Essay Contests For Middle School

In a world where J.K. Rowling’s manuscript of “Harry Potter” was rejected 12 times and Kathryn Stockett’s manuscript of “The Help” was rejected 60 times, it can be easy to become despondent about publishing your fiction, even more so for teenage writers aching to voice their thoughts to the world.

However, there’s an abundance of writing competitions year round for teens and writing contests for high school students  — you just need to know where to look. 

Here, I compiled a list of 33 writing contests for teens. Genres include: fiction, poetry, nonfiction, screenplays, and plays.

Some of these contests may sound like the competition is too stiff, especially if the organization receives thousands of submissions every year. But speaking from personal experience, you never know unless you try. Rejections will pile up for young authors, but so will acceptances accompanied by whoops and fist pumps.

Additionally, the experiences offered by certain teen contests such as working with professionals, revisiting your work, and perhaps even seeing it come to life either in a publication or on stage is indescribably rewarding and gratifying. 

So, young writers, submit on!

1. Ocean Awareness Student Contest

The theme is “Making Meaning out of Ocean Pollution,” and it challenges you to research, explore, interpret, and say something meaningful about the connections between human activities and the health of our oceans. Prizes range from $100-$1,500.

Grades: Middle school – High school

Deadline: June

2. Rattle Young Poets Anthology

This is an anthology to look back on the past and view your younger work with pride. The author of the poem must have been age 15 or younger when the poem was written, and 18 or younger when submitted.

Ages: 18 or younger

Number of submissions: “Thousands” are submitted, 50 are chosen.

Deadline: June

 

3. Inkitt Novel Contest

If you have a novel over 20,000 words, submit it to this contest where a community of readers will read your story. The more they love it, the better chance you have of winning a publishing deal.

Think of it as American Idol for your novel.

Plus, all published authors with Inkitt receive these great perks:

  • $6,000+ invested into your book launch
  • 25% royalties on every copy sold
  • Cover design and professional editing
  • Publicity on Amazon (over 90% of their books become bestsellers right after launching)

This is a fantastic contest that can get you a ton of exposure and even result in a book deal. Read the reviews on their website and submit today. It’s free and easy to upload your manuscript and have readers start reading your work immediately.

4. Hypernova Lit

Any and all types of writing are welcome. Long short stories, short short stories, prose poetry, traditional poetry, blackout poetry, creative accounts of your life and experiences, essays about yourself, essays about what you love, plays, scripts, letters, lists, rants, lyrics, journal writing.

Ages: All

Deadline: Open Year-round

 

5. Princeton University Poetry Contest for High School Students 

The Princeton University Poetry Contest recognizes outstanding work by student writers in the 11th grade. Prizes: First Prize – $500, Second Prize – $250, Third Prize – $100.

Grades: 11

Deadline: Fall

6. The Bennington Young Writers Awards

Students in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades enter in one of the following categories: poetry (a group of three poems), fiction (a short story or one-act play), or nonfiction (a personal or academic essay). First-place winners in each category are awarded a prize of $500; second-place winners receive $250.

Grades: 10-12

Deadline: Fall



 

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7. Canvas Literary Journal

Teen literary magazine published quarterly.

Seeking writers ages 13-18 to submit fiction, novel excerpts, poetry, plays, nonfiction, new media, and cross-genre.

Ages: 13-18

Deadline: Fall

 

8. The New Voices One-Act Competition for Young Playwrights

Submit your best one-act play (one per playwright!) to the New Voices competition and you can potentially win cash, software from fabulous sponsors Final Draft and Great Dialogue, and even publication!

Ages: 19 or younger

Submission period: Fall

9. Princeton University 10 Minute Play Contest

Eligibility for this annual playwriting contest is limited to students in the eleventh grade. Prizes: First Prize – $500, Second Prize – $250, Third Prize – $100. The jury consists of members of the Princeton University Program in Theater faculty.

Grades: 11

Deadline: Fall

10. Jet Fuel Review


Through Lewis University, Jet Fuel Review is run entirely by students under the supervision of faculty advisers Dr. Simone Muench and Dr. Jackie White.

Jet Fuel Review is looking for quality in writing, whether it be in poetry, prose, non-fiction, or artwork.

Submission periods: August to October; January to March

 

11. Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

Since 1923, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have recognized the vision, ingenuity, and talent of our nation’s youth. Through the Awards, students receive opportunities for recognition, exhibition, publication, and scholarships. 

