Image from Pexels

Image from Pexels

Hey, writers, wish there was a way to hone your craft and get more money for college? Well, you’re in luck! Here’s a handy list of 10 annual writing competitions, all of which provide cash prizes and/or college scholarships to winners.


Writopia Worldwide Plays Festival

Who’s eligible?: Elementary school, middle school, and high school students. There’s a different category for each school level, so they’re each judged and awarded separately.

What can I submit?: A play of any genre, 10 minutes in length.

What’s the prize?: Winners of each category receive cash prizes of $250, $500, and $1,000, respectively.

When’s the deadline?: The 2015 contest has not been officially announced yet, but in past years the deadline has been in January.

This competition has a few additional perks: winning plays are staged by professional actors Off-Broadway, and the judging panel includes some esteemed professionals. According to Writopia, “Final-round judges this year include the writers of the Late Show With David Letterman, Dutch filmmaker Finbarr Wilbrink, and Karl Gajdusek, who wrote the screenplay of Hollywood blockbust (sic) Oblivion.”

YouthPLAYS New Voices

Who’s eligible?: All students under 20 years of age.

What can I submit?: Unpublished, non-musical one-act plays between 10-40 minutes in length.

What’s the prize?: The winner receives $200, publication by YouthPLAYS, and free copies of Final Draft and Great Dialogue (writing software that can run upwards of hundreds of dollars).

When’s the deadline?: May 1, 2015

Princeton University Ten-Minute Play Contest

Who’s eligible?: High school juniors.

What can I submit?: One play no longer than 10 pages in length.

What’s the prize?: First place receives $500.

When’s the deadline?: mid-2015


Ayn Rand Essay Contest

Who’s eligible?: High school seniors, college undergraduates, and graduate students.

What can I submit?: An essay between 800 and 1600 words on one of three prompts relating to Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged.

What’s the prize?: First prize wins $10,000 and over 75 students receive smaller cash prizes.

When’s the deadline?: October 24, 2014

This may not be, erm, the most appealing essay topic for some high school students, but it’s still good chance to flex your analytical writing skills and potentially win some pretty major dough.

Signet Essay Contest

Who’s eligible?: High school juniors and seniors.

What can I submit?: An essay of between two and three double-spaced pages on a yearly competition book. This year, that book is Pygmalion and My Fair Lady; next year it will be Little Women.

What’s the prize?: Five students receive $1,000 scholarships.

When’s the deadline?: April 14, 2015


Richard G. Zimmerman Journalism Scholarship

Who’s eligible?: High school seniors.

What can I submit?: 3 work samples which can take the form of print articles or multimedia news stories.

What’s the prize?: Winners receive $5,000 scholarships.

When’s the deadline?: March 1, 2015

Three letters of recommendation and students’ high school transcripts are considered in addition to writing samples.

Creative Non-Fiction

The Norman Mailer High School and College Writing Awards for Students

Who’s eligible?: High school students, college undergraduates, and graduate students.

What can I submit?: Any piece of creative nonfiction, regardless of subgenre or subject manner. According to the submission page, “submissions may be ‘conventional’ or ‘experimental’ and may represent any non-fiction tradition.”

What’s the prize?: Winners of the high school and community college categories receive $2,500 cash awards; the winner of the college category receives a $5,000 cash award.

When’s the deadline?: Submissions are accepted throughout March and April.


National Poetry Competition

Who’s eligible?: Anyone over the age of 17.

What can I submit?: Poems not exceeding 40 lines in length (multiple entries are accepted).

What’s the prize?: First place winner receives £5,000 (about $8,500).

When’s the deadline?: October 31, 2014


Scholastic Writing Awards

Who’s eligible?: Students in grades 7-12 residing the the U.S., Canada, or an American school abroad.

What can I submit?: Practically anything! Scholastic has 10 separate writing categories, including persuasive writing, poetry, and humor. If you write something, there’s probably a place for you to submit it. Each category has its own rules and stipulations.

What’s the prize?: Most regional and national winners do not receive scholarships from Scholastic directly. However, there are still some scholarship opportunities. 16 Portfolio Gold Medal winners receive $10,000 awards, and there is also the potential to receive scholarship money from third parties and universities. Check out Scholastic’s Scholarships and Prizes page for more specific information.

When’s the deadline?: January 2015


Who’s eligible?: Students in grades 10-12 or ages 15-18 on December 1, 2014.

What can I submit?: YoungArts has six submission categories: creative non-fiction, novel, play or script, poetry, and short story.

What’s the prize?: Finalists receive between $1,000 and $10,000, plus an invitation to National YoungArts Week for a chance to workshop their work with fellow writers and professionals.

When’s the deadline?: October 17, 2014

In addition to these, check out your high school and local community for more writing contest opportunities. Submitting your personal work for judging can be a scary, vulnerable experience, but it can also be one that pays off in a big and meaningful way.

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the author

Celeste Barnaby is a senior at a tiny private school in Reno, Nevada, also known as the Neon Babylon. She has committed to attend Wesleyan University and plans to major in film studies (but she's keeping an open mind). When she’s not stressing out over her schoolwork or procrastinating said work, she enjoys horseback riding, writing macabre short stories, and shopping for flannels. You can observe her attempts at humor and various television-related obsessions on her Tumblr.

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