional context that can assist you in answering the question, while still challenging you to develop your own unique response. As such, this guide should be used as a starting point to your own research and as you ultimately prepare a compelling memo outlining recommendations the U.S. government should follow to respond to the refugee and IDP crisis.

In the guide you will find: insights into the role of the Foreign Service; country, organization, and key-term briefs to provide a foundational understanding; and a list of other useful resources. Download the Companion Guide for the 2017 National High School Essay Contest (.pdf).

2016 National High School Essay Contest

USIP first partnered with AFSA for the 2016 contest and was pleased to welcome winner Dylan Borne to Washington in August. His paper describes his role as an economic officer in the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance. He writes about promoting education for girls in Afghanistan through on-line courses and dispersal of laptops. Read his winning essay (.pdf).

essay contest for high school students

Essay Writing Contests: The Ultimate List

essay contest for high school students

Did you know that the very first recorded essay contest can be traced back to the early 16th century, initiated by none other than the renowned philosopher and essayist Michel de Montaigne? In 1580, Montaigne published his collection of essays titled 'Essais,' which not only marked a pivotal moment in the evolution of the essay as a literary form but also contained an implicit challenge to his readers. He encouraged them to engage with his ideas and respond by writing their own essays, essentially laying the groundwork for what we now recognize as essay contests.

Fast forward to the vibrant year of 2023, and this tradition of writing competitions has evolved into a global phenomenon, offering emerging writers from all walks of life a captivating platform to share their thoughts, emotions, and narratives with the world.

Essay Writing Contests: Short Description

In this article, our essay writer will explore the world of essay writing competition 2023, presenting you with an exclusive selection of the most promising opportunities for the year ahead. Each of these competitions not only provides a stage to demonstrate your writing prowess but also offers a unique avenue for personal growth, self-expression, and intellectual exploration, all while competing for impressive writing awards and well-deserved recognition. Whether you're an emerging talent or a seasoned wordsmith, these contests are poised to be the catalyst for your creative aspirations in 2023.

Exploring Top Essay Writing Contests for Participation

If you enjoy expressing your thoughts and ideas through writing, you're in for a treat. Essay writing competitions in 2023 offer you a chance to do just that and win some great prizes in the process. We've put together a list of contests specially designed for students like you. These contests cover various interesting essay topics , giving you a unique opportunity to showcase your writing skills and potentially earn cash prizes or scholarships. So, let's explore these fantastic opportunities to share your voice and make your mark in the world of writing.

Essay Writing Contests

Pivotal Essay Contest

Pivotal Essay Contest invites pre-university students worldwide to join a transformative platform that transcends traditional contests. It's an opportunity to showcase critical and creative thinking skills while addressing global challenges. The top three entrants compete for a prize pool of $25,000, while the top 50 finalists gain access to the prestigious Pivotal Library. The most exceptional 5% earn an exclusive invitation to the intellectual haven of the Pivotal Circle, fostering connections with peers who share their dedication to making a difference. And if you're determined to learn how to overcome writer's block for this contest, we have a wealth of expert tips and strategies to guide you through the process!

Deadline: October 10, 2023

  • 1st Place: $15,000
  • 2nd Place: $7,000
  • 3rd Place: $3,000

Native Voices Award

Don't miss your chance to share your unique voice and stories with the world while preserving your copyrights with the Native Voices Award competition. Open to individuals 18 years or older, particularly indigenous storytellers from Native American, First Nation Australian, and Polynesian communities. Submissions can include an original, unpublished work in English, such as a short story collection, flash fiction, nonfiction essays, scripts, poetry, or visual art collection. Authors and artists must be able to receive prizes through Paypal or an Amazon gift card and permit the winning submission to be published in the Kinsman Quarterly, promotional announcements, and social media outlets. Copyrights for the individual submission remain with the author or artist, while copyrights for the anthology as a collection are reserved by Kinsman Avenue Publishing, Inc.

Deadline: October 31, 2023

  • First Place: $500 cash prize and publication in the Kinsman Quarterly and Native Voices
  • Second Place: $250 cash prize and publication in the Kinsman Quarterly and Native Voices
  • Third Place: $100 cash prize and publication in the Kinsman Quarterly and Native Voices
  • Six Finalists: $25 gift card and publication in the Kinsman Quarterly and Native Voices
  • Six Honorary Mentions: Publication in the Kinsman Quarterly and Native Voices

John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest

High school students across the United States are invited to participate in one of the best writing competitions 2023 - the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest. Craft an original essay, between 700 and 1,000 words that delves into acts of political courage by U.S. elected officials from 1917 onward. Explore their principled decisions, despite political pressures, for the greater good. Utilize a minimum of five varied sources and adhere to contest requirements. This opportunity is open to high school students in the U.S. and those studying abroad, except past winners and finalists, as well as employees of John Hancock Financial Services and their families.

Contest Topic: Describe and analyze an act of political courage by a U.S. elected official who served during or after 1917.

Deadline: Submissions open on September 1, 2023, with a deadline of January 12, 2024.

  • First Place: $10,000
  • Second Place: $3,000
  • Five Finalists: $1,000 each
  • Ten Semifinalists: $100 each

The AIIRA Writing Contest

The A.I. Institute for Resilient Agriculture is dedicated to advancing A.I. in agriculture. This contest seeks to spark discussions, promote A.I. education, inspire creativity, and provoke nuanced thought about A.I.'s role in shaping careers and industries.

Contest Topic: How will AI change the landscape of your career within the next decade?

Deadline: September 30, 2023.

  • First Place: $500 USD
  • Second Place: $400 USD (x2)
  • Third Place: $250 USD (x3)

OxBright Essay Competition 

Join the OxBright Essay Competition 2023 by submitting your essay exploring the role of long-term thinking in fostering optimism about the future, including the perspective of women in STEM and various subject categories. Being 15-18, you stand a chance to win over £100,000 worth of academic prizes, including exclusive opportunities and recognition. Submit your entry by September 30, 2023, and get ready for a chance to shape the future.

