Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

December 15, 2020
By AdmissionSight
A man using his laptop while writing outdoors.

Scholastic Art and Writing Competition: Why You Should Participate

Artists and writers like Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Stephen King, and Leena Dunham had to start somewhere in getting recognition for their talent, and the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards was the perfect setting. These writers and artists once received awards as teens in this national competition which recognizes 2,800 high school students in over 29 categories of art and writing each year.

What is the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition?

Established by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers in 1923, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is sponsored by organizations like the New York Times, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and Scholastic Inc.

Categories for entry range from architecture, industrial design, film, animation, jewelry, video game design, dramatic script, journalism, and more. This is a competition for artists and writers who have spent years honing their craft and seek to distinguish themselves as leaders in the art and writing community.

Each year high school students enter and eagerly wait for the reply from judges to claim their fame in the art and writing community.

More than $300,000 in scholarships, travel fares, and tuition support for college was awarded last year to twenty-three recipients whose works explored subjects such as personal grief, loss and bereavement, awareness of climate change, the current political climate in the US, and responsible civic life.

Winning submissions were picked based on their originality, technical skill, and the emergence of personal vision or voice. Check out the online galleries here.

Students who are nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards also have the chance to present their creations in a New York City gallery or Boston gallery. Last year the national ceremonies were held in Carnegie Hall, the Pratt Manhattan Gallery at Pratt Institute, the Shelia C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons School of Design, and Tufts University gallery.

Scholastic Art and Writing Past Winners

Scholarship winners in 2019 produced works such as a stop-animation video which chronicles the death of a whale through the use of recycled plastic grocery bags and water bottles collected by the artist through her friends, or a short story about how Paris will sink below sea level if humankind continues to ignore the impact of climate change.

In prior years, the gold medal was awarded for a 10-minute short film titled “Usual” which is about an attempt to break away from the repetitiveness of American corporate culture, and the soundtrack for the film was even created by the director herself.

A person writing on a notebook

Another medal winner for the writing competition now edits for Winter Tangerine, a literary publication founded shortly after receipt of her award.

Many winners go on to be one of the only 20 students nominated for the U.S. Presidential Scholars in Arts program, establish careers for publications like the New York Times, receive sponsorship from the Norman Mailer Center or Poetry Society of America, retain positions to travel around the country and make presentations in high schools for organizations such as  YoungArts, and are recruited by art-focused universities like Princeton, Kenyon, Colombia College of Chicago, Santa Fe University of Art and Design.

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards categories

You now have a basic understanding of what the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are and what it offers high school students who submit, but there is still so much more to know!

Quickly before we go into the different categories, we want to make it clear that you should refer to your regional program before choosing your category, as the regional programs may limit the size of work that they accept.

With that out of the way, let’s get started on some of the fantastic and most popular categories that students submit to every school year.

Art Categories

As you know, the competition offers students the chance to submit to either art or writing competitions. Let’s first break down some of the more exciting categories students can submit to in the art category. Keep in mind, these are most, but not all of the offered categories.

A person holding a brush used for painting

Architecture and industrial design

This category allows for students to create plans for or models of structures, environments, systems or products. Such submissions can include designs, 2D work such as sketches, computer-aided designs, blueprints, floor plans as well as 3D work such as handmade or printed models, maquettes, or prototypes.

Plans are allowed to be either hand-drawn or computer-generated and models must be sturdy enough to endure shipping and exhibition.

Ceramics and glass

This category allows for students two submit objects that are made exclusively out of ceramics or glass. Items that may be submitted include busts, figures, vases, abstract forms, dishware, earthenware, stained glass, cast glass, blown glass, and more.

To submit, students can upload 4 images for their submission.

Comic art

Students can submit a narrative in deliberate sequence either with or without text that tells a story through the use of single or multiple panels. Comic strips, storyboards, comic books, webcomics, or a selection from a graphic novel may all be submitted. One crucial note is that students may not submit original work that is based on already published comic books or similar works.

a female student studying outside with her laptop on her lap


Students may submit or create a project for commercial or applied purposes that includes magazines, book covers, layouts, fonts, greeting cards, calendars, and more. Students may upload 4 images for each submission within the design category.

Digital art

Students may submit artwork that is computer-generated or captured digitally and heavily collaged or manipulated to create a new image. Submissions in this category must rely heavily on computer software including, but not restricted to, Adobe Photoshop , Adobe illustrator, Macromedia Freehand, and more.

While submitting to this category, students should identify the software used. students that want to submit digital photographs that are just slightly touched up should submit to the photography category and not the digital art category.

Drawing and illustration

Art that is made of marks with a manual or mechanical instrument on a 2D surface can be submitted to this category. Submissions may include formal, realistic, and/or abstract pieces. Basically, any material used on a 2D surface can be used to create the art. Students must keep in mind that drawings copied from published photographs, the internet, or other existing works should not be submitted.

Editorial Cartoon Sponsored By The Herb Block Foundation

This category asks students to submit a drawing or illustration, series of artworks, or animated short films, that offer commentary or criticism on current events or politics.

Keep in mind that all submissions to this category must contain either political or social commentary to be considered. Work without commentary can be submitted to other categories.


Students can submit articles of clothing or fashion accessories (with the exception of jewelry, which should be submitted to that category).

Fully realized products or outfits, sketches and tech packs are all appropriate to submit to this category.

Keep in mind that garments that are not meant to be worn on the body should be submitted to the Sculpture category.

Film and animation

Students can submit a sequence of moving images that are viewed either on a monitor, television or with a projector. Submissions may include narrative film, commercials, experimental video, documentary film as well as hand-drawn, computer-generated or stop motion animations.

Students should keep in mind that submissions should not be made by DVD or stick drive and should instead be uploaded to the online registration system.

