Win Scholarship Money Now! 10 Essay Contests for High School Sophomores and Juniors
Learn how to win college scholarship money now with these 10 essay contests for high school sophomores and juniors.
Opportunities abound for high school sophomores and juniors to write essays and win college scholarship money. For potential pay-days as big as $10,000, it’s time well-spent.
My College Guide has gathered a list of 10 essay contests that high school sophomores and juniors can participate in. Be sure to check each contest’s website for complete rules and deadlines. Now, get your laptop ready and start writing!
American Foreign Service Association Essay Contest: Write an essay for this prestigious national essay contest for a chance to win a $2,500 cash prize, an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. to meet the Secretary of State and full tuition to cover a Semester at Sea voyage once you enroll at an accredited university. Any high school student can enter. New essay contest rules and the application are posted in November each year. The deadline is typically in April.
Bennington Young Writers Awards: Students in grades 10 through 12 can participate in this writing contest. Choose from one of three categories: poetry, fiction or nonfiction personal or academic essay. The deadline is usually November 1 each year. Top prize is $500.
DuPont Challenge Science Essay Contest: Middle school and high school students can participate in this essay contest. Write an essay on a science-related topic on one of four of the identified challenges: feeding the world, building a secure energy future, protecting people and the environment and being innovative. The deadline is typically in February each year. Prizes range from a $250 U.S. Savings Bond to a $5,000 U.S. Savings Bond. First, second and third place winners also receive a trip to Orlando.
EGirl Essay Contest: The National Academy of Engineering’s EngineerGirl website offers an essay contest on an engineering topic for girls and boys. Awards range from $100 to $500. Winning entries are published online.
First Freedom Student Competition: Write an essay (or create a video) about a topic examining the history and current-day relevance of religious freedom. Top prize is $2,500. The deadline is usually in November each year.
The Fountainhead Essay Contest: High school juniors can read Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and write an essay on one of three topics. Prizes range from $50 to $10,000. The entry deadline is typically in April.
JFK Profile in Courage Essay Contest: Write an essay on a U.S. elected official “who has chosen to do what is right, rather than what is expedient.” The winner gets $10,000, second place gets $1,000 and up to five finalists receive $500 each. The deadline is typically in early January each year.
George S. & Stella M. Knight Essay Contest: The National Society Sons of the American Revolution sponsors this annual essay contest. Students compete at the state and national levels. You must write an essay on a topic related to the American Revolution, Declaration of Independence or U.S. Constitution. The top national winner receives $2,000. State/local deadlines are usually by no later than December 31 each year, but these deadlines can vary depending on location.
National Peace Essay Contest: The U.S. Institute of Peace offers this contest. First-place state winners receive a trip to Washington, D.C., and a $1,000 scholarship. National award winners receive $2,500 to $10,000. Essays are typically due in February.
Scholastic Art & Writing Awards: Apply in one of 28 categories to earn a scholarship and have your artwork exhibited or writing published. Awards range from $500 to $2,500. New submissions are typically accepted beginning in September each year. Deadlines vary by region and contest.
In a world where J.K. Rowling’s manuscript of “Harry Potter” was rejected 12 times and Kathryn Stockett’s manuscript of “The Help” was rejected 60 times, it can be easy to become despondent about publishing your fiction, even more so for teenage writers aching to voice their thoughts to the world.
However, there’s an abundance of writing competitions year round for teens and writing contests for high school students — you just need to know where to look.
Here, I compiled a list of 33 writing contests for teens. Genres include: fiction, poetry, nonfiction, screenplays, and plays.
Some of these contests may sound like the competition is too stiff, especially if the organization receives thousands of submissions every year. But speaking from personal experience, you never know unless you try. Rejections will pile up for young authors, but so will acceptances accompanied by whoops and fist pumps.
Additionally, the experiences offered by certain teen contests such as working with professionals, revisiting your work, and perhaps even seeing it come to life either in a publication or on stage is indescribably rewarding and gratifying.
So, young writers, submit on!
1. Ocean Awareness Student Contest
The theme is “Making Meaning out of Ocean Pollution,” and it challenges you to research, explore, interpret, and say something meaningful about the connections between human activities and the health of our oceans. Prizes range from $100-$1,500.
Grades: Middle school – High school
2. Rattle Young Poets Anthology
This is an anthology to look back on the past and view your younger work with pride. The author of the poem must have been age 15 or younger when the poem was written, and 18 or younger when submitted.
Ages: 18 or younger
Number of submissions: “Thousands” are submitted, 50 are chosen.
3. Inkitt Novel Contest
If you have a novel over 20,000 words, submit it to this contest where a community of readers will read your story. The more they love it, the better chance you have of winning a publishing deal.
Think of it as American Idol for your novel.
Plus, all published authors with Inkitt receive these great perks:
- $6,000+ invested into your book launch
- 25% royalties on every copy sold
- Cover design and professional editing
- Publicity on Amazon (over 90% of their books become bestsellers right after launching)
This is a fantastic contest that can get you a ton of exposure and even result in a book deal. Read the reviews on their website and submit today. It’s free and easy to upload your manuscript and have readers start reading your work immediately.