Deadline : September 30, 2023

  • Most Outstanding Essay: Win a place on the Oxford Scholastica Academy's residential Oxford summer school worth £6,495.
  • Best Essay (per subject category): Get an OxBright online course or internship worth £995.
  • Highly Commended: The top 20% of entries receive a certificate of achievement

Essay Writing Contests

Bennington Young Writers Awards

The Bennington Young Writers Awards celebrate the literary talent of high school students, offering recognition and substantial prizes. Whether you excel in nonfiction, fiction, or poetry, this competition welcomes fiction writers to submit their original work. Not only can you win up to $1,000, but exceptional students may also secure scholarships valued at up to $60,000 for Bennington College.

Deadline : November 1, 2023

  • First-place winners in each category: $1,000
  • Second-place winners: $500
  • Third-place winners: $250

Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest

The Atlas Shrugged essay writing contest, inspired by Ayn Rand's epic masterpiece, is a global platform for students to explore and express their ideas. Atlas Shrugged is a heroic mystery novel written by Ayn Rand. Participants are invited to choose a prompt and craft an 800-1,600-word essay that delves into the novel's themes and philosophy. This contest is open to students from around the world, offering them the opportunity to engage with Rand's thought-provoking work and compete for significant cash prizes.

Deadline : November 6, 2023

  • First prize: $10,000
  • Three second prizes: $2,000 each
  • Five third prizes: $1,000 each
  • 25 finalists: $100 each
  • 50 semifinalists: $50 each

Ready to Break Free From Essay Stress?

Let our writing wizards rescue your grades with a tailor-made essay that'll make your professors do a double-take!

The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers

This is one of the top poetry contests, hosted annually by the esteemed Kenyon Review, and is a celebration of young literary talent. Established in 2007, this prize aims to honor exceptional young poets who exhibit promise and creativity. Winners of this prestigious prize not only receive scholarships to the Young Writers Workshop but also the opportunity to see their work in print through publication. If you're in grades 10 or 11 and have a passion for poetry, this competition is the perfect platform to showcase your skills and gain recognition.

Deadline : November 1-30, 2023

  • Scholarships to Young Writers Workshop
  • Publication

The Heartland Review 

ElizabethTown Review Press invites writers to submit their best creative nonfiction pieces during their Fall 2023 open call. With a generous word limit and an open canvas for topics, your work can stand alone or be a glimpse of your larger literary journey. Submissions must not exceed 5,000 words and can be flash pieces or chapters from your unpublished book (in the U.S.). Upon publication, rights revert back to you. Be part of the first 50 submissions in August and September for your chance to be featured in our upcoming journal.

Deadline : November 15, 2023

Book Prize - Unleash Press

Calling all authors, Unleash Press invites submissions of novels, short story collections, and creative nonfiction manuscripts across a diverse array of genres, including Essays, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Memoirs, Novels, Short Stories, and Nonfiction. If you're looking for resources like free Harvard online courses to hone your writing skills, consider entering this competition. The coveted Editors' Prize offers not only a $1,000 cash reward but also the prestigious opportunity to secure a publication contract with Unleash Press, catapulting your work into the literary spotlight. Plus, the winner receives ten printed copies of their final book to proudly share with friends and family. With additional prospects for outstanding manuscripts, this competition opens doors for both emerging and seasoned writers.

Deadline : December 15, 2023

  • $1,000 cash prize
  • Publication contract with Unleash Press
  • Ten printed copies of the final book

Essay Writing Contests

Editor's Choice Award

Are you a poet or writer with a penchant for pushing the boundaries of traditional genres? The Editor's Choice Award beckons you to submit your most intriguing hybrid creations—whether they are lyric essays, prose poems, short-shorts, collages, or micro-memoirs, and let your imagination roam freely. Get set to participate as the competition swings open its doors for entries starting May 1, 2023. With an impressive word limit of 8,000, there's ample room for your artistic expression.

Deadline : October 16, 2023

Anthology Poetry Competition 

Renowned as one of the premier writing contests of 2023, the Anthology Poetry Competition stands as a beacon for poets seeking recognition and a platform for their work. Established with the noble goal of recognizing and fostering excellence in the art of poetry, this competition welcomes original and previously unpublished poems in the English language, transcending borders and inviting poets from all corners of the world to participate. Your poetic creations should not exceed 40 lines, giving you the canvas to craft a concise and impactful piece. The competition is open to multiple entries per person, each requiring a separate entry form and a modest entry fee of €18.

Deadline : October 31, 2023

  • First Place: €1,000 cash prize + the honor of seeing their work published in an upcoming Anthology issue
  • Second Place: €250
  • Third Place: €150

The Chilling Pen Award

The Chilling Pen Award 2023 invites writers from across the globe to explore the multifaceted theme of betrayal in both fiction and nonfiction pieces, transcending personal, political, and societal dimensions. If you have an interest in participating in essay writing contests, this competition offers a unique platform. With a maximum word limit of 1,000 words and an open embrace of all genres and styles, entrants are encouraged to craft original, unpublished works. Submissions must be free from A.I. assistance and can be submitted via our designated form on Google Drive. Winners will be revealed on October 31, 2023, with first, second, and third-place entries showcased on our website and social media platforms.

Deadline : October 1, 2023

  • $500, $300, $100

The SmokeLong Grand Micro Competition 

The SmokeLong Quarterly Micro Fiction Writing Competition beckons writers of literary fiction, nonfiction, and hybrid genres to craft compelling micro-narratives of up to 400 words (excluding the title). The entry fee is a modest $13, and submissions can be in any language accompanied by an English translation, fostering inclusivity. Authors and translators may equally share the prize money. Entries, both previously published and unpublished, are welcome, with blind judging conducted by a panel of 15 SmokeLong editors from around the world. The competition closes on November 10, 2023, and all shortlisted entries will be featured in the December 2023 issue of SmokeLong Quarterly.

