College Scholarships Essay Writing Contests

Essay Scholarships offer students an opportunity to stand out based on their writing. You are evaluated by how you put your thoughts on paper and not on your GPA or community service. The essay competition represents an opportunity for creative students, those with good ideas and those capable of in depth research to stand out.

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Deadlines change, please check the sponsor’s website for specific dates.

Cancer Survivor Scholarship - This program is no longer being offered.
Deadlines varies by state
The American Cancer Society has many local divisions that ask cancer survivors to write essays about their experiences.

AES Engineering Solutions Scholarship
Deadline is in early October
AES Engineering offers scholarships to students to help them pay for their education.
Students will be judged on their essay.

Williams-Mystic Essay Contest in Honor of Joseph Conrad
Deadline is in mid October
Create an essay about the ocean or any major body of water (fiction or nonfiction) using 1000 to 5000 words and submit it for consideration. The essay can be a great story or it can deal with the environment, political activism, history or nature.

Bennington Young Writers Competition
Deadline is in early November
High school students in grades 10 through 12 can submit their writing to the Bennington Young Writers Competition.  Over 2000 students have submitted poetry, fiction and nonfiction in past years to be eligible for the $500 first place prize and the $250 second place awards.

Voice of Democracy Audio Essay
Deadline is in early November
Can you write? Do you have strong opinions about certain subjects?  The Voice of Democracy Program is an audio essay contest for students in grades 9 through 12.  If you are enrolled in a public, private or parochial high school or home study program in the United States and its territories you are eligible to participate.

First Freedom Student Competition
Deadline is in mid November
The First Freedom Student Competition is open to 9th to 12th grade high school students. You are required to submit an essay or video commenting on the history and current-day relevance of religious freedom in our country.

Americanism Essay Contest
Deadline is in early December
The Fleet Reserve Association Essay Contest asks 7th through 12th grade students to write an essay up to 350 words on a different topic every year. The best essay will get a prize of a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond, with $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000 Savings Bonds awarded to the first, second and third place winners in each grade category. All regional winners are judged at the national level and receive a certificate of recognition.

Being an American Essay - This program is no longer being offered.
Deadline is in mid December
In 1000 words or less, you need to answer the question: How does the Constitution establish and maintain a culture of liberty?

Foot Locker Scholar Athletes
Deadline is in mid December 
The Foot Locker Scholar Athletes program honors high school athletes who engaged in leadership activities in their communities.

To compete you need to answer three essay questions (between 200 and 350 words each) and obtain two non-family recommendations.

George S. & Stella M. Knight Essay Contest
Deadline is in late December 
To participate in the George S. & Stella M. Knight Essay Contest you must do research and write an essay that deals with: an event, person, philosophy, or ideal associated with the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, or the framing of the United States Constitution.

Apprentice Ecologist Initiative
Deadline is in late December 
An $850 educational scholarship will be awarded annually to the authors of the top Apprentice Ecologist essay in the Apprentice Ecologist Initiative™. This tax-free and merit-based scholarship is available to any full or part-time student (aged 13 to 21) who is a candidate for a degree/diploma at a primary, secondary, or accredited post-secondary educational institution from any country around the world.

Profile in Courage Essay Contest
Deadline is in early January 
Students are asked to write a Profile in Courage, an essay of no more than 1,000 words about an act of political courage by a U.S. elected official that occurred during or after 1956, the publication date of Profiles in Courage.  The official may have addressed an issue at the local, state, or national level.

GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program
Deadline is in early January
GE has created a scholarship program to award 20 students a year a $10,000 renewal scholarship (the maximum scholarship is $40,000).

Washington Crossing Foundation Scholarship Awards
Deadline is in mid January
In order to compete in the Washington Crossing Foundation Scholarship Awards, students are asked to write a one-page essay indicating why they are interested in a career in government service.  Include in the essay any inspiration to be derived from the leadership of George Washington in his famous crossing of the Delaware.

National MS Society Scholarship Program
Deadline is in mid January
The National MS Society Scholarship Program was established to help highly qualified students who have been diagnosed with MS or who have a parent with MS achieve their dreams of going to college.

