Some of the best and most rewarding scholarships require applicants to write a personal essay, poem, or other written work.
Are you interested in a certain genre, like sci-fi or young adult literature? There’s a scholarship for people who like to write those kinds of books!
Do you have a portfolio of written work from your high school career? Many scholarships seek extensive portfolios that center on a particular subject – why not revise your portfolio and submit your materials to a scholarship evaluation committee?
We’ve found ten of the best writing scholarships for high school students and undergraduates.
Prizes range from the several thousands to the tens of thousands of dollars, while others come with publishing-related perks and paid-for professional development opportunities.
YoungArts’ National Arts Competition for Writing
Open exclusively to students in grades 10 or 12 (or ages 15-18), YoungArts’ National Arts Competition evaluates submissions for five categories: creative nonfiction, novel, play or script, poetry, and short story and spoken word.
Of previous winners, the organization remarks that their portfolios were creative, thought-provoking, and intentional. There are separate requirements for each category.
For novels, candidates share the first 20 pages of their novel along with a 200-word synopsis.
Spoken word artists will submit two to three written poems, with the total material not exceeding ten pages. Spoken word category applications may also submit a video performance for each poetry submission.
There are five levels of prizes awarded to candidates whose work reveals innovative and outstanding technique, depth, and perspective.
The Level 1, 2, and 3 prizes are worth $3,000, $1,500, and $1,000 (respectively). The Silver prize is worth $5,000, while the Gold prize totals $10,000.
The National Press Club Scholarships
The National Press Club Journalism Institute offers four scholarship awards to individuals pursuing a future career in journalism and supporting a commitment to civic discourse and transparency.
One award – the Richard G. Zimmerman Scholarship – is given to a high school senior pursuing a career in journalism. The candidate must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
A second award – the Scholarship for Journalism Diversity Honoring Julie Schoo – bestows a $5,000 one-year award to the winner. This prize is renewable for up to three years, amounting to up to $20,000 in scholarship funds devoted to college expenses. Applicants share the same requirements as the Richard G. Zimmerman Scholarship.
Past winners of the various scholarships have gone on to study at UC-Berkeley, Harvard, Columbia, and Brown.
Regions Riding Forward Scholarship Essay Contest
The Regions Riding Forward Scholarship was conceived to honor stories of inspiring Black Americans. Whether it’s a national public figure, regional superstar, or local hero – all tales are worth telling, and Regions wants to hear them.
Applicants provide a 500-word or less written or 3-minute or less video essay about a Black American who has inspired them.
Regions promises to award $5,000 scholarships to 30 high school seniors and $3,500 scholarships to 30 first-year, sophomore, or junior college students!
The evaluation committee will recognize 15 written essay submissions and 15 video submissions for each of the two application cohorts.
Competitive applicants should have an overall GPA of 2.0 or higher and be in good academic standing at their current institution of learning.
Scholastic Art & Writing Awards
The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is the United States’ longest-running program dedicated specifically to creative teenagers.
Students in grades 7-12 can select from over 25 categories of writing and art, with writing categories including critical essay, memoir, and flash fiction.
The critical essay, for example, is meant to inform or even convince a reader about a particular topic. Examples include reviews and editorials.
Graduating high school seniors are eligible to submit an entire writing portfolio comprising six separate works which are indicative of the writer’s broad range in style and technique.
The Gold Medal Portfolio winners will earn a $10,000 prize, while Silver Medal with Distinction Portfolio winners will receive $1,000 scholarships.
The Davidson Fellows Scholarship in Literature
Both the U.S. News and World Report and Forbes Magazine have named the Davidson Fellows Scholarship one of the country’s most prestigious scholarships. Most recently, applicants were allowed to participate in teams of two!
The committee awards $50,000, $25,000, and $10,000 scholarships to exceptional students who have completed a significant work of literature.
To be eligible for a Davidson Fellows Scholarship in Literature, applicants must be 18 years old or younger and provide proof of U.S. citizenship or permanent residence.
Candidates submitting a piece to the Literature category must provide a 60-75 page portfolio, containing three works from the four genre selections: fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and drama or screenplay. A literacy narrative is an additional requirement.
