11 Writing Contests for High School Students with Cash Awards

Friday, February 12, 2021
Writing Contests For High School Students With Cash Awards

Calling all high school student writers! If you’re looking for scholarships or ways to fund your future education, look no further than writing contests. 

If you are a talented 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 contests, both niche and general, by searching online.

1. Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards celebrate art created by students age 13 and older in grades 7 through 12 on both a regional and national scale. You can submit in a huge variety of categories and styles, and you can enter awards that have cash prizes or scholarships.

Categories include science fiction and fantasy writing, critical essays, humor, dramatic scripts, and more.

Prizes vary as well. Gold medal portfolio winners can earn a $10,000 scholarship, and silver medal winners with distinction can earn a $1,000 scholarship, and there are more options for various categories. Fees to apply also vary by region, but the fee 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 find out when projects are due for your specific area.

2. Young Lions Fiction Award

To apply for this award, sponsored by the New York Public Library, any writer age 35 or younger may submit a novel or collection of short stories.

Each year, a reading committee of Young Lions members, writers, editors, and librarians select five finalists, and a panel of judges selects 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 it’s free to apply.

3. Ocean Awareness Contest

Students ages 11 through 18 from around the world are invited to participate in the Ocean Awareness Contest by submitting work in the form of visual art, creative writing, film, interactive and multimedia, performing arts, and poetry and spoken word.

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

The 2021 theme is WATER RISING, and students can choose from five different prompts to which they will respond through their choice of submission.

4. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose

Each year, the Adroit Prizes awards  two students who must be in high school or studying at the undergraduate level. 

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 works 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 may submit entries to both 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 each year.

5. NSHSS Creative Writing Scholarship

High school students of all ages are eligible for this creative writing scholarship, sponsored by the National Society of High School Scholars. Students can submit work (that has not been previously published) in one or both categories: poetry and fiction. 

In the poetry category, students may submit their original poetry in any style, from formal verse to free verse and experiment. 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, no more than 5,000 words and not single-spaced. The student may choose any genre, including graphic novel or short story.

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

Though the submissions are closed for the 2020 scholarship, the 2021 scholarship applications will be open, likely sometime in the spring of 2021.

6. YoungArts Competition

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

There is a $35 application fee, but it can be waived.

Winners of the YoungArts Competition receive financial awards up to $10,000, creative and professional development experiences with renowned guest artists, and eligibility for a nomination as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the arts. 

The application for the 2021 competition is closed, but the 2022 YoungArts application will open in the summer of 2021. By visiting the website, you can sign up for application news and updates.

7. The American Foreign Services Association Essay Contest

US students grade 9 through 12, as well as students in the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, or US 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. The essay must be between 1,000 and 1,250 words and answer three questions about US foreign policy and national security.

The winner will receive a $2,500 cash prize as well as 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.

The deadline to apply is April 5, 2021, and there’s no application fee.

8. The Lewis Center Ten-Minute Play Contest

Students in the eleventh grade (or international equivalent) are eligible for this annual playwriting contest. Each year, the jury consists of members of 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 $250, and third prize $100.

Entries for the 2021 prize are due by March 31, 2021 at 11:59 pm EST.

9. We the Students Essay Contest

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

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

One national winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize and a scholarship to Constitutional Academy. 6 runners-up will receive $1,250 each, and eight honorable mentions will receive $500 each. 

The deadline to enter is April 15, 2021 at 11:59 pm PST.

10. Young Writers Awards

To promote excellence in writing at the high school level, Bennington College invites submissions from students in grades 9 through 12 for this annual award.

Students may submit work in three different categories:

  1. Poetry: a group of three poems
  2. Fiction: a short story (1,500 words or fewer) or a one-act play (no more than 30 minutes of playing time)
  3. 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 are awarded $500, second place $250, and third place $125.

There is no fee to enter this competition, which typically runs from September 3 to November 1 each year, with winners posted on the website in mid-April.

11. YouthPLAYS

Students under the age of 19 may submit a one-act, non-musical play of at least ten pages for consideration. The play submitted 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.

The deadline to apply is May 1, 2021.