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Scholastic Art and Writing Awards: All You Need to Know

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A woman visiting art gallery.

Scholastic Art and Writing Awards: All You Need to Know

What do Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, and Stephen King have in common? They all started at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. As teens, they won in this prestigious national competition, which recognizes promising young creatives in 28 categories of art and writing each year.

If you want to be a part of this network of aspiring and established artists and writers, read on. We’ll walk you through the contest guidelines and even give you tips for your submissions to stand out.

What Are the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards?

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards are basically the Oscars for young creatives. Every year, thousands of students send in their best work across 28 categories, all hoping to snag medals and scholarships. Founded by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers in 1923, the award-giving body is the longest-running and most prestigious of its kind out there.

Group of students laughing together.

It’s not just about fame, though. The Scholastic Awards encourage young writers and artists to find their voice and share it with the world. You don’t need to be a pro to enter—just bring your passion and creativity. Plus, participating is a great way to boost your portfolio and get some valuable feedback on your work.

What Can You Win at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards?

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards have two levels: regional and national.

On the regional level, you can snag a Gold Key, Silver Key, or Honorable Mention. They come with local ceremonies and exhibitions to celebrate your work. If you receive a Gold Key, your piece moves up to the national level to compete for Gold Medals, Silver Medals, and scholarships.

National contenders get to enjoy a trip to New York City for a star-studded ceremony at Carnegie Hall. Winning works are displayed in regional, national, and traveling exhibitions and featured in annual publications. National winners can also earn scholarships of up to $12,500.

At the national level, your work may also win the coveted American Voices and Visions Award. These are top honors that highlight originality and personal vision in both art and writing. Regional jurors nominate up to five works for these awards, with one from each region receiving a national medal.

What Are the Guidelines of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards?

You can apply to the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards through their online portal. But before you dive in, here’s the lowdown on the contest rules:

Eligibility

  • You must be in grades 7–12.
  • You must be at least 13 years old when you enter.
  • You need to be living in the U.S., its territories or military bases, or Canada.

Submission fee

The submission fee is $10 per individual entry and $30 per portfolio. If the fee’s a problem, you can ask for a waiver in the online portal.

Timeline

  • Applications open in September.
  • Deadline varies by region but could be as early as December 1.
  • Regional awards are given out from January to March, depending on where you are.
  • National awards come in June.

Categories

As the name of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards suggests, there are two main categories: art and writing. Art has 17 specific disciplines, while writing has 11. Altogether, there are 28 categories you can choose from. We’ll get into the specifics of each category in the next section.

Important reminder: You can try your hand at several categories, but you can’t submit the same piece to more than one.

Scholastic Art and Writing Awards: Art Categories and Requirements

Now that you’ve got the general guidelines of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, we’ll walk you through what you’ll need to submit for each category you want to enter. Let’s start with the art categories:

a student making a portfolio

Architecture and industrial design

You can submit plans or models of structures, environments, systems, or products. This could be anything from building designs to product designs. Your plans can be hand-drawn or computer-generated, and your models need to be sturdy enough for shipping and exhibition. You can submit either 2D or 3D work, and you’ll need to include four images of your piece for each entry.

Ceramics and glass

Submit handcrafted objects like busts, figures, vases, or teapots. For ceramics, your pieces can be made from earthenware, stoneware, porcelain, etc., while for glass, it could be stained glass, cast glass, fused glass, blown glass, etc. Just make sure not to enter unfired ceramics or oil-based clay works. Like the other categories, each entry requires four images of your piece.

Comic art

Submit a pictorial narrative in deliberate sequence, with or without text. This could be anything from comic strips to selections from graphic novels. Just make sure your characters and plots are original and not based on already published comic books or series. You can upload up to eight images for each entry.

Design

If you’re into creating art for commercial or applied purposes, this category is for you. Think magazine layouts, book covers, or business cards. Just make sure not to submit work based on preexisting brands. Each entry must have four images.

Digital art

For those who love creating in the digital space, you can submit artwork created digitally or heavily collaged or manipulated using digital tools. This could include digital collages, CGI, or digital painting. Just avoid entering AI-generated art, and you can upload one image for each entry.

Drawing and illustration

If you’re more into traditional art, you can submit drawings made with dry materials on a 2D surface. This includes pencil, ink, charcoal, pastel, and more. Just like with digital art, avoid entering AI-generated work, and you can upload one image for each entry.

Editorial cartoon

Got something to say about current events or politics? Submit a drawing, illustration, or series of artworks that offer commentary or criticism. This could be single-panel drawings with captions, sequential comic art, or digitally created drawings with a political theme. If your image includes text, make sure to enter the text of each panel.

This category is sponsored by The Herb Block Foundation.

