Top Writing Contests For High School Students

*Updated: March 25, 2020

If you are looking to build your repertoire during high school, maybe you should have a look at the various writing contests that are available around you.

Whether you are a fan of non-fiction, fiction, fanfiction, poetry, or etcetera - there are opportunities to highlight a person's writing capabilities that can reward you with scholarships, medals, and other great prizes.

Along with the various awards that you can win, these writing competitions are a fantastic addition to incorporate into the college application.

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Continue reading to see what valuable writing tournaments are available that high school students can participate in and what prizes can be won.

While writing during classes and for teachers feels like a tedious task more so than being helpful, participating in writing competitions may provide high school students with empowerment and a sense of real purpose.

Typically, writing contests are a great way to inspire children by providing them with a true audience reading their work. As students are developing and drafting their work, they have a sense of self-responsibility to produce their best writing for a real panel of judges.

Categorized below are writing tournaments that you can sign up for, based on your interest in fiction, non-fiction, or even poetry.

Fiction Writing Contests for High School Students

Maybe you are a student who enjoys sharing your imaginative words and novels. With a variety of writing competitions focused on finding great fiction, you have plenty of options to choose from.

L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest

This particular contest provides a chance for students to express their love and interest in science fiction and fantasy.

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  • First Prize – $1,000

  • Second Prize – $750

  • Third Prize – $500

  • Grand Prize "L. Ron Hubbard Golden Pen Award" – at the end of the year, the first place winners of each quarter will have their entries judged by a panel of judges, and a Grand Prize winner shall be determined and receive an additional $5,000. All winners will also receive trophies.


  • The Contest has four quarters, beginning on October 1, January 1, April 1 and July 1. The year will end on September 30.

  • To be eligible for judging in its quarter, an entry must be postmarked or received electronically no later than midnight on the last day of the quarter. Late entries will be included in the following quarter and the Contest Administration will so notify the entrant.

Fee: None

For further information about this writing competition, visit their website.

EngineerGirl Writing Competition

Student writers are asked to write an original prompt of creative fiction where the main character is a female who utilizes engineer skills to resolve an issue.

The competition is not limited by gender to females, all welcomed to submit a story.

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Submissions are required to be under the word limit according to your grade level, listed below:

  • Elementary (grades 3-5): 800 word

  • Middle School (grades 6-8): 1100 word

  • High School (grades 9-12): 1500 words


  • First Prize – $500

  • Second Prize – $250

  • Third Prize – $100

Deadline: Submissions for the 2019-2020 contest are now closed. Refer back to their website for updates regarding the 2020-2021 competition.

Fee: None

Non-Fiction Writing Contests for High School Students

Are you a high schooler interested in non-fiction pieces instead? Well worry not, there is also a multitude of writing competitions that you are eligible for!

John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Contest

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage competition aims to challenge students to construct an original essay that portrays their understanding of political change.

Struggling to write a personal statement? Learn key advice on our previous blog article.


  • First Prize – $10,000. The winner and her/his family are invited to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston to accept her/his award and participate in Profile in Courage Award events in May 2020. Travel and lodging expenses will be paid for the trip to Boston for the winning student and her/his parents.

  • Second Prize – $3,000

  • Five finalists – $1,000 each

  • Eight semifinalists – $100 each

  • Ten students receive honorable mentions

  • All participants receive a Certificate of Participation

Deadline: Closed, see when it opens again here

Fee: None

For further information on eligibility and requirements, see their website.

We the Students Essay Prompt

A non-fiction writing prompt that is open to all United States citizens or legal residents who are students that are no older than 19 and no younger than 14.


  • National Grand Prize - 7,000 (plus a scholarship to Constitutional Academy)

  • Runners Up -  Five at $1,500 each

  • Honorable Mention -  Eight at $500 each

Deadline: Submissions for the 2019–2020 contest are opened now until April 15, 2020. 

Fee: None

See their website for more rules and regulations.

Why are some colleges considered highly competitive and selective? Learn here.

Poetry Writing Contests for High School Students

Perhaps you are a student who favors limericks, haikus, or rhymes. There are plenty of amazing poetry tournaments that you can take part in as a high school student.

Princeton University's Leonard L. Milberg '53 High School Poetry Prize

Limited eligibility for this annual poetry contest, only U.S. or international students in the eleventh grade may participate.

The judging panel consists of members from the Princeton University Creative Writing faculty such as Michael Dickman, Yiyun Li, Paul Muldoon, James Richardson, Tracy K. Smith, Susan Wheeler, and Monica Youn.


  • First Prize – $500

  • Second Prize – $250

  • Third Prize – $100

Deadline: Submissions for the 2019–2020 contest are now closed. Refer back to their website for updates regarding the 2020–2021 competition.

Fee: None

River of Words

International youth poetry and art contest that is held annually, the River of Words (ROW) competition is open to children from the ages of 5 to 19.

Established since 1995, ROW was co-founded by writer and activist Pamela Michael and then-US poet Laureate (and SMC alumnus) Robert Hass.

Submissions will be evaluated in the following groups:

  • Category I — K-Grade 2 (Primary) or ages 5-7

  • Category II — Grades 3-5 (Elementary) or ages 8-11

  • Category III — Grades 6-8 (Intermediary) or ages 11-14

  • Category IV — Grades 9-12 (Secondary) or ages 14-19


  • International Prize — awarded to one international entry, either in art or poetry, in any age category

  • Shasta Bioregion Prize — awarded to one entry, either in art or poetry, honoring a Northern California watershed

  • Monkey's Raincoat Prize — awarded to a short poem in the tradition of the Japanese haiku. This award celebrates River of Words' founder Robert Hass, who has enjoyed a lifelong study and fascination with the form

  • One Square Block Prize — awarded to poems that examine city-scapes and the interaction between the manmade and the natural world

  • "On Writing" Poetry Prize — this category of poems features narratives that reflect on the writing process and the speaker's connection to writing

  • Art and Poetry Finalists Prize — approximately 50 finalists in art and 50 finalists in poetry are selected to be published alongside the Grand Prize winners

Deadline: Closed, refer back to their website for the next upcoming competition.

Fee: None

For rules and eligibility for the competition, click here.

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