Students across America submitted nearly 320,000 original works during our 2016 program year across 29 different categories of art and writing. 

Grades: 7-12

Submissions period: September to December



In this handbook for young writers, “Spilling Ink,” professional authors give advice to teens who want to become authors.

By mixing personal anecdotes with practical advice, this book offers everything a young author will need to create incredible stories.



12. One Teen Story

One Teen Story is an award-winning literary magazine for readers and writers of young adult literature. Subscribers receive one curated and edited work of short fiction each month in the mail or on their digital devices.

Ages: 13-19

Submission period: September to May

13. The Claremont Review

The editors of the Claremont Review publish the best poetry, short stories, short plays, visual art, and photography by young adults. We publish work in many styles that range from traditional to modern. 

We prefer pieces that explore real characters and reveal authentic emotion. 

Ages: 13-19

Submission period: September to April

 

14. Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest

Sponsored by Hollins University, the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest is in its fifty-second year. The contest awards prizes for the best poems submitted by young women who are sophomores or juniors in high school or preparatory school. Prizes up to $5,000 are awarded to winners. Winners are chosen by students and faculty members in the creative writing program at Hollins.

Grades: 11-12

Deadline: October

15.VSA Playwright Discovery Competition

Each year, young writers with and without disabilities, in U.S. grades 6-12 (or equivalents) or ages 11-18 for non-U.S. students, are asked to explore the disability experience through the art of script writing for stage or screen.

Writers may craft scripts from their own experiences and observations, create fictional characters and settings, or choose to write metaphorically or abstractly about the disability experience. Winners in these divisions will receive $500 for arts programs at their schools.

Grades: 6-12 OR Ages: 11-18

Deadline: October

16. YoungArts

The National YoungArts Foundation identifies and nurtures the most accomplished young artists in the visual, literary, design and performing arts and assists them at critical junctures in their educational and professional development. 

Additionally, YoungArts Winners are eligible for nomination as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students who exemplify academic and artistic excellence. 

Ages: 15-18 OR Grades: 10-12

Deadline: October 

17. The Critical Junior Poet’s Award Contest

The Critical Pass Review is now accepting submissions online for its Critical Junior Poet’s Award Contest, an editor’s choice award for exceptional promise in the art of poetry. Applicants between the ages of 13 and 18 can enter for free. The winner will receive a $100 cash prize, a $20 iTunes card, a CD of master poets reading their poetry, publication of his/her winning work in The Critical Pass Review‘s Summer 2016 issue, and more.

Ages: 13-18

Submissions period:November to March



“Leap Write In!” is from acclaimed author Karen Benke, who does a fantastic job helping teen writers to generate ideas for their next story.

This book has an amazing spread of writing prompts, all designed to get your heart on the page and the reader’s heart in their throat. 



18. The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers

The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers recognizes outstanding young poets and is open to high school sophomores and juniors throughout the world. The contest winner receives a full scholarship to the Kenyon Review Young Writers workshop.

Grades: 10-11

Deadline: November

19. Santa Fe University of Arts & Design High School Creative Writing Competition

The Glazner Creative Writing Contest is an opportunity for high school juniors and seniors to compete for a chance at publication in Santa Fe University of Art and Design’s online journal, Jackalope Magazine. To enter, students must submit up to 10 pages of work in any genre to our contest email address (ude.y1521015340tisre1521015340vinue1521015340fatna1521015340s@tse1521015340tnoc1521015340).

Grades: 11-12

Deadline: November to December

20. Young Authors Writing Competition (Columbia College Chicago)

The Young Authors Writing Competition is a national competition for high school writers of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry. It began as a local contest in 1995, and since then has expanded into a national competition that has received tens of thousands of submissions from students across the country. 1st Place: $300, 2nd Place: $150, and 3rd Place: $50.

Grades: 9-12

Submission period: November to January

21. Odyssey Con

The OddContest is an annual competition for speculative (science fiction, fantasy, or horror) stories or prose poems no longer than 500 words. Prizes: $50 to first place; Odyssey Con membership and free books to top 3.

Ages: 18 or younger

Deadline: January

22. Young Playwrights INC.

Selected writers will be invited to New York, expenses paid, for our Young Playwrights Conference to work with some of this country’s most exciting professional theater artists, and to hear their plays read in our Off-Broadway Readings Series.