Applicants must submit a process essay, a video describing their work, and two letters of recommendation from those who are familiar with their work.
Previous grand prize winners have shared portfolios that focus on preventing atrocities, providing positive representations of marginalized identities, and preserving family legacies.
Leroy F. Aarons Scholarship Award
Leroy F. Aarons was committed to providing an accurate representation of LGBTQ individuals and their lives in the media.
The scholarship award grants up to $5,000 in tuition money to an LGBTQ student intent on pursuing a journalism career.
Current or incoming undergraduate students enrolled in a journalism or communications field are eligible to apply. Along with an application, candidates should share a one-page resume, proof of enrollment in an undergraduate program, and five work samples.
Topics include writing about a senior LGBTQ activist in the applicant’s community or addressing a local legislative initiative.
Videos can go from two to five minutes while image galleries can hold between ten and 30 images. Students can also submit infographics.
Winners promise to uphold the Excellence Contract, which requires them to maintain a 3.2 GPA in the year to which the scholarship applies. If the student’s GPA dips below a 3.0, they may be put on probation.
The committee selects prize winners based on their demonstrated awareness of the issues faced within the LGBTQ community and their dedication to accurate, unbiased news coverage.
Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards
Any high school student can share a short story of 4,000 or fewer words from within one of six genres: romance, mystery/crime, horror, thriller/suspense, sci-fi/fantasy, or young adult.
The mystery/crime genre involves your average “whodunit” plot structures, as well as police, forensic, and legal dramas.
Thriller/suspense are described as stories that delve more into the motive and backstory to crimes and criminals and seek to increase our adrenaline.
The grand prize winner will receive $2,500 along with an interview in an issue of Writer’s Digest, the winning story published on writersdigest.com, a paid trip to the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference in New York City, and a $100 gift certificate to writersdigestshop.com.
Talk about perks!
The Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship
Amy Lowell was an American poet who passed away in 1925.
Her scholarship honors her legacy by supporting travel expenses for talented American poets. While this is not a college-specific scholarship, the money can be spent on expenses like studying abroad.
In the most recent cycle, there were two winners selected from over 200 applicants. To apply, candidates submit an application along with a curriculum vitae and poetry sample, which consists of up to 40 typed pages.
The committee shares that there is no minimum age requirement to submit works and that while many recent winners have already been published, there is no requirement that candidates have previously published their poetry.
The Horror Writers Association Scholarships
The Horror Writers Association (HWA) offers two $2,500 scholar awards to support emerging horror writers. Students submit one application, which gets shared with the review committees of both scholarships.
When reviewing applications, the committee will be primarily focused on the candidate’s academic record and plan and the likelihood that they will contribute to and grow the genre.
The scholarship funds may not be used for college tuition expenses. Those who win financial awards have two years’ worth of time to spend their funds, which must be used to further their horror writing career or professional development.
Appropriate activities include online writing courses, writing and publishing presentations, subscription fees, etc.
Ayn Rand Scholarships (Anthem, The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged)
Ayn Rand is the author of three canonical novels, each of which has its accompanying scholarship award: Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged.
The Ayn Rand Institute has awarded over $2 million in scholarship money to contest winners and, most recently, they awarded $40,000 to hundreds of students worldwide.
The Anthem Scholarship is open to all 8th through 12th graders. First place wins $2,000 and there are 83 other prizes of $25 to $500.
Applicants write a 600-1200 word essay in response to one of several prompts, with the purpose being to justify their argument clearly and creatively.
All high school juniors and seniors can apply for the Fountainhead Scholarship, which grants a $5,000 first prize and 83 other prizes ranging from $25 to $1,250 to those who pen an 800-1600 word essay that best articulates their view and understanding of the philosophy behind the novel.
The Atlas Shrugged Scholarship is only available to high school seniors, undergraduates, and graduate-level students.
The grand prize is $10,000, and other prizes range from $50 to $2,500.
One of the topics might prompt an applicant to describe the economic and moral forces interacting behind the disappearance of specific goods within the novel.
Haven’t read any of the novels? No worries! The ARI will send applicants a free copy of any novel. At the very least, applicants will receive a free book!