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27 Visual and Performing Arts Competitions for High School Students

January 29, 2024
By AdmissionSight
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27 Visual and Performing Arts Competitions for High School Students

For high school students aiming to enhance their college applications, participating in visual and performing arts competitions can be a game changer. These competitions not only showcase artistic talents but also demonstrate dedication, creativity, and the ability to engage in competitive environments.

This blog lists 29 visual and performing arts competitions that could be pivotal in strengthening college applications and developing artistic skills for high school students.

1. Donna Reed Foundation Performing Arts Scholarships

  • Location: Iowa
  • Cost: Free
  • Competition Dates: Guidelines for the 2024 Donna Reed Foundation Performing Arts Scholarships have not been announced.
  • Application Deadline: Guidelines for the 2024 Donna Reed Foundation Performing Arts Scholarships have not been announced.
  • Eligibility: Open to Iowa high school students in grades 10-12 who demonstrate excellence and a strong interest in the performing arts and qualify for post-secondary education in this field.

The Donna Reed Foundation Performing Arts Scholarships are designed to identify and support talented Iowa high school students passionate about the performing arts. The foundation focuses on recognizing and nurturing students’ abilities in various performing arts disciplines, providing a springboard for future educational and career opportunities in these fields. Scholarship recipients gain both financial support and recognition for their talents, which can be instrumental in their artistic development.

theater actors performing onstage

This scholarship program is unique because it specifically targets high school students from Iowa, providing them with a rare opportunity to gain recognition and financial support at a critical stage in their artistic development. The focus on performing arts ensures that recipients are among those who have demonstrated not just talent but also a deep commitment to their craft. Winning this scholarship can significantly enhance a student’s portfolio, providing a notable advantage in the competitive world of college admissions and subsequent career opportunities in the performing arts. The foundation’s support reflects a commitment to fostering the next generation of artists, making it a prestigious accolade for aspiring performers.

2. BMI Composer Awards

  • Location:  New York City
  • Cost: Free to enter for eligible composers.
  • Competition Dates: Unspecified
  • Application Deadline: Applicants must be under the age of 28 as of February 15, 2024.
  • Eligibility: Open to young composers under the age of 28 residing in the United States, its territories, or any country in the Western Hemisphere. Applicants may only submit one work per BMI Foundation awards program and cannot submit works that have won other awards or are under contract.

The BMI Composer Awards, established in 1951, is an esteemed annual competition for young classical composers. This program recognizes superior musical compositional ability and further supports the education of young talent in classical music. The awards total $20,000 and are determined for works in any classical genre and instrumentation. Esteemed classical composers, including Pulitzer Prize winners, judge the submissions anonymously. The competition’s history includes discovering and encouraging many of today’s prominent young composers.

The BMI Composer Awards is highly prestigious, offering unparalleled recognition in the world of classical music for young composers. Winning this award places composers among the ranks of previous winners who have gone on to become luminaries in the field, such as John Adams and Kevin Puts. The competition is unique in its anonymous submission process, ensuring a fair and unbiased evaluation of talent. Furthermore, winners are celebrated at an annual ceremony in New York City, providing valuable networking opportunities. For aspiring composers, this award not only signifies excellence in composition but also can be a significant boost in college admissions and future professional endeavors. The awards are a testament to the talent and potential of young composers, making them a coveted achievement in the classical music community.

3. Cooper International Piano, Violin Competition

  • Location: Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio
  • Competition Dates: The specific dates vary each year. For example, the 2023 piano competition occurred from July 31 to August 4, 2023.
  • Application Deadline: Guidelines for the 2024 Cooper International Piano and Violin Competition have not been announced
  • Eligibility: Open to young musicians aged 13 to 18 who have not yet enrolled in college and have not previously won one of the top three prizes in a Cooper competition.

The Cooper International Piano Violin Competition, sponsored by Thomas and Evon Cooper and presented by the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, is a prestigious event that showcases the talents of young musicians. It offers more than $35,000 in prizes, including a grand prize of $20,000. The competition provides a platform for young artists to perform challenging repertoires and receive recognition for their musical prowess. The final round is a highlight, where the top three competitors have the opportunity to perform a full concerto with the renowned Cleveland Orchestra.