Ages18 or younger

Deadline: January

23. University of Iowa – Hemingway Festival High School Writing Contest

Accepting Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Poetry, and Essays.

Winners and Finalists will be recognized at the 7th Annual University of Idaho Hemingway Festival, and cash prizes will be awarded in each category. Winners will also be considered for publication in an online University of Idaho publication. There will be one winner and one Finalist in each category with one Overall Grand Prize Winner. Cash prizes up to $500.

Grades: 11-12

Deadline: January

24. Interlochen Review

Interlochen Arts Academy is a high school boarding school and summer camp. It online literary journal accepts submissions from high school students in five categories: Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, Screen/Stageplay and Hybrid form. Up to 6 pieces total.

Grades: 9-12

Submissions Period: February to March

25. Aerie International Journal

Aerie International was born of a desire to offer outstanding young writers and artists an opportunity to share, edit, and publish their work internationally. What makes this journal unique is that it is designed, edited and published entirely by high school students. Students whose work is selected received $100 in addition to a copy of the magazine.

Grades: 9-12

Deadline: February 

26. Chapman Art and Writing Holocaust Contest 

Focusing on themes central both to the Holocaust and to ethical decision making in our world today, the contest gives students from public, private and parochial schools the opportunity to share their creative works in response to survivors’ oral testimonies.

Participating schools may submit a total of three entries from three individual students in the following categories: art, film, prose, and/or poetry.

Grades: 9-12

Deadline: February 



“Writing Magic” is for every young author who wants to create a world that magically transports the reader.

She focuses on the core advice every writer needs: how to write beginnings and endings, how to create unforgettable characters, and how to write snappy dialogue that keeps readers laughing and crying.



27. Writopia Lab Worldwide Plays Festival

The festival includes plays written in workshops at Writopia’s labs across the country and plays submitted to our competition from playwrights around the world from playwrights in 1st through 12th grade (ages 6 to 18). Plays are professionally produced in New York.

Grades: 1-12 OR Ages: 6-18

Deadline: February

28. The Blank Theater’s Young Playwrights’ Festival


Since 1993, 12 plays are chosen by a panel of theatre professionals from submissions across America. Winning playwrights are provided careful mentoring and direction from industry professionals to help prepare their work for public performance and hone their skills, talent and confidence. Nowhere else in the nation can young playwrights receive the prize of seeing their vision come to life on stage in a professional production featuring known actors from film, television and theatre. The plays are crafted by seasoned professional directors and each is given several public performances in a month-long Festival.

Ages: 9-19

Deadline: March

29. Austin International Poetry Festival (AIPF)

Each year the Austin International Poetry Festival (AIPF) recognizes youth poets by publishing their work together in a truly diverse anthology. We welcome international poets from kindergarten through high school grade level or age to submit up to three poems.

Grades: K-12

Deadline: March 

30. Winter Tangerine

Winter Tangerine is a literary journal dedicated to the electric. To the salt. The sugar. We want bitter honey, expired sweets. We want catalysts. Accepting submissions of poetry, prose, drama, visual art, and short film.

Ages: All

Submission period: April to October 

 

31. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose

The Adroit Journal, published at the University of Pennsylvania is open to all writers. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose are awarded annually to two students of secondary or undergraduate status whose written work “inspires the masses to believe beyond feeling the work.” In other words, we strive to receive the absolute best work from emerging young writers in high school and college, and the best of the best will receive these two lovely awards.

Grades: 9+

Submission Period: To be announced

 

32. Hanging LooseMagazine

Hanging Loose Magazine is a professional magazine that welcomes high school submissions. Payment plus 2 copies. Send 3 to 6 poems, or 1 to 3 short stories, or an equivalent combination of poetry and prose to High School Editor, Hanging Loose, 231 Wyckoff Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217. Identify yourself as a high school age writer.

Grades: 9-12

Deadline: Open Year-round

 

 

Other Resources:

Poetry Space

An online publishing opportunity for young writers.

www.poetryspace.co.uk/young-writers-space/

 

The New Pages Young Author’s Guide

A resource for young authors to find places to submit their work!

http://newpages.com/npguides/young_authors_guide.htm

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Scholarships for Middle School Students 

Make Me Laugh Scholarship

Sponsor: Unigo

Amount: $1,500

Deadline: August 31, 2017

Description: Scholarship is open to students 13 years of age or older who are legal residents of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia who are currently enrolled (or will enroll no later than the fall of 2023) in an accredited post-secondary institution of higher education. The applicant will need to submit a short response to a given prompt.