4. Hypernova Lit
Any and all types of writing are welcome. Long short stories, short short stories, prose poetry, traditional poetry, blackout poetry, creative accounts of your life and experiences, essays about yourself, essays about what you love, plays, scripts, letters, lists, rants, lyrics, journal writing.
Deadline: Open Year-round
5. Princeton University Poetry Contest for High School Students
The Princeton University Poetry Contest recognizes outstanding work by student writers in the 11th grade. Prizes: First Prize – $500, Second Prize – $250, Third Prize – $100.
6. The Bennington Young Writers Awards
Students in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades enter in one of the following categories: poetry (a group of three poems), fiction (a short story or one-act play), or nonfiction (a personal or academic essay). First-place winners in each category are awarded a prize of $500; second-place winners receive $250.
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7. Canvas Literary Journal
Teen literary magazine published quarterly.
Seeking writers ages 13-18 to submit fiction, novel excerpts, poetry, plays, nonfiction, new media, and cross-genre.
8. The New Voices One-Act Competition for Young Playwrights
Submit your best one-act play (one per playwright!) to the New Voices competition and you can potentially win cash, software from fabulous sponsors Final Draft and Great Dialogue, and even publication!
Ages: 19 or younger
Submission period: Fall
9. Princeton University 10 Minute Play Contest
Eligibility for this annual playwriting contest is limited to students in the eleventh grade. Prizes: First Prize – $500, Second Prize – $250, Third Prize – $100. The jury consists of members of the Princeton University Program in Theater faculty.
10. Jet Fuel Review
Through Lewis University, Jet Fuel Review is run entirely by students under the supervision of faculty advisers Dr. Simone Muench and Dr. Jackie White.
Jet Fuel Review is looking for quality in writing, whether it be in poetry, prose, non-fiction, or artwork.
Submission periods: August to October; January to March
11. Scholastic Art & Writing Awards
Since 1923, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have recognized the vision, ingenuity, and talent of our nation’s youth. Through the Awards, students receive opportunities for recognition, exhibition, publication, and scholarships.
Students across America submitted nearly 320,000 original works during our 2016 program year across 29 different categories of art and writing.
Submissions period: September to December
In this handbook for young writers, “Spilling Ink,” professional authors give advice to teens who want to become authors.
By mixing personal anecdotes with practical advice, this book offers everything a young author will need to create incredible stories.
12. One Teen Story
One Teen Story is an award-winning literary magazine for readers and writers of young adult literature. Subscribers receive one curated and edited work of short fiction each month in the mail or on their digital devices.
Submission period: September to May
13. The Claremont Review
The editors of the Claremont Review publish the best poetry, short stories, short plays, visual art, and photography by young adults. We publish work in many styles that range from traditional to modern.
We prefer pieces that explore real characters and reveal authentic emotion.
Submission period: September to April
14. Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest
Sponsored by Hollins University, the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest is in its fifty-second year. The contest awards prizes for the best poems submitted by young women who are sophomores or juniors in high school or preparatory school. Prizes up to $5,000 are awarded to winners. Winners are chosen by students and faculty members in the creative writing program at Hollins.
15.VSA Playwright Discovery Competition
Each year, young writers with and without disabilities, in U.S. grades 6-12 (or equivalents) or ages 11-18 for non-U.S. students, are asked to explore the disability experience through the art of script writing for stage or screen.
Writers may craft scripts from their own experiences and observations, create fictional characters and settings, or choose to write metaphorically or abstractly about the disability experience. Winners in these divisions will receive $500 for arts programs at their schools.
Grades: 6-12 OR Ages: 11-18
The National YoungArts Foundation identifies and nurtures the most accomplished young artists in the visual, literary, design and performing arts and assists them at critical junctures in their educational and professional development.
Additionally, YoungArts Winners are eligible for nomination as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students who exemplify academic and artistic excellence.
Ages: 15-18 OR Grades: 10-12
17. The Critical Junior Poet’s Award Contest
The Critical Pass Review is now accepting submissions online for its Critical Junior Poet’s Award Contest, an editor’s choice award for exceptional promise in the art of poetry. Applicants between the ages of 13 and 18 can enter for free. The winner will receive a $100 cash prize, a $20 iTunes card, a CD of master poets reading their poetry, publication of his/her winning work in The Critical Pass Review‘s Summer 2016 issue, and more.
Submissions period:November to March
“Leap Write In!” is from acclaimed author Karen Benke, who does a fantastic job helping teen writers to generate ideas for their next story.
This book has an amazing spread of writing prompts, all designed to get your heart on the page and the reader’s heart in their throat.
18. The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers
The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers recognizes outstanding young poets and is open to high school sophomores and juniors throughout the world. The contest winner receives a full scholarship to the Kenyon Review Young Writers workshop.
