Teen Contests

Listed by month. Deadlines may change.


The Writing Conference, Inc.

The Writing Conference, Inc., sponsors writing a contest for elementary, middle and high school students. Students may submit a poem, a short story, or an essay. Only one piece of writing per student may be submitted. Winners will be published in The Writers’ Slate. On hiatus during the 2019-2020 school year.

New York Times Connections Contest

The New York Times invites middle and high school students to submit short essays that make connections between academic content (“a work of literature, an event in history, a concept in civics, a phenomenon in science or something else entirely”) and something (“any article, Op-Ed, image, video, graphic or podcast, or anything else you like”) recently published in the NYT. Deadline: January 14, 2020.

Young Romantics Prize

The Keats-Shelley Memorial Association invites writers ages 16–18 to submit poetry and essays to the Young Romantics Prize. Poems must address the theme “Songbird”; essays must respond to the question, “How can the poetry of PB Shelley and/or John Keats help us in our current climate crisis?” Deadline: January 14, 2020.

Storytellers of Tomorrow Contest

The Ringling College of Art and Design Creative Writing Program invites all high-school age students to submit unpublished, original English-language stories of up to 2,000 words in length for the 5th Annual “Storytellers of Tomorrow” Contest. Students may submit in three categories: literary stories (fiction, flash fiction), genre stories (horror, fantasy, mystery, science fiction, thriller), and creative nonfiction stories (autobiographical essays, personal essay, travel writing, nature writing, science writing, biography). Deadline: January 15, 2020.

John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest for grades 9-12 challenges students to write an original, creative essay of 700 – 1,000 words that describes and analyzes an act of political courage by a U.S. elected official who served during or after 1917. The first place winner and their nominating teacher will be invited to receive awards at the annual Profile in Courage Award ceremony held each May at the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. Deadline: January 17, 2020.

Young Playwrights Competition

The Young Playwrights Competition, sponsored by the Theater Project, is open to high school students in New Jersey. Submit an original script, 10-20 pages, in a play format. Deadline: January 24, 2020.


Worldwide Plays Festival Competition

Writopia Lab invites playwrights in grades 1 through 12 around the world to submit their plays to the Worldwide Plays Festival Competition. All plays will be read by working theater professionals. Winning playwrights receive scholarship awards and will have their work produced at an off-Broadway theater by New York City theater professionals. Deadline: February 1, 2020.

Davidson Fellow Scholarship in Literature

The Davidson Institute awards $50,000, $25,000 and $10,000 scholarships to extraordinary young people, 18 and younger, who have completed a significant piece of work. Submit a 60-75 page portfolio including 3 of these 4 genres: poetry, fiction, nonfiction and dramatic script; plus a table of contents, 2 application essays, 2 letters of recommendation from teachers familiar with your work, and a 10 minute video of you explaining your artistic vision. Deadline: February 12, 2020.

NCTE Achievement Awards in Writing

The NCTE Achievement Awards are open to high school juniors. Schools must select students to nominate for the awards. Entry requires two pieces of writing in any genre, one representing a student’s best work and the other responding to a theme. Deadline: February 15, 2020.

New York Times STEM-Writing Contest

Details TBA. Deadline: February 25, 2020.


Princeton University Ten-Minute Play Contest

Princeton University invites students in the eleventh grade to submit a short play (up to 10 pages) to the Ten-Minute Play Contest. Each year the jury consists of members of the Princeton University Program in Theater faculty. Deadline: March 31, 2020.

Sejong Writing Competitions

The Sejong Cultural Society organizes annual poetry and essay contests to introduce writers to Korean culture, history, and literature. The contests are open to writers under 30, with separate categories for middle and high school students. Essay submissions must respond to the provided prompt. Deadline: March 31, 2020.


New York Times Student Editorial Contest

The New York Times invites middle and high school students to submit short, evidence-based persuasive essays to their annual Student Editorial Contest. Submissions can be on any subject but must cite articles from the NYT and other publications. Deadline: April 1, 2020.


YouthPLAYS New Voices One-Act Competition for Young Playwrights

YouthPLAYS invites young playwrights 19 years old or younger to submit plays to their New Voices One-Act Competition. Plays may be any genre but must be suitable for school production and feature one or more youth characters in prominent, age-appropriate roles. Deadline: May 1, 2020.

New York Times Blackout Poetry Contest

The New York Times invites teen poets to submit blackout poetry, made from the pages of the NYT, to their annual Spring Poetry Contest. See website for examples and instructions. Deadline: May 9, 2019.

New York Times Student Podcast Contest

The New York Times invites middle and high school students to submit a short (under 5 minutes) podcast to their annual Student Podcast Contest. See website for past examples and instructions. Deadline: May 12, 2020.

Peace Islands Institute Essay Contest

New Jersey middle and high school students may submit an essay (an informative essay, a narrative story, or a true story) on the topic of saving the Earth’s natural resources to Peace Islands Institute’s Essay Contest. Deadline: May 31, 2019.


Writing for Peace

Writing for Peace challenges young writers (ages 13-19) to expand their empathy skills by researching an unfamiliar culture and writing from the point-of-view of a character within that new world, while exploring social, political, and environmental pressures and universal themes. Writers may submit in poetry, fiction or nonfiction. Deadline: June 1, 2020.

Gandhi Award

The Association of Indians in America – South Jersey Chapter runs an annual “Mahatma Gandhi Peace and Harmony” contest for high school and middle school students. The award recognizes New Jersey students that can best express a message of racial and religious harmony using their preferred medium of expression: essay, poetry, artwork or song. Deadline: June 15, 2020.