American Mensa Educational & Research Foundation Scholarship
Deadline is in mid January
If you’re looking for a college scholarship that is based solely on your ability to write here it is. The American Mensa Education & Research Foundation college scholarship program is based on essays written by you, no grades, academic programs or financial need issues are considered.

Union Plus Scholarship
Deadline is in late January
The Union Plus Scholarship Program is offered through the Union Plus Education Foundation. To be eligible you must the child of a union member or a union member.

DuPont Challenge Science Essay
Deadline is in late January
The DuPont Challenge© Science Essay Competition encourages students in grades 7 through 12 to express their enthusiasm for science by writing an essay. The essay must be at least 700 words and no more than 1000 words and it must be submitted online.

National Peace Essay Contest
Deadline is in early February
The Academy for International Conflict Management and Peacebuilding runs the National Peace Essay Contest. They believe that questions about peace, justice, freedom, and security are vital to civic education. Over 1,100 students submit entries to the essay contest annually.

Optimist International Essay Contest
Deadline: Varies by district
The Optimist International Essay Contest is sponsored by Optimist International. You must enter the contest through your local Optimist Club (each club has their own deadlines, however, all club contest are done by early February).

National Co-op Scholarship Program
Deadline is in mid February
Several colleges that provide cooperative education for their students are participating in the National CO-OP Scholarship . They are offering over 100 scholarships ranging up to $30,000 ($6,000 per year up to 5 years).

AFA Teens College Scholarship
Deadline is in mid February
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), a national nonprofit organization, has established a college scholarship to encourage teens to express their thoughts about Alzheimer’s disease and to engage the younger generation in this cause.

Vegetarian Resource Group Scholarship
Deadline is in mid February
The $5,000 Vegetarian Resource Group Scholarship is awarded to two high school seniors who have promoted vegetarianism in their schools and/or communities.

Spirit of Anne Frank Awards
Deadline is in early March
The Anne Frank Center is looking for high school seniors that have played a leadership role in their community. The Spirit of Anne Frank Award will go to a student who has exhibited some of the principles and ideals of Anne Frank.

EngineerGirl! Food Engineering Essay
Deadline is in early March
Every year the EngineerGirl Essay Contest asks boys and girls to write an essay about a different subject.
The competition is run by the National Academy of Engineering.

Kaplun Essay Contest
Deadline is in early March
The Kaplun Essay Contest is broken up into two levels. Level 1 is for 7th through 9th graders, they get one essay. Level 2 - Is for 10th through 12th graders, they get another essay.

Society of Professional Journalists Freedom of the Press High School Essay Contest
Deadline is in late February
The Society of Professional Journalists believes that the American people need to understand and be informed about the issues in order to make decisions that impact their lives. Journalists provide this information in an accurate, comprehensive, timely and understandable manner.

Young Naturalist Awards
Deadline is in early March
The Young Naturalist Award is a research-based science competition for students in grades 7-12 to promote participation and communication in science. The student needs to plan and conduct a scientific investigation, one that will include observations, questions, predictions, trips into the field to gather data, and analysis.

DNA Day Essay Contest
Deadline is in mid March
The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) sponsors Annual DNA Day Essay Contest.  Students in grades 9-12 are eligible to participate.  The contest asks students to think about the important concepts of genetics.

Sylvia K. Burack Writing Award Competition - This program is no longer being offered.
Deadline is in mid March
The Sylvia K. Burack Writing Award is a writing contest for juniors and seniors made in memory of Sylvia K. Burack, an editor and publisher of The Writer magazine.

PFLAG National Scholarship Program
Deadline is in mid March
The PFLAG National Scholarship Program is sponsored by Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) a national non-profit organization. In addition to the National Scholarship Program, there are many local programs, see below for more information.

Ayn Rand Institute "Anthem" Essay Contest
Deadline is in mid March
Anthem is a short novel written by Ayn Rand.  It takes place in the future when the world has entered a dark age.  Written in pre-war (1937) England, it talks about a period of time when the concept of individuality no longer exists and the word "I" has disappeared from the language.