19. Santa Fe University of Arts & Design High School Creative Writing Competition
The Glazner Creative Writing Contest is an opportunity for high school juniors and seniors to compete for a chance at publication in Santa Fe University of Art and Design’s online journal, Jackalope Magazine. To enter, students must submit up to 10 pages of work in any genre to our contest email address (ude.y1521021295tisre1521021295vinue1521021295fatna1521021295s@tse1521021295tnoc1521021295).
Deadline: November to December
20. Young Authors Writing Competition (Columbia College Chicago)
The Young Authors Writing Competition is a national competition for high school writers of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry. It began as a local contest in 1995, and since then has expanded into a national competition that has received tens of thousands of submissions from students across the country. 1st Place: $300, 2nd Place: $150, and 3rd Place: $50.
Submission period: November to January
21. Odyssey Con
The OddContest is an annual competition for speculative (science fiction, fantasy, or horror) stories or prose poems no longer than 500 words. Prizes: $50 to first place; Odyssey Con membership and free books to top 3.
Ages: 18 or younger
22. Young Playwrights INC.
Selected writers will be invited to New York, expenses paid, for our Young Playwrights Conference to work with some of this country’s most exciting professional theater artists, and to hear their plays read in our Off-Broadway Readings Series.
Ages: 18 or younger
23. University of Iowa – Hemingway Festival High School Writing Contest
Accepting Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Poetry, and Essays.
Winners and Finalists will be recognized at the 7th Annual University of Idaho Hemingway Festival, and cash prizes will be awarded in each category. Winners will also be considered for publication in an online University of Idaho publication. There will be one winner and one Finalist in each category with one Overall Grand Prize Winner. Cash prizes up to $500.
24. Interlochen Review
Interlochen Arts Academy is a high school boarding school and summer camp. It online literary journal accepts submissions from high school students in five categories: Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, Screen/Stageplay and Hybrid form. Up to 6 pieces total.
Submissions Period: February to March
25. Aerie International Journal
Aerie International was born of a desire to offer outstanding young writers and artists an opportunity to share, edit, and publish their work internationally. What makes this journal unique is that it is designed, edited and published entirely by high school students. Students whose work is selected received $100 in addition to a copy of the magazine.
26. Chapman Art and Writing Holocaust Contest
Focusing on themes central both to the Holocaust and to ethical decision making in our world today, the contest gives students from public, private and parochial schools the opportunity to share their creative works in response to survivors’ oral testimonies.
Participating schools may submit a total of three entries from three individual students in the following categories: art, film, prose, and/or poetry.
“Writing Magic” is for every young author who wants to create a world that magically transports the reader.
She focuses on the core advice every writer needs: how to write beginnings and endings, how to create unforgettable characters, and how to write snappy dialogue that keeps readers laughing and crying.
27. Writopia Lab Worldwide Plays Festival
The festival includes plays written in workshops at Writopia’s labs across the country and plays submitted to our competition from playwrights around the world from playwrights in 1st through 12th grade (ages 6 to 18). Plays are professionally produced in New York.
Grades: 1-12 OR Ages: 6-18
28. The Blank Theater’s Young Playwrights’ Festival
Since 1993, 12 plays are chosen by a panel of theatre professionals from submissions across America. Winning playwrights are provided careful mentoring and direction from industry professionals to help prepare their work for public performance and hone their skills, talent and confidence. Nowhere else in the nation can young playwrights receive the prize of seeing their vision come to life on stage in a professional production featuring known actors from film, television and theatre. The plays are crafted by seasoned professional directors and each is given several public performances in a month-long Festival.
29. Austin International Poetry Festival (AIPF)
Each year the Austin International Poetry Festival (AIPF) recognizes youth poets by publishing their work together in a truly diverse anthology. We welcome international poets from kindergarten through high school grade level or age to submit up to three poems.
30. Winter Tangerine
Winter Tangerine is a literary journal dedicated to the electric. To the salt. The sugar. We want bitter honey, expired sweets. We want catalysts. Accepting submissions of poetry, prose, drama, visual art, and short film.
Submission period: April to October
31. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose
The Adroit Journal, published at the University of Pennsylvania is open to all writers. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose are awarded annually to two students of secondary or undergraduate status whose written work “inspires the masses to believe beyond feeling the work.” In other words, we strive to receive the absolute best work from emerging young writers in high school and college, and the best of the best will receive these two lovely awards.
Submission Period: To be announced
32. Hanging LooseMagazine
Hanging Loose Magazine is a professional magazine that welcomes high school submissions. Payment plus 2 copies. Send 3 to 6 poems, or 1 to 3 short stories, or an equivalent combination of poetry and prose to High School Editor, Hanging Loose, 231 Wyckoff Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217. Identify yourself as a high school age writer.
Deadline: Open Year-round
An online publishing opportunity for young writers.
The New Pages Young Author’s Guide
A resource for young authors to find places to submit their work!
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