Student Transportation Video Contest

Sponsor: American Road & Transportation Builders Association

Amount: $500

Deadline: Opening in Spring 2017

Description: Contest is open to students in elementary school through graduate school. Contestant must submit a video on transportation infrastructure.

We the Future Contest

Sponsor: Constituting America

Amount: Varied based on class standing

Deadline: September 17, 2017

Description: Contest is open to K-12 students, college students, law school students, graduate schools students, adults 25 years of age and older, and seniors 65 years of age and older. Each age group has different requirements, so applicants should visit the website for details.

Shout It Out Scholarship

Sponsor: Unigo

Amount: $1,500

Deadline: September 30, 2017

Description: Scholarship is open to students 13 years of age or older who are legal residents of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia and are currently enrolled (or will enroll no later than the fall of 2022) in an accredited post-secondary institution of higher education. The applicant will need to submit a short response to a given prompt.

Writer’s Square Essay Contest

Sponsor: Hakka Foundation

Amount: Up to $1,000

Deadline: March 31, 2017

Description: Scholarship is open to all enrolled students from 1st grade to college. Applicant must write an essay on how they can make the world a better place.

Save the Frogs! Art Contest

Sponsor: Save the Frogs!

Amount: $100

Deadline: TBA 2017

Description: Contest is open to anyone, regardless of age, with a talent for art. Applicant must submit a cool frog piece of art.

Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award

Sponsor: From the Top

Amount: Up to $10,000

Deadline: March 1, 2017

Description: Award is open to classical instrumentalists, vocalists, and composers between the ages of 8 and 18 who have not yet entered college during the 2016-2017 academic year.

 

Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship

Sponsor: Unigo

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: October 31, 2017

Description: Scholarship is open to students 13 years of age or older who are legal residents of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia who are currently enrolled (or will enroll no later than the fall of 2022) in an accredited post-secondary institution of higher education. The applicant will need to submit a short response to a given prompt.

Patriot’s Pen Competition

Sponsor: Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States

Amount: Up to $30,000

Deadline: TBD 2017

Description: Competition is open to students in grades 9-12. Applicant must submit an essay on the following theme: “My Responsibility to America.”

Education Matters Scholarship

Sponsor: Unigo

Amount: $5,000

Deadline: November 30, 2017

Description: Scholarship is open to students 13 years of age or older who are legal residents of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia who are currently enrolled (or will enroll no later than the fall of 2022) in an accredited post-secondary institution of higher education. The applicant will need to submit a short response to a given prompt.

Americanism Essay Contest

Sponsor: Fleet Reserve Association (FRA)

Amount: TBD 2017

Deadline: December 1, 2016

Description: Contest is open to students in grades seven through 12 (or equivalent). Applicant must be sponsored by a branch of the Fleet Reserve Association or a unit of the Ladies Auxiliary. Applicant must submit an essay on the theme, “What Memorial Day Means to Me.”

Angela Award

Sponsor: National Science Teachers Association

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: December 15, 2016

Description: Award is open to female students in grades 5-8 who are residents of the United States, US Territories, or Canada. Applicant must have a strong passion for STEM.

Rubincam Youth Award

Sponsor: National Genealogical Society

Amount: Up to  $500

Deadline: December 15, 2016

Description: Award is open to students in grades 7 through 12. Applicants must submit a genealogical project.

Apprentice Ecologist Initiative Youth Scholarship Program

Sponsor: Nicodemus Wilderness Project

Amount: Up to $500

Deadline: December 31, 2016

Description: Scholarships are open to students between the ages of 13 and 21 who are candidates for a degree/diploma at a primary (middle school), secondary (high school), or accredited post-secondary educational institution from any country around the world. Applicant must conduct their own environmental stewardship project in 2016.

 

Poetry Card Contest

Sponsor: Blue Mountain Arts

Amount: Up to $300

Deadline: December 31, 2016

Description: Contestant must submit an original poem.

Top Ten List Scholarship

Sponsor: Unigo

Amount: $1,500

Deadline: December 31, 2016

Description: Scholarship is open to students 13 years of age or older who are legal residents of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia who are currently enrolled (or will enroll no later than the fall of 2022) in an accredited post-secondary institution of higher education. The applicant will need to submit a short response to a given prompt.

