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12 Best Chemistry Competitions for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Students working on chemicals in a laboratory.

12 Best Chemistry Competitions for High School Students

Chemistry competitions for high school students aren’t just about winning medals or certificates—they’re about igniting a passion for science, honing critical thinking skills, and setting the stage for academic success. These competitions are like training grounds for future scientists, engineers, and innovators.

Why Compete in a Chemistry Competition?

Chemistry competitions provide many benefits for high school students. These competitions develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills, enhance resumes for college applications, and offer networking opportunities.

Participation in chemistry competitions can also lead to internships, research opportunities, and mentorship. They can strengthen college applications and increase chances of acceptance to top-tier schools. Competing in these contests promotes personal growth by encouraging students to push their limits and develop resilience and a growth mindset.

How Prestigious is Winning a Competition?

Winning a chemistry competition can greatly enhance a student’s academic and professional standing. The prestige associated with winning depends on factors such as the competition’s reputation and competitiveness. A victory signifies exceptional proficiency in the subject, strong problem-solving skills, and dedication, often leading to opportunities like scholarships, internships, and increased chances of admission to top-tier colleges.

Also, it can attract attention from influential figures in the scientific community, paving the way for future collaborations and career advancements. Overall, winning a chemistry competition is a significant achievement that can have a profound impact on a student’s academic and professional trajectory.

Let’s explore 12 of the best chemistry competitions for high school students, helping you pave the way to your dream college and future career in the sciences.

Students conduct science experiments.

1. U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad (USNCO)

  • Location: Local, national, and international levels; specific venues vary.
  • Cost: Not specified; likely varies by level.
  • Program Date: Local Exam (March 1-31), National Exam (April 15-23), Study Camp (June 4-17), International Chemistry Olympiad (July 16-25)
  • Application Deadline: January 19, 2024
  • Eligibility: open to all U.S.-based high school students​​

The U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad (USNCO) is a significant event in the world of high school science competitions, specifically focusing on chemistry. This multi-level contest begins with local and regional rounds before advancing to national and international levels. Participants demonstrate their understanding of chemistry theories, models, and laboratory problem-solving abilities.

The top 20 finalists at the national level attend an intensive study camp to get ready to represent the United States at the International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO). Through the USNCO, students not only showcase their academic knowledge but also refine their practical laboratory skills, which contributes to their growth as budding chemists.

2. ExploraVision Awards

  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Program Date: June 14-15, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 31, 2024
  • Eligibility: Students enrolled in K-12 schools

The ExploraVision Awards, sponsored by Toshiba and run by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), is an exciting science competition engaging K-12 students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). It challenges you to imagine and create innovative technologies for the future, envisioning what could exist 20 years from now. This forward-looking approach not only sparks creativity and problem-solving skills but also nurtures a new generation of innovators capable of shaping our world.

Students in different age groups—primary (grades K-3), upper elementary (grades 4-6), middle level (grades 7-9), and high school (grades 10-12)—can participate. Working in teams of two to four, guided by a teacher, coach, and optionally, a mentor, you’ll develop a project comprising an abstract, detailed description, bibliography, and five sample web pages showcasing your concept. Projects are judged based on creativity, scientific accuracy, communication, and the feasibility of the vision.

3. Regeneron Science Talent Search

  • Location: Washington, D.C
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Program Date: January 10 – March 12, 2024
  • Application Deadline: November 8, 2023
  • Eligibility: Students over 13 years of age

The Regeneron Science Talent Search (Regeneron STS) is the oldest and most esteemed pre-college science competition in the United States, running since 1942. It provides a national platform for high school seniors to showcase original research, with a strong focus on identifying and inspiring the nation’s most promising young scientists.

Students from across the country submit their original research in various scientific fields, reviewed by a national jury of professional scientists. The program recognizes 300 scholars annually and selects 40 student finalists to present their work in Washington, D.C., where they meet with prominent scientists and government leaders. Over $3.1 million in scholarships are awarded annually, including a grand prize of $250,000 for the top winner.