Deadline : November 10, 2023

  • Grand Prize of $1500
  • Second Place at $500
  • Third Place at $300

The Moth Nature Writing Prize

A beacon among the notable writing contests of 2023, The Moth Nature Writing Prize is a celebration of the exquisite craft of nature writing. This prestigious award, open to writers of short stories, essays, and poetry, seeks to foster a deeper connection with the natural world. With a generous word limit of 4,000 words, entrants have ample space to craft their narratives. Open to individuals aged sixteen and above, as long as the work is original and previously unpublished, this competition stands as a testament to the harmonious blend of literary excellence and reverence for the natural world.

  • €1,000 cash prize for the 1st prizewinner + an enriching week at Circle of Misse in France
  • A 2nd prize of €500
  • A 3rd prize of €250

In 2023, the world of writing competitions offers a diverse tapestry of opportunities for writers across the globe. From exploring the depths of nature to delving into the mysteries of microfiction, these competitions beckon with enticing prizes and platforms for your creative voice. So, pick your favorite, sharpen your pen, and embark on a journey of literary excellence!

Unlock the Essay Enchantment!

Our expert wordsmiths are standing by, wands at the ready, to craft your essay masterpiece. No potions, just perfect prose!

Related Articles

Satire Essay

Slide background

Congressional Seminar Essay Contest for High School Students

essay contest for high school students

In winning the writing competition, win a Scholarship for the Congressional Seminar in Washington, D.C. from June 24-28, 2024.

The Congressional Essay Contest (CEC) is run by NSCDA Corporate Societies and Town Committees across the United States. Freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior year high school students submit essays that are then judged and awarded. Students must be 16 or older to participate in the Congressional Seminar.

The essay topic changes annually. For this year’s contest (2023-2024) the NSCDA asks students to answer the prompt:

“Why did the nation’s founders choose a government with separated powers rather than a parliamentary system?”

Winners receive full tuition and support for travel to our nation’s capital for the Workshops Foundation’s renown Congressional Seminar, a highly interactive, civic-focused workshop. The seminar includes a Mock Congress, enabling students to collaborate with peers from various backgrounds and different views to forge public policy on pressing national and international issues. The seminar provides university campus housing and meals; a per diem for meals purchased off-campus; and access to world class museums, government and congressional offices, and memorable tours. Are you curious about what to expect on this trip? Watch this 4:30 minute video . This is a sample itinerary of the trip.

Learn more about the Workshops Foundation .

2024 contest information

  • 2024 application
  • 2024 contest rules and information
  • Write a compelling 750 word essay (judging criteria can be found on page 2)
  • Applications are due December 1

Note: Children and grandchildren of an active member of The NSCDA may not receive a scholarship to the Congressional Seminar. They are still eligible to participate at their own expense. See below for further details and application or email Mary Bradshaw, NSCDA Congressional Essay Consultant, at  [email protected]  for more information.

  • Legacy Scholar information
  • 2024 Legacy Scholar application
  • Legacy Scholar payment form

2024 Poster for your classrooms

We look forward to reading your class submissions!

In grateful appreciation to Linda R. Monk, J.D., Constitutional Scholar ( www.lindamonk.com ), for her contribution to the wording of the topic.

Encourage your students to complete and submit their application for 2024 .

Email Mary Bradshaw, NSCDA Congressional Essay Consultant, at [email protected] for more information or if you have any questions.

Donations to this Essay Contest are greatly appreciated.

essay contest for high school students

Congressional Seminar Essay Contest Gallery

Photo Jun 25, 4 07 12 PM

HHS Logo

  • Mission and Vision
  • Scientific Advancement Plan
  • Science Visioning
  • Research Framework
  • Minority Health and Health Disparities Definitions
  • Organizational Structure
  • Staff Directory
  • About the Director
  • Director’s Messages
  • News Mentions
  • Presentations
  • Selected Publications
  • Director's Laboratory
  • Congressional Justification
  • Congressional Testimony
  • Legislative History
  • NIH Minority Health and Health Disparities Strategic Plan 2021-2025
  • Minority Health and Health Disparities: Definitions and Parameters
  • NIH and HHS Commitment
  • Foundation for Planning
  • Structure of This Plan
  • Strategic Plan Categories
  • Summary of Categories and Goals
  • Scientific Goals, Research Strategies, and Priority Areas
  • Research-Sustaining Activities: Goals, Strategies, and Priority Areas
  • Outreach, Collaboration, and Dissemination: Goals and Strategies
  • Leap Forward Research Challenge
  • Future Plans
  • Research Interest Areas
  • Research Centers
  • Research Endowment
  • Community Based Participatory Research Program (CBPR)
  • SBIR/STTR: Small Business Innovation/Tech Transfer
  • Solicited and Investigator-Initiated Research Project Grants
  • Scientific Conferences
  • Training and Career Development
  • Loan Repayment Program (LRP)
  • Data Management and Sharing
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Population and Community Health Sciences
  • Epidemiology and Genetics
  • Medical Research Scholars Program (MRSP)
  • Coleman Research Innovation Award
  • Health Disparities Interest Group
  • Art Challenge
  • Breathe Better Network
  • Healthy Hearts Network
  • DEBUT Challenge
  • Healthy Mind Initiative
  • Mental Health Essay Contest
  • Science Day for Students at NIH
  • Fuel Up to Play 60 en Español
  • Brother, You're on My Mind
  • Celebrating National Minority Health Month
  • Reaching People in Multiple Languages
  • Funding Strategy
  • Active Funding Opportunities
  • Expired Funding Opportunities
  • Technical Assistance Webinars

essay contest for high school students

  • Community Health and Population Sciences
  • Clinical and Health Services Research
  • Integrative Biological and Behavioral Sciences
  • Intramural Research Program
  • Training and Diverse Workforce Development
  • Inside NIMHD
  • ScHARe HDPulse PhenX SDOH Toolkit Understanding Health Disparities For Research Applicants For Research Grantees Research and Training Programs Reports and Data Resources Health Information for the Public Science Education

