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  • Alisha Mashruwala Daswani

English & Creative Writing Competitions for High School Students

Updated: Apr 19

Writing is an essential skill that plays a crucial role in students' academic and professional success. Writing contests are a great way to focus on a topic that excites you, organize your thoughts, showcase your research and creativity, join a community, and gain recognition.  Essays exercise your communication and critical thinking skills, and a student’s essay reveals much about their confidence, brain power, social skills, and commitment. There’s a reason why universities require personal statements. However, with so many writing competitions available, it can be challenging for students to know which ones are worth entering. Here is a list of prestigious writing competitions that offer high school students the chance to showcase their talent, and exercise their creativity through writing.

  1. National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

Focus: The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is one of the most prestigious art and writing competitions for middle and high school students. High school students can submit creative works across 28 different categories, including short stories, personal essays, poetry, and screenplays. The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards recognize students both locally and nationally with awards, exhibitions, publications, and scholarships. National Medalists are eligible to win scholarships up to $12,500. 

Eligibility: Grade 7-12 students

Deadline: December-January

2. National Council of Teachers of English Essay Competition

Focus: The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) hosts the annual Achievement Awards in Writing, recognizing high school sophomores and juniors for the best student writing. Students can submit a personal narrative, fictional story, informative or persuasive essay, series of poems, photo essay, or graphic novel/narrative.

Eligibility: Grade 10 and 11 students

Deadline: February 15

3. Princeton University Contests

Focus: Princeton University hosts two contests for high school juniors. One is a poetry contest judged by members of the Princeton University Creative Writing faculty. The other is a Ten-Minute Play Contest judged by members of the Princeton University Program in Theater faculty. Each contest has a first-place prize of $500, second-place prize of $250, and third-place prize of $100.

Eligibility: Grade 11 students

Deadline: Poetry - Late November

      Play - April 1

4. Bennington Young Writers Awards

Focus: Bennington College has an impressive history of literary alumni, including three U.S. poet laureates, twelve Pulitzer Prize winners, four MacArthur Geniuses, two of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people, and countless New York Times bestsellers. The Young Writers Awards were created to continue this legacy, promote writing excellence, and recognize talented high school writers. High school students are encouraged to submit to poetry, fiction, and nonfiction categories.

Eligibility: Grades 9-12 students

Deadline: November 1

5. Jane Austen Society Essay Contest

Focus: The Jane Austen Society Essay Contest is an annual competition that invites high school and college students to submit their essays on Jane Austen's novels and their impact on literature and society. The contest is organized by the Jane Austen Society of North America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study and appreciation of Jane Austen's works. The contest is open to students from all over the world, and the winners receive cash prizes and a one-year membership in the Jane Austen Society. The contest aims to encourage young writers to engage with Austen's timeless themes and to inspire the next generation of Austen scholars and enthusiasts.

Eligibility: Grades 9-12 students

Deadline: June 1

6. John Locke Essay Competition

Focus: This contest gives you a chance to refine your skills in argumentation (e.g., independent insights, depth of knowledge, clear reasoning, critical analysis, and rhetoric) and have your work assessed by experts. You can choose from 1 of 3 challenging questions posed in 7 different categories (Philosophy, Politics, Economics, History, Psychology, Theology, and Law) in the form of a 2,000-word (max) essay. There’s also a junior category for students who are under age 15 (i.e., 14 or younger).

Eligibility: Senior category - Ages 15-17

       Junior category - Ages 14 and under

Deadline: June 30

7. Immerse Education Essay Competition

Focus: The Immerse Education Essay Competition allows students to submit essay responses to a question of their choice relating to a subject of interest. There are over twenty questions to choose from. 10 winners will receive a 100% scholarship to study at a world-leading university of their choosing. Outstanding runners-up also receive partial scholarships.

Eligibility: Students aged 13-18

Deadline: September 12th

8. Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose

Focus: You can give up to 3 writings at a time, with a 9,000-word limit across the pieces. For poetry, you can submit 6 at a time, with no word count limit. Winning entries will be featured in the Adroit Journal. And their authors will receive a cash prize of $200.

Eligibility: Grades 9-12 students

Deadline: May 1

9. NSHSS Creative Writing Scholarship

Focus: Awards will be presented to students with the top submissions in the two categories below:

  • Poetry: Students may submit their original poetry in any style, from formal verse to free verse to experimental. The poem should be formatted as you wish it to appear in publication.

  • Fiction: Students may submit a piece of short fiction, which must be no more than 5,000 words and should not be single-spaced. The entry may be any genre of the student’s choice, including graphic novel or story.

Eligibility: Grades 9-12 students

Deadline: September 12th

10. Ayn Rand Essay Competition

Focus: These contests encourage students to seriously engage with Rand’s ideas through reflection on her profound and influential novels. Students who participate will need to read the book they have selected carefully, grapple with its complex themes, and push the boundaries of their writing ability. By doing so, we hope students will better appreciate Rand’s literary works and develop a curiosity for the philosophy underlying them.

Eligibility: Grades 6-12 students

Deadline: End May-Mid June depending on the book chosen

11. World Historian Student Essay Competition

Focus: The World Historian Student Essay Competition is an annual writing competition for high school students around the world. The contest is organized by the World History Association, an organization dedicated to promoting the study of world history. Participants are asked to submit an essay on a given topic related to world history, and the winners are selected based on the quality of their writing and their historical analysis. The competition aims to encourage students to think critically about historical events and their impact on the world today. The winners receive a cash prize, and a certificate of recognition, and their essays are published on the World History Association's website. The competition provides young writers with an opportunity to showcase their research and writing skills while also promoting the importance of studying world history.

Eligibility: Grade K-12 students

Deadline: May 1

To understand which of these programs is ideal for you, speak to your mentors at OnCourse who will be able to make the most effective recommendations while keeping in mind your interests, your current academic standing, and your resume. If you are not enrolled with OnCourse, reach out to set up a consultation meeting to understand more about our mentoring programs for students from Grade 8 to Grade 12.

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