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Bennington College Young Writers Awards

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

an academic triathlon awarding ceremony

Bennington College Young Writers Awards

Are you a high school student with a passion for writing? The Young Writers Awards at Bennington College could be your golden opportunity to showcase your talents and make your mark in the literary world. This prestigious competition is not just about winning; it’s about expressing your unique voice, honing your writing skills, and getting a taste of recognition in a community that celebrates creativity.

Whether you’re into poetry, fiction, or non-fiction, this award is your chance to let your imagination soar and get noticed by one of the most artistically vibrant colleges in the nation. Dive in to discover how the Young Writers Awards can be a stepping stone to achieving your college dreams.

What is the Young Writers Awards?

The Young Writers Awards at Bennington College is an annual competition that celebrates and recognizes the exceptional writing talents of high school students globally. This prestigious contest, free to enter, is open to students in grades 9 through 12 from both the United States and around the world. It offers a platform for young writers to showcase their skills in three main categories: Poetry, Fiction, and Non-fiction.

The competition runs annually from September 1 to November 1. Winners are selected for each category, with first, second, and third places earning cash prizes of $1,000, $500, and $250 respectively. Moreover, finalists and winners become eligible for significant undergraduate scholarships if they apply to, are admitted, and enroll at Bennington College. Finalists receive a $10,000 scholarship annually for four years, while winners receive a $15,000 scholarship annually over the same period.

Bennington College, with its unique literary legacy that includes twelve Pulitzer Prize winners, three U.S. poet laureates, and four MacArthur Geniuses, views this competition as a reflection of its commitment to nurturing literary talent. The college encourages the participation of a diverse group of students, underscoring the importance of originality and authenticity in submissions. All entries must be original work, reviewed, approved, and sponsored by a high school teacher or, in the case of homeschooled students, a mentor.

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What Should I Submit?

The Young Writers Awards at Bennington College invites students in grades 9-12 to submit original writing in one of three categories:

1. Poetry: three poems of any length and in any form. Poems must be typed. Each page must clearly show the author’s name.

2. Fiction: a short story or one-act play. Short stories must be typed, double-spaced, and fewer than 1500 words. Scripts must be typed, double-spaced, and run no more than 30 minutes (playing time). Each page must clearly show the author’s name.

3. Non-fiction: a personal or academic essay. Stories and non-fiction must be typed, double-spaced, and fewer than 1500 words. Each page must clearly show the author’s name.

Submissions must be typed, double-spaced, and display the author’s name on each page. Entries require a high school teacher’s approval and sponsorship. Both US and international students are eligible, and all entries must be in English. Winners will be published under the Newsroom section and the Young Writers section on the Bennington College website and possibly in local media, while retaining all other copyrights.

How Do I Participate in the Young Writers Awards?

Unfortunately, the registration for the current year has closed, but understanding the process can be useful for future participation:

1. Category Selection: Choose one of the three categories – poetry, fiction, or non-fiction. Adhere to the format and length requirements of your selected category.

2. Manuscript Preparation: Your work should be original, typed, and double-spaced. Include your name on each page of your manuscript.

3. Teacher’s Endorsement: Obtain approval and sponsorship from a high school teacher. Your teacher’s endorsement is a mandatory part of the application. All entries must be reviewed and approved by a high school teacher who will also act as your sponsor. This step is crucial as it ensures the quality and originality of your submission. For homeschooled students, a mentor can fulfill this role.

4. Completing Application Forms: Fill out the necessary application forms available during the registration period, which require your personal and school information.

5. Submission and Await Results: Submit your work by the deadline. Ensure all guidelines are followed to avoid disqualification. After submission, results are announced a few months later, usually on the college’s website.

6. Stay Informed for Next Year: Since the deadline for this year has passed, it’s a good opportunity to start preparing for the next. Keep refining your writing, and be ready to submit when the next cycle opens.

Why Should I Submit an Entry to the Young Writers Awards?

Here are reasons why you should participate in the Young Writers Awards at Bennington College:

1. Recognition of Your Literary Talent: Participating in the Young Writers Awards provides an incredible opportunity to showcase your writing skills on a respected platform. As a high school student, having your work recognized by a prestigious institution like Bennington College, known for its literary heritage, can be a significant achievement. 

