The Big List of Student Writing Contests for 2022-2023

When students write for teachers, it can feel like an assignment. When they write for a real purpose, they are empowered! Student writing contests are an easy and inspiring way to try writing for an authentic audience—a real panel of judges—and the possibility of prize money or other incentives. We’ve gathered a list of student writing contests below. From poetry to plays, essays to science fiction, there is something for everyone. See if any of them suit your curriculum, and get prepared to see some motivated students!

With a wide range of categories—from critical essays to science fiction and fantasy—you’ll find something for nearly every student. Each category has its own rules and word counts, so be sure to check out the options before you decide which one is best for your students.

How to Enter

Students in grades 7-12, ages 13 and up, may begin submitting work in September by uploading to an online account at Scholastic. There are entry fees, but those can be waived for students in need.

This ends soon, but if you have students who are ready to submit, it’s worth it. YoungArts offers a national competition in the categories of creative nonfiction, novel, play or script, poetry, short story, and spoken word. Student winners may receive awards of up to $10,000 as well as the opportunity to participate in artistic development with leaders in their fields.

How to Enter

YoungArts accepts submissions in each category through October 14. Students submit their work online and pay a $35 fee (there is a fee waiver option).

If you’re looking to help students take a deep dive into international relations, history, and writing, look no further than this essay contest. Winners receive full tuition to the Semester at Sea program as well as a trip to Washington, DC, to meet with a leader at the Department of State.

How to Enter

A new prompt is published each September. The deadline to enter is the first week of April.

This annual contest invites students to write about a political official’s act of political courage that occurred after Kennedy’s birth. The winner receives $10,000 as well as a trip to Boston to accept the award.

How to Enter

Students must submit 700-to-1,000-word essays between September and January. The essays must feature more than five sources and a full bibliography.

Bennington College offers competitions in three categories: poetry (a group of three poems), fiction (a short story or one-act play), and nonfiction (a personal or academic essay). First-place winners receive $500. Grab a poster for your classroom here.

How to Enter

The contest runs from September 1 to November 1, so stay tuned to the website for information about how to submit entries.

Looking for student writing contests for budding playwrights? In this competition, judged by the theater faculty of Princeton University, students submit short plays in an effort to win recognition and cash prizes of up to $500. (Note: Only open to 11th graders.)

How to Enter

Eleventh-grade students submit one 10-page play script online or by mail. The deadline is the end of March. Contest details will be published this fall.

The Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize recognizes outstanding work by student writers in 11th grade. Prizes range from $100 to $500.

How to Enter

Students in 11th grade can submit their poetry. Contest details will be published this fall.

The deadline for this contest is the end of October! Sponsored by Hollins University, the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest awards prizes for the best poems submitted by young women who are sophomores or juniors at high school or preparatory school. Prizes include cash and scholarships. Winners are chosen by students and faculty members in the creative writing program at Hollins.

How to Enter

Students may submit either one or two poems.

The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers is open to high school sophomores and juniors, and the winner receives a full scholarship to a Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop.

How to Enter

Submissions for the prize are accepted electronically from November 1 through November 30.

High school students can win up to $1,000 by entering an essay on a specified topic related to Jane Austen novels.

How to Enter

Details for the 2023 contest will be announced in November. Essay length is from six to eight pages, not including works cited.

Open to students between 15 and 18 who are interested in publication and exposure over monetary awards. Submissions can come through teachers or directly from students.

How to Enter

Submit up to four poems electronically. The deadline is November 15.

This is a chance for new and emerging writers to gain publication in their own professionally published chapbook.

How to Enter

There is a $17 entry fee, and submissions are made online.

For students under 18, the YouthPlays one-act competition is designed for young writers to create new works for the stage. Winners receive cash awards and publication.

How to Enter

Non-musical plays between 10 and 40 minutes long can be submitted electronically. The website has more details about guidelines.

This unique competition invites students to use their creativity to make a difference for our planet. As the creators share on their website, “Our contest is a call for young artists, conservationists, makers, thinkers, and publishers who are concerned about the future of our blue planet.” Students are eligible for a wide range of monetary prizes.

How to Enter

Students may submit work in the categories of art, creative writing, poetry and spoken word, film, interactive and multi-media, or music and dance, accompanied by a reflection. The deadline is June 13.

Each year, EngineerGirl sponsors an essay contest with topics centered on the impact of engineering on the world, and students can win up to $500 in prize money. This contest is a nice bridge between ELA and STEM and great for teachers interested in incorporating an interdisciplinary project into their curriculum. The new contest asks for pieces that show how female and/or non-white engineers have contributed to or can enhance engineering’s great achievements. Check out the educator’s page for more information about how to support this contest at your school.

How to Enter

Students submit their work electronically. Check out the full list of rules and requirements here.

The National Council of Teachers of English offers several student writing awards, including Achievement Awards in Writing (for 10th- and 11th-grade students), Promising Young Writers (for 8th-grade students), and an award to recognize Excellence in Art and Literary Magazines.

How to Enter

Deadlines range from February 15 to July 31. Check out the rules for more details.

Children of incarcerated parents can submit artwork, poetry, photos, videos, and more. Submissions are free and the website has a great collection of past winners.

How to Enter

Students can submit their entries via social media or email by October 23.

The Adroit Journal, an education-minded nonprofit publication, awards annual prizes for poetry and prose to exceptional high school and college students. Adroit charges an entry fee but also provides a form for financial assistance.

How to Enter

Sign up at the website for updates for the next round of submissions.

The National PTA offers a variety of awards, including one for literature, in their annual Reflections Contest. Students of all ages can submit entries on the specified topic to their local PTA Reflections program. From there, winners move to the local area, state, and national levels. National-level awards include an $800 prize and a trip to the National PTA Convention.

How to Enter

This program requires submitting to PTAs who participate in the program. Check your school’s PTA for their deadlines.

The World Historian Student Essay Competition is an international competition open to students enrolled in grades K–12 in public, private, and parochial schools, and those in home-study programs. The $500 prize is based on an essay that addresses the issue: In what way has the study of world history affected my understanding of the world in which I live?

How to Enter

Students can submit entries before May 1.

The National Society of High School Scholars awards three $2,000 scholarships for both poetry and fiction. They accept poetry, short stories, and graphic novel writing.

How to Enter

Apply online by October 31.

Whether you let your students blog, start a podcast or video channel, or enter student writing contests, giving them an authentic audience for their work is always a powerful classroom choice.

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