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15 Poetry Competitions for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Writer typing with retro writing machine. View from above.

15 Poetry Competitions for High School Students

Poetry competitions allow high school students to express themselves, hone their writing skills, and gain recognition for their creativity. Participating in these contests can be a transformative experience, allowing young poets to explore the depths of their imagination and convey their thoughts and feelings through the power of words.

For students aspiring to attend the college of their dreams, winning or even just participating in a poetry competition can add a valuable edge to their college applications. Here are 15 poetry competitions showcasing your commitment to your craft, ability to communicate effectively, and willingness to engage in the broader literary community.

1. Poetry Out Loud

  • Location: A national contest in the United States.
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Competition Dates: The National Finals are scheduled in Washington, D.C., from April 30 to May 2, 2024.
  • Application Deadline: Registration opens on September 7, 2023, and the deadline is December 22, 2023. The preliminary contest deadline is January 26, 2024.
  • Eligibility: Open to high school students across the United States.

Poetry Out Loud is a nationwide recitation contest that encourages high school students across the United States to connect with and enjoy poetry. It’s put together by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation. Students pick poems from a collection of both classic and modern works, memorize them, and then perform them in a captivating and expressive way. They compete first at school, then at regional and state levels, with the chance to win scholarships and move on to the national finals. Only students currently in grades 9-12 can take part. All the poems they choose must come from the Poetry Out Loud anthology, which gets updated every summer. Monetary prizes are given out by The Poetry Foundation.

2. The Ocean Awareness Competition

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Free
  • Contest Date: November 2024
  • Application Deadline: June 10, 2024
  • Eligibility: Students aged 11-18 from all over the world can join the contest in the Junior Division (11-14) or Senior Division (15-18) based on their age at entry.

The Ocean Awareness Competition, run by Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, is a special event designed to involve young artists, writers, and activists in tackling urgent environmental problems linked to our oceans. It’s a chance for people to share their creative pieces, like art, poetry, stories, and projects using different media, all focused on spreading awareness about ocean conservation and why we need to safeguard marine ecosystems.

This contest offers a strong platform for young people to speak out about their worries, dreams, and ideas for a future where we take better care of our planet. By taking part in the Ocean Awareness Competition, young individuals can help make a positive difference on environmental issues, show off their skills and imagination, and join a worldwide effort to protect our oceans for the next generations.

The prizes for this competition change each year, but they usually include things like cash prizes, scholarships, chances to be mentored, and opportunities to have their work displayed or published.

Female student writing on a bench.

3. Rattle Poetry Prize

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: $25
  • Competition Date: February 15, 2024
  • Application Deadline: July 15, 2023
  • Eligibility: All writers worldwide

The Rattle Poetry Prize is a significant competition in the poetry world, organized by Rattle magazine, a well-respected literary publication known for showcasing contemporary poets and their diverse voices. It invites aspiring poets to submit their original work for a chance to win cash prizes, publication in the magazine, and exposure to a wide audience of poetry enthusiasts. 

Prizes for selected contributors to the print magazine include $200 and a complimentary one-year subscription, while poems chosen for “Online” categories receive $100. All submissions are automatically considered for the annual Neil Postman Award for Metaphor, a prestigious $2,000 prize judged by the magazine’s editors. Apart from general and themed submissions, there are separate opportunities to compete for the $15,000 Rattle Poetry Prize and the Rattle Chapbook Prize. Entry into these contests requires a $25 fee, which includes a one-year subscription to the magazine.

4. The River of Words

  • Location: Saint Mary’s College of California
  • Cost: Free
  • Competition Date: Early April 2024
  • Application Deadline: February 29, 2024
  • Eligibility: Ages 5 to 19 enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade 

The River of Words contest is all about poetry and art, focusing on the environment. It’s made for young writers and artists and was started by Robert Hass and Pamela Michael, who used to be the U.S. Poet Laureate. They want to get people thinking more about nature and the world around them by asking them to write poems or make art about it. This contest is for students aged 5 to 19, giving them a chance to talk about environmental issues and show the beauty of nature through their creativity. It’s a cool way for young people to be creative, care about the environment, and let their voices be heard. Winners get their work published in a book, certificates, and sometimes get to go to special events or workshops about art and the environment.

5. The Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Free
  • Competition Date: August 15, 2024
  • Application Deadline: April 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: Authors from all countries except for those residing in Syria, Iran, North Korea, Crimea, Russia, and Belarus due to US government restrictions

The Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest happens every year and is run by Winning Writers. It’s all about enjoying and spreading humor through poetry. They’re looking for poems that make people laugh and show clever wordplay and funny stuff. Anyone from anywhere can join in, giving both new and known poets a chance to share their funny poems with the world. This contest not only celebrates funny poetry but also encourages poets to look at the fun side of life and make readers smile with their witty poems. Best part? It’s free to enter, and you can submit your work from August 15, 2023, until April 1, 2024.