Playing a violin

 

It is one of the most notable visual and performing arts competitions for high school students because of its high stakes and prestigious setting. The opportunity to perform with the Cleveland Orchestra in the final round is a rare and invaluable experience for any young musician, offering a glimpse into the world of professional music performance. Winning or even participating in the Cooper International Competition can significantly enhance a musician’s portfolio, making it a powerful asset for college admissions and future musical endeavors. The competition not only showcases technical skill and musicality but also provides a platform for young artists to connect with peers, educators, and professionals in the field, fostering a community of emerging talent in the classical music world.

4. Davidson Fellows Scholarship

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Free to enter for eligible students.
  • Competition Dates: The application process and evaluation occur annually.
  • Application Deadline: February 14, 2024,
  • Eligibility: Applicants must be 18 or younger as of the application deadline. They should be U.S. citizens or permanent residents either residing in the United States or stationed overseas due to active U.S. military duty. Candidates must have completed a significant piece of work in one of the submission categories and be able to attend an in-person event with at least one parent or guardian if named a Davidson Fellow.

The Davidson Fellows Scholarship is a prestigious program that awards substantial scholarships to gifted and high-achieving students. Scholarships of $50,000, $25,000, and $10,000 are granted to students who have completed significant work in categories such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics, literature, music, philosophy, and “outside the box.” This scholarship recognizes and supports extraordinary achievements by young people, offering substantial financial aid for their future educational endeavors.

The Davidson Fellows Scholarship is unique in its broad range of submission categories, allowing students from various disciplines to showcase their talents and achievements. The significant financial rewards offer substantial support for higher education, easing the financial burden and enabling recipients to pursue their academic and professional goals more freely.

5. Destination Imagination (DI) Program Scholarships

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Free to apply for eligible students.
  • Competition Dates: Specific competition dates are not provided; the scholarship process typically aligns with the academic year.
  • Application Deadline: The application process usually occurs in the spring of the following academic year.
  • Eligibility: Open to high school graduates or college-enrolled students who have been involved in Destination Imagination as team members or volunteers.

Destination Imagination offers scholarships, including the DI Graduate of the Year Award and the Founders Award, tailored for students who have been part of the program. These scholarships are designed to support students in their post-secondary education and acknowledge their contributions to the DI program. The DI Graduate of the Year Award targets those graduating from high school or college, while the Founders Award is bestowed upon applicants who embody the spirit of Destination Imagination. These scholarships recognize not just academic achievement but also commitment to the values and objectives of the DI program.

These scholarships are unique because they focus on the holistic development of students as part of the Destination Imagination program. By emphasizing participation and volunteerism in DI, these scholarships reward students who demonstrate creativity, teamwork, and problem-solving skills—qualities that are highly valued in higher education and beyond. The recognition from such scholarships can enhance a student’s college application, showcasing their dedication to extracurricular activities and community involvement.

6. MIT INSPIRE

  • Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Cost: Free for eligible students.
  • Competition Dates: The program typically concludes with a week-long summer competition where students work in teams on research projects.
  • Application Deadline: The application process generally opens in the fall, but exact deadlines vary.
  • Eligibility: Available to high school students in the United States with an interest in conducting original research in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

The MIT INSPIRE program is an innovative and prestigious competition organized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is specifically designed for high school students passionate about research in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Participants have the unique opportunity to work in teams and develop cutting-edge research projects. The week-long summer competition held on MIT’s campus is the program’s highlight, where students present their projects, receive feedback, and engage in scholarly discourse.

Art student with art professor checking students work

For students aspiring to careers in the arts, humanities, or social sciences, this competition offers a rare chance to delve deeply into their interests, collaborate with like-minded peers, and gain recognition on a national stage. The experience and skills gained from the MIT INSPIRE program can significantly bolster a student’s college application, showcasing their ability to undertake complex, interdisciplinary projects and contribute meaningfully to scholarly discussions.