  • NIMHD Education and Outreach
  • NIH Teen Mental Health Essay Contest

Speaking Up About Mental Health. Left image is a female in a wheelchair working on a laptop. Right image is three students at library

  • Extramural Research
  • Intramural Research
  • NIMHD Collaborations
  • Fuel Up to Play 60 en Espanol
  • COVID-19 Information and Resources

Speaking Up About Mental Health

National essay contest.

SUBMIT YOUR ESSAY The contest is open to high school students ages 16-18

PROMOTION TOOLKIT Help spread the word with social media and email tools

December 1, 2023

Dec. 1, 2023

January 16, 2024

Jan. 16, 2024

May 31, 2024

Mental health is an important part of overall health across all life stages. However, far too often, symptoms are not addressed or recognized among teens.

Speaking Up About Mental Health is an essay contest that challenges high school students ages 16-18 to raise awareness of mental health. The contest gives students a platform to share ways to eliminate and/or reduce mental health stigma faced by young people, especially in diverse communities.

This contest is soliciting essays that:

  • Discuss ways to eliminate and/or reduce mental health stigma faced by young people, especially in diverse communities
  • Share resilience and coping strategies to overcome mental health issues such as social isolation and loneliness, depression, and anxiety
  • Address mental health stigma
  • Encourage conversations about mental health, social media, and/or technology
  • Suggest school policies or practices that could help reduce stigma
  • Describe barriers to mental health treatment
  • Cover other areas of concern to individuals and their communities with respect to mental health

Get details on contest rules and submit your entry on Challenge.gov

Promotion toolkit : Help promote the Speaking Up About Mental Health essay contest

The contest is led by:

National Institute of Mental Health

National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Page updated Jan. 23, 2024

September 2022: NIH Announces Winners of High School Mental Health Essay Contest

2022 Essay Awardees

2019 Essay Awardees

[email protected]

essay contest for high school students

Staying Connected

essay contest for high school students

  • Funding Opportunities  
  • News & Events  
  • HHS Vulnerability Disclosure  
  • Privacy/Disclaimer/Accessibility Policy  
  • Viewers & Players  

facebook Pixel

  • Skip navigation and go to content
  • Go to navigation

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest - No Fee

  • Our Sponsors

Congratulations to the Winners of our North Street Book Prize

Daniel Victor won the $10,000 Grand Prize. Read about the winning entries.

Congratulations to our Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest Winners

Billie Kelpin and Jennifer Tubbs take top honors. Read the winning entries.

Get a critique for your book, manuscript, or shorter works.

Just $90-$180. Satisfaction guaranteed. Learn more.

LAST CALL to Enter Our Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

Win $3,000 for a poem, published or unpublished. Submit by 11:59pm Hawaii Time on Sep 30.

Congratulations to our Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest winner!

CB Anderson and Elizabeth Becker take top honors. Read the winning entries.

Beth Ann Fennelly of Oxford, MS won $2,000. Read the winning entries.

Deadline 11:59pm Hawaii Time Tonight! North Street Book Prize

Win $10,000 for your self-published or hybrid-published book. Submit now.

Congratulations to our Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest Winners

Maurya Kerr and Tamara Panici take top honors. Read the winning entries.

Congratulations to our North Street Book Prize Winners

Diane Chiddister wins the grand prize of $8,000. Read about the winning entries.

Enter our Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest . Win $3,000 for your story or essay.

New! Get a critique for your poem, story, or essay.

We guarantee your satisfaction. Try it today.

Congratulations to our Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest Winners

Koss, Marcus Bales, and J. Clark Hubbard take top honors. Read the winning entries.

Final day! Win $5,000 for your self-published book

Our annual Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest . $4,000 in prizes. September 30 deadline.

Our annual North Street Book Prize for Self-Published Books . $6,000 in prizes. June 30 deadline.

Next Deadline

Our annual Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest . $3,750 in prizes. No fee. Enter by April 1.

Get instant access to our database of the best free literary contests — subscribe to our free newsletter

One of the Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers

comics-ali-tall

Home  >  What's New  >  Fountainhead Essay Contest for High School Students

Fountainhead Essay Contest for High School Students

Deadline April 25 (must be received by this date), formerly April 27. Highly recommended free contest for high school students (11th and 12th grade) awards $5,000 top prize, other large prizes, for essays on Ayn Rand's novel 'The Fountainhead'. Essays should be based on one of the three questions on the website, and be 800-1,600 words long. Submit your essay online. Contest is looking for entries that are sympathetic to Rand's rationalist, libertarian philosophy. See sponsor's website for other student contests.

Source: https://aynrand.org/students/essay-contests/#tab-5-2020

Published: February 15, 2024

essay contest for high school students

Our Contests

Wergle flomp humor poetry contest.

Prizes: $3,750 Deadline: Apr 1, 2024 Most Recent Winners No Fee!

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

Prizes: $10,000 Deadline: May 1, 2024 Most Recent Winners

North Street Book Prize

Prizes: $20,400 Deadline: Jul 1, 2024 Most Recent Winners For self-published and hybrid-published books

Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

Prizes: $10,000 Deadline: Oct 1, 2024 Most Recent Winners

CNO Naval History Essay Contest $5,000 prize, deadline change: received by April 30 | Visit source

Haymaker Literary Journal Call for submissions: received by March 31 | Visit source

View All News

Customer Support

Let us help! We generally respond within one business day.