Winners and finalists gain not only recognition for their outstanding writing abilities but also an opportunity to showcase their talent to a broader audience. This recognition can be a significant boost to your confidence and can enhance your literary portfolio.

2. Valuable Scholarships for College Education: If you are a finalist or a winner of the Young Writers Awards and choose to enroll at Bennington College, you become eligible for substantial scholarships. This financial support can be pivotal in accessing higher education and pursuing your passion for writing at a college level.

3. Development of Writing Skills: The process of preparing for and participating in the Young Writers Awards helps in honing your writing skills. Whether you are writing poetry, fiction, or non-fiction, the act of creating, refining, and submitting your work can be an enriching learning experience. It encourages you to engage deeply with your writing, pushing you to explore and articulate your thoughts and ideas creatively and coherently.

4. Networking and Mentorship Opportunities: By participating in the Young Writers Awards, you open doors to connect with mentors, teachers, and fellow young writers. Such networks can provide you with valuable guidance and support in your writing journey. Engaging with a community of like-minded individuals can be inspiring and can offer you new perspectives and insights into the world of writing.

Overall, the Young Writers Awards at Bennington College not only celebrates young literary talent but also provides invaluable opportunities for personal and academic growth. It’s a chance to be acknowledged for your dedication to writing, to win significant scholarships, and to be a part of a community that nurtures and respects the art of writing.

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How to Prepare for Writing Your Best Literary Work

Preparing your best literary work for submission to the Young Writers Awards at Bennington College involves several steps that are crucial for success:

1. Understand the Guidelines Thoroughly: Before you start writing, it’s essential to fully understand the submission guidelines of the Young Writers Awards. This includes the specific categories (Poetry, Fiction, and Non-fiction), word limits, and submission format. 

Adhering to these guidelines is crucial, as even the most creative piece can be disqualified if it doesn’t meet the criteria set by the competition. Make sure your work falls within the required word count and fits the category you are entering. Remember, each category has its unique requirements, so tailor your work accordingly.

2. Choose a Topic That Resonates with You: Selecting a topic that you are passionate about can significantly influence the quality of your writing. When you write about something that truly interests you, your work is more likely to engage and captivate the reader. This personal connection can bring depth and authenticity to your writing, making your piece stand out. Think about themes or issues that you find particularly compelling or that have had a significant impact on your life.

3. Draft, Revise, and Edit: Writing a great piece of literature is often a process of revision. Start with a rough draft, and don’t worry about making it perfect in the first go. Once your ideas are down on paper, begin the process of refining and editing. 

Look for areas in your writing that need more detail, clarity, or stronger language. Pay attention to grammar, punctuation, and spelling, as technical excellence can make a big difference in how your work is received. Don’t hesitate to revise your work multiple times until you feel it’s the best it can be.

4. Seek Feedback: Getting feedback from teachers, mentors, or even your peers can provide you with new perspectives on your work. Constructive criticism can help you identify areas that need improvement and can also affirm the strengths of your writing. 

Be open to suggestions and consider the feedback carefully, but also remember to stay true to your voice and style. Use this feedback to make your work stronger and more compelling.

5. Stay True to Your Voice: While it’s important to follow guidelines and take advice from others, it’s equally vital to maintain your unique voice and style in your writing. Your individual perspective and creativity are what will make your work stand out. Trust your instincts and write in a way that feels true to who you are as a writer.

Remember, preparing for the Young Writers Awards is not just about winning a competition; it’s also an opportunity for personal and creative growth. Take this process as a chance to explore your capabilities as a writer and to express yourself in the most authentic way possible.

Where to Get Constructive Feedback

Getting constructive feedback on your writing is a key step in improving and refining your work. As a student, it’s important to know where to look for insightful critiques that can help you grow as a writer. Here are various sources where you can find valuable feedback:

1. Teachers and Educators: Your school teachers, especially those who specialize in English or creative writing, are often the first go-to sources for feedback. They can provide professional insights into your writing style, grammar, structure, and content. 

Teachers have experience in guiding students to improve their writing skills and are usually keen to help passionate students. When approaching a teacher, be specific about what kind of feedback you’re looking for, whether it’s about the overall flow, specific language use, character development in a story, or the clarity of your arguments in an essay.