7. Thespian Playworks

  • Location: Nationwide (USA)
  • Cost: Free for eligible students.
  • Competition Dates: The contest typically occurs in the spring.
  • Application Deadline: The application process usually opens in the fall, though the exact deadline varies.
  • Eligibility: Open to high school students in the United States interested in writing and submitting original short plays.

The Thespian Playworks contest is a national high school playwriting competition that provides a platform for young playwrights to see their works transition from script to stage. It is an opportunity for students to develop and submit original short plays. An adjudication team selects the winning plays, which are then published and made available for performance by high schools and community theaters nationwide. This competition encourages creativity and innovation in playwriting, offering a unique chance for students to engage actively in the theatrical arts.

The Thespian Playworks stands out in the landscape of visual and performing arts competitions for high school students due to its dedication to fostering young playwrights. The unique aspect of this contest is the publication and nationwide performance of winning scripts, providing a practical platform for young writers to display their talents. Such exposure is crucial for students aspiring to careers in writing or theater, offering them a significant head start in their artistic journeys. 

8. Polyphony Lit

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Submissions cost $5.00 each for the Fall, Winter, and Summer Contests. Submissions are free for Latin Heritage Month, Black History Month, Asian and Pacific Heritage Month, and Pride Month Contests.
  • Competition Dates: Vary depending on the contest; for example, the Polyphony Lit Winter Contest typically starts on January 1st, and the Fall Contest runs from September 1st to October 31st
  • Application Deadline: Varies by the specific seasonal contest
  • Eligibility: Open to high school students aged 14-18 from anywhere in the world. Students can submit poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction for publication in the annual volume and/or the annual writing contests.

Polyphony Lit is a student-run international literary magazine that offers high school writers and editors an opportunity to showcase their creativity. This contest encourages young writers to submit original works in poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. It not only provides a platform for publication in an annual volume but also hosts various themed contests throughout the year. This allows students from all over the globe to share their voices and perspectives, fostering a diverse and inclusive literary community.

What makes Polyphony Lit exceptional is its global reach and inclusivity, inviting students from different cultural and geographical backgrounds to participate. The themed contests for specific heritage and awareness months offer free submissions, making it accessible to a wider range of students. Participation in this contest can significantly enhance a student’s college application, demonstrating their commitment to literary arts and their ability to engage with a global audience.

9. Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Competitions

  • Location: Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Cost: The entry fee for the Chamber Music Competition is $120 for each ensemble.
  • Competition Dates: The three-tiered Performance Competitions begin with state competitions, culminating in the National Finals from March 16–20, 2024, in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Application Deadline: Specific registration deadlines vary
  • Eligibility: Open to students in the United States. The Junior, Senior, and Young Artist Performance Competitions begin with state competitions, followed by a video-only division. The Chamber Music Competitions are open to ensembles with members aged 18–29.

The Music Teachers National Association Competitions offer a prestigious platform for young musicians to showcase their talents. These competitions are divided into different categories, including Junior, Senior, Young Artist, and Chamber Music, each with its own set of rules and stages. The competitions start at the state level, with winners advancing to further rounds, eventually culminating in the National Finals. The competitions provide an excellent opportunity for young musicians to perform, receive feedback, and compete at a national level.

A conductor holding his wand with the orchestra playing in the background

The MTNA Competitions are notable for their rigorous structure and the high level of talent they attract, making them one of the most esteemed visual and performing arts competitions for high school students. Participating in these competitions offers valuable experience in performance and competition, helping students develop their musical skills to a high standard.

10. National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC) Competitions

  • Location: Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Cost: Specific costs vary by competition and category.
  • Competition Dates: The three-tiered Performance Competitions begin with state competitions, with National Finals slated for March 16–20, 2024.
  • Application Deadline: Chamber Music Registration opens on November 1, 2023. Deadlines for other competitions may vary.
  • Eligibility: Open to native-born or naturalized American citizens who are members or become members of NFMC. The competitions cover a broad range of categories suitable for various music students.

The NFMC offers a diverse array of competitions and awards in various musical fields including voice, instrumental music, composition, dance, conducting, and music therapy. These competitions provide a comprehensive platform for music students to showcase their skills. Participants can engage in NFMC Festivals, receiving feedback and recognition. The Festivals Cup Award Plan and Honor Certificates further encourage continued participation in NFMC Festivals.