  • Frequently Asked Questions

Tell me more

jendi reiter

Get instant access to our database of The Best Free Literary Contests, edited by Jendi Reiter Subscribe to our free newsletter.

I already subscribe and would like to login

We Delaware's students to share their perspectives on our earth and its wonders

3-minute read.

To quote Michael Grunwald, “The human race does a lot stupid things, but we’ve got a powerful incentive to save the only planet that has pizza and Yosemite and our children …”

Powerful indeed. Protecting the health of this all too fragile planet and the diversity of life that inhabits it — especially our children — has been my life’s mission.

Most recently, I served as executive director and then director of programs for Delaware Interfaith Power and Light, or DeIPL. Their mission is to engage faith communities and community partners in addressing the causes and consequences of climate change; to scientifically inform and spiritually deepen our understanding of our relationship with the natural world — and with each other — and to act on those understandings. One critical way to do that is to listen to those who will be most profoundly affected by an ailing planet.

And to that end, for the third year, DeIPL is providing an opportunity to hear directly from our visionary, pizza-loving children.

RENEW — Reflective Essays on Nature, Earth and their Wonders — is an essay contest open to all high school students in Delaware. It is a platform for the students to reflect — in writing — on the unique role of youth on climate action, environmental justice, and their intimate sense of connectedness with the natural world — the web of life.

As co-coordinator of this initiative, I have carefully read and reread every essay that has been submitted these past two years. I have been both shaken and inspired by their expressions of awe and grief, of compassion and outrage; by their calls for accountability and their empowered, hope-filled visions for the future.

Here's a sampling:

“The pond was an extension of my body, of my mind. My brain strung intricate webs connecting each organism to one another, each organism to me.” — Jon Dong, Tower Hill High School

“What can make a real difference in showing someone the natural beauty this earth has to offer, taking them away from the worries of everyday life, and letting them learn for themselves how amazing and jaw-dropping the world really is.” — Sarah McMann, St. Mark’s High School

“I watched the ventilator machine carefully whirr beside my cousin’s bed and realized how her health condition was a product of the polluted environment we created…I knew I could no longer idly ignore the crippling effects of humans on the natural environment.” — Danielle Waters, Home-schooled

“Words will not stop the sea from swallowing us. Words will not go back and un-poison our bloodstream…We must have justice, and until we do, the young people will not stop marching.” — Isabella Anderson, Caesar Rodney High School

“If we do not inform the generation of children now, then they will not care about the climate for the future and that mindset will continue with their children, until we do not have a planet left to care for.” — Melina Leeds, Appoquinimink High School

“We all need to put our pride aside and see nature as a place that tolerates us, not the other way around. It’s our place to protect nature and I want to do it, because it protects, nourishes, and shelters me ….” — Ayomipo Adeojo, Newark Charter High School

We need to hear these voices. We need to grasp what they’re telling us. And we had better be prepared to respond.

All high school students in Delaware are eligible to participate and asked to register through the DeIPL website, https://delawareipl.org/dev/renew-2024/ . The essays must be original works, researched and crafted by the students, a maximum of 1,500 words on one of the three topics mentioned, and emailed anytime between Feb. 26 and March 11 to [email protected] .

A diverse panel of judges reviews and scores the essays based on clarity, passion, attention to theme, creativity, and effectiveness.

DeIPL will offer ten cash scholarship awards, totaling $8,000, to winning essayists.

We continually explore ways to recognize and showcase these young voices. Last year’s essayists were invited to appear on the floors of Legislative Hall on the General Assembly's last day in session — when several environmental bills were passed — and were given standing ovations. It was a thrill for them, an empowering one. The invitation has been extended again this year.

I know that as I read and reread this new set of impassioned pleas for our attention, my own fires will be refueled. We cannot be reminded often enough — they are depending on us.

Help spread the word visit delawareipl.org for more information. Email questions to [email protected] or Lisa Locke at [email protected] , or text or call Charanjeet Singh Minhas at 302-359-2155.

Lisa Locke is a former executive director and director of programs for Delaware Interfaith Power & Light.

  • Share full article

Advertisement

Supported by

‘Where We Are’: A Photo Essay Contest for Exploring Community

Using an immersive Times series as inspiration, we invite teenagers to document the local communities that interest them. Contest dates: Feb. 14 to March 20.

A group of friends sitting on an orange picnic blanket in a sun-dappled park, surrounded by green grass and trees.

By The Learning Network

The Covid-19 pandemic closed schools and canceled dances. It emptied basketball courts, theaters, recreation centers and restaurants. It sent clubs, scout troops and other groups online.

Now, many people have ventured back out into physical spaces to gather with one another once again. What does in-person “community” look like today? And what are the different ways people are creating it?

In this new contest, inspired by “ Where We Are ” — an immersive visual project from The New York Times that explores the various places around the world where young people come together — we’re inviting teenagers to create their own photo essays to document the local, offline communities that interest them.

Take a look at the full guidelines and related resources below to see if this is right for your students. We have also posted a student forum and a step-by-step lesson plan . Please ask any questions you have in the comments and we’ll answer you there, or write to us at [email protected]. And, consider hanging this PDF one-page announcement on your class bulletin board.

Here’s what you need to know:

The challenge, a few rules, resources for teachers and students, frequently asked questions, submission form.

Using The Times’s Where We Are series as a guide, create a photo essay that documents an interesting local, offline community. Whether your grandmother’s Mah Jong club, the preteens who hang out at a nearby basketball court, or the intergenerational volunteers who walk the dogs for your neighborhood animal shelter, this community can feature people of any age, as long as it gathers in person.

We encourage you to choose a community you are not a part of for reasons we explain below, in the F.A.Q.