2. Writing Workshops and Clubs: Many schools and communities offer writing workshops or have writing clubs. These are excellent places to get feedback from both peers and mentors. In workshops, you can present your work and receive critiques from a group, which can provide a range of perspectives. 

Peer feedback can be incredibly valuable, as your classmates might be your target audience, especially for creative writing projects. Moreover, writing clubs often invite guest speakers or have experienced writers who can offer professional and constructive feedback.

3. Online Writing Communities: The internet is a rich resource for writers. Websites like Wattpad, Scribophile, or Critique Circle allow you to post your writing and receive feedback from a global community of writers. The advantage of online communities is the diversity of perspectives and writing styles you’ll encounter. However, it’s important to remember that not all feedback might be professional or constructive, so learn to filter and focus on the feedback that helps you grow.

4. Family and Friends: Sometimes, the best feedback can come from those who know you well. Family and friends can offer honest and supportive feedback. While they might not always provide professional advice on the technical aspects of writing, they can give you an idea of how your story or article resonates with readers. Ask them specific questions about how your writing made them feel, or what they think could be improved.

5. Professional Editors and Tutors: If you’re looking for detailed, professional feedback, consider hiring an editor or tutor. This option might involve a cost, but it can be a worthwhile investment, especially for significant projects like a novel or an important competition entry. Professional editors provide detailed, objective, and constructive feedback on all aspects of your writing, from concept to final draft.

6. Writing Competitions and Literary Journals: Submitting your work to competitions or for publication in literary journals can also be a way to receive feedback. Some competitions provide critiques to entrants, and editors of journals often provide notes on submissions, whether they accept your work for publication or not. This feedback is beneficial as it comes from professionals in the literary field.

7. Writing Conferences and Seminars: Attend writing conferences, seminars, or literary festivals. These events often offer workshops, critique sessions, and opportunities to meet one-on-one with authors, publishers, and editors. Such interactions can provide you with valuable insights into your writing.

8. School and Community Libraries: Librarians, especially in schools or community libraries, often have a good understanding of literature and can offer useful feedback. Some libraries also host writing groups or have bulletin boards where you can find local writers interested in exchanging critiques.

There are numerous avenues for receiving constructive feedback on your writing. Each source offers its own unique benefits, and it’s often helpful to seek out multiple types of feedback to get a well-rounded perspective on your work. Remember, the purpose of feedback is to help you improve, so approach it with an open mind and a willingness to learn and grow as a writer.

How To Prepare For Grad School

Where Does the Young Writers Awards Take Place?

The Young Writers Awards, hosted by Bennington College, take place not in a physical location but as a submission-based competition. This means you can participate from anywhere in the world. Your creative work, be it poetry, fiction, or non-fiction, is submitted electronically, making it an accessible and global opportunity for high school students passionate about writing.

As for the selection process, it is both rigorous and fair, ensuring that the best pieces of writing are recognized. Here’s how it works:

1. Judging Criteria: Each category—poetry, fiction, and non-fiction—has its own set of criteria based on which submissions are judged. These criteria focus on the quality of writing, originality, voice, and the impact of the narrative or poetic expression. It’s about how well you can convey your ideas, emotions, or stories through your writing.

2. Panel of Judges: The submissions are evaluated by a panel of judges. These judges are typically members of the Bennington College faculty, accomplished writers, and educators who have a deep understanding of literature and a keen eye for young talent. Their expertise ensures that the evaluation is thorough and of high standard.

3. Selection Process: After the submission deadline, the judging panel reviews all entries. They look for works that stand out in terms of creativity, depth, and technical skill. The process is competitive, given the large number of submissions from talented young writers across the globe.

4. Announcement of Winners: Once the judges have made their decisions, the winners are announced. This usually happens a few months after the submission deadline. The winners are notified, and their names and winning pieces are often published on the Bennington College website and other related platforms.

5. Recognition and Awards: Winners receive cash prizes and are also eligible for scholarships if they choose to attend Bennington College. This recognition can be a significant milestone in your literary journey, providing both encouragement and opportunities for further growth in writing.

Overall, the Young Writers Awards offer you a chance to have your writing seen and judged by experienced professionals in the field of literature, right from wherever you are. It’s an opportunity to put your best words forward and be recognized for your creative efforts on an international platform. For more information on submission guidelines and deadlines, you should check out Bennington College’s official website or other related educational platforms.