What distinguishes the NFMC competitions is their broad spectrum of categories, accommodating a wide range of musical talents and interests. This inclusivity offers unique opportunities for students specializing in less common disciplines like music therapy or dance. The NFMC’s focus on providing feedback and continued learning opportunities through their Festivals Cup Award Plan and Honor Certificates also contributes to the overall development of young musicians, making these competitions crucial for those seeking to excel in the field of music.

11. Quill and Scroll Society International Photo Contest

  • Location: Onlne
  • Cost: Free
  • Competition Dates: Typically opens for submissions in the fall
  • Application Deadline: February 2, 2024.
  • Eligibility: High school students globally can participate. Each school can submit up to four entries in each of the 12 categories, including news-feature, sports photography, and beginning photography.

The Quill and Scroll Society International Photo Contest is an esteemed global competition that invites high school students to showcase their photographic talents. The contest includes various categories, allowing students to demonstrate their skills in areas like news-feature, sports photography, and beginning photography. This all-digital contest provides a platform for students to submit their work online, making it accessible to a wide audience.

As part of the visual and performing arts competitions for high school students, the Quill and Scroll Society International Photo Contest stands out for its global reach and the diversity of its categories. The contest’s digital format also offers a contemporary approach to showcasing and evaluating art, reflecting the evolving nature of photography and multimedia in the modern world. Participants not only gain valuable experience but also have the opportunity to earn accolades that could influence their future academic and career paths in the visual arts.

12. Arts Olympiad

  • Location: Global, with the World Children’s Festival taking place at The National Mall across the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
  • Cost: Free to enter. However, selected delegates are responsible for their own travel, accommodation, meals, and local transport.
  • Competition Dates: The World Children’s Festival is scheduled for June 30 – July 2, 2024.
  • Application Deadline: Artwork must be postmarked on or before February 15, 2024.
  • Eligibility: Open to students aged 8 to 12 from schools, after-school programs, art studios, and homeschooled students worldwide.

The 7th Arts Olympiad is an innovative art program designed to counter the “4th-grade slump” in children’s creativity. It introduces the “Artist-Athlete Ideal” – a concept that combines a creative mind with a healthy body, encouraging students to explore their potential as both artists and athletes. Participants are encouraged to depict themselves as “artist-athletes” in their artworks, fostering a revised self-image that promotes creativity and well-being. This global contest invites young students to express their newfound identity through art, contributing to a more creative, healthy, and peaceful school community.

painting materials laid on the table

The Arts Olympiad is unique in its approach to nurturing creativity and physical well-being in children, an essential aspect of holistic education. Emphasizing the “Artist-Athlete Ideal” helps young students break free from the typical slump in creativity that often occurs around the fourth grade. Participation in this program can be a significant factor in college admissions, as it demonstrates a student’s engagement in creative activities that also promote physical health and empathy.

13. ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Free
  • Competition Dates: Applications begin on January 4, 2024.
  • Application Deadline: February 9, 2024, 11:59 pm Eastern Time.
  • Eligibility: Open to composers of original, classical concert music aged 13 to 30. Composers may be American citizens, permanent residents, or students with U.S. student visas.

The ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards is a prestigious competition that recognizes and supports young composers of classical concert music. The awards are open globally, welcoming submissions from a diverse range of young talents. Winners of the competition receive cash prizes and recognition, which can significantly boost their careers in classical music composition.

The Morton Gould Young Composer Awards stands out among visual and performing arts competitions for high school students due to its focus on classical music composition, an area that combines both artistic vision and technical skill. The competition provides a unique platform for young composers to gain recognition on an international scale, fostering the next generation of classical music talent. Winning this award can be a major milestone in a young composer’s career, offering not just financial support but also prestige that can be influential in college admissions and beyond. The competition’s emphasis on originality and classical concert music provides a nurturing environment for young composers to explore and develop their unique voices in the world of classical music.

