The Ultimate Guide to Student Writing Contest

It does happen that when students write for their teachers, it can seem like an assignment. But they are motivated to take it to another level when they write for special purposes. Students’ writing contests are simple and motivating methods to try writing for a real audience. At the same time, there are panels to scrutinize them and the possibility of awards attached. Below is a list of student writing contests. Explore to see any which fits your curriculum. 

  1. The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

You could almost find something for each student’s consumption. Each of the categories has its own rules and also word counts. Be sure to check the ideal ones for your students before procuring them.     

How to Enter: Each student may start turning in their work in September, uploading it to an online account at scholastic. Then printing is required before sending their submission forms to a nearby affiliate. 

  1. YoungArts’ National Arts Competition

This national competition offers a category of inspiring nonfiction, plays, novels, short stories, and spoken words. Winners can earn cash awards valued at $10,000 and the opportunity to participate in artistic development with professionals in their fields. A poster for your classroom wall is available here. 

How to Enter: YoungArts allows submission in each category till the second Friday of October. Students are to submit their work online and pay a fee of $35 (An option for waiver is allowed.)

  1. American Foreign Service High School Essay Contest

If you’re interested in helping students go in-depth on international relations, writing, or history, this essay is your stop. Winners get tuition fees covered for the semester at Sea program and a trip to Washington DC for an honorary visit with a leader at the Department of State.    

How to Enter: A new brief is published every September. The deadline to enter the competition is April 1. 

  1. John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest

The contest, held annually, invites participating students to write about a political official’s act of political courage after Kennedy’s birth. The winner takes home $10,000 plus a trip to Boston to receive the award.     

How to Enter: Participating students must submit 700-1000 essays between September and January. The essays must contain more than five sources and a complete bibliography.

  1. Bennington Young Writers Awards

Bennington College provides the competition in three categories: poetry ( a group of three poems), nonfiction ( a personal or academic), and fiction ( a short story or one-act play.) First place receives $500. Get a poster for your classroom here.     

How to Enter: The contest is open from September 1 to November 1. Stay connected to the website for information on submitting entries. 

  1. The Princeton Ten-Minute Play Contest

In this competition, to be judged by the theater faculty of Princeton University, students are to submit short plays in a bid to win recognition and money awards up to $500. (This is only open to 11th graders)     

How to Enter: Students submit ten-page play scripts by mail. The turnaround time is the end of March. 

  1. Princeton University Poetry Contest for High School Students

Leonard L. Milberg’s ’53 High School Poetry Prize recognizes notable works by students in the 11th grade. Case awards from $100 to $500 are available for winners.     

How to Enter: Only students in eleventh grade can submit. The turnaround time is at the end of November. 

  1. Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest

Funded by Hollins University, this poetry contest prize is for the best poem entry by young women juniors in high school. The prizes include cash and scholarship opportunities. The winners are selected by students and faculty members in creative writing programs at Hollins University. 

How To Enter: Students must turn in their entries by the end of October.  

  1. The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers

The Patricia Grodd Poetry for Young Writers is open to high school juniors, and the best bag a full scholarship to the Kenyon Review Young Writers workshop.  

How to Enter: Submissions are accepted electronically only from November 1 through November 30.   

  1. Jane Austen Society Essay Contest

High schoolers can bag prizes up to $1,000 by entering an essay on a topic similar to Jane Austen novels. 

How to Enter: The deadline for entry is June 1. Essay length is from 6-8pages, minus works cited. 

  1. SPJ / JEA High School Essay Contest

The Society of Professional Journalism sponsors this contest, and the Journalism Education Association invites students to consider independent media’s importance. Chances are that students win scholarship awards up to $1,000. 

How to Enter: Students should submit 300-509 word essays based on the yearly prompt either online or by mail, plus a $5 entry fee. The deadline is by the end of February.    

  1. We the Students Essay Contest

Students can bag a whooping watery amount of $7,500 through this essay contest, funded by the Bill of Rights Institute. 

How to Enter: Open to students around age 14-19. The deadline for all entries is April 15.         

  1. The Voice of Democracy Audio-Essay Contest

Formed in 1947, this audio-essay program ranging from the Veterans Foreign Wars gives high school students the rare opportunity to express themselves concerning a democratic and patriotic-themed essay. Annually, over 50,000 students participate, but that shouldn’t bother you. For the best, the prize is a $30,000 scholarship.    

How to Enter: All entries must be received by October 31. It must be recorded in an audio device for submission. 

  1. The Ocean Awareness Contest

This one of its kind competition invites students to use their skills to make a change for our planet. As contest owners wrote on their website, “Our contest is a call for young artists, conservationists, makers, thinkers, and activists concerned about the future of our blue planet.” Students have the opportunity of winning various monetary benefits.   

How to Enter: Students can send their work in various categories ranging from art, prose, film, or poetry, which a reflection must back up. The turnaround time is June 15. 

  1. Engineer Girl Annual Essay Contest

Annually, Engineer Girl sponsors an essay contest with various themes based on the effect of engineering on the globe, where students can win up to $500 in prize money. The contest is a good connection between ELA and STEM and awesome for teachers who fancy fusing an interdisciplinary project into their curriculum. The latest contest brief is usually published in October. Go to the educator’s page for more information on how to partner with this project for your school. 

How to Enter: Students are to submit their work electronically. Grade level determines the word limit. See the full list here for rules and requirements. 

  1. NCTE Student Writing Awards

The National Council of Teachers of English presents these writing awards to students, plus Achievement Awards in Writing ( for 11th-grade students), Promising Young Writers ( for 8th-grade students), and a journalism award for both middle and high school students: Recognizing Excellence in Art and Literary Magazines. 

How to Enter: This deadline is from February 15 to July 31. Check the rules for more details. 

  1. Patriot’s Pen Contest

The Veterans of Foreign Affairs gives the award for this contest. At the state level of the contest, each first-place winner gets the lowest limit of $500. While at the national level, the first-place bags $5,000 and a fully sponsored trip to Washington, D.C.     

How to Enter: The essays are 300-400 words in length on any topic given on the website. All entries must be made by October 31. 

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

This contest is quite different. It needs two participants of two generations. Either a student/teacher, student/parents, or a student with an adult. The categories include poetry and essays with optional photographic elements. The topics are usually connected to nature.     

How to Enter: The deadline is November 6. 

  1. PTA Reflection’s Contest

The National PTA presents offers of various awards, including one for literature, in their yearly Reflection Contest. Students of all age brackets can turn in entries on the chosen topics to their local PTA Reflections program. Winners proceed from the local areas to state and national levels. The National level awards include an $800 award and, of course, a trip to the National PTA Conference.     

How to Enter: This event requires submitting to PTAs participating in the program. Check your school’s PTA for their respective deadlines. 

  1. GPS Writing Contest for Scifi and More

This is an exciting contest for fictional writing. All entries must be within science fiction, fantasy, poetry, short fiction, or comics. Categories are set according to topic and age, and the award valuations are up to $100.    

How to Enter: All entries may be in printed format and mailed in by the timeline in January. 

  1. World Historian Student Essay Competition

This international essay competition is open to students in grades K-12 in public, private, or parochial schools and those in home-study programs. The prize, $500, is based on an essay that examines the issue: In what way has the study of the world of history affected my understanding of the world I live in?

How to Enter: Submit all entries before May 1.      

If you let your students start a blog, start a video channel, start a podcast or take part in a writing contest, setting them on the right stage with the needed audience is always a highly influenced classroom choice.

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