How Writing Contests Can Boost Your College Admissions Chances

Thursday, April 11, 2024
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If you’re a high school student preparing for college applications, you’ve probably heard more than enough about grades, extracurriculars, and test scores. But how else can you boost your chances? One often overlooked option is writing contests. These can showcase your creativity and talent, demonstrate dedication and passion for writing, and may even help you pay for school. National Society of High School Scholars is always looking for ways to help you grow and find more resources – so read on to learn why we love writing contests!

Benefits of Writing Contests for College Applicants

Participating in writing contests can help with your college admissions journey in several ways. One important way is that it allows you to stand out from the competition, which is important, with thousands of applications flooding colleges each year. Winning or even being recognized in a writing contest can make your application memorable and move you to the top of an admissions officer’s pile.

Colleges are interested in your grades and extracurricular activities and accomplishments, and writing contests can provide a platform to showcase your skills and talent. When participating in writing contests, you can demonstrate your creativity, critical thinking, and ability to express yourself effectively.

Writing contests can help you develop your writing skills in the longer term. The more you practice and receive feedback on your writing, the better you become. Writing contests often come with judges who are experienced writers or literary professionals. Their feedback and critique can be invaluable in honing your writing abilities, which will benefit your college admissions essay and serve you well throughout your academic career.

Finding the Best Writing Contests For You

If you think that the benefits of writing contests are worth pursuing, the next step is to find the best contests to participate in. Here are some tips to help you in your search:

  • Start by researching reputable writing contests for high school students and college admissions. Look for contests that have a track record of success with college admissions.

  • Use online resources dedicated to listing writing contests. Websites like The College Board and Submittable offer comprehensive databases of writing contests categorized by age, genre, and deadline. You can also find a list from us here!

  • Don't overlook local and regional writing contests. These contests may have fewer participants, increasing your chances of winning or being recognized. Check with your school, library, or community organizations for any upcoming contests they may know about.

Remember, it's important to read the rules and guidelines of each contest carefully to ensure your entry meets the requirements. Pay attention to submission deadlines, word limits, and any specific themes or prompts so that you can do your best.

Tips For Crafting a Winning Entry

student writing in a notebook

Crafting a winning entry for writing contests requires careful thought and preparation. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Understand the contest's criteria: Familiarize yourself with the judging criteria. Is the contest looking for creativity, originality, or technical skill? Tailor your writing accordingly.

  • Choose a captivating topic: Select a topic that interests you and is relevant to the contest's theme or prompt. Make sure you can write about it passionately and from a unique perspective.

  • Plan and outline your writing: Before diving into your entry, create an outline to organize your thoughts. This will help you maintain a logical flow and ensure you cover all the necessary points.

  • Edit and revise: Don't submit your first draft. Take the time to revise and edit your work for clarity, coherence, and grammar errors. You can also seek feedback from teachers, mentors, or fellow writers to improve further.

  • Stay true to your voice: Don't lose your unique voice in the process. Write authentically, showcasing your personal style and perspective.

These tips can help you increase your chances of catching the judges' attention and winning. They’re also great tips for your college admission essays!

Turning Contest Wins Into College Acceptances

Winning a writing contest is worth celebrating, but it can also be a valuable asset for your college applications.

Most importantly, when filling out your college applications, you can mention your writing contest wins in the extracurricular activity section. Provide details such as the contest name, your placement or recognition, and a brief description of your winning entry. If your writing contest win has significantly impacted your personal growth or influenced your aspirations, you can also mention it in your personal statement. Reflect on how the win shaped you as a writer and individual and how it relates to your college goals.

If the colleges you apply to allow you to submit writing samples as part of your application, this is also a great way to showcase your wins – or even pieces that don’t win. If the contest entry aligns with the college's requirements, consider including it as a writing sample to showcase your skills and accomplishments.

When the writing contest involves working closely with a mentor or teacher, you should consider requesting a recommendation letter from them. A letter highlighting your talent, dedication, and success in the contest can strengthen your college application and stand out from more traditional letters of recommendation.

Writing Contest Scholarships and Opportunities

Besides boosting college admissions, writing contests also offer scholarships and unique opportunities for aspiring writers. Many contests provide cash prizes that can be used to fund your college education or other goals. Winning a prestigious writing contest can open doors to publishing opportunities, mentorship programs, and even internships with renowned literary organizations.

Some notable writing contests that offer scholarships and opportunities include the Scholastic Writing Contest, which awards cash prizes and publication opportunities, and the YoungArts Foundation, which provides scholarships, masterclasses, and mentorship by industry professionals.

If you have a passion for writing and dream of pursuing it further, participating in writing contests can not only help you financially but also provide invaluable experiences and connections that can shape your writing career.

Taking the Next Step with Writing Contests

Writing contests can elevate your college admissions chances by showcasing your skills, creativity, and dedication to the written word. By participating in these contests and showcasing your wins, you can stand out from the competition and increase your likelihood of getting into your dream college. So don't hesitate to explore the world of writing contests, unleash your creativity, and pave the way to a successful college admissions journey.