6. The America Library of Poetry Student Poetry Contest

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Free
  • Competition Date: Awards date unspecified
  • Application Deadline: April 30, 2024
  • Eligibility: Grades 3-12

The America Library of Poetry Student Poetry Contest happens each year. It’s a chance for kids in grades 3 to 12 all over the U.S. to show off their poetry skills. You write your own poems and send them in for the contest. The goal is to get young people excited about poetry and writing. Winning this contest means your poem gets published in a book, you get a certificate, and you might win some money too, usually between $50 and $500.

Young beautiful woman wearing yellow shirt reading a book at home.

7. Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

  • Location: Open to students across the United States, U.S. territories, and military bases.
  • Cost: $10 per individual entry and $30 per portfolio, with fee waivers available upon request.
  • Competition Dates: The Awards open for entries in September, with regional deadlines varying between December and January.
  • Application Deadline: Varies between December and January, depending on the region.
  • Eligibility: Open to students in grades 7-12. Submissions are accepted in various categories, including visual and literary arts such as architecture, comic art, ceramics & glass, digital art, and more.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is a widely recognized competition tailored for high school students, offering a robust platform for them to showcase their talents and receive valuable feedback from esteemed judges and mentors. Teens in grades 7-12, aged 13 and up, are eligible to apply across 28 categories spanning art and writing. These categories encompass a diverse range of mediums and genres, including Comic Art, Fashion, Jewelry, Mixed Media, Photography, Critical Essays, Poetry, Short Stories, among others.

Creative teens who participate in the poetry competition stand to gain recognition through various avenues such as awards, exhibitions, publications, and scholarships, some of which can amount to as much as $12,500. The Scholastic Awards typically open for entries in September, with the submission deadline falling between December and January. Specific details regarding entry deadlines and other pertinent information for your region can be found by referring to the relevant resources.

8. JUST POETRY!!! The National Poetry Quarterly

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Free
  • Competition Date: September 30 (Fall), December 31 (Winter), March 31 (Spring), June 30 (Summer)
  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • Eligibility: US high school students

Organized by the National High School Poetry Association, this competition invites high school students to submit their original poetry for a chance to win cash prizes and have their work published. Poems are accepted and published on a quarterly basis, meaning every three months or 90 days. There is no entry fee to participate, and each poet can submit only one poem within any 90-day period. Poems must be 20 lines or fewer, excluding the title and spaces between stanzas, and must be written in English.

The competition offers several prizes and awards. The “Poet of the Year” award, known as the Easterday Poetry award, provides a $500 college scholarship. Additionally, there’s the “Best of Issue” prize, offering a $500 scholarship, which is awarded quarterly. The Editor’s Choice Selections grant a $100 scholarship prize for each selection, also awarded quarterly. Winners of the “JUST POETRY!!!” category, numbering 20-30, receive a free copy of the quarterly publication. Moreover, there are hundreds of “Topical Winners,” who receive recognition through publication alone, also awarded quarterly.

A man reading his book

9. Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Free
  • Competition Date: Awards date unspecified
  • Application Deadline: July 31, 2024
  • Eligibility: Ages 11–17

The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award is an international poetry competition for students aged 11-17. Participants can submit as many poems as they wish, with no restrictions on subject or length. 

All winners will be invited to a prestigious awards ceremony in London and receive a goody bag and ongoing support from the Poetry Society. The top 15 winners will have their poems featured in the winners’ print anthology and attend a residential writing course or receive mentoring from a professional poet. For any questions, interested individuals can visit the website or email inquiries to [email protected].

10. Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Free
  • Contest Date: February 2024
  • Application Deadline: November 30, 2023
  • Eligibility: High school sophomores and juniors are eligible to join the contest

The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers is a prestigious poetry competition organized by The Kenyon Review, a renowned literary magazine. It’s named after Patricia Grodd, a former editor of the magazine, and is open to high school sophomores and juniors from all over the world. Young poets are invited to submit their original and unpublished poems for consideration. This competition offers a significant opportunity for emerging writers to showcase their poetic talent and gain recognition from a prestigious publication.

The prizes and awards for this competition are noteworthy. The winner is awarded a full scholarship to attend the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop. Additionally, the winner and two runners-up will have their selected poems published in the print edition of the Kenyon Review and featured on their website. This recognition not only provides exposure for the poets but also validates their talent and dedication to their craft.

11. The Bennington Young Writers Awards

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Free
  • Contest Date: Spring 2024
  • Application Deadline: November 2024
  • Eligibility: Students in grades 9-12 from the United States and international students

Bennington College, renowned for its illustrious literary heritage boasting twelve Pulitzer Prize winners and three U.S. poet laureates, upholds this tradition through the Young Writers Award. This esteemed competition targets high school students, aiming to cultivate and acknowledge exceptional writing prowess. Available to both U.S. and international students, participants can submit entries in poetry, fiction, or nonfiction, each with specific guidelines. First-place winners in each category receive $1,000, while second-place winners are awarded $500, and third-place winners receive $250.

