Writing Competitions for High School Students

6 Nov, 2023 | English, University Preparation

What Is a Writing Competition?

A writing competition is a contest where people submit pieces of their written work for evaluation by a panel of judges or experts. Depending on the competition, these pieces could range from an academic essay to a piece of creative writing prose or poetry.

These types of contests are usually held by universities, writing associations or publications, and can vary a lot in their rules, themes, genres and eligibility criteria. If you’d like to participate in a writing competition, be sure to explore the different options to find one that you’ll enjoy!

For high school students, writing competitions are a fantastic way to challenge yourself, explore different genres and receive constructive feedback at an early stage in your career.

Who Can Enter Writing Competitions?

With such a variety of writing competitions available, it’s worth checking the eligibility criteria for any contests you’re interested in. These could be:

  • Age group – some competitions have separate categories for different age groups so make sure you’re entering into the right one
  • Residency – some contests are only open to students living in specific regions, countries or states
  • School affiliation – others may require you to be enrolled in a particular type of school
  • Language – some contests are only open to students who are proficient in a specific language
  • Parental consent – many competitions for under-18s require you to have parental or guardian consent to participate
  • Deadline – perhaps the most important thing to note; late submissions are often not accepted!

Writing competitions tend to foster an inclusive environment, welcoming submissions from participants of varying skill levels. There are also more specialised writing competitions available, including ones aimed at amplifying certain voices, like students with English as an additional language, or LGBTQ+ writers!

What Are the Benefits of Writing Competitions for High School Students?

Writing competitions are a great chance to boost your academic skills and personal development.

I. Encourages creativity

Participating in a writing competition encourages students to explore their creative side and think outside the box! It’s often a unique opportunity for students to experiment with various writing styles, genres and themes that might be outside of their usual repertoire.

In working with new – and sometimes challenging – styles or genres, creative writing is an excellent way for students to develop their problem-solving skills and innovative thinking for other areas of their life too!

II. Fosters writing skills

The regular writing that writing competitions encourage is a great way for students to hone their writing skills through practice and discipline. The competitions often have specific guidelines or criteria for entrants to follow, teaching students to stretch their skills and knowledge to meet different length restrictions, writing styles and deadlines.

Similarly, it’s a great chance for high school students to gain constructive feedback from professionals and peers at an early stage. This can help young writers to identify areas of improvement in their work, as well as boosting their confidence in their own abilities.

III. Provides recognition

Writing competitions can also provide students with a sense of achievement and recognition for their talents. This could be in the form of prizes, certificates, publication opportunities or acknowledgement among writing communities. 

A competition piece of writing can also be a valuable addition to a student’s portfolio or application to university.

IV. Builds a writing community

Participating in a writing competition can also connect students with like-minded peers who share a passion for writing, offering opportunities for networking, collaboration and sharing ideas.

These types of writing communities can also offer support and practical advice for young writers at the start of their careers!

What are the Best Writing Competitions for High School Students in 2023?

With such a variety of writing competitions available to high school students, there’s almost certainly a writing competition for you! 

Take a look at our shortlisted competitions to see if any pique your interest:

Best Academic Essay

Best Academic Essay: OxBright Essay Competition 2024

The OxBright Essay Competition is the perfect opportunity for high school students to nurture their academic writing skills while honing long-term thinking and critical discourse skills. 

The competition runs annually, and will focus on a different theme and question each year. However, entries will generally be accepted from the following subject categories:

  • Architecture
  • Biology
  • Business 
  • Computer Science and Coding 
  • Creative Writing 
  • Economics 
  • Engineering
  • History 
  • Law 
  • Mathematics 
  • Medicine 
  • Philosophy 
  • Politics 
  • Psychology

How do I enter?

To enter the competition, submit an essay of up to 3,800 characters responding to the relevant year’s question.

Make sure to check the deadline for the year you’re looking to enter – this usually falls in September or October.

Once you’ve submitted your entry, we’ll be in touch within two weeks to let you know if you’ve been shortlisted.

What are the prizes?

In 2023, the first 1,000 shortlisted students received a complimentary ticket to attend one of OxBright’s online conferences! All shortlisted entrants, along with their parents and teachers, were invited to attend our Awards Ceremony on 28th October 2023, where the winners were announced!

All participants had the chance to win over £100,000 worth of academic prizes including:

  • A place on our sister organisation, the Oxford Scholastica Academy’s residential Oxford summer school (worth £6,495)
  • A place on an OxBright online course or internship (worth £995)
  • A certificate of achievement for the top 20% of entries


Best Fantasy

Best Fantasy: L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest

For those enchanted by the realms of fantasy, the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest offers a rare opportunity for aspiring fantasy writers to have their work judged by masters in the field. 

The contest fosters the creation of magical worlds and epic adventures giving entrants the creative freedom to create their most imaginative tales!

How do I enter?

To enter the contest, submit a piece of prose up to 17,000 words that fits the genre of fantasy, dark fantasy or science fiction. 

The contest starts on 1st October 2023 and the deadline is at 11:59pm (PST) on 31st December 2023.

What are the prizes?

