How to Compete in the Apprentice Writer Competition

May 14, 2021
By AdmissionSight

How to Compete in  the Apprentice Writer Competition

For high school students who are passionate about writing, there are countless opportunities when it comes to submitting to and winning writing competitions. Depending on what kind of writing you are interested in, there is no doubt that you can have competitions that will either offer your major notoriety, huge cash prizes, or both! One such option is the Apprentice Writer competition, which gives high schoolers an opportunity to experience what it’s like to compete against some of the best young writers in the world.

If you are curious about the Apprentice Writer program, then you have absolutely come to the right place! At AdmissionSight, we make it our number one priority to help the most talented and committed young minds get into the college or university of their dreams.

Checking for typographical errors in an essay.

For many, that may mean submitting to some of the most competitive and impressive writing competitions in the world.

For that reason, let’s break down everything you should know about this specific competition.

About Apprentice Writer

Every single year, Apprentice Writer features the best writing and illustrations from the entries that they receive from high-school aged students both within the United States and abroad. The competition itself is provided by the Susquehanna University.

To clarify, because this is a rather unique competition, we want to clarify that there are both pieces of literary work and artwork that are submittable to Apprentice Writer. Work such as fiction, poetry, graphic novels, photography, choreography and more are all submittable to Apprentice Writer.

Female student smiling at the camera.

For the competition, Susquehanna University and the Writers Institute at the university, encourage students to submit many different forms of writing including fiction, memoir, photography, personal essay, and/or poetry to appear in the upcoming year’s volume of Apprentice Writer, which is published each fall.

The writers that are selected as winners are published and received one of six prizes that include $200 for Outstanding Writer in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry as well as $50 to the Runners-Up in each of the genres.

If you are curious about the most recent issue of Apprentice Writer, here is the publication from 2021.

Submission instructions for Apprentice Writer

As is the case with all top writing and essay competitions, it is really important for students to keep all of the specific submission guidelines in mind.

That is especially true because it is possible that some students find that their great pieces that they worked incredibly hard on have to be disqualified simply because they forgot to follow the specific guidelines and requirements of a specific competition.

Here are the specific formatting and submission guidelines that you should keep in mind if you are a high school student interested in seeing your work in next year’s volume of Apprentice Writer.

Here are the instructions for submitting photography to Apprentice Writer:

  • Images should be submitted only as jpg files
  • Each image should be named as follows:
  • Last name, First initials – Submission Title (Your city and state of residence)
  • Apprentice Writer accepts both color and black and white photos
  • Symbols such as @, #, $, %, & or similar should never be included in your title

Here are the instructions for submitting prose, such as fiction, short story, memoir and personal essay to Apprentice Writer:

  • Each word document submitted should include only one submission
  • There are zero restrictions on what your piece can be about
  • Prose pieces should not exceed 30 pages in length
  • Prose pieces should be written in the format of 12 pt. Times New Roman font with double spacing
  • Each word document submitted should include the writer’s first name, last name, and email address ad the top left of the document
  • Files should be submitted as .doc and should be titled as follows:
  • Last name, First name (genre) Submission Title

Here are the instructions for submitting graphic fiction and nonfiction to Apprentice Writer:

  • Each pdf should only include one submission
  • There are no restrictions on subject
  • Graphic pieces should not exceed four pages in length
  • Files should be titled as follows:
  • Last name, First initial, Submission title

Here are the instructions for submitting poetry, choreopoetry and spoken word pieces to Apprentice Writer:

  • Each Word document should include just one submission
  • Poetry should be singled spaced and in 12 point Times New Roman font
  • There are no restrictions on subject
  • Each document should include a student’s first and last name and email address at the top left of the word document
  • Files should be titled as follows:
  • Last name, First initial, Submission title

From this quick breakdown, you should already have a pretty good idea about whether or not the Apprentice Writer competition could be something that you are interested in.

Perhaps one of the most unique things about this competition is that it is not simply a writing contest. As you now know, it is so much more than that and encourages students to submit all different types of creative work.

However, simply entering a writing contest and actually gaining recognition for your work in that writing contest are two very different things. For that reason, we at AdmissionSight have taken the time to break down some important tips that students can utilize in order to make the most out of every writing contest they enter and give themselves the best shot at gaining recognition and winning.

Tips to help high school students win a writing contest

Without a doubt, high school students should not just be submitting to writing and essay contests because they want to win. But still, it is fun and can be quite beneficial to win for a number of different reasons.

So, if you are looking to learn about ways to improve and increase your chances of actually winning the contests that you enter, then you have come to the right place. Let’s get started!

First off, recognize that your work will never be perfect

This might seem like an odd place to start off when it comes to tips on how to excel in writing and essay contests, but it is something that dedicated writers have to constantly remind themselves of if they want to truly get their work on the page.

Sometimes, the expectations that young writers put on themselves can be somewhat crippling. You want to write as well as your favorite authors did when they were at the height of their powers. You want every sentence to flow out of you easily and beautifully. However, you have to remind yourself that that is – quite literally – impossible.

You are still incredibly young in your writing career and no writing essay or competition is going to make or break your work overall.

The same can be said for the judges who will be looking at your work whenever you submit a piece. Why do some pieces win while others do not? Truly, the answer can change from competition to competition and year to year.

