If your pen is mightier than your sword, then you might want to consider contests and publication opportunities that can help highlight your skill as a writer. These opportunities are helpful to college admissions committees because they place your abilities in a national (or in some cases, international) context. It might sound daunting, but it’s more than possible to become a published writer while still in high school. We’ve included some resources here to help you get started.
A literary journal written and edited by high school students, Polyphony H.S. is the gold standard of its genre. Students can submit stories, poems, and essays at any time on www.polyphonyhs.com.
The Concord Review
For 16-year-old history buffs, it doesn’t get better than The Concord Review. The journal publishes academic essays on a variety of historical topics, and all contributors are high school students. The Review is known among elite schools, and publishing a paper here provides a definite edge to any applicant.
National History Day
National History Day (NHD for short) is a program for middle and high school students that promotes original work in history across a variety of platforms, including the academic essay. State-wide honorees have the opportunity to compete on a national level at the annual NHD competition at the University of Maryland-College Park. Students who complete NHD projects are typically sponsored by their school, so ask your social studies or history teacher for more information.
Scholastic Art & Writing Awards
This contest boasts an impressive array of categories; students can enter their work for awards in Critical Essay, Dramatic Script, Flash Fiction, Humor, Journalism, Novel Writing, Personal Essay & Memoir, Poetry, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Short Story, and Writing Portfolio contests.
For students who are less STEM-inclined and are instead passionate about humanities or the arts, it can feel challenging trying to find opportunities that will demonstrate your skill and commitment to admissions officers. Never fear, though–we’re here to help you get started, and while most schools have yet to organize an annual Poetry Fair, a little bit of digging can go a long way. And remember–thinking outside the box of what your school or district offers will pay dividends in terms of showing off your independence, drive, and maturity. That’s what we call a winning combination.