Young students of language school on color background

4. Technology Student Association High School Competition

  • Location: Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Florida
  • Cost: $150 per team
  • Competition Date: June 26 – June 30, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 18, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school students

The Technology Student Association (TSA) High School Competition is an exciting and challenging event that attracts students from all over the United States to explore the vibrant world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Being a part of TSA allows you to take part in this esteemed competition, where you have the chance to display your talents and ingenuity across various STEM fields.

With over 70 events, the competition covers a wide range of activities, each aimed at testing and enhancing your abilities in different aspects of technology and engineering. For example, if you’re keen on engineering design, you can tackle the challenge of crafting a functional prototype for a device that addresses a real-world issue. If cybersecurity is more your forte, you can showcase your expertise in identifying and rectifying vulnerabilities within a simulated network.

5. National Science Bowl

  • Location: Regional competitions across the U.S.; national finals in Washington, D.C.
  • Cost: not specified
  • Program Date: Regional competitions typically early in the year; national finals dates vary.
  • Eligibility: Open to all middle and high school students in the U.S.​​

The National Science Bowl, supported by the Department of Energy, is a significant event in the realm of high school science competitions. This special contest involves a rapid-fire quiz bowl that assesses understanding across different scientific fields like physics, biology, chemistry, and earth science. High school teams from all corners of the United States participate in this thrilling and challenging competition, which highlights the importance of teamwork and quick problem-solving skills.

Starting from regional rounds, the winning teams progress to the prestigious national finals held in Washington, D.C., where they vie for top honors. The National Science Bowl encourages academic excellence and aims to ignite a lasting passion for science in young students.

6. Conrad Challenge

  • Location: International; specific venue for finals not mentioned.
  • Cost: Typically involves an entry fee of $499, with financial assistance available for teams in need.
  • Program Date: Specific dates for 2024 have yet to be made available
  • Application Deadline: November 3, 2023
  • Eligibility: High school students from 13-18 years old​​

The Conrad Challenge is a forward-thinking contest that ranks among the top science competitions for high schoolers. It stands out by focusing on entrepreneurship and tackling real-world problems. Named after Charles “Pete” Conrad, the third person to walk on the moon and a NASA astronaut, this challenge inspires students aged 13-18 to come up with solutions for global issues in areas like aerospace, cybersecurity, energy, and health.

Participants, whether working solo or in teams, receive guidance from experts as they develop their ideas. This encourages collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. With its global reach and emphasis on practical solutions, the Conrad Challenge provides a special platform for young innovators to share their ideas and get ready for future STEM careers. Alongside cash prizes and recognition, the Conrad Challenge fosters a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship among high school students.

test tubes with different chemicals

7. Science Olympiad

  • Location: Regional, state, and national levels across the U.S.
  • Cost: Varies by region and state
  • Program Date: Dates vary for regional and state competitions; national competitions typically in spring.
  • Application Deadline: October 31, 2023
  • Eligibility: Students in grades 9-12​​

Science Olympiad is one of the top science contests for high school students. It’s unique because it combines teamwork, practical problem-solving, and challenging academics. Schools from all over the country form teams to compete in various events covering many scientific subjects, like biology, chemistry, engineering, and astronomy. Students in grades 9-12 can take part in this yearly contest, which is known for encouraging collaboration and healthy competition.

The events are split into study and building categories, giving students the chance to demonstrate what they’ve learned and their imaginative skills. Science Olympiad focuses on applying science and technology to real-life situations, helping students develop critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. The competition starts with regional and state tournaments and ends with a national championship where teams compete for top prizes.

8. You Be the Chemist

  • Location: Westin Houston Memorial City, 945 Gessner Rd, Houston, TX
  • Cost: Free
  • Program Date: June 10 – June 11, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 22, 2024
  • Eligibility: Grades 5-8

Organized by the Chemical Educational Foundation, You Be The Chemist tests your understanding of fundamental chemistry ideas and your ability to work in a lab and think critically. In the beginning, you’ll take part in a team of 3-4 students in a virtual Regional Challenge. This challenge involves timed multiple-choice questions and short-answer tasks.

You’re also asked to make a video essay focusing on the theme of the year. If you get chosen for the state and national finals, you’ll compete against teams from other states for scholarships. Additionally, you’ll get to meet scholars and professionals from the industry, and nurture your interest in chemistry.