When Will the Awards Announce the Winners?

The winners of the Young Writers Awards at Bennington College for the 2023-2024 cycle will be announced in the spring of 2024. While waiting for the results, it’s important for you, as a participant, to manage your anticipation productively. Here are some tips to help you do that:

1. Continue Writing: Use this waiting period to hone your writing skills further. Keep engaging with new writing projects, experimenting with different styles and themes. This not only improves your craft but also helps divert your mind from the anxiety of waiting.

2. Read Extensively: Reading a variety of literature can provide new perspectives and inspiration for your writing. It’s also a great way to pass time constructively while waiting for the results.

3. Join Writing Groups or Forums: Engaging with a community of fellow writers can be beneficial. You can share your experiences, receive feedback on your work, and support each other during the waiting period.

4. Work on Personal Development: This can be an excellent time to work on other aspects of your personal and academic development. Whether it’s learning a new skill, focusing on schoolwork, or engaging in extracurricular activities, these can be constructive ways to use your time.

5. Stay Positive and Patient: Remember that writing competitions are not just about winning but also about the experience and growth they offer. Stay positive and be proud of what you have accomplished by submitting your work to such a prestigious competition.

6. Prepare for Any Outcome: It’s crucial to mentally prepare for any result. Whether you win or not, there are valuable lessons to be learned and new opportunities that can arise from the experience.

Remember, the time you spend waiting for the results is as important as the competition itself. Use it wisely to develop your skills and prepare for your future endeavors in writing.

How Can This Competition Help With My College Admissions Experience?

Participating in the Young Writers Awards at Bennington College can significantly enhance your college admissions experience in several ways:

1. Demonstrating Unique Skills and Interests: Participation in YWA shows colleges that you have interests and abilities beyond the classroom. Your involvement in such a prestigious competition demonstrates your commitment to and passion for writing, which is a strong indicator of a well-rounded, motivated applicant. This is especially relevant given the growing importance of extracurricular activities in college admissions.

2. Highlighting Excellence in a Specific Area: Winning or being recognized in the Young Writers Awards signifies excellence in writing, a skill highly valued in academia. This distinction can set you apart from other applicants, as selective colleges are looking for students who excel in their areas of interest.

3. Building a Compelling Student Portfolio: Many colleges are now considering student portfolios as part of the application process. Your submission to the Young Writers Awards, especially if it earns recognition, is an excellent addition to your portfolio, showcasing your writing talent and creative thinking.

4. Networking Opportunities: Competitions like the Young Writers Awards often provide opportunities to meet and interact with professionals in the field, as well as representatives from colleges. These connections can be beneficial, offering insights into the college admissions process and sometimes even a step up in terms of recommendations or support.

5. Scholarships and Financial Benefits: Success in the Young Writers Awards can lead to scholarships, particularly if you choose to attend Bennington College. Such financial benefits can be a significant aid in managing college expenses.

6. Developing and Demonstrating Key Skills: Participating in YWA requires and hones skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and effective communication. These are qualities that colleges look for in prospective students, as they are indicative of a candidate who is likely to succeed in a rigorous academic environment.

7. Generating Positive Attention: Achievements in competitions like YWA can generate media attention, which can be appealing to colleges. Institutions appreciate students who bring positive recognition and demonstrate the potential to contribute to the college’s reputation and community.

Overall, participating in and gaining recognition in the Young Writers Awards at Bennington College can significantly bolster your college application. It not only showcases your writing abilities and creative talent but also indicates your dedication to pursuing your interests at a higher level. Such distinctions are valued by admissions committees looking for students who will bring diverse talents and perspectives to their campuses.

What are the Societal and Industry Relevance of this Competition?

The Young Writers Awards at Bennington College hold significant societal and industry relevance, offering numerous benefits for young writers and the broader community. These benefits extend beyond the individual achievements of the participants, contributing to cultural, educational, and psychological development.

Firstly, writing competitions like the Young Writers Awards play a vital role in nurturing future talents. UNESCO emphasizes the importance of such initiatives in fostering creativity and innovation in youth.