Youth Scholarship Program
Deadline is in late March
The Electronic Security Association maintains the Youth Scholarship Program, which will award scholarships to two children of active-duty police officers and firefighters. The first place winner will receive $7,500 to put toward their college education and the second place winner will receive $2,500. Awards are based on a combination of academic achievement, national test scores, extracurricular participation and an essay titled, “What it means to me to have my parent or guardian involved in securing our community.”

American Foreign Service Association - National High School Essay Contest
Deadline is in mid April
The American Foreign Service Association has an essay competition open to 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th graders who are required to write an essay of 1000 to 1250 words.  

Signet Classics Student Essay Contest
Deadline is in mid April
Read a Signet Classic and write an essay. Each English teacher can only submit one junior and one senior essay.  See the Penguin Books Website for more details about how the essays must be submitted.  Students must be between the ages of 16-18.

Holocaust Remembrance Project Essay Contest
Deadline is in mid April
The Holocaust Remembrance Project is a writing contest about the Holocaust.  Participants should study the holocaust and then, in an essay of no more than 1,200 words: (a) analyze why it is so vital that the remembrance, history and lessons of the Holocaust be passed to a new generation; and (b) suggest what they, as students, can do to combat and prevent prejudice, discrimination and violence in our world today.

Toby Nussbaum Contest Jewish Heritage- Writing Contest
Deadline is in early May
To celebrate Jewish Heritage Week the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York is sponsoring The Toby Nussbaum Jewish Heritage Writing Contest for students in the New York City school system.  To enter you must write 250 to 300 words about the current year's theme.

NPG Essay Scholarship Contest
Deadline is in mid April
Negative Population Growth (NPG) is a national membership organization whose goal is to educate the American public and political leaders about the detrimental effects of overpopulation on our environment, resources and quality of life.  One of the ways they do this is with their Annual Scholarship Contest.

Ayn Rand Institute "Fountainhead" Essay Contest
Deadline is in late April
The Fountainhead is a novel written in 1943 by Ayn Rand. It was an early literary success for her.  Over 6.5 million copies of the book have been sold worldwide.

It is the story of Howard Roark, is a young architect who acts on principal and works in obscurity rather than changing his artistic and personal vision.  His fight is to practice modern architecture as opposed to more traditional work.  More information about the essay contest can be found on the Ayn Rand Institute Website.  Submitted essays must be no fewer than 800 and no more than 1,600 words.

Young Native Writers Essay Contest
Deadline is in late April
The Young Native Writers Essay Contest is open to Native American high school students with a relationship with a Native American tribal community.

Skandalaris Family Foundation Scholarship
Deadline is in early May
The Skandalaris Family Foundation is an independent, non-profit foundation that awards scholarships to students characterized by their special talents, leadership skills, unselfish ways, strong values, and commitment to excellence. The majority of their scholarships will be granted to residents of the State of Michigan, but the scholarship is not limited to Michigan residents.

 

We the Living Essay Contest - This program is no longer being offered.
Deadline is in early May
The essay contest asks high school students in the 10th through 12th grade to write about the book in an essay of 700 to 1500 words.

BP Community Scholarship Program
Deadline is in mid May
The BP Scholarship Program is sponsored by BP employees and dealers in the New York and New Jersey area.

James Beard Foundation Scholarship Program
Deadline is in mid May
Whether you’re interested in baking, pastry, culinary arts or some other aspect of food or hospitality management, the James Beard Foundation School Scholarships may be for you.  Fourteen US and international schools are participating in this culinary scholarship and each program is somewhat different in both the amount of tuition waiver and what programs of study are eligible.

JASNA Essay Contest
Deadline is in mid May
The Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) Essay Contest celebrates the life and work of the author. Students at the high school, college and even graduate level are encouraged to enter. This essay contest is open to students worldwide.

Dream Deferred Essay Contest
Deadline is in late May
The Dream Deferred Essay Contest was inspired by a 1951 Langston Hughes poem, What happens to a dream deferred? Just as the Langston Hughes poem helped inspire the civil rights movement, the contest sponsors feel that essay contest will also be regarded as an opportunity for American and Middle Eastern youth to unite over the issue of advancing civil liberties in the Middle East.