Expanded projects

Are you working on something that’s a bit out of the box? Submit interdisciplinary work that’s driven by concept or invites participation from viewers or the community. This could include documentation of live art, experimental video art, or conceptual art. Original work in this category explores new genres, ideas, or experimental methods. Expanded projects do not include dance, music, theater, or spoken word poetry.

Fashion

Submit articles of clothing or fashion accessories. Examples: sketches, tech packs, or fully realized outfits. You can also submit experimental designs or wearable art made from found materials. Each entry requires four images of your design.

a close up picture of a camera lens

Film and animation

Submit a sequence of moving images, including documentary films, narrative films, or animations. If it’s over 5 minutes long, it’s strongly encouraged to enter a 5-minute-or-under version as well as the full-length version. Avoid including credits in your film; instead, acknowledge contributors in the work sources section of your entry.

Jewelry

Submit art objects worn for personal adornment, like bracelets, rings, or necklaces. You can use materials like metal, semi-precious stones, or even found objects. Just make sure to include four images of your jewelry for each entry.

Mixed media

Do you like mixing things up in your art? Submit wall-based artwork made from more than one medium, with a 3D or readymade element. This could include collage, assemblage, or fiber-based art. Each entry requires four images of your mixed media piece.

Painting

Show off your painting skills by submitting art created with wet materials on a 2D surface. This includes illustrations made with any type of paint, like oil, acrylic, or watercolor. Each entry allows you to upload one image.

Photography

If photography is your thing, submit images captured by either an analog or digital camera. This could be black and white photographs, color photographs, or experimental photography. Each entry allows you to upload one image, and you can enter up to 16 individual photo entries.

Printmaking

Submit work made by transferring ink from one prepared surface onto paper or another flat surface. This could include woodcut, lithography, or silkscreen printing. Each entry allows you to upload one image.

Sculpture

For those who love working in 3D, submit art objects created by carving, casting, or other shaping techniques. This could include objects made from clay, metal, or found objects. Each entry requires four images of your sculpture.

Art portfolio (graduating seniors only)

If you’re a graduating senior, you can submit a series of 6 distinct works that communicate a single cohesive idea or visual investigation. These works can come from one category or any combination of multiple categories.

You can submit up to two Art Portfolios, but make sure not to submit the same work in both portfolios. You may re-enter artworks that were entered to the Scholastic Awards in a previous year as part of your portfolio.

Also provide an Artist Statement and a Personal Statement. The Artist Statement should give insight into your creative process and the rationale behind your portfolio. It should be at least 100 words and must not exceed 500 words.

On the other hand, the Personal Statement should tell a story from your life that demonstrates your character or helped to shape it. It should also be at least 100 words and must not exceed 500 words.

Scholastic Art and Writing Awards: Writing Categories and Requirements

When it comes to writing, your entries should mainly be in English. Don’t include any personal details, like your name, anywhere in your work, not even in headers or title pages. If you’re writing about real people in non-fiction, use made-up names. Avoid adding illustrations, photos, graphics, or links in your work.

You should cite your sources as well, but these citations don’t count toward your word count. There’s no specific format required. Remember, collaborative works are not allowed in any category

Now, let’s talk about the different writing categories and what you’ll need for each one:

View of a student writing in a table.

Critical essay

Submit writing that aims to inform or persuade the reader about a specific idea or topic. Examples: art or media reviews, persuasive essays, or opinion pieces. Make sure to cite your sources, but the footnotes or works cited won’t count toward your word limit. You can use any citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) that best supports your work. The word limit is 500–3,000 words.

Dramatic script

Submit a script for television, film, or stage that uses dialogue, action, and stage direction to tell a story. You can enter excerpts, but if the full script exceeds 3,000 words, provide a 250-word summary and attach a PDF of the full script. The word limit is 500–3,000 words.

Flash fiction

Submit short, focused stories characterized by brevity. Each piece should have a clear beginning, middle, and end and should not be an excerpt from a longer work. The word limit is a maximum of 1,000 words.

Humor

Submit writing that uses comedic forms such as jokes, satire, or irony. Humor must be the main element in this category. The word limit is 500–3,000 words.

Journalism

Submit writing that informs and educates about newsworthy topics or current events. This could include pieces intended for newspapers, magazines, or online media. The word limit is 500–3,000 words, and like the critical essay category, works cited won’t count toward your word limit, and you can use any citation style.

Novel writing

Submit an excerpt from a long-form prose narrative, no longer than 3,000 words. Also, include a brief 250-word summary of the entire novel. The excerpt should be a complete chapter or section from a chapter, showcasing your writing and story setup. Adaptations of or sequels to existing published works are not accepted.

Personal essay and memoir

Submit a non-fiction work based on opinion, experience, and/or emotion that explores a topic or event of importance to you. The word limit is 500 to 3,000 words.

Poetry

Submit writing in verse, which may include prose poetry, free verse, formal poetry, song lyrics, or spoken word. Each entry must consist of 1 poem, and if you have more than one poem, they should be entered separately. The word limit is 3–100 lines.