All you have to do with your work is write and edit the best piece possible and submit it and pray it wins. This might not seem like great advice overall, but trust me, allowing yourself the option to submit, fail and move on to the next piece and the next competition is one of the best ways to guarantee that you will continue writing and growing as a writer overall.

Make sure to really craft your main character(s)

No matter if you are writing a piece of prose, working on a nonfiction, a memoir or a series of poems, you are going to want to make sure that your main character, or main subject is as interesting and engaging as possible.

What tends to fascinate people most is the contrast of one thing to another. Good vs. evil. Light vs. dark. Normal vs. strange. Suffering vs. the sublime. Above all, what many writing contests are looking for is a writer who knows how to fully engross and engage the reader. If you are able to do just that, you are definitely going to get a leg up on the competition.

Find a satisfying ending

By the end of a long writing project, it can sometimes be tempting to finish with the first ending that you came up. Something that is satisfying, perhaps a bit predictable and clean. However, that is often not the best way to finish your work.

Ultimately, no matter what kind of style you are writing in, you are going to want to bring it back to the primary question – or subject- that you are focusing on about the very nature of living and thinking as a writer.

Remember, life is almost never clean and wrapped in a pretty bow. So, why then, would your writing be that way? Some of the most successful stories of all time comes with incredibly unpredictable and unsatisfying endings. In, it is those unsatisfying endings that often connect to readers the most, as it reminds them of moments in their own lives where things didn’t always quite work out.

Especially for high schoolers writers, the ability to really wrestle to find an ending that surprises and satisfies is going to really impress judges and anyone who reads your work.

That is to say, writers must always remember that they should never be writing for anyone other than themselves. Do not craft something simply because you think the judges will love it.

Still, if you take the extra time to really find an ending that makes you feel proud of your work, you are going to be happy with the extra time and energy that you exerted.

Repeat with a twist

This is a pretty specific writing note, but it is a great lesson in writing overall because it can help young writers think about crafting a unique story that leaves any reader – whether it be your English teacher, a judge at a competition, or one of your parents – wanting more.

In the last few lines of your story, think about repeating something that was said or occurred earlier in the piece, but with a slight and noticeable change.

This repeat in action with a change will show the reader that the character or characters at the center of your story have changed in a simple and explicit way. Of course, it does not have to be something huge, just an indicator and change and movement going forward beyond the words that you have written on the page.

White what you know – even if what you know never even happened

One of the most classic phrases when it comes to any kind of creative writing is, “Write what you know.” What this means for a writer is that you should always be drawing from your real-life experience in order to craft your characters, situations and overall stories.

This, however, does not mean that your stories have to be based on actual events that you experienced exactly. After all, if that were the case, how would anyone ever write about a group of people struggling to survive on a ship in deep space, or write about anything that happened in a fantastical land with dragons and damsels in distress?

Chinese students studying in a library.

Instead of sticking to reality, writing what you know instead means to use the people in your life as inspiration for your characters. In the end, the characters are going to be what drives your story from one point to the next.

Steal character traits, conversations and much more to make the world that you are creating feel as lived in as possible. This is the only way that you are going to be able to convince your readers to really identify with the characters that you are crafting in your stories.

You may think that this rule only applies to you if you are writing fiction and prose. However, let’s take poetry for example. Your poem must come from some point of view, looking at the world in some specific way.

Even if you are writing a poem about what it is to be a flower, or a stone. Try to start out by focusing on something that you have specifically seen and experienced. This is going to allow you to start small and then go big. That is something that all readers truly love.

Why submit your work to writing contests?

At this point, you may already be incredibly excited to get started on your next story in order to submit to some of the most competitive writing and essay competitions in the world.

However, if you are still wondering about why so many high school students submit their original work to writing competitions each and every year, you may want to consider some of primary reasons to submit in general.

With that all in mind, if you do not already have a natural desire to write and submit your work, you may be better off looking for other challenges and extracurriculars that you would be more naturally interested and invested in!

Gain major recognition

One of the main reasons why it can be so beneficial to submit your work to writing competitions is because of the recognition that you can gain. Being able to say that your original work has been published in a prestigious journal such as Apprentice Writer is definitely going to help you set yourself apart from the other students who are applying to the colleges and universities that you have pegged as your ideal destinations.

Win scholarship money

Another major benefit is that high schoolers who win certain competitions will gain access to sizable amounts of scholarship money. Without a doubt, some of these prizes come with some strings attached, but even if it is scholarship money that will go towards a specific summer program or trip, that still offers students an opportunity to experience new things, meet new people and grow as individuals.

A student taking an exam

Improve as a writer

Ultimately, the best thing that writing competitions offer is the chance to grow and improve as a writer. Whether you see yourself pursuing a career as a writer, or simply want to pursue a passion and interest outside of your professional life, writing competitions will give you a reason to continue to push yourself further.


Here at AdmissionSight, we make it our number one goal of helping every student we work with to get into the school of their dreams. If you are a high schooler who is naturally interested in writing and wants to test your writing against other students around the country and globe, then competitions such as the one offered by Apprentice Writer could be a very productive use of your time.

Now all you have to do is start looking at all the writing competitions that are offered to students all over the world every year and make a list of which you think your writing would have the best chance at succeeding. Who knows, you might soon find your name published in print because of it!




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