Unigo Scholarship

Sponsor: Unigo

Amount: $10,000

Deadline: December 31, 2016

Description: Applicant must be at least 13 years of age or older, a legal resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia, and be currently enrolled (or enroll no later than the fall of 2022) in an accredited post-secondary institution of higher education.

Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award

Sponsor: From the Top

Amount: Up to $10,000

Deadline: January 9, 2017

Description: Award is open to classical instrumentalists, vocalists, and composers between the ages of 8 and 18 who have not yet entered college during the 2016-2017 academic year.

TeenLife Summer Promotion

Sponsor: TeenLife

Amount: $500

Deadline: January 25, 2017

Description: Promotion is open to students between the age of 13 and 19 years of age. The student must browse the TeenLife’s “Guide to Overnight Summer Programs” and fill out the interest form to get more information.

Association of Women in Mathematics Essay Contest

Sponsor: Association for Women in Mathematics

Amount: Varies

Deadline: January 31, 2017

Description: Contest is open to students in grades 6 through 12 and undergraduate students. The student must submit an essay based on an interview with women currently working in a mathematical career.

I Have a Dream Scholarship

Sponsor: Unigo

Amount: $1,500

Deadline: January 31, 2017

Description: Applicant must be 13 years of age or older, be a resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia, and be currently enrolled (or enroll no later than the fall of 2023) in an accredited post-secondary institution of higher education. Applicant must submit a short essay (250 words or less) about a dream.

First Catholic Slavak Ladies Association High School Scholarship

Sponsor: First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association (FCSLA)

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: February 23, 2017

Description: Scholarship is open to members in good standing with the Association for at least three years prior to the date of application. Applicant must also have a policy with the organization in his or her own name. Scholarships are open to students in grades 1-12, as well as college and graduate students.

Sweet & Simple Scholarship

Sponsor: Unigo

Amount: $1,500

Deadline: February 28, 2017

Description: Applicant must be 13 years of age or older, be a resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia, and be currently enrolled (or enroll no later than the fall of 2023) in an accredited post-secondary institution of higher education. Applicant must submit a short written response about a gift they received.

Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award

Sponsor: From the Top

Amount: Up to $10,000

Deadline: March 1, 2017

Description: Award is open to classical instrumentalists, vocalists, and composers between the ages of 8 and 18 who have not yet entered college during the 2016-2017 academic year.

NSF Peer Tutoring Scholarship Competition

Sponsor: National Scholar Foundation, Inc.

Amount: Up to $1,000

Deadline: March 1, 2017

Description: Scholarship is open to non-paid student tutors in a middle and high school. Applicant must submit a 500-word essay on a given topic to peer tutoring.

2017 GRHS Youth Essay Contest

Sponsor: Germans from Russia Heritage Society (GRHS)

Amount: Up to $1,000

Deadline: March 31, 2018

Description: Contest is open to students attending public, private, parochial, or home schools, and to students attending accredited universities. Students must submit an essay on a topic related to German-Russian history, heritage or culture. The student does not need to be ethnic German-Russian to enter the contest.

Superpower Scholarships

Sponsor: Unigo

Amount: $2,500

Deadline: March 31, 2017

Description: Scholarship is open to students 13 years of age or older who are legal residents of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia who are currently enrolled (or will enroll no later than the fall of 2023) in an accredited post-secondary institution of higher education. In a short written response, the student must explain which superhero or villain they would want to changes places with for a day and why.

Fifth Month Scholarship

Sponsor: Unigo

Amount: $1,500

Deadline: May 31, 2017

Description: Scholarship is open to students 13 years of age or older who are legal residents of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia who are currently enrolled (or will enroll no later than the fall of 2023) in an accredited post-secondary institution of higher education. The applicant will need to submit a short response to a given prompt.

Do-Over Scholarship

Sponsor: Unigo

Amount: $1,500

Deadline: June 30, 2017

Description: Scholarship is open to students 13 years of age or older who are legal residents of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia and are currently enrolled (or will enroll no later than the fall of 2023) in an accredited post-secondary institution of higher education. The applicant will need to submit a short response to a given prompt.

Flavor of the Month Scholarship

Sponsor: Unigo

Amount: $1,500

Deadline: July 31, 2017

Description: Scholarship is open to students 13 years of age or older who are legal residents of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia who are currently enrolled (or will enroll no later than the fall of 2023) in an accredited post-secondary institution of higher education. The applicant will need to submit a short response to a given prompt.

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