Samsung Techwin America Scholarship - This program is no longer being offered.
Deadline is in mid May
The Samsung Techwin America Scholarship is for high school students. To enter applicants must submit a 300 word essay on: How will technology enable the collaboration process in the future?

Big Dig Scholarship - This program is no longer being offered.
Deadline is in early June
Make your grandchildren rich, at least in theory.  This essay scholarship asks you imagine that you could bury something in your backyard that would make your heirs wealthy.

Automotive Hall of Fame Scholarship
Deadline is in late June
The Automotive Hall of Fame Scholarship is for high school seniors and college students with an interest in the automotive field and financial need. In addition to the eligibility requirements listed below, you need to write an essay describing your career goals and objectives for the next five years.

When I was about 12, I saw an ad in a magazine for a poetry contest that sounded fancy and impressive, something like “International Library of Poetry.” I bled poetry at that age, so I crossed my fingers and sent in a poem I’d been slaving over for weeks.

And, lo and behold, the people behind the contest quickly wrote back to tell me my poem had been selected as a winner!

I was speechless with honor. Of the thousands of poets who must have submitted to the contest — no doubt many of them adults much wiser and more skilled than me — my poem had been chosen to be featured in an exclusive, hardcover anthology! And honored on a something-karat-gold plaque!

Of course, I had to pay $50 if I wanted to see my work in print in the anthology, and I had to pay another $100 if I wanted the plaque. Those were the only “prizes.”

Even as a pre-teen, I sensed a scam.

Sadly, not much has changed when it comes to companies trying to take advantage of writers who want a chance at recognition and maybe a little bit of money. Google the term “writing contests,” and you’ll come up with approximately 8 million results. It can be hard for a writer to know where to start looking for competitions, and how to tell if they’re legitimate or not.

So I’ve done the legwork for you.

Here are 31 reputable, well-reviewed, free writing contests for poets, fiction writers, essayists and more.Some legitimate contests do charge a small entry or “reading” fee, but often a fee can be a red flag for a scam, so you may want to stick to free contests — and there are certainly enough of them.

Fiction and nonfiction writing contests

Ready to share your novel or personal essay with the world? Whether you’re a newbie or more established writer, you’re likely eligible for a few of these contests.

1. L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest

Whatever your feelings about L. Ron Hubbard’s work and philosophy, the prizes for this regular contest are nothing to sneeze at. Every three months, winners earn $1,000, $750 and $500, or an additional annual grand prize worth $5,000.

Submissions must be short stories or novelettes (up to 17,000 words) in the genre of science fiction or fantasy, and new and amateur writers are welcome to apply.

Deadlines: Quarterly on January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1.

2. Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize

Awarded to “the most promising and innovative literary nonfiction project by a writer not yet established in the genre,” this prize provides a $12,000 advance and publication by Graywolf Press.

If you live in the U.S. and have published at least one book (in any genre), you’re eligible to submit a current manuscript in progress for consideration. The judges look for winners who push the boundaries of traditional literary nonfiction.

Deadline: Contest is every other year, with the last one running in 2016. The 2018 deadline has not been announced.

3. Drue Heinz Literature Prize

You can win $15,000 and publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press with this prize, awarded for a collection of short fiction.

You may submit an unpublished manuscript of short stories, two or more novellas or a combination of novellas and short stories. Your total word count should be between 150 and 300 typed pages.

Deadline: Annual submission window is May 1 through June 30.

4. Tony Hillerman Prize

Presented by St. Martin’s Press and WORDHARVEST, this prize awards the best first mystery novel set in the Southwest with $10,000 and publication by St. Martin’s Press.

It’s open to professional or non-professional writers who have not yet had a mystery published, and there are specific guidelines for the structure of your story: “Murder or another serious crime or crimes must be at the heart of the story, with emphasis on the solution rather than the details of the crime.”

Deadline: TBD

5. St. Francis College Literary Prize

This biannual prize honors mid-career writers who have recently published their third, fourth or fifth work of fiction. The winner receives $50,000 but must be able to appear at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY to deliver a talk on their work and teach a mini-workshop in fiction to St. Francis students.

Deadline: Biannually; the deadline for work published between June 2015 and May 2017 is May 15, 2017.