Prizes are awarded every quarter and include:

  • $1000, $750 and $500 cash prizes
  • $5000 cash prize
  • The L. Ron Hubbard Golden Pen Award


Best Historical Fiction

Best Historical Fiction: Young Walter Scott Prize

Step into your passion for History through the Young Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. This competition breathes life into historical eras, characters and narratives. It’s an excellent opportunity for budding historical fiction writers to explore bygone worlds, cultures and moments, all while honing their storytelling craft. 

How do I enter?

To enter the contest, submit your historical fiction story (between 800 and 2,000 words) set in a time before you were born. 

This year’s closing date is 31st October 2023.

What are the prizes?

Participants in the Young Walter Scott Prize can win:

  • A £500 travel grant
  • Tickets to one of the UK’s best book festivals
  • The chance to see their own work in print in a special anthology


Best Journalism

Best Journalism: Young Reporters for the Environment Competition

For those with a passion for environmental advocacy, the Young Reporters for the Environment Competition is the ideal chance to shed light on pressing ecological issues. Through their journalistic skills, young reporters can raise awareness, inspire change and contribute to a more sustainable world.

How do I enter?

Each entrant can submit up to three articles (no more than 1,000 words each) for their age group category. 

Check out the winning articles for the 2023 contest to start preparing for your 2024 entry!

What are the prizes?

Prizes for the YRE competition include:

  • Diplomas for the winning entries
  • The chance to be published internationally on online platforms
  • The chance to be published on the YRE International website


Best Playwriting

Best Playwriting and Screenwriting: BBC Young Writers’ Award

For those with a dramatic flair, the BBC Young Writers’ Award offers a spotlight to playwrights and screenwriters. Nurturing compelling dialogues and captivating narratives, this competition is for the storytellers of the future!

How do I enter?

To enter the competition, participants submit a story of up to 1,000 words on any theme.

The contest reopens for submissions in 2024, so keep an eye out!

What are the prizes?

The winner of the BBC Young Writers’ Award will receive a personalised mentoring session with an author to further enhance their writing skills!


Best Poetry

Best Poetry: Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award

The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award is an incredible opportunity for those with a passion for verse to hone their skills and boost their professional careers! 

Through evocative imagery, lyrical cadence and heartfelt expressions, young poets can explore a world of emotions, themes and perspectives.

How do I enter?

To enter the competition, participants can submit a selection of poems – or just one! – of any length and on any theme.

The contest reopens for submissions in 2024, so do keep checking back!

What are the prizes?

Each year, the judges select 100 winners to receive a variety of prizes, including:

  • An invite to a prestigious awards ceremony in London
  • The chance to have their poems published in a print anthology
  • The chance to have their poems published in an online anthology 
  • A place on a residential writing course
  • Mentoring from a professional poet
  • A year’s membership to the Poetry Society
  • A goody bag full of books and treats
  • Ongoing support via publication, performance and an internship programme


Best Commentary

Best Political and Social Commentary: John Locke Institute Essay Competition

The John Locke Institute Essay Competition invites young minds to delve into the complex fabric of Politics and social commentary. By offering fresh perspectives on global issues, participants contribute to meaningful discussions, shape public discourse and advocate for change. 

How do I enter?

To enter, essay submissions must be no longer than 2,000 words and must address one of the questions in one of the following subject categories:

  • Philosophy
  • Politics
  • Economics
  • History
  • Psychology
  • Theology
  • Law 

Registration for next year’s competition opens April 2024.

What are the prizes?

A winner is chosen for the best essay in each category and will receive:

  • A scholarship worth $2000 towards any John Locke Institute programme
  • Publication of their essay on the Institute’s website

The candidate who submits the best essay overall will receive:

  • An honorary John Locke Institute Junior Fellowship
  • A $10,000 scholarship to attend one or more of the Institute’s summer schools or gap year courses


Best Short Story

Best Short Story: Scholastic Art and Writing Awards – Short Story Category

For those who thrive in the realm of brevity, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards’ Short Story Category offers a canvas for character development, creativity and narrative finesse within a limited word count. With the potential for entrants to receive national recognition, scholarships and the chance to have their work published, it’s a rare chance to gain valuable experience at a young age!

How do I enter?

To enter the contest, participants submit a fictional narrative between 500 and 3,000 words to the Short Story category. 

Entries open in September, and deadlines vary between December and January depending on region.

What are the prizes?

Prizes for the different awards include:

  • The chance to be published in an anthology
  • Eligibility for a scholarship up to $12,500
  • A star-studded ceremony at Carnegie Hall
  • The chance to be showcased at regional, national and travelling exhibitions

The range of writing competitions for high school students is vast. Spanning different genres, themes and creative paths, they offer a multitude of opportunities for young writers to flourish.

Participating in a writing contest allows students to hone their skills, amplify their voices, and practise personal development. 

As you embark on your literary voyage, remember to explore a spectrum of literary realms, express your uniqueness, and seize all opportunities!


By Emily Hindle

Emily is an undergraduate student at the University of Bristol reading English Literature, specialising in Modernist writers. In her free time, Emily enjoys running and hopes to complete her first half-marathon next year. She also loves photography and videography.

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