Discover+ Opportunities: Creative Writing Competitions

June 20, 2023

High school students navigating the college application process often seek ways to stand out from the crowd—and creative writing can be a great way to do so. One effective way to showcase your creativity and passion for writing is by participating in a creative writing competition. Engaging in such contests not only allows you to hone your writing skills but also provides numerous benefits that can enhance your college applications.

  • Participating in a creative writing competition demonstrates your genuine interest and commitment to the craft and showcases your dedication to honing your writing skills beyond the classroom. Admissions officers appreciate applicants who show passion and a willingness to go beyond the standard curriculum.
  • Creative writing competitions offer an opportunity to showcase your writing abilities in a competitive environment. By submitting your work to a contest, you put your skills to the test and receive valuable feedback. Admissions officers recognize the merit of winning or being recognized in a reputable contest, as it validates a student's writing talent and sets them apart from other applicants.
  • Creative writing competitions provide a platform for you to unleash your imagination and exhibit your unique voice. Colleges value creativity and originality, and participating in a writing contest allows you to demonstrate these qualities. It shows admissions officers that you can think outside the box, tackle unconventional topics, and bring fresh perspectives to the table.
  • Engaging in creative writing competitions enables you to develop a robust portfolio of your best work. A collection of well-crafted pieces showcases your growth as a writer over time. In some cases, this portfolio can be submitted alongside your college applications, leaving a strong impression on admissions officers.

Discover+, AtomicMind’s free online catalog of extracurricular opportunities, was inspired by our years of experience helping students find and engage in a broad array of purposeful and enriching extracurricular activities, including prestigious creative writing competitions, some of the best of which are described below. Feel free to contact us for guidance and support in choosing and engaging in a creative writing competition that’s a good fit for you.

Bennington College Young Writers Award

The Bennington College Young Writers Awards is a prestigious competition that celebrates and promotes exceptional writing among high school students. Open to students in grades nine through twelve, the competition accepts submissions in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. The first-, second-, and third-place winners in each category receive cash prizes of $1,000, $500, and $250 respectively, with their winning entries showcased on the Bennington website. Furthermore, finalists and winners of the Young Writers Awards are eligible for generous undergraduate scholarships at Bennington College, with finalists receiving a $10,000 scholarship per year for four years and winners receiving a $15,000 scholarship per year for four years.

GENIUS Olympiad: Creative Writing

The GENIUS Olympiad utilizes writing to raise awareness about global environmental issues and encourages public engagement in finding solutions to these problems. The creative writing competition accepts submissions in three categories: short stories, essays, and poetry. Judges evaluate the entries based on factors like unity of effect, strong narrative voices, and the direct or indirect exploration of environmental concerns. Finalists have the opportunity to showcase their work at the five-day GENIUS Olympiad at the University of Rochester. All participants receive a GENIUS Participant Certificate, and awards are distributed across four tiers based on the students' scores.

Princeton University Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize – Lewis Center for the Arts

The Princeton University Leonard L. Milberg '53 High School Poetry Prize is a prestigious award that honors exceptional work by eleventh-grade student writers. The contest is judged by esteemed poets from Princeton University’s creative writing faculty, including Marilyn Chin, Michael Dickman, Lynn Melnick, Paul Muldoon, Kathleen Ossip, Patricia Smith, and Susan Wheeler. The prize is part of Princeton’s Lewis Center for the Arts, which aims to enhance the creative opportunities on campus and within the wider Princeton community by hosting numerous public performances, exhibitions, readings, film screenings, and lectures throughout the year.

Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is a long-running and highly regarded program that recognizes the creative achievements of teenagers. Participants have the opportunity to submit their work across a wide range of categories, including art and writing. Winners are eligible to receive various awards, scholarships, cash prizes, and tuition assistance, as well as the chance to be featured in exhibitions and publications. The jurors prioritize works that demonstrate originality, skill, and the development of a unique personal voice or vision.

The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose

The Adroit Prizes are prestigious awards given annually by The Adroit Journal to two secondary or undergraduate students. The winners receive an award of $200, and their work, along with the work of the runners-up, is featured in the journal. Additionally, the runners-up and finalists receive a copy of their judges’ most recent book.

The Kennedy Center VSA Playwright Discovery Program Competition

Through this competition, high school students with disabilities are offered the opportunity to showcase their talent by writing and submitting a ten-minute script in various formats, such as screenplays, plays, and musical theater. Submissions can be individual or collaborative works, as long as they involve at least one student with a disability. The writers are encouraged to draw from their own experiences and observations, using fictional characters and settings to explore a wide range of topics, including the disability experience. A panel of theater professionals selects division winners, who will receive exclusive access to engage in professional development activities organized by the Kennedy Center. These winners will have the chance to work with industry professionals to further develop their scripts and benefit from networking opportunities.

The Kenyon Review’s Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers

The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize is an esteemed competition that celebrates exceptional young poets and is open to high school sophomores and juniors. Submissions are accepted electronically each year from November 1 to November 30. The winner is awarded a full scholarship to attend the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop during the summer. Additionally, the winner and two runners-up have the privilege of having their selected poems published in the print edition of The Kenyon Review, as well as on its website.

Writopia Lab – Worldwide Plays Festival

The Worldwide Plays Festival showcases live theatrical productions of plays generated through workshops at Writopia’s labs across the country, as well as through submissions to its global competition. The festival presents a diverse range of genres, including comedies, musicals, monologues, and historical dramas—all crafted by gifted young playwrights who represent the future of the theater industry.

YoungArts National Arts Teen Writing Competition

The YoungArts National Arts Teen Writing Competition calls upon high school students in grades ten through twelve to submit original works in various categories, including creative nonfiction, novels, plays or scripts, poetry, short stories, and spoken word. YoungArts stands out as one of the few organizations in the United States that supports artists at every stage of their artistic journey, from the moment they decide to pursue a life in the arts and throughout their careers. The competition offers various recognition levels, including Merit, Honorable Mention, and Finalist. Merit winners receive a monetary award of $100, Honorable Mention winners receive $250, and Finalists have their work evaluated further, leading to various awards ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. Finalists who attend National YoungArts Week may also be considered for nomination to the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program.