Whichever community you choose, however, it’ll be your job to interview and photograph them. Then, you’ll pull everything together in a visual essay, which will tell the group’s story via a short introduction and a series of captioned photographs.

Your photo essay MUST include:

Between six and eight images, uploaded in the order in which you’d like us to view them.

A short caption of no more than 50 words for each image that helps explain what it shows and why it is important to the story.

A short introduction of up to 300 words that offers important background or context that complements and adds to the information in the photos and captions. You might consider the introduction the beginning of your essay, which the photos and captions will then continue. Together they will answer questions like who this community is, how it came to be, and why it matters. (Our How-To guide offers more detail about this.)

At least one quote — embedded in either the introduction or one of the captions — from a member of the community about what makes it meaningful.

In addition to the guidelines above, here are a few more details:

You must be a student ages 13 to 19 in middle school or high school to participate , and all students must have parent or guardian permission to enter. Please see the F.A.Q. section for additional eligibility details.

The photographs and writing you submit should be fundamentally your own — they should not be plagiarized, created by someone else or generated by artificial intelligence.

Your photo essay should be original for this contest. That means it should not already have been published at the time of submission, whether in a school newspaper, for another contest or anywhere else.

Keep in mind that the work you send in should be appropriate for a Times audience — that is, something that could be published in a family newspaper (so, please, no curse words).

You may work alone, in pairs, or in groups of up to four for this challenge , but students should submit only one entry each.

Remember to get permission from those you photograph, and to collect their contact information. Learn more about this in the F.A.Q. below.

You must also submit a short, informal “artist’s statement” as part of your submission, that describes your process. These statements, which will not be used to choose finalists, help us to design and refine our contests. See the F.A.Q. to learn more.

All entries must be submitted by March 20, at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time using the electronic form below.

Use these resources to help you create your photo essay:

A related Student Opinion question to help you brainstorm ideas before you begin taking photos.

A step-by-step guide that uses examples from the Where We Are series to walk students through creating their own.

Free links to the “Where We Are” Collection :

1. The Magic of Your First Car 2. At This Mexican Restaurant, Everyone is Family 3. Where the Band Kids Are 4. In This Nigerian Market, Young Women Find a Place of Their Own 5. At Camp Naru, Nobody Is ‘an Outlier’ 6. For Black Debutantes in Detroit, Cotillion Is More Than a Ball 7. At This Wrestling Academy, Indian Girls Are ‘Set Free’ 8. In Seville, Spain, These Young Rappers Come Together to Turn ‘Tears Into Rhymes’ 9. For a Queer Community in Los Angeles, This Public Park Is a Lifeline 10. In Guatemala, A Collective of Young Artists Finds Family Through Film 11. On a Caribbean Island, Young People Find Freedom in ‘Bike Life’ 12. At This Texas Campus Ministry, ‘Inclusive Love’ Is the Mission 13. For Young Arab Americans in Michigan, the Hookah Lounge Feels like Home

An activity sheet for understanding and analyzing the Where We Are series.

Lessons on interviewing and taking photographs . While these two resources were originally created for our 2022 Profile Contest , each contains scores of tips from educators and Times journalists that can help students learn to interview, and to take and select compelling photographs that tell a story.

Our contest rubric . These are the criteria we will use to judge this contest. Keep them handy to make sure your photo essay meets all of the qualifications before entering.

Below are answers to your questions about writing, judging, the rules and teaching with this contest. Please read these thoroughly and, if you still can’t find what you’re looking for, post your query in the comments or write to us at [email protected].

QUESTIONS ABOUT CREATING YOUR PHOTO ESSAY

What is a photo essay? How does it differ from just a series of photos?

A photo essay tells a story through a series of images. These images work together and build on each other to explore a theme of some kind. The photo essays in the Where We Are series, for instance, focus on the themes of community and coming-of-age, but each through a different lens, as the three images published here illustrate. Together they are beautiful examples of how visual collections can investigate ideas by illuminating both the “big picture” and the tiny, telling details.

How do I choose a good subject for this?

Our Student Opinion forum can help via its many questions that encourage you to brainstorm local, offline communities of all kinds.

Can I be a member of the community I photograph?

You can, but we encourage you not to. Part of the point of this contest is to help you investigate the interesting subcultures in your area, and expand your understanding of “community” by finding out about groups you otherwise may never have known existed.

But we also think it will be easier to do the assignment as an outsider. You will be coming to the community with “fresh eyes” and relative objectivity, and will be able to notice things that insiders may be too close to see.

If you do choose to depict a community you are a part of, we ask that you do not include yourself in the photos.

I’d like to work with others to create this. How do I do that?

You can work alone, with a partner, or with up to three other people. So, for example, in a group of four, two people might act as photographers, while the other two interview community members. When you are ready to edit your material and write up what you have discovered, the interviewers could use their notes to handle the short introduction, while the photographers could edit their shots into a meaningful visual sequence, and help collaborate on the captions.

Please remember, however, that you can only have your name on one submission.

Do I need permission to photograph the people in this community?

You do. It is good journalistic practice to tell the people you are photographing why you are taking pictures of them, and to ask their permission. They should also know that, if you are a winner, their image and name may appear online.

Though you do not have to have a signed permission sheet from every participant, if you are a winner and we publish your work, we will need to be able to reach those depicted, so please get their contact information before you take their pictures. (If you are photographing young children, this is especially important. Secure a parent or guardian’s permission first.)

An important exception to this: If you are taking photos of crowds in public places, such as at a sporting event, a community meeting or a local fair, you don’t need to worry about permissions, as it would be impossible to get them from all attendees.

I don’t know where to begin! What advice do you have?

Once you’ve chosen a community to photograph, begin by introducing yourself to ensure the participants are open to your project. Then, devote a bit of time to just observing, noticing how and where the members of this group spend time, what they do together, and how they relate to each other.