A clapboard with an actor behind memorizing his lines

Students should be incredibly careful about applying to the Film and animation category when it comes to using copyrighted work. For example, copyrighted music that is used without the permission of the original artist will make a work ineligible. Students can use the work of public domain music in their projects.

One interesting thing about the film and animation category is that students do not have to submit as individuals. In fact, students can have up to five collaborators on any given project.


Anything that is worn for personal adornment can be submitting to this category. This includes bracelets, rings, brooches, cufflinks, earrings, and more that are made from a huge array of materials.


Art created by applying pigment to a 2D surface is eligible to be submitted to this category. Students can use a wide array of materials such as oil, acrylic, watercolor, fresco, spray paint, and much more.

As you would expect, paintings that are copied or based on copyrighted works are not eligible to be submitted to this category.

Writing categories

Now that we have gone over many of the art categories offered by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, let’s quickly break down some of the most popular writing categories that studies can take part in.

When it comes to the writing categories, students should know that all submissions no matter the category must be primarily written in English. No identifying information of the applying student should appear anywhere on the submitted work. Moreover, even in non-fiction submissions, students should replace the names of real people with fictional names.

With that out of the way, let’s break down some of the writing categories that students can submit to.

Critical essay

Students can write pieces that are meant to inform or convince the reader regarding a specific topic or idea. Sources must be cited. Footnotes are not considered part of the word count of the piece.

Image of a hand holding a pen and writing on a paper

Dramatic script

Any works that utilize dialogue, action, and stage direction to tell a story such as scripts for TV, the stage or film are eligible to be submitted for this category. If a student does not want to submit an entire feature-length screenplay, they have the option of submitting an excerpt. However, the submission must be listed as an excerpt.

The length of the piece within this category is between 500 and 3,000 words. If a student wants to submit an excerpt of a feature-length, they must also include a summary of the complete work that does not exceed 250 words.


Students can submit work that uses comedic forms and formats such as jokes, satire, farce, parody, irony and more.


Writing that is meant to inform and educate the reader about newsworthy topics or current events that uses a presentation of facts or description of real-world events are eligible for this category.

Students should include a comprehensive list of works cited for this category; the works cited list will not be considered a part of the total word count.

Novel writing

Students who are working on their very own original novel can submit as well. However, it is crucial to remember that only an excerpt from the total work is no longer than 3,000 words.

Novel submissions must also come with a brief summary of the entire novel as it would be as a completed work. The summary must be 250 words or less.


Students can submit works that can be, but are not limited to, formats such as prose poetry, free verse, formal poetry, song lyrics, spoken word, etc. Each submission can contain anywhere between 1 and 6 total poems. Any collection of poems will be judged as a collection. Students can submit more than one collection, but they have to register separately.

How to Apply?

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is now accepting submissions for the 2020 competition, and guidelines and deadlines for submission vary by region and can be found here.  Over 250,000 submissions are evaluated by judges each year.

To submit, students must be 13 or older, and enrolled in grades 7-12 at a high school in the US, US territories, Canada, or an accredited American school in order to compete. You can submit your work electronically, but it must include a payment or fee waiver, and a signature by a parent/guardian and educator. The submitted work must first be regionally recognized by one of the 100 local affiliates to proceed in being nationally evaluated by a team of experts.

Be aware that this competition has grown in popularity as the college admissions process has become increasingly difficult as college recruiters are now looking to see that students have worked extensively to develop extracurricular connections, experiences, and community recognition outside of high school classrooms.

Art and writing will always involve criticism and societal pressure to stand out from the rest and make your work shine, and it is never too early to start trying your hand at getting ahead of the competition.


Now that you are aware of many of the wonderful categories that you can submit, let’s quickly go over the recognition that students can receive for their excellence.

Regional awards

All entries at the regional level are considered for Gold Key, Silver Key, Honorable Mention, American Visions Nominee as well as American Voices Nominees Awards. All awards are presented to winning students along with related celebrations and exhibitions in each region.

National awards

Gold Key award winners at the regional level are automatically registered for national awards such as Gold Medal, Silver Medal with Distinction, Silver Medal, and direct scholarship opportunities.

Each year, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards honors the hundreds of students and their education with an incredible ceremony in the center of New York City. The ceremony features a star-studded guest list including the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker, Alec Baldwin, Amy Schumer, Whoopi Goldberg, and more.


Students who created and submitted award-winning work get the chance to show off their work at regional, national, and traveling Art.Write.Now exhibitions.


A group of students’ work is selected and highlighted each year at The Best Teen Art and The Best Teen Writing publications, beyond that a list of National Medalists is included in the Yearbook.


Just as is the case with many of the most prestigious academic and art/writing competitions that high schoolers can take part in, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards offers a large number of scholarships for students who submit.

Direct scholarships include:

  • Educator awards
  • The Herblock Award for Editorial Cartoon
  • New York Life Award
  • One Earth Award
  • Portfolio Scholarships
  • Ray Bradbury Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • Civic Expression Award
  • Best-In-Grade

Tuition scholarships include:

  • College & University Scholarships
  • Summer Scholarships
  • The Alliance/ACT-So Journey Award

In all, National Medalists become eligible for scholarships that equal up to $10,000. Without a doubt, entering competitions such as this one can be highly beneficial for students who are looking for assistance when it comes to paying for the tuition of some of the most prestigious and expensive schools in the country.

Want to Learn More?

To learn more about how to enter and win competitions like the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards which will make you stand out as a college applicant, and other ways to enhance your personal statements, supplemental materials, application materials, and skillsets for interviews, visit the AdmissionSight website.

Roughly 75% of AdmissionSight students are accepted into Ivy League and the top 10 universities. You could be next, so don’t miss the opportunity to register with AdmissionSight now before your application deadline.


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