Science fiction and fantasy

Submit writing in speculative fiction genres like science fiction, fantasy, horror, or alternate history. The writing should use supernatural, magical, futuristic, scientific, or technological themes as key elements of the narrative. The word limit is 500–3,000 words.

Short story

Submit a fictional narrative written in prose. The word limit is 1,000–3,000 words. If humor is a key element or if it falls into speculative fiction like science fiction, fantasy, horror, or alternate histories, it should be entered in those respective categories.

Writing portfolio (for graduating seniors only)

If you’re a graduating senior, you can submit a series of 6 distinct works that showcase your versatility as a writer, diversity in writing techniques and styles, and a developed, cohesive voice. These works can come from one category or any combination of multiple categories. You may re-enter writing that was entered to the Scholastic Awards in a previous year as part of your writing portfolio.

A student writing her essays

The maximum length for a writing portfolio is 24,000 words, not including the writer’s statement. Work included in a portfolio may also be entered in an individual category.

You must provide a Writer Statement and a Personal Statement. The Writer Statement should give insight into how you curated your writing portfolio. It should be at least 100 words and must not exceed 500 words.

The Personal Statement should tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it. It should also be at least 100 words and must not exceed 500 words.

Tips to Stand Out at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards have three key things they’re after in their winning entries: originality, skill, and personal voice or vision. Let’s talk about how you can nail these in your entry, regardless of the category.

Originality

The Scholastic Awards state: “We want to celebrate work that is unique and blurs boundaries. We want work that challenges your assumptions. Is it new? Does it surprise you?” To achieve this, you can consider:

  • Try different formats. Instead of the usual essay, why not write a story as a chat log or create a poem that’s also a piece of visual art? For example, you could shape a poem about the ocean like a wave.
  • Go for unique themes. Skip the typical love or nature topics and dive into something different that matters to you. Maybe a story about a human and a robot friendship or a poem about the beauty of old, abandoned buildings.
  • Add your own experience. Bring your personal touch to your art or writing. If you’re writing a short story, use your own experiences or emotions to give it more depth. For visual art, think about how your life can influence your use of color, composition, and subject matter.

Skill

The Scholastic Awards define “skill” as “craftsmanship and the way the work was made.” For them, though, skills can also be critical thinking, problem-solving, empathy, and creativity. Here’s how you can show these in your entry:

  • Show technical proficiency. Make sure your work shows off your talents. If you’re painting, pay attention to your use of color, composition, and brushwork. If it’s a short story, focus on your language, dialogue, and how you structure the narrative.
  • Think deeply. Add elements that show you can think critically. Tackle complex themes, offer nuanced views, or use symbolism that makes people really think about your work.
  • Highlight empathy. Show you understand others’ emotions and experiences. If you’re writing a poem, evoke feelings like love, loss, or resilience. If you’re creating art, use your subjects’ expressions or the overall mood to convey empathy.

Personal voice or vision

“We’re looking for work that expresses an authentic perspective and stands out from classroom assignments and social media trends,” the Scholastic Awards say. How do you demonstrate this? Consider the following:

a student writing on her notebook and looking at the camera

  • Be yourself. Create art or write in a way that shows off your unique voice. Don’t just follow trends—focus on what makes you, you. If you have a special way of telling stories, like using humor or highlighting your cultural background, go for it!
  • Think outside the box. Instead of sticking to common themes, dive into ideas that matter to you. Maybe write a story from an object’s perspective or create art that challenges typical beauty standards.
  • Take chances. Don’t be scared to try new things. Experiment with different writing styles or tackle topics that are out of your comfort zone. Taking risks can lead to truly original and memorable work.

Bonus tip

It’s also super helpful to check out past winning works from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. You can see them here.

Conclusion

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards give young creatives an amazing chance to show off their talent, originality, and unique voices. Stick to the guidelines and push your creative boundaries to make work that not only meets the competition’s high standards but also stands out. Embrace this opportunity to share your perspective with the world—the next masterpiece that redefines art or literature could very well be yours.

FAQs

Who can join the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards?

Students in grades 7–12 who are at least 13 years old can join. You need to be a U.S. resident or living in its territories, on military bases, or in Canada.

What are the categories of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards?

There are 28 categories split between art and writing. Art categories include stuff like painting, sculpture, digital art, and mixed media. Writing categories cover poetry, short stories, essays, journalism, and more.

When is the deadline to apply for the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards?

Deadlines depend on where you live, but some are as early as December 1. Applications open in September. Regional award ceremonies happen from January to March, and the national ceremony is in June.

How many entries are received for the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards each year?

Each year, over 300,000 entries come in across 28 categories. This is why the Scholastic Awards are prestigious and why it’s important to make your work stand out.

How much is the entry fee for the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards?

It’s $10 per individual entry and $30 per portfolio. If needed, you can ask for a fee waiver upon application.

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