International Essay Contest for Young People

The Goi Peace Foundation organizes an annual essay contest for young writers under 25. The contest aims to “harness the energy, creativity and initiative of the world’s youth in promoting a culture of peace and sustainable development. It also aims to inspire society to learn from the young minds and to think about how each of us can make a difference in the world.” Deadline: June 15, 2020.

Ocean Awareness Contest

The Ocean Awareness Contest, sponsored by Bow Seat, invites submissions from students ages 11–18 in the categories of poetry, prose (fiction, personal narrative, journalistic writing, script, etc.), music, film, visual art, and multimedia. Cash prizes and scholarships from $100 to $1,500 will be awarded. This year’s theme is “Climate Hope: Transforming Crisis.” Deadline: June 15, 2020.


The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award

The Foyle Young Poets Award is open to submission of poetry by anyone ages 11–17. Prizes include membership of The Poetry Society and a week-long intensive residential course. Deadline: July 31, 2020.


National YoungArts Awards

Students ages 15–18 or in grades 10–12 may submit to the National YoungArts Awards in Writing (nonfiction, novel, play/script, poetry, short story or spoken word) for a chance to win exclusive eligibility for recognition as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts; the chance to attend master classes with world-renowned artists; access to scholarships, career opportunities, and professional contacts; and up to $10,000. Deadline: October 11, 2019.

New York Times Personal Narrative Essay Contest for Students

The New York Times invites teenagers to submit personal narrative essays that “tell a meaningful and interesting story” to their contest. Essays must be under 600 words in length. Deadline: October 29, 2019.

Nancy Thorpe Poetry Contest

Hollins University’s Nancy Thorpe Poetry Contest invites submissions of poetry by female high school students. Prizes include cash, scholarships, and free tuition and housing for the university’s summer creative writing program. Deadline: October 31, 2019.


Bennington Young Writers Awards

The Bennington Young Writers Awards invites students in the 10th, 11th, or 12th grade to submit their original writing for the Bennington Young Writers Competition. First-place winners in each category are awarded a prize of $500; second-place winners receive $250. Students submit one of the following: poetry (a group of three poems), fiction (a short story or one-act play), nonfiction (a personal or academic essay). Deadline: November 1, 2019.

Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize

The Leonard L. Milberg Poetry Prize, run by Princeton University, is open to students in the eleventh grade during the current academic year. Applicants may submit up to three poems. Deadline: November 30, 2019.

Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers

The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers recognizes outstanding poetry by young writers 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. In addition, the winning poem and the poems of the two runners-up will be published in the Kenyon Review, one of the country’s most widely read literary magazines. Deadline: November 30, 2020.


River of Words Contest

Every year, in affiliation with the Center for Environmental Literacy, River of Words sponsors a free international poetry and art contest for grades K-12 on the theme of the environment. Specialty prizes include the Shasta Bioregion Prize for an entry honoring a Northern California watershed; the Monkey’s Raincoat Prize for a short poem in the tradition of the Japanese haiku; and the One Square Block Prize, awarded to poems that examine city-scapes and the interaction between the manmade and the natural world. Deadline: December 1, 2019.

NJCTE High School Writing Contest

The New Jersey Council of Teachers of English invites New Jersey students in grades 9-12 to participate in its annual Writing Contest. Categories include poetry (one poem, 50 line max), short story (up to 5 pages) and personal essay (up to 5 pages). Personal essays must respond to a prompt. This year’s theme is “Hindsight.” Poetry and fiction have no required theme. Submissions must be sponsored by a teacher. Teachers may sponsor up to 10 students. Email Flannery James to be sponsored on a first come, first served basis. Deadline: December 6, 2019.

New York Times Student Review Contest

The New York Times invites middle and high school students to submit original reviews of books, music, movies, theater, TV shows, fashion, architecture, dance, art, restaurants, comedy, hotels, technology, and video games to their annual Student Review Contest. Deadline: December 10, 2019.

Scholastic Writing Awards

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards accepts submissions from students in grades 7-12. Students can earn opportunities for recognition, exhibition, publication and scholarships. Works designated as Gold Keys on the regional level are forwarded for national-level review where they can earn Silver Medals and Gold Medals. Categories include critical essay, dramatic script, flash fiction, humor, journalism, novel writing, personal essay/memoir, poetry, science fiction/fantasy, short story and writing portfolio (graduating seniors only). Deadline: December 12, 2019.

VSA Playwright Discovery Competition

The Playwright Discovery Program invites young writers with disabilities in grades 6–12 to submit their writing in the form of scripts, videos, screenplays, musical theater works, or other performance works. Writers are encouraged to craft short (10 minute) works from their own experiences and observations in the style of realism, through the creation of fictional characters and settings, or writing metaphorically or abstractly about any topic, including the disability experience. Deadline: December 18, 2019.

Rider University High School Writing Contest

High school students may submit a personal essay, a short story, and a poem to Rider University’s Annual High School Writing Contest. Prose may be up to 5 pages; poetry may be up to 50 lines. Deadline: December 20, 2019.

Student Poetry Award

The Poetry Society of America presents the Student Poetry Award to the best poetry by a high school student from the United States. Students may submit one unpublished poem. Deadline: December 23, 2019.


New York Times Summer Reading Contest

The New York Times invites middle and high school students to submit their responses every Friday during the contest period to the questions “What interested you most in The Times this week? Why?” Winners will be published weekly. Contest dates: June 12–August 21, 2020.