14. International Graphic Arts Education Association (IGAEA) Gutenberg Awards

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: No entry fee.
  • Competition Dates: Specific competition dates are not provided.
  • Application Deadline: June 30
  • Eligibility: Open to graphic arts students at any educational institution worldwide.

The IGAEA Gutenberg Awards celebrate outstanding achievements in the field of Graphic Arts. This prestigious accolade is open to students worldwide and encompasses a wide range of creative works, including printed items, websites, and photographs. It offers a platform for emerging talents in graphic arts to showcase their skills and innovations. The contest aims to recognize exceptional student achievements and foster excellence in graphic arts education.

Unidentified person using a drawing pad and a laptop on a table.

The Gutenberg Award distinguishes itself as a significant recognition in the graphic arts field, attracting entries from talented students globally. It offers young artists a unique opportunity to gain international exposure and recognition for their work. Participation in this contest can be a valuable addition to a student’s portfolio, particularly for those aspiring to careers in graphic design, digital media, or related fields. Success in the Gutenberg Awards can also bolster a student’s credentials for college admissions, demonstrating not only their technical skills but also their creativity and ability to compete at an international level.

15. National High School Musical Theatre Awards (Jimmy Awards)

  • Location: Held at Nederlander’s Minskoff Theatre in New York, home of Disney’s The Lion King.
  • Cost: Free
  • Competition Dates: Applications will be accepted starting in late-January 2024.
  • Application Deadline: April  1, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school students in grades 9 through 12 who have performed qualified lead roles in their adjudicated 2023/2024 NHSTA musicals are eligible to apply. The determination of what constitutes a qualified lead role is made by the Broadway League.

The Jimmy Awards, formally known as the National High School Musical Theatre Awards, is a renowned celebration of the best in high school musical theater across the United States. This competition brings together talented students who have distinguished themselves in local and regional musical theater competitions. At this prestigious event, students perform on a Broadway stage, showcasing their talents in acting, singing, and dancing.

The Jimmy Awards is a highlight among visual and performing arts competitions for high school students. This competition offers a unique platform for young performers to experience the excitement and challenge of performing on a renowned Broadway stage. Participation in the Jimmy Awards can be a significant milestone in a young artist’s career, offering invaluable exposure and networking opportunities in the theatrical world. The recognition and experience gained through this competition can significantly enhance college applications, demonstrating not only a student’s talent but also their dedication and passion for musical theater. The Jimmy Awards not only celebrate artistic excellence but also foster the growth of future stars in the world of musical theater.

16. Technology Student Association (TSA) High School Competition

  • Location: A national program held in various locations across the United States.
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Competition Dates: Specific competition dates are not provided, but the competitions are held annually.
  • Application Deadline: The application deadline varies depending on the event.
  • Eligibility: Open to high school students enrolled in an accredited high school program in the United States.

The TSA High School Competition is a comprehensive national program offering 40 different competitions in a wide array of categories. These categories encompass computer science and information technology, leadership, manufacturing and transportation technology, STEM, as well as the arts and technology and research. The program annually brings together students from across the United States, providing them a platform to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in these diverse fields.

The TSA High School Competition is unique in its extensive range of categories, making it one of the most diverse visual and performing arts competitions for high school students. It not only covers traditional areas of technology and science but also includes the arts, thereby catering to a broad spectrum of student interests and talents. This diversity allows students to explore and excel in their chosen fields, fostering both specialization and interdisciplinary learning.

17. Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

  • Location: Online
  • 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 renowned platform that has been nurturing the talents of creative teens since 1923. This program encourages students in grades 7-12 to submit their work in a wide array of categories, covering both visual and literary arts. It’s an opportunity for young artists and writers to gain national recognition, showcase their creativity, and compete for scholarships.

a female painter painting on a canvas

The Scholastic Awards is distinctive because of its long-standing history and broad scope in visual and performing arts competitions for high school students. They offer a unique chance for young creators to be acknowledged on a national level, which can be a significant boost for college applications and future artistic endeavors. The program not only recognizes talent but also provides substantial scholarships, making it a coveted opportunity for aspiring artists and writers. The awards have a legacy of discovering and supporting some of the nation’s most prominent artists and writers, making participation in this contest a potentially life-changing experience for young creatives.