6. Young Lions Fiction Award

This $10,000 award recognizes “young authors,” which the rules define as any author aged 35 or younger. Submit any novel or short story published or scheduled to be published in the calendar year. Works must be written for adults; children’s or YA pieces are ineligible.

Deadline: Annually in the fall (most recently in August or September). 2017 deadline not yet announced.

7.Inkitt

This boutique publishing firm offers a full-fledged publishing deal to its contest winner. Submit a novel of 20,000 words or more in any fiction genre (no fanfic, short stories or poetry) and if it’s selected, Inkitt will provide you with professional editing, a cover design, and 25 percent royalties. They also have a strategy to get you into the Amazon Top 100. (Not too shabby.)

Inkitt runs contests regularly, so be sure to check back often!

Deadline: See individual contest pages.

8.Real Simple’s Life Lessons Essay Contest

Have you ever had a “eureka” moment? If you have, and you can write a compelling personal essay about it in no more than 1,500 words, you may be able to win $3,000 in Real Simple’s annual essay contest.

Deadline: Annually; 2017 deadline has not yet been announced.

9. New Voices Award

Presented by Lee & Low Books, an award-winning children’s book publisher, this award is given for a previously unpublished children’s picture book manuscript (of no more than 1,500 words) written by a writer of color.

The winner receives $1,000 cash and a standard publication contract. You may submit up to two manuscripts.

Deadline: Submissions must be postmarked by September 30 each year.

10. Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence

This contest aims to provide visibility for emerging African American fiction writers and to enable them to focus on their writing by awarding a $10,000 cash prize. Eligible authors should submit a work of fiction, such as a novel or short story collection, published in the calendar year.

Deadline: Annually; 2017 deadline has not yet been announced.

11. PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Honoring the best work of fiction published by an American author in a single calendar year, this award has been given to the likes of John Updike, Philip Roth and Ann Patchett.

The winner receives $15,000 and an invitation to read at the award ceremony in Washington, DC. Four finalists also each receive a $5,000 award.

Deadline: Annually on October 31 for books published that calendar year.

12. Brooklyn Non-Fiction Prize

Presented by the Brooklyn Film & Arts Festival, this annual prize awards $500 cash for “the best Brooklyn-focused non-fiction essay which is set in Brooklyn and is about Brooklyn and/or Brooklyn people/characters.” (So it’s Brooklyn-centric, if you haven’t picked up on that yet.)

Submissions should be four to 10 pages (up to 2,500 words), and five authors will be chosen to read and discuss their submissions at the annual December event.

Deadline: Annually in mid-November.

13. Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards

Fiction and nonfiction writers who have recently published a book that “contributes to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of the rich diversity of human cultures” are eligible for this award, which offers $10,000 cash as well media and publicity opportunities.

Submissions must be published in the prior year (so books published in 2016 are eligible for the 2017 award).

Deadline: Annual submission window is September 1 through December 31.

14. Marfield Prize (a.k.a. National Award for Arts Writing)

Presented by the Arts Club of Washington, this award seeks to honor nonfiction books that deal with “any artistic discipline (visual, literary, performing, or media arts, as well as cross-disciplinary works).” This may include criticism, art history, memoirs and biographies, and essays.

Deadline: Annually in the last quarter of the year; the 2017 deadline has not yet been announced.

15. W.Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction

If you’re a war buff, this competition is for you. It awards $5,000 to the best piece of fiction set during a period when the U.S. was at war (war may either be the main plot of the piece or simply provide the setting). Submissions may be adult or YA novels.

Deadline: Annually on December 1.

16. Friends of American Writers Chicago Awards

FAW presents two annual awards: an Adult Literature Award for literary fiction or nonfiction, and a Juvenile Literature Award for a children’s/YA book.

Authors must reside in the state of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota or Wisconsin — or they must set their book in one of those locations. Prize amounts vary from year to year but are typically between $500 and $2,000.

Deadline: Annually at the end of the year; 2017 deadline has not yet been announced.

17. Hektoen Grand Prix Essay Contest

Hektoen International, an online journal dedicated to medical humanities, offers two prizes annually for essays of no more than 1,600 words in two categories.