When you’re ready to start documenting what you find, our step-by-step guide will help you take it from there.

QUESTIONS ABOUT JUDGING

How will my photo essay be judged?

Your work will be read by New York Times journalists as well as by Learning Network staff members and educators from around the United States. We will use this rubric to judge entries.

What’s the prize?

Having your work published on The Learning Network and being eligible to be chosen to have your work published in the print editions of The New York Times.

When will the winners be announced?

About two months after the contest has closed.

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE RULES

Who is eligible to participate in this contest?

This contest is open to students ages 13 to 19 who are in middle school or high school around the world. College students cannot submit an entry. However, high school students (including high school postgraduate students) who are taking one or more college classes can participate. Students attending their first year of a two-year CEGEP in Quebec Province can also participate. In addition, students age 19 or under who have completed high school but are taking a gap year or are otherwise not enrolled in college can participate.

The children and stepchildren of New York Times employees are not eligible to enter this contest. Nor are students who live in the same household as those employees.

Why are you asking for an Artist’s Statement about our process? What will you do with it?

All of us who work on The Learning Network are former teachers. One of the many things we miss, now that we work in a newsroom rather than a classroom, is being able to see how students are reacting to our “assignments” in real time — and to offer help, or tweaks, to make those assignments better. We’re asking you to reflect on what you did and why, and what was hard or easy about it, in large part so that we can improve our contests and the curriculum we create to support them. This is especially important for new contests, like this one.

Another reason? We have heard from many teachers that writing these statements is immensely helpful to students. Stepping back from a piece and trying to put into words what you wanted to express, and why and how you made artistic choices to do that, can help you see your piece anew and figure out how to make it stronger. For our staff, they offer important context that help us understand individual students and submissions, and learn more about the conditions under which students around the world create.

Whom can I contact if I have questions about this contest or am having issues submitting my entry?

Leave a comment on this post or write to us at [email protected].

QUESTIONS ABOUT TEACHING WITH THIS CONTEST

Do my students need a New York Times subscription to access these resources?

No. Students can get free access to the entire Where We Are series through The Learning Network . (All 13 photo essays are listed above, in our Resources section.) In addition, our related student forum , activity sheet and “how to” guide are also free, as are everything they link to.

However, if you are interested in learning more about school subscriptions, visit this page .

I’m not an art teacher. Can this work for my students too?

Yes! Though this is a new contest for us, we chose it in part because the theme of “community” is such an important one in subjects across the curriculum. In fact, we hope it might inspire teachers in different curriculum areas to collaborate.

For example, students in social studies could investigate the role of community locally, learning about the history of different influential groups. An English teacher might support students as they interview and craft their introductions and photo captions, while an art teacher could offer tips for photo composition. And, of course, a journalism teacher could guide the full project, or work with other teachers to publish the most successful results in the school paper.

How do my students prove to me that they entered this contest?

After they press “Submit” on the form below, they will see a “Thank you for your submission.” line appear. They can take a screenshot of this message. Please note: Our system does not currently send confirmation emails.

Please read the following carefully before you submit:

Students who are 13 and older in the United States or the United Kingdom, or 16 and older elsewhere in the world, can submit their own entries. Those who are 13 to 15 and live outside the United States or the United Kingdom must have an adult submit on their behalf.

All students who are under 18 must provide a parent or guardian’s permission to enter.

You will not receive email confirmation of your submission. After you submit, you will see the message “Thank you for your submission.” That means we received your entry. If you need proof of entry for your teacher, please screenshot that message.

Here is an example of how you might submit a photo with a caption and a photographer credit (Ashley Markle is the photographer):

If you have questions about your submission, please write to us at [email protected] and provide the email address you used for submission.

IMAGES

  1. Northern announces "Borders" Essay Contest for High School & College

    essay contest for high school students

  2. 012 Scholarship Essay Contest Flyer ~ Thatsnotus

    essay contest for high school students

  3. Breathtaking Essay Contest Middle School ~ Thatsnotus

    essay contest for high school students

  4. How to teach essay writing to high school students

    essay contest for high school students

  5. High School Essay Contest

    essay contest for high school students

  6. Best We The Students Essay Contest ~ Thatsnotus

    essay contest for high school students

COMMENTS

  1. The 17 Best Writing Contests for High School Students

    Posted by Melissa Brinks Other High School 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.

  2. 23 Writing Competitions for High School Students

    Writing Competitions for High School Students 1. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose Type: Poetry and Prose Submission Fee: $15 Prize: $200 Deadline: May 1, 2023 Eligibility: All secondary and undergraduate students Guidelines: Each student may send up to five total submissions across the genres of poetry and prose

  3. 18 Writing Contests for High School Students

    The American Foreign Service National High School Essay Contest offers a unique opportunity for high school students to engage in a critical analysis of international relations and U.S. foreign policy. Participants are tasked with writing an essay that demonstrates a clear understanding of the Foreign Service and its role in the global arena.

  4. The Big List of Student Writing Contests for 2023-2024

    1. The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards With a wide range of categories—from critical essays to science fiction and fantasy—The Scholastic Awards are a mainstay of student contests. Each category has its own rules and word counts, so be sure to check out the options before you decide which one is best for your students. How To Enter

  5. The Harvard Crimson Global Essay Competition

    The Harvard Crimson Global Essay Competition provides a platform for young, ambitious high school students to exercise their writing skills and compete with students from all over the world! This competition encourages students to challenge themselves and explore different writing styles to ultimately strengthen their writing skills.

  6. 15 Writing Competitions for High School Students

    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.

  7. Best 46 Essay Writing Contests in 2024

    The Best Essay Writing Contests of 2024 Writing competitions curated by Reedsy Genre All Children's Christian Crime Essay Fantasy Fiction Flash Fiction Horror Humor LGBTQ Memoir Mystery Non-fiction Novel Novella Poetry Romance Science Fiction Science Writing Script Writing Short Story Suspense Thriller Travel Young Adult Manage a competition?

