The Ultimate List of Student Writing Contests


Student reviewing essay with essay tutor

No one would argue against the importance of writing. Writing expresses who we are as individuals; writing makes our ideas, thoughts, and memories visible. For students, writing is the primary basis upon which one’s learning and development are assessed, whether it is a book review for an English class, a research brief for a STEM class, or the college admissions essays. Writing is undeniably one of the most important skills any student must master.


Becoming a better writer takes time and practice--you have to keep writing, a lot. There are no shortcuts or secret formulas. While some students may be more talented with writing, writing is first and foremost a skill that can be honed, developed, and perfected. “Keep writing” is easier said than done, however. For the majority of students who are not passionate writers, how can you stay motivated and disciplined to keep writing?


Participate in writing contests! There are many writing contests for students from kindergarten to high school, with different types of awards from medals to cash prizes to scholarships. No matter what the award is, participating in writing contests will push you to stay focused and keep improving. Moreover, the prestige of a respected award will certainly boost your college application profile, giving you an edge in a selection process that is fiercely competitive.


Contrary to conventional belief, you don’t have to be a humanities enthusiast to participate in these writing contests. There is a great variety of topics to choose from: history, supernatural, foreign affairs, STEM, business, and even restaurant reviews! The categories range from poetry to play to academic essay. No matter what your academic interest is or where your writing skills shine, there is a writing contest for you. Below is our carefully curated list of the best student writing contests. Find the ones that fit your interest and skill set and start writing!


Contests of Essays and Reviews


Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

  • Organization: Alliance for Young Artists & Writers

  • Category: 28 categories, including critical essays, journalism, personal essay, among others

  • Subject/topic: Free to choose

  • Award Amount: $1,000 to $10,000

  • Deadline: Varies

  • Eligibility: Grades 7-12 (ages 13 and up)


Wharton Youth Comment & Win Contest

  • Organization: U of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business

  • Category: Review and reflection

  • Subject/topic: Entrepreneurship, economics, leadership, business, finance and careers

  • Award Amount: Recognition from Wharton

  • Deadline: 4 rounds from June to August

  • Eligibility: Grades 9-12


Bennington Young Writers Awards

  • Organization: Bennington College

  • Category: 3 categories, including personal or academic essay, poetry, play

  • Subject/topic: Free to choose

  • Award Amount: $125 to $500

  • Deadline: Usually in November

  • Eligibility: Grades 10-12


The American Foreign Services Association Essay Contest

  • Organization: American Foreign Services Association

  • Category: Essay

  • Subject/topic: International relations and foreign affairs

  • Award Amount: $1,250-$2,500

  • Deadline: Usually April

  • Eligibility: Grades 9-12


John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Contest

  • Organization: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

  • Category: Essay

  • Subject/topic: An act of political courage by a US elected official

  • Award Amount: $100-$10,000

  • Deadline: Usually January

  • Eligibility: Grades 9-12


We the Students Essay Contest

  • Organization: Bill of Rights Institute

  • Category: Essay

  • Subject/topic: Government, democracy, civics, public policy, among others

  • Award Amount: $500-$7,500

  • Deadline: Usually February

  • Eligibility: Ages 14-19


Voice of Democracy Audio-Essay Contest

  • Organization: Veterans of Foreign Wars

  • Category: Audio essay

  • Subject/topic: Democracy and patriotism

  • Award Amount: $1,000-$30,000

  • Deadline: Usually October

  • Eligibility: Grades 9-12


Patriot’s Pen Essay Contest

  • Organization: Veterans of Foreign Wars

  • Category: Essay

  • Subject/topic: American history, society, and citizenship

  • Award Amount: $500-$5,000

  • Deadline: Usually October

  • Eligibility: Grades 6-8


John Locke Essay Competition

  • Organization: John Locke Institute

  • Category: Essay

  • Subject/topic: Philosophy, politics, economics, history, psychology, theology and law

  • Award Amount: $2,000 to $10,000

  • Deadline: Usually June

  • Eligibility: Ages 18 and under


New York Times STEM Writing Contest

  • Organization: The New York Times

  • Category: Essay

  • Subject/topic: Science, technology, engineering, math or health

  • Award Amount: None

  • Deadline: Usually February

  • Eligibility: Ages 11-19

New York Times Summer Reading Contest

  • Organization: The New York Times

  • Category: Review and reflection

  • Subject/topic: Free to choose

  • Award Amount: None

  • Deadline: June to August

  • Eligibility: Ages 11-19

New York Times Student Review Contest

  • Organization: The New York Times

  • Category: Review and reflection

  • Subject/topic: Free to choose

  • Award Amount: None

  • Deadline: Usually January

  • Eligibility: Ages 11-19

New York Times Personal Narrative Writing Contest

  • Organization: The New York Times

  • Category: Essay

  • Subject/topic: Free to choose

  • Award Amount: None

  • Deadline: Usually November

  • Eligibility: Ages 11-19

New York Times Editorial Writing Contest

  • Organization: The New York Times

  • Category: Essay

  • Subject/topic: Free to choose

  • Award Amount: None

  • Deadline: Usually April

  • Eligibility: Ages 11-19

New York Times Review Contest

  • Organization: The New York Times

  • Category: Review

  • Subject/topic: Free to choose

  • Award Amount: None

  • Deadline: Usually January

  • Eligibility: Ages 11-19


EngineerGirl Writing Contest

  • Organization: National Academy of Engineering

  • Category: Essay

  • Subject/topic: Engineering

  • Award Amount: $100-$500

  • Deadline: Usually February

  • Eligibility: Grades 3-12


SPJ/JEA High School Essay Contest

  • Organization: Journalism Education Association

  • Category: Essay

  • Subject/topic: Journalism

  • Award Amount: $300-$1,000

  • Deadline: Usually February

  • Eligibility: Grades 9-12


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