The Grand Prize of $1,200 is given for an essay suited for their Famous Hospitals section, while a Silver Prize of $1,000 is given to the best essay suited for the sections of Art Flashes, Literary Vignettes, Moments in History or Physicians of Note.

Deadline: Annually; 2017 has passed and 2018 deadline is not yet announced.

18. Nelson Algren Short Story Award

Presented by the Chicago Tribune, this award presents $3,500 to one grand prize winner, $1,000 to four finalists and $500 to five runners-up for a short fiction story of less than 8,000 words.

You may submit up to two short stories, but note that your name must not appear anywhere on your submission as the process is anonymous.

Deadline: Annually; 2017 has passed and 2018 deadline is not yet announced.

19. Minotaur Books / Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition

Writers 18 and older who have never had a novel published (in any genre) are eligible for this prize, awarded for an original book-length manuscript where “murder or another serious crime or crimes is at the heart of the story.” The winner receives a publication contract with Minotaur Books and an advance of $10,000 against future royalties.

Deadline: Annually in the last quarter of the year. The deadline for 2017 awards has passed; the deadline for 2018 awards has not yet been announced.

20. FutureScapes Writing Contest

Want to change the world? Then listen up.

FutureScapes is looking for concrete, substantive pieces that “can provide a roadmap for cities, states, and nations to follow.” If you just want to write the next Hunger Games, this isn’t the contest for you, but if you’re inspired by politics and civic issues, you’ve found the right place. (Case in point: the inaugural theme, “Empowerment Cities,” features a quote from Alexis de Tocqueville.) First place wins $2,000; second place $1,000; and four runners-up will get $500 each. Oh, and did we mention publication in an anthology that will be “distributed to mayors, governors and members of the U.S. Congress”?

Deadline: Annually; deadline for 2017 is TBD.

21. Stowe Prize

This biennial prize of $10,000 honors an American author whose work has had an impact on a critical social justice issue (as did Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin).

In addition to submitting a copy of your book or written work, you must also complete a 250-word statement that describes the tangible impact your piece has made in the world and outlining any social justice work you perform outside of your writing.

Deadline: Biennially in odd-numbered years. The deadline for 2017 awards has passed, and the deadline for 2019 have not yet been announced.

22. The Diana Woods Memorial Award in Creative Non-Fiction

Creative nonfiction essays of no more than 5,000 words on any subject, are eligible for consideration for this award, whose winner receives $250 and publication in Lunch Ticket, the literary and art journal produced by the MFA community of Antioch University Los Angeles.

Works must not have been published elsewhere. Award winners are required to submit a 100-word biography, recent photo and a short note thanking the Woods family for their generosity and support.

Deadlines: Biannual reading periods are the month of February for the Summer/Fall issue and the month of August for the Winter/Spring issue.

23. Words & Brushes

This contest seeks to foster collaborations between artists and writers. Select a piece of artwork from the gallery provided and submit a short story inspired by it and you could win $350 — plus a spot in a future art book showcasing these collaborations. Short stories should be between 2,000 – 5,000 words.

Deadline: Annually; 2017 has passed and 2018 deadline is not yet announced.

24. Write the World

For young writers ages 13-18, this cool contest also serves as a mini writer’s camp. Recognizing that “a first draft is never perfect,” submissions actually receive peer review by authors, writing teachers and other experts and writers are given the chance to revise their pieces based on this feedback before submitting them for final prize consideration. There’s a $100 prize for the winner and $50 for the runner-up (plus $50 for the best peer-reviewer). All three are featured on Write the World’s blog alongside comments from a guest judge. And since each month’s prompt is from a different genre, developing writers get a chance to test out different styles.

Deadline: Monthly.

25. Prose.

Stuck with writer’s block and looking for a way to jumpstart your escape? Prose offers weekly challenges meant to spark your creativity; many are just for fun, but look for the weekly numbered challenges posted by Prose (rather than community members or sponsors) for a chance to win money.

Prizes are typically between $100 – $200 and word counts are low — some as low as under 150, some as high as 500, but all say “quality beats quantity.” So even if all you get from the prompt is a chance to flex your brain, it’s not a bad deal.

