Do you love writing? Check out these 7 essay contests for students!

From fun childrens stories to scary poems, writing is a creative pastime that many students love to take part in. 
Read, Write at Coco Momo by TonyHall is licensed under CC BY 2.0

From fun children’s stories to scary poems, writing is a creative pastime that many students love to take part in. “Read, Write at Coco Momo” by TonyHall is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Do you have spare time during the holidays? Are you someone who loves to write? Do you enjoy a little bit of friendly competition? Check out these writing contests for students – they are all free to enter, and all offer cash prizes.

1.) The Write the World Song Writing Competition

This competition is for all the songwriters (and performers) out there. Your task is to write a 50-100 word song that follows the directions of this prompt:

“Since the early utterances of human language, we’ve been putting words to music—belting anthems of change, humming hymns of hope, crooning lyrics of love. Songs can tell stories, evoke emotion, even deliver lessons. Before the written word, songs served as an historical record, passing information down through the generations. And, we now know that music stimulates more corners of the brain than any other activity, firing even those neurons damaged by stroke or disease. This month, write a song of your own—and record it if you’d like! We’ll select a winner for best lyrics and best performance.”

The deadline for your recording is due Monday, January 10. The winning entrant receives $100, and the runner-up and best peer-reviewer receive $50. All three winners will be featured on the “Write the World” blog, with commentary from the guest judge.

  • To find out more about this competition, look here.
  • To apply for this competition, start by making an account here.
  • To browse more competitions by this group, check out this webpage.

2.) The JFK Essay Contest

Anna Dougherty wrote the winning essay last year for the JFK Essay Competition, writing about Mayor Dana Redd.
Picture from this website.

The title of this contest is quite misleading – the overall theme for this contest isn’t JFK (John F. Kennedy). This is the assignment:

Write an essay between 700 and 1,000 words on an act of political courage by a US elected official serving during or after 1917, inspired by John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. Each essay should cover the act itself as well as any obstacles or risks the subject faced in achieving their act of courage. Essays must not cover previous figures covered in the contest, and should also not cover John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, or Edward M. Kennedy.”

  • Interested in applying for this competition? Click here.
  • Want more information about this contest? Check out this website.

3.) The Journalism Education Association Essay Contest

For this creative contest, writers must think outside of the box! The prompt is as follows:

“How can student journalists use social media for free speech and amplifying voices, but still ensure ethical and responsible use of the platforms?”

Your response is due February 19, 2022, and it must be between 300-500 words long. As for the prizes, a $1,000 scholarship is given to a first-place winner, $500 to second-place, and $300 to third-place contestant.

  • To apply to this contest and submit your essay, click this link.
  • If you would like to view more information (and rules) about this contest, go to this website.

4.) The Manningham Trust Student Poetry Contest

Calling all poets! This poetry contest doesn’t have a prompt, so feel free to write about whatever you would like!

There are some rules, though – “Each poem must be neatly typed or computer-generated and have no more than 35 lines (including space lines) with no line having more than 60 characters including spaces and punctuation.”

Ten prizes will be awarded in each division: First Place – $75, Second Place – $50, Third Place – $40, Fourth Place – $35, Fifth Place – $30, and five Honorable Mentions – $10 each. All winning poems will be published in the Manningham Trust Poetry Student Award Anthology, and winners will receive complimentary copies. The schools of each winning student will receive a complimentary copy for the school library.

If you are interested in this competition, make sure to have it in by April 1, 2022!

  • For more information and instructions on how to submit your poem, click here.

5.) The National High School Essay Contest

This contest offers a large prompt (I hope you know your current events!) which students must respond to by April 4, 2022.

The current multipolar era poses challenges for U.S. foreign policy but also provides new opportunities for partnership across world powers – including emerging great powers like China and Russia – to build peace in conflict-affected countries. Describe a current situation where American diplomats and peacebuilders are working with other world powers, as well as local and/or regional actors, in a conflict-affected country to champion democracy, promote human rights, and/or resolve violent conflict. Successful essays will identify, in no more than 1,250 words, the strategies and tactics U.S. Foreign Service Officers and American peacebuilders are employing to build successful partnerships with other world and regional powers and with local actors in the chosen current situation. The essay will also describe specific ways that these partnerships are helping to promote stability and build peace.”

Writing it though, will be worth it, for the prize is one of the best I’ve seen: The winner gets a $2,500 cash plus a trip to Washington, D.C. (where they get to meet a member of the State Department’s leadership), and a full scholarship for a Semester at Sea educational voyage! The runner up receives $1,250 and a full scholarship to attend the INternational Diplomacy Program of the National Student Leadership Conference!

  • For more information, visit this site.
  • To apply for this contest, click here.

6.) The Engineer Girl Writing Contest

Siena Lee, an 11th Grader, won last year’s Engineer Girls Writing Competition with her entry: “Together in Solidarity”. Picture from this website.

In contrast to the title, students of any gender are able to compete in this contest! The prompt is simple: “Write an informative essay about how engineering can help humanity meet one of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

All essays are limited to 650 words, and all high school students are also required to submit a reference list with their essay – a reference list is optional for middle and elementary school students. This list does not count toward the word limit!

At every grade level, first-place winners will receive $500, second-place winners will receive $250, and third-place winners will receive $100. Winning entries and honorable mentions will also be published on the EngineerGirl website!

  • The main page for this competition can be found here.
  • Detailed information about what is expected in the essay can be found by clicking this link.
  • To submit an essay, click here.

7.) The Ocean Awareness Contest

This competition sounds like fun – using at least 1oo words, contestants must “use humor, positivity, irony, or other unconventional approaches that are not typically used in environmental communication to address the climate crisis. Think outside the tackle-box, beyond clichés, to create something that makes the topic of climate change and our oceans more approachable and accessible.” You will also need to write a reflection about what you had to do and how you felt about it!

Entries in this competition can be written as poetry OR as creative writing! Your work must be submitted by June 13, 2022. Contestants can win up to $1500!

  • For more information about the contest, visit this website.
  • To see a step-by-step guide on how to submit, click here.

For anyone who is entering these contests, GOOD LUCK! It will be an amazing way to improve your writing skills (and possibly pick up some cash along the way).