  8. Top Writing Contests For High School Students

    Writing contests are a great way for high school students to showcase their creative skills. Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels Some schools might not have many extracurricular activities for...

  9. Top 20 Best Writing Contests for High School Students

    This audio-essay contest was created in 1947 to promote patriotism for our U.S. democracy. High school students are invited to express their patriotism via a recorded speech. Each year students win $1.3 million in educational scholarships and incentives from this VFW contest.

  10. David McCullough Essay Prizes

    David McCullough at Trinity School in Manhattan, October 15, 2019. The Gilder Lehrman Institute is now accepting submissions for the 2024 David McCullough Essay Prizes. The contest has been recently overhauled, and will recognize fourteen outstanding high school student research and interpretive essays with cash prizes of up to $5,000.

  11. 40 Free Writing Contests: Competitions With Cash Prizes

    1. L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest 2. Inkitt 3. Drue Heinz Literature Prize 4. Young Lions Fiction Award 5. Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prizes 6. The Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans 7. Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence 8. PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction 9. PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers 10.

  12. 7 Essay Writing Contests to Look Out For in 2023

    Students in grades 9-12 in any of the 50 states, DC, the US territories, or if they are US citizens or lawful permanent residents attending high school overseas. Students attending a public, private, or parochial school. Home-schooled students. Contest description: Your essay should be 1,000-1,500 words.

  13. National High School Essay Contest

    National High School Essay Contest Students > AFSA High School Essay Contest Applications Are Now Open for the 2024 Essay Contest! Apply at https://afsascholarships.communityforce.com The application deadline is 11:59 p.m. EDT on April 1, 2024 2024 Essay Contest Topic

  14. The Winners of Our 3rd Annual Personal Narrative Essay Contest for Students

    The Winners of Our 3rd Annual Personal Narrative Essay Contest for Students - The New York Times The Winners of Our 3rd Annual Personal Narrative Essay Contest for Students Eight short,...

  15. 10 Writing Competitions for High School Students in 2023-2024

    YoungArts Competitions for High School Students. Genres: Classical Music, Dance, Design Arts, Film, Jazz, Photography, Theater, Visual. Arts, Voice, Writing. Award: Up to $10,000 and national recognition. Eligibility: US citizens and permanent resident/green card recipients in grades 10-12 or. 15-18 years of age on December 1, 2023.

  16. The 35 Best Writing Contests for High School Students

    The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest: This contest is open to U.S. high school students in grades 9-12. Participants are required to submit an original essay of 700-1,000 words, focusing on an act of political courage by a U.S. elected official.

  17. Student Essay Contest

    The Fraser Institute's 2024 Student Essay Contest is NOW OPEN! Join the conversation and showcase your ideas on public policy by entering our Student Essay Contest for the chance to win the grand cash prize! ... High School: Undergraduate: Graduate: 1 st Prize: $1,500: $1,500: $1,500: 2 nd Prize: $1,000: $1,000: $1,000: 3 rd Prize: $750: $750 ...

  18. 20 Writing Competitions for High School Students

    The Jane Austen Society Essay Contest is an annual competition that invites high school and college students to submit their essays on Jane Austen's novels and their impact on literature and society. The contest is organized by the Jane Austen Society of North America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study and appreciation of Jane ...

  19. 11 Writing Contests for High School Students with Cash Awards

    Below are 11 writing contests for high school students, but you can find plenty of other niche and general contests by searching online. ... The American Foreign Services Association Essay Contest. US students grades 9 through 12, as well as students in the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, or U.S. citizens attending school abroad or at ...

  20. National High School Essay Contest

    The American Foreign Service Association's national high school essay contest completed its twenty-third year with over 400 submissions from 44 states. Three randomized rounds of judging produced this year's winner, Justin Ahn, a junior from Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Massachusetts.

  21. Essay Writing Contests: Top Opportunities in 2023

    John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest. High school students across the United States are invited to participate in one of the best writing competitions 2023 - the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest. Craft an original essay, between 700 and 1,000 words that delves into acts of political courage by U.S. elected officials ...

  22. Congressional Seminar Essay Contest for High School Students

    In winning the writing competition, win a Scholarship for the Congressional Seminar in Washington, D.C. from June 24-28, 2024. The Congressional Essay Contest (CEC) is run by NSCDA Corporate Societies and Town Committees across the United States. Freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior year high school students submit essays that are then judged ...

  23. NIH Teen Mental Health Essay Contest

    Speaking Up About Mental Health is an essay contest that challenges high school students ages 16-18 to raise awareness of mental health. The contest gives students a platform to share ways to eliminate and/or reduce mental health stigma faced by young people, especially in diverse communities. This contest is soliciting essays that:

  24. Fountainhead Essay Contest for High School Students

    Highly recommended free contest for high school students (11th and 12th grade) awards $5,000 top prize, other large prizes, for essays on Ayn Rand's novel 'The Fountainhead'. Essays should be based on one of the three questions on the website, and be 800-1,600 words long. Submit your essay online. Contest is looking for entries that are ...

  25. Delaware RENEW essay contest opens for 2024

    RENEW — Reflective Essays on Nature, Earth and their Wonders — is an essay contest open to all high school students in Delaware. News Sports Life First State Favorites Advertise Obituaries ...

  26. Daughters of the American Revolution honor students

    KINGSPORT — Some local students have won history awards from a local civic organization, including a fifth grader who went on to win for his essay at the district and Tennessee levels. The Long ...

  27. 'Where We Are': A Photo Essay Contest for Exploring Community

    This contest is open to students ages 13 to 19 who are in middle school or high school around the world. College students cannot submit an entry. However, high school students (including high ...