Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, students around the world have been struggling with the adjustment to learning at home. The dramatic change in the lives of children and teens has brought challenges such as lack of motivation, loneliness and depression. In one study, 46% of teachers reported that they have encountered more student mental health concerns right now than they did before the pandemic.
To help other teens during these hard times, I wrote and published an advice book filled with ways teens can make the best out of this situation. As a teenager myself, I know that it’s extremely important for teens to find engaging things to focus on and passions to explore. While writing my book, I discovered various contests (in art, writing, STEM and other categories) that students can enter and win cash prizes, recognition from major publications and more amazing opportunities. Here are some of the *best* competitions for tweens and teens to enter!
The Scholastic Art and Writing competition has many categories, including all kinds of writing genres (screenwriting, short stories, journalism, poetry!), art (painting, fashion, comic design, film, jewelry), video game design and even a section called “Future New” for art that doesn’t fit into a particular category. Famous people such as Stephen King, Andy Warhol and Sylvia Plath have been recognized by this famous award. In addition to getting a prestigious award (resume booster!), you can receive cash prizes and get financial aid to artistic summer camps. Whatever creation you have, you probably can submit it to Scholastic!
Feel strongly about helping the environment and saving our beautiful planet? Are you interested in writing, art, film or multimedia? Then you should enter the Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Awards. As an alumni (previous contest winner in the poetry category!), here are some tips on how to create a good entry: read the prompt of the year *very* carefully, make sure your poem relates to the topic, study entries that won previous years and research ocean awareness information. Entering this competition will teach you a lot about the environment while you’re working on your entry—and you may just win a prize in this competition, get a cash reward and even be published in their anthology!
Stone Soup, a publication filled with stories, poetry and art by students ages 8-13, has a monthly magazine issue and contest with a unique writing prompt. Stone Soup even has an annual book writing contest—the prize is getting your novel published!
The NYT Learning Network hosts many competitions throughout the year for students ages 13 and up. From nonfiction personal narrative competitions to podcast competitions, there’s sure to be a contest that piques your interest. The reward? Getting published by the noteworthy New York Times, of course! Your work will be judged by people who work at the NYT and there’s even a chance that your entry will make it into the print version of the New York Times.
Exclusively writing contests
Created by the Library of Congress, the prestigious competition “Letters about Literature” calls students in grades 4-12 to write a letter to an author that inspired them and how their work (book, poem, nonfiction, etc!) made an impact in their lives. This contest is *great* if you like to gush about your favorite book and can announce your *all* time favorite book in a split second. Check your state’s information on entering this contest and write a letter straight from your heart!
Inspired by Ernest Hemmingway, who wrote a story in six words because of a challenge, the Six Word Memoir contest is both easy and fun to enter. Here’s six words of advice — You can win. Just keep trying!
Want to see your work published in an anthology? As a previous winner of the Lune Sparks writing competition, I can personally recommend this great contest for students ages 8-16 (there are two categories and two books published a year). Not only do you get to be traditionally published in their award winning story collection—you can also potentially win cash prizes *and* listen to your story as an audiobook.
Love watching movies and cherish memories about going to the theater with your family? Then the Writopia Lab Screenwriting competition is for you! Write an eight minute screenplay and get a chance to have that story transformed into an off-Broadway production. Bonus: Writopia Lab also offers programs for young writers, which are currently conducted online. This is an amazing organization for aspiring writers to get involved in—aside from possibly winning, you’ll learn a lot!
STEM related contests
The Engineer Girl Writing Contest can combine your love of writing *and* STEM. This year, the essay prompt is how engineers responded to the pandemic. Aside from hosting an annual contest, Engineer Girl has information about becoming an engineer, interviews with engineers, an ambassador program, DIY design challenges (make a catapult or battery at home) and more.
The Congressional App Challenge is a computer science competition that was founded after Congress passed a bill to support students interested in STEM. The Congress representative of your district will choose one app as the winner! Find classmates who are interested in app design to form a team, create a useful app and shoot a video that showcases your amazing invention. You just may get recognized by the US government!
The Noetic Learning Math Contest, which is designed for students in grades 2-8, is a competition held both in-person *and* online, which is social distancing safe. If you excel in math (or just want to improve!), this is a contest that will both challenge and interest you by presenting unique problems. Additionally, the Noetic has a “problem of the week” and “practice problems” to prepare students for the team competition. Let other friends interested in learning new math concepts know about the contest and enter together to supercharge your math skills.
The Young Scientist Lab is a *super* prestigious competition with a $25,000 cash reward. If you dream of becoming the next Nobel prize winner, this is the contest to enter. Come up with a unique idea to solve an issue, create a video and see if your invention has what it takes to win this competition. For some information on how to create an invention, check out this article in HuffPost written by a teen who made her own amazing invention.
If you feel like you don’t have enough experience in these areas to win a contest yet, you can start by taking online courses from places like Coursera or Edx (which both have college level content available for free). Many of these contests offer other content, including classes, which can help you improve and win a prize in the future. Make sure to look at *all* the winning entries for inspiration and keep entering, even if you’re not successful at first! Remember, if you don’t enter, there’s a 100% percent chance you will not win. However, if you have the courage to submit your work , you may pleasantly surprise yourself!
Camille is the author of The Wishner’s Curse and The Wishner’s Masquerade. Her work has been internationally recognized by organizations including Scholastic Arts and Writing, Penguin Random House (Get Underlined Contest), Stanford, Lune Sparks, New Mexico Kids Magazine, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness, and Time