Additionally, finalists and winners of the Young Writers Award who apply, are admitted, and enroll at Bennington College stand to benefit from significant scholarships. Finalists qualify for a $10,000 yearly scholarship for four years, totaling $40,000, while winners can obtain a $15,000 annual scholarship over four years, amounting to $60,000.

The Bennington Young Writers Award distinguishes itself through its association with a prestigious institution and the opportunities it extends beyond the competition. The scholarships provided to finalists and winners serve as a substantial incentive, alleviating the financial strain of higher education.

12. Young Authors Writing Competition

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Free
  • Contest Date: Unspecified (for 2024)
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified (for 2024)
  • Eligibility: Students from grades 9-12, typically aged 14 to 18 years old, are eligible to participate in the competition.

The Young Authors Writing Competition, organized by Columbia College Chicago’s English and Creative Writing Department, provides a prominent platform for budding writers to display their abilities. Participants can submit up to two entries in each of the Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, and Poetry categories, totaling six submissions across all categories. The competition is transitioning to an entirely online format, expanding accessibility to a wider audience.

Winners receive cash prizes and have their work published online, offering valuable exposure. The competition’s affiliation with Columbia College Chicago, known for its esteemed writing and creative arts programs, sets it apart. Participation can significantly bolster a student’s college application, showcasing their writing prowess, initiative, and ability to excel.

13. The Claudia Ann Seaman Award for Young Writers

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: $5 submission fee (for Fall, Winter, and Summer Contests ONLY)
  • Contest Date: Varies (depends on Reading Periods and Seasonal Contests)
  • Application Deadline: Varies (depends on Reading Periods and Seasonal Contests)
  • Eligibility: High school students worldwide aged 14 to 18, are eligible to participate.

The Claudia Ann Seaman Awards for Young Writers, established in memory of a young poet by the Seaman family, honor excellence in teen writing across poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Each year, nominees are chosen from accepted publications, and winners in each genre are selected by a panel of professional authors. Winners receive a $200 cash prize, with two honorable mentions recognized in each category.

This opportunity extends beyond publication and cash rewards; it allows young writers to connect with a global literary community, receive expert feedback, and refine their skills. Moreover, recognition from these awards can significantly bolster a student’s portfolio, making it a valuable addition to college applications. Being selected or nominated for the Claudia Ann Seaman Awards underscores a student’s commitment to their craft and their ability to resonate with a diverse audience.

14. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: $15 (submission fee)
  • Contest Date: Unspecified (for 2024)
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified (for 2024)
  • Eligibility: All high school and college students, including those from other countries and those who finished school a semester early, can participate in the contests.

The Adroit Prizes, presented by The Adroit Journal, a literary nonprofit founded by poet Peter LaBerge in 2010, is a prestigious accolade in the literary sphere. Awarded annually to two secondary or undergraduate students, typically emerging writers from high school or college, who exhibit exceptional talent. Participants can submit up to five pieces across poetry and prose categories, with poetry submissions limited to six poems totaling ten single-spaced pages and prose submissions comprising up to three pieces not exceeding 3,500 words. 

Winners receive $200 each, and their work, along with that of the runners-up, is showcased in The Adroit Journal. Runners-up and finalists receive copies of their judges’ latest books. This recognition not only offers financial rewards but also provides substantial exposure and publication opportunities for young writers. Being acknowledged by a respected journal like The Adroit can enhance a student’s profile in the competitive college admissions process, spotlighting their creative talents and potential for success in higher education and beyond.

15. Princeton University Writing Contests

  • Location: Princeton University
  • Cost: Free
  • Contest Date: June 2024 (Ten-Minute Play Contest); April 2024 (Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry)
  • Application Deadline: April 1, 2024 (Ten-Minute Play Contest); November 26, 2023 (Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry)
  • Eligibility: The contests are open exclusively to U.S. and international students who are in the eleventh grade.

Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts sponsors annual writing contests for high school students, supported by donations from alumni and Arts supporters. The Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize, judged by Princeton’s Creative Writing faculty, recognizes outstanding poetry by student writers. Contestants can submit up to three poems to compete for cash prizes: $1,500 for first place, $750 for second, and $500 for third. Similarly, the Ten-Minute Play Contest offers 11th graders a chance to showcase their playwriting skills, judged by a guest playwright. Students can submit one play for prizes of $500, $250, and $100 for first, second, and third place, respectively.

Final Thoughts

As we look ahead, it’s clear that poetry competitions will continue to play a crucial role in shaping the minds and futures of high school students. These contests are not just about winning prizes; they are about fostering creativity, building confidence, and preparing for a bright future. 

At AdmissionSight, we understand the importance of these competitions and the impact they can have on college admissions. Our team of experts is dedicated to guiding students through the process of selecting and preparing for the right poetry competitions. We believe that with the right support and guidance, every student has the potential to unlock their poetic talents and make their college application stand out. Trust us to help you navigate this exciting journey toward achieving your dreams.

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