18. youngARTS Recognition and Talent Search

  • Location: Open to students across the United States.
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Competition Dates: The 2025 youngARTS application opens in June 2024.
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: Open to artists ages 15-18 or in grades 10-12. Applicants must be current or past YoungArts award winners.

The youngARTS Recognition and Talent Search is a prestigious program that seeks to identify and nurture the talents of exceptional young artists. This competition provides emerging artists with a national platform to showcase their abilities in various disciplines. The program is known for recognizing artistic excellence and offering young talents the opportunity to engage in creative and professional development experiences.

The youngARTS program is distinguished by its commitment to investing in the lifelong creative freedom of young artists. It is not just a competition; it’s a comprehensive nurturing platform that offers recognition, mentorship, and networking opportunities. These elements are crucial for young artists looking to advance their skills and careers. Participation in youngARTS can significantly enhance college applications, as it demonstrates a student’s commitment to their art and their ability to excel at a national level. The program’s support helps young artists lay a strong foundation for their future in the arts, making it a significant stepping stone for emerging talents in the United States.

19. Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Free
  • Competition Dates: Guidelines for the 2024 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition have not been announced.
  • Application Deadline: Guidelines for the 2024 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition have not been announced.
  • Eligibility: Open to young photographers in three age categories: 10 Years and Under, 11-14 Years, and 15-17 Years. Participants can submit up to 10 photos related to wildlife and nature.

The Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest invites aspiring photographers in three age groups to submit their best wildlife photos. This competition encourages young photographers to capture various aspects of wildlife and nature, including wild flora and fauna, natural environments, and human interactions with nature. The contest focuses on highlighting the beauty and intricacies of the natural world and our place within it.

This contest distinguishes itself through its emphasis on biodiversity, sustainability, and ethical photography practices. The judging panel, comprising experts and chaired by a leading figure in wildlife photography, evaluates submissions based on artistic merit, technical skill, and narrative quality. The contest promotes not just photographic excellence but also innovation and a fresh approach to composition. Winning an age category can lead to being considered for the prestigious title of Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

20. Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Contests

  • Location: Open to participants worldwide, with certain contests requiring specific location requirements like the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Cost: Free
  • Competition Dates: Varies depending on the specific contest. For instance, the Sense of Wonder Photo Contest submission period runs from July to September.
  • Application Deadline: Varies depending on the specific contest. The Sense of Wonder Photo Contest, for example, has a submission period from July to September.
  • Eligibility: Varies by contest. The Sense of Wonder Photo Contest requires photos taken at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. The Intergenerational Sense of Wonder Contest invites young team members to submit poetry or prose, while the Art Contest involves submitting theme-based items, including photos and poems related to the Refuge.

The Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder contests encompass a range of creative competitions, including photo, art, and intergenerational contests. These contests celebrate the beauty of the natural world and encourage participants to express their appreciation for nature through various artistic mediums. Inspired by Rachel Carson’s legacy, these contests aim to foster a deeper connection between individuals and the environment.

A woman using a camera.

The Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder contests are unique in their focus on nature and the environment, aligning with Rachel Carson’s vision of environmental conservation. These contests provide a platform for participants of all ages to showcase their creativity and express their appreciation for nature. Participation in these contests can be beneficial for students and young artists, as it encourages them to explore environmental themes and express their views artistically.

21. Congressional Art Competition

  • Location: Nationwide
  • Cost: No entry fee.
  • Competition Dates: Held annually. For example, the winners for the 2022-2023 season were announced on May 1, 2023.
  • Application Deadline: Varies depending on the congressional district, as each Member of Congress may choose to host the program in their district with their own set deadline.
  • Eligibility: Open to high school students in grades 9-12 residing in the United States. Each Member of Congress may select one winning entry from their district to be displayed in the U.S. Capitol Building for one year.

The Congressional Art Competition is a prestigious event that showcases the artistic talents of high school students nationwide. It offers a unique opportunity for young artists to have their work recognized and displayed in a prominent location. The competition encourages students to engage in the visual arts and provides a platform for them to share their perspectives and skills with a broader audience.

