11 Writing Contests for High School Students with Cash Awards

Monday, November 27, 2023
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:

  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 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.