9. ChemiCo

  • Location: Westin Houston Memorial City, 945 Gessner Rd, Houston, TX
  • Cost: $30 per student/season ($1000 for school subscription)
  • Program Date: Programs available in the entire year
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: No age restrictions

StemCo organizes ChemiCo, a competition in the style of an Olympiad that welcomes high school students globally. It challenges participants on fundamental concepts found in the typical secondary school chemistry curriculum.

The areas tested include stoichiometry calculations, reaction chemistry, the periodic table, atomic structure, chemical bonding, and experimental chemistry.

ChemiCo is conducted in English, Russian, French, Portuguese, and Romanian, attracting over 5,000 participants from more than 40 countries to date.

A professor doing a experiment on their physics class

10. ISC3 Innovation Challenge in Sustainable Chemistry and Agriculture

  • Location: Unspecified
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Program Date: Autumn or Winter 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: All innovators and entrepreneurs

The ISC3 Innovation Challenge is an annual contest designed to encourage innovation in sustainable chemistry, and it’s open to high school students everywhere. This challenge requires you to come up with a solution that addresses issues in the agricultural sector using chemistry concepts.

When you enter, you’ll need to do so in two phases. The first phase involves filling out an online form where you’ll give a short overview of your innovative idea, its business potential, and information about your team.

If you make it to the second round, you’ll need to go into more detail about your innovation, its business aspects, and your team. At this stage, your solution should focus on one or more specific areas within agriculture, such as fertilizers, recovering nutrients, precision farming, protecting crops, and water management.

11. Davidson Fellows

  • Location: Davidson Institute
  • Cost: $6,000
  • Program Date: August 20, 2023 – May 29, 2024​​
  • Application Deadline: February 14, 2024 (scholarship deadline)
  • Eligibility: Applicants 18 or younger as of the application deadline

The Davidson Institute annually seeks out the most talented individuals in STEM through its Fellows program, catering to high-achieving students. This program awards winning teams with prizes reaching up to $50,000, which supports their ongoing research or academic endeavors. To be considered for the Fellows Program, applicants are required to submit original work. This work could range from a creative use of existing knowledge, introducing a new, impactful idea, devising an innovative solution with wide-reaching effects, making a significant advancement that facilitates further development, uncovering an interdisciplinary discovery, demonstrating prodigious performance, or showcasing any form of extraordinary achievement.

Participants are limited to teams of no more than two students, and the work submitted should parallel or nearly match the depth, subject comprehension, and presentation quality expected at the graduate college level. Notable examples of past projects include the creation of a promising therapeutic approach for treating highly aggressive cancers and devising a method to boost the efficacy of existing chemotherapy treatments.

12. International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF)

  • Location: Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, California
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Program Date: May 11 to May 17, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school students who are winners of affiliated science fairs around the world

ISEF stands as the largest pre-college STEM competition worldwide, attracting thousands of high school students annually. To get a chance at Regeneron ISEF, you need to start by taking part in a local or regional fair. If you do well there, you might be selected to join the ISEF program, where finalists from across the nation showcase their projects and research in a format that combines online and in-person elements. The competition is fierce, with only 2-5% of entrants from qualifying fairs making it through.

Your entry should be your own research, which you’ve been working on for no more than a year. This research can cover any area of chemistry, including but not limited to analytical, computational, environmental, inorganic, materials, organic, and physical chemistry.

Being chosen to present your chemistry research at ISEF is highly prestigious. It’s also a fantastic chance to meet and connect with other enthusiastic and like-minded young people.

a line of graduates wearing their graduation gowns

Final Thoughts

As you look ahead to your college journey, remember that participating in chemistry competitions can set you apart from the crowd. These experiences not only demonstrate your passion for the subject but also showcase your dedication and drive to excel. At AdmissionSight, we understand the importance of extracurricular activities like these in shaping your college application. With our expertise, we can guide you on how to leverage your participation in chemistry competitions to impress admissions officers and secure your spot at the college of your dreams. So, keep exploring, keep competing, and let us help you navigate the path to success.

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