What sets the Congressional Art Competition apart is the honor of having artwork displayed in the U.S. Capitol Building, a distinction that offers national recognition. This exposure is an incredible opportunity for young artists and can be a significant highlight in college applications and artistic portfolios. The competition also promotes an appreciation for the arts within the community and among national leaders, fostering a culture that values and supports artistic expression. Participation in visual and performing arts competitions not only celebrates high school students’ artistic achievements but also connects them with the legislative process, bridging art and civic engagement. This unique combination of art, recognition, and civic involvement makes the Congressional Art Competition a noteworthy and valuable experience for high school students.

22. River of Words Art and Poetry Contest

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Free
  • Competition Dates: The 2024 River of Words Competition is currently open for submissions.
  • Application Deadline: Februay 29,2024
  • Eligibility: Open to students in kindergarten through 12th grade, ages 5-19. Eligible participants include those enrolled in schools or homeschool programs.

The River of Words Art and Poetry Contest is a unique international platform that encourages young students to connect with their local environments, specifically watersheds, through artistic and poetic expression. This contest aims to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the natural world among students, utilizing art and poetry as mediums of exploration and expression.

What makes the River of Words Contest distinct is its focus on environmental education through creative mediums. It encourages students to observe and reflect on the natural world around them, promoting both environmental awareness and artistic creativity. Participation in this contest can enhance a student’s understanding of ecology and their local environment, which is beneficial for holistic education and can be a valuable aspect of college admissions. The contest provides a platform for students to express their environmental concerns and appreciation, encouraging a generation of environmentally conscious and artistically engaged individuals. By blending art, poetry, and environmental education, the River of Words Contest offers a unique opportunity for students to explore and celebrate the natural world in a creative and meaningful way.

23. Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition

  • Location: Nationwide
  • Cost: Free
  • 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: Eligibility for the official competition is restricted to schools and organizations that have registered with their respective state Poetry Out Loud coordinators. Limited to students currently in grades 9-12, although 8th graders are also eligible if they are participating in a class for grades 9-12.

The Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition is a national event that emphasizes the importance and impact of the spoken word. High school students from across the United States are invited to participate in this contest, which focuses on recitation and performance of poetry. The contest provides a platform for students to develop and showcase their public speaking skills and their understanding and interpretation of poetry.

Close up of a microphone.

The Poetry Out Loud Drama Competition is distinguished by its focus on the art of poetry recitation, combining elements of performance, oration, and literary analysis. This unique blend of skills offers significant advantages to participants, especially in terms of enhancing public speaking abilities and deepening literary comprehension – skills that are highly valuable in college admissions and beyond.

24. Reflections Program

  • Location: Available across the United States.
  • Cost: Free
  • Competition Dates: Runs annually from the beginning of the school year to the end.
  • Application Deadline: Registration opens on April 1 and runs until February 1 of the following year, with specific submission timelines varying by state PTA.
  • Eligibility: Open to students in grades pre-K through 12th, based on the requirements set by their state PTA.

The Reflections Program is a National PTA initiative designed to encourage students to explore and engage in the arts. This program offers a platform for students in grades pre-K through 12th to express themselves creatively while developing their artistic literacy. It allows students to delve into their thoughts, feelings, and ideas through various artistic mediums, fostering both personal growth and academic success.

The Reflections Program stands out among visual and performing arts competitions for high school students due to its extensive approach to arts education. It not only encourages artistic expression but also focuses on developing critical thinking, confidence, and a love for learning. Participation in this program can significantly benefit students in their academic journey and beyond, providing them with valuable skills and a creative outlet. This recognition program plays a crucial role in nurturing a well-rounded educational experience, making it a vital part of a student’s development in both school and life. The broad eligibility criteria allow a wide range of students to participate and gain recognition for their artistic talents, contributing to a more inclusive and diverse arts community.

25. Digital Arts Festival

  • Location: Recognizes achievements through local, regional, or national festivals.
  • Cost: Free
  • Competition Dates: Runs annually from August to May.
  • Application Deadline: Specific deadlines are not provided in the search results.
  • Eligibility: Open to Boys and Girls Club members ages 6-18. Competitions include Music Making, Photo Illustration, Movie Making (Film and Animation), Graphic Design, and Game Design.