These platforms allow young individuals to experiment with different writing styles and genres, encouraging diverse expressions and ideas. This is crucial for the literary industry, as it continually seeks fresh perspectives and voices. By participating in such competitions, you’re not only honing your skills but also contributing to the literary tapestry with your unique narratives and viewpoints.

Moreover, participation in writing competitions has been shown to boost personal development in several ways. According to curaJOY, such contests encourage discipline in young writers. To succeed, you must adhere to deadlines and guidelines, which teaches you the importance of time management and dedication. This discipline is a valuable skill, not just for academic success but for life in general.

In addition to discipline, writing competitions foster emotional intelligence and empathy. Writing, as a form of self-expression, allows you to explore and understand your emotions and the world around you. This process enhances your ability to empathize with others and understand diverse perspectives, a crucial skill in an increasingly interconnected world.

Competitions like the Young Writers Awards also boost confidence. Having your work recognized and appreciated can significantly enhance your self-esteem. This confidence can translate into better performance in academic and social settings. Furthermore, facing challenges and constructive criticism in such competitions prepares you for real-world scenarios, where feedback and adaptability are key to success.

Finally, from an educational standpoint, writing competitions align well with contemporary educational goals. As per the Journal of Youth Development, such activities support positive youth development, offering a platform for you to demonstrate and enhance your problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. These are highly valued in both academic and professional settings.

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The Role of Mentorship in Enhancing Your Experience at the Young Writers Awards

Mentorship plays a crucial role in enhancing your experience in the Young Writers Awards (YWA) at Bennington College. A mentor can significantly influence your development as a writer and a student, providing a wealth of benefits that can enrich your YWA journey.

1. Guidance and Skill Development: A mentor can provide you with personalized guidance, helping you refine your writing skills and develop new ones. They can offer insights into effective writing techniques, styles, and strategies tailored to your needs. This one-on-one guidance can be a major asset in preparing for a competition like YWA, where your writing skills are showcased.

2. Encouragement and Motivation: Writing, especially for a competition, can be daunting. A mentor offers encouragement and motivation, especially when you face challenges or feel discouraged. They can help you stay focused on your goals and provide the moral support needed to keep going.

3. Networking and Opportunities: A mentor can introduce you to a network of writers, publishers, and other industry professionals. This networking can open doors to opportunities beyond the YWA, such as internships, workshops, and other writing competitions. These connections are invaluable for your future career in writing or any related field.

4. Professional Insight and Industry Knowledge: Mentors, especially those experienced in the writing industry, can share valuable insights about the field. This knowledge can help you understand the industry better and prepare you for a career in writing. They can advise you on how to navigate the publishing world, market your work, and build a professional writing portfolio.

5. Feedback and Constructive Criticism: One of the key roles of a mentor is to provide constructive feedback. This can be crucial for improving your writing. A mentor can offer an objective perspective on your work, suggesting improvements and highlighting your strengths.

6. Emotional Support and Confidence Building: Writing is not just a technical skill; it’s also an emotional journey. A mentor can be a source of emotional support, helping you deal with the anxieties and uncertainties that come with creative work. They can help build your confidence, which is essential for presenting your work in a competition and dealing with both success and rejection.

7. Developing a Long-term Vision: A mentor can help you develop a long-term vision for your writing career. They can assist you in setting realistic goals and developing a roadmap to achieve them. This is particularly important for young writers who are still exploring their paths in the writing world.

It’s important to remember that mentorship is a two-way street. As much as mentors offer guidance, you also need to actively engage with them, seek their advice, and be open to learning. The relationship with a mentor can be one of the most influential factors in your growth as a writer and as an individual.

Remember, while a mentor can provide immense support, the drive and dedication to succeed in the YWA must come from you. Use the mentorship experience to enhance your skills, gain new insights, and make the most of the opportunities that come your way.

Final Thoughts

As you journey through your high school years, opportunities like the Young Writers Awards at Bennington College are more than just competitions; they’re gateways to your future. Participating in such events not only polishes your writing abilities but also gives you a glimpse into the kind of community and environment that fosters creativity and intellect.

So, take this chance to express yourself, to be heard, and to connect with a world of like-minded individuals. Remember, every great writer started somewhere, and this could be your beginning. Imagine where your words can take you, and embrace the journey ahead with confidence and enthusiasm.

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