Deadline: Weekly.

Poetry contests

Curious about opportunities for poets? Your stanzas — rhyming or not — could be worth a fair amount of money in these competitions.

26. Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award

Open to African American poets, previously published or not, this award provides a $500 prize and publication by Boardside Lotus Press for the best book-length collection of poems (approximately 60 to 90 pages).

Deadline: Annually on March 1.

27. James Laughlin Award

If you’re already a published poet, this is the award for you; it’s given for a second book of poetry due to come out in the forthcoming year. The winner receives $5,000 and an all-expenses-paid week-long residency. In addition, copies of her book are distributed to the 1,000 members of the Academy of American Poets.

Deadline: Annual submission window is January 1 through May 15.

28. African Poetry Book Fund Prizes

The APBF awards three prizes annually for African Poetry. The Glenna Luschei Prize for Afican Poetry gives $5,000 for a book of original African poetry published in the prior year.

The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets gives $1,000 and a publication contract for an unpublished book-length collection of poetry by an African author.

The Brunel University African Poetry Prize is a new prize that grants £3,000 to a poet who was born in Africa, is a national of an African country or has African parents, who has not yet had a full-length book of poetry published. (U.S. citizens qualify.) To submit, you’ll need 10 poems.

Deadlines: See individual prize pages.

29. Tufts Poetry Awards

Claremont Graduate University presents two awards each year to poets they deem to be “outstanding.” The Kate Tufts Poetry Award grants $10,000 for a published first book of poetry that shows promise.

The Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award grants a mammoth $100,000 for a published book of poetry by an an established or mid-career poet.

Deadline: Books published between July of the previous year and June 30 of the current year are eligible for the following year’s prize (i.e. award for 2017 was for works publishing between between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016). Deadline for 2018 awards has not yet been announced.

Writing contests with multiple categories

Some contests accept submissions in multiple categories, so you could submit a novella as well as a poem or other work.

30. Binghamton University Book Awards

Sponsored by the Binghamton Center for Writers — State University of New York, this competition offers a $1,000 prize for work published in the previous year in two separate categories. The John Gardner Fiction Book Award goes to the best novel or collection of fiction, while the Milt Kessler Poetry Book award goes to the best book of poems.

Deadline: Annually on March 1 for books published the previous year.

31. Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition

(Editor’s note: We were so excited to include this competition that we overlooked its entry fees. We’ll leave it in the post for those interested in submitting their work, but please note that this contest is not free.)

One of the longest-running writing competitions — it’s now in its 83rd year — this contest spotlights up and coming writers in a number of categories, including Memoirs/Personal Essay, Magazine Feature Article and Genre Short story.

The Grand Prize winner gets $5,000, a feature in Writer’s Digest magazine, a paid trip to a writing conference and more. Runners-up earn prizes in first through tenth places.

Deadline: Annually; May 5, 2017.  

Where to find more legitimate, free writing contests

Looking for more opportunities to submit your work to writing contests? Here are a few great sites to keep an eye on.

Winning Writers

A number of the contests found on our list came highly recommended by this site, which compiles some of the best free literary contests out there. You can sort contests by recommendation level (Highly Recommended, Recommended or Neutral), view plenty of info on requirements and even see which contests are better for beginners, intermediate writers and pros.

They also offer a handful of contests themselves, including the Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest (which sounds delightful).

Poets & Writers

Another fantastic source for legitimate writing contests I consulted when compiling this list, Poets & Writers vets competitions, contests, awards and grants to make sure they’re following legitimate practises and policies. It’s worth checking out regularly as it features both annual and one-time contests.

Cathy’s Comps and Calls

Writer, poet and editor Cathy Bryant sources legitimate, free-to-enter writing contests and calls for submission. She releases a new list of contests and calls each month, so check back monthly for new opportunities.

Are you planning to enter any writing contests this year? Which ones?

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!

This post originally ran in February 2016. We updated it in March 2017.

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Creative Class

Move from irregular client work and crappy pay to being a freelance leader in your field. Paul Jarvis, who’s been freelancing for 16+ years, shares his advice on pricing, positioning and more.

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