The Digital Arts Festival is a program designed to celebrate and encourage the artistic talents of Boys and Girls Club members. It offers a platform for young artists to showcase their skills in various digital art disciplines. The festival operates across three levels – local, regional, and national – providing ample opportunities for recognition and development at each stage.

What makes the Digital Arts Festival unique is its focus on digital creativity, an increasingly important field in the modern world. This festival allows young artists to engage with contemporary art forms and technologies, preparing them for the digital future. Participation in such a contest can be incredibly beneficial for college admissions, as it showcases a student’s ability to adapt to and innovate within the evolving landscape of digital arts. Furthermore, the tiered structure of the festival – from local to national levels – offers progressive challenges and opportunities for recognition, building confidence, and motivating participants to continually develop their talents. The Digital Arts Festival stands as a testament to the importance of integrating technology with artistic expression, fostering a generation of digitally savvy and creatively equipped individuals.

26. Ocean Awareness Student Contest

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Free
  • Competition Dates: Submissions are open from September 7, 2023, to June 10, 2024.
  • Application Deadline: June 10, 2024, at 11:59 pm Eastern Time (ET).
  • Eligibility: Open to students ages 11-18 enrolled worldwide in middle school, high school, or homeschool equivalent. Participants can enter individually or as part of a club, class, or group. An Adult Sponsor is required for all entrants.

The Ocean Awareness Student Contest is a unique international platform that invites teenagers to engage with ocean conservation issues through various creative mediums, including art, poetry, and multimedia. The contest aims to raise awareness among young individuals about the importance of oceans and the urgent need to protect them. It accepts submissions in multiple categories like Visual Art, Poetry & Spoken Word, Creative Writing, Film, Performing Arts, and Interactive & Multimedia.

A girl performing on stage

What sets the Ocean Awareness Student Contest apart is its integration of environmental education with artistic creativity. This contest not only encourages artistic expression but also fosters environmental awareness and responsibility among the youth. Participation in this contest can enhance a student’s college application by demonstrating their commitment to environmental issues and their ability to convey powerful messages through creative means. Additionally, the wide range of categories allows students with various talents to participate and express their concerns and hopes for ocean conservation. Winning awards in this contest can bring international recognition to the participants, along with substantial awards, motivating them to continue their artistic and environmental advocacy endeavors.

27. National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Competitions

  • Location: Held at local, state, and national levels in the United States.
  • Cost: Free
  • Competition Dates: Guidelines for the 2024 NAfME Competitions have not been announced
  • Application Deadline: Guidelines for the 2024 NAfME  Competitionshave not been announced
  • Eligibility: Open to students and educators who are members of NAfME. Eligibility requirements differ for each competition, and participants must be members of the division in which they compete.

NAfME organizes various competitions and awards that cater to a wide range of music education categories. These include prestigious events like the Biennial Young Artist and Ellis Duo-Pianists competitions, which collectively offer $92,000 in awards. The competitions cover diverse areas such as voice, instrumental music, composition, dance, conducting, and even specialized fields like music therapy. These events provide an essential platform for both students and educators to demonstrate their musical skills and innovations.

The NAfME competitions are distinguished by their comprehensive approach to music education, offering opportunities across a broad spectrum of musical disciplines. These competitions not only highlight technical skills and artistry but also contribute to the professional development of participants. Success in these events can significantly benefit college applications and future career prospects, especially for those pursuing music education.

A performer awaiting the moment of entering the stage

Participating in visual and performing arts competitions offers high school students more than just an opportunity to display their talents. Engaging in these contests, which range from local to international levels, is a key element in developing essential skills such as creativity, critical thinking, and public speaking. Such experiences are not only pivotal for personal growth but also enhance a student’s college application, demonstrating their commitment and ability to excel in competitive environments. These visual and performing arts competitions for high school students provide a unique platform for young artists to connect deeply with their artistic passions, be it through music, writing, digital arts, or environmental advocacy. Ultimately, these contests equip students for future academic and professional success, marking an important milestone in their educational and artistic development.

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