Build excitement for back-to-school with YoungArts
I wish I had discovered YoungArts‘ writing contests a year ago when I was still teaching high school ELA. But now that I’m teaching literature and composition to college freshmen, for the most part, my students are too old for YoungArts, an ultra-prestigious competition for the visual, literary, and performing arts. (Only students ages 15-18 or in grades 10-12 are eligible.)
Deadline for entries for the 2023 cycle is conveniently timed for the middle of the first semester. It’s also perfect timing for all that personal narrative writing many teachers like to start the year with. Submission deadline is October 14, 2022.
But with the beginning of school approaching, you, dear reader, should definitely check out this contest opportunity. We all know how important it is to provide relevance with our content, and contests are a great way to show students that your class isn’t just about commas and academic literary analysis, but it’s also about personal expression, creativity, and finding their place in the world of publishing and productions.
700 winners in 2021
And maybe I shouldn’t be calling this a contest. Students don’t compete with each other per se; they compete on their own merit to receive prizes that recognize their own development and skills. According to the website, “In 2021, YoungArts received approximately 6,000 completed applications and there were over 700 winners. We focus on the quality of each submission and not on the total number of applications received.” That’s a twelve percent win rate!
Never heard of YoungArts?
YoungArts was incorporated in 1981 by the late Carnival Cruise Lines founder Ted Arison and his wife, Lin Arison, to encourage emerging U.S. artists. In 1982, YoungArts became the sole nominating organization for the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts. Twenty YoungArts finalist award winners are selected by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars to receive “one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students in the arts.
The website lists prizes for entrants, but in a nutshell, here’s what your student will win if their works earns a finalist, honorable mention, or merit level recognition:
- Cash awards (Merit winners receive $100, and honorable mention receive $250. Finalist winners move on to compete for awards ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.)
- Mentoring by accomplished artists
- A lifetime of creative and professional support
- Networking with a distinguished artistic community
- The opportunity to become a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts
- National recognition
And YoungArts in particular, I’ve learned, boasts real world influence on American culture and creativity. Prove that point by letting your students know about some well-known past winners, which are included in the video below linked above. For example, past winners include Amanda Gorman, who won in 2016 writing prize in the Novel category, and Timothée Chalamet, who won a 2013 theater prize in the Spoken Only category.
How to Apply
After creating their beautiful works, students must create an account and pay a $35 entry fee. (The fee will be waived if a letter from a parent, guardian, teacher, or principal requesting the fee to be waived is enclosed with a student’s application.)
Students submit work in categories across ten literary, visual, and performing arts disciplines. Within the literary/writing category, there are six sub-categories under which students apply. Regardless of the writing category, according to the website, the judges suggest, “The strongest submissions demonstrate a sense of inventiveness, show attention to the complexities and technical aspects of language, and have a clear, original, and distinct point of view.”
In addition, the guidelines PDF sheets suggest that the reviewers and panel members are “looking for command of the tools of language, originality, imagination, depth of ideas, and overall excellence (no spelling errors, please).
The six writing categories include:
- creative nonfiction (Two works are judged, and must be a memoir, autobiography, or creative essay.)
- novel (Entrants will submit a one-page synopsis and the first twenty pages of a novel.)
- play or script (Entrants submit a one-page synopsis and the first twenty pages of a non-musical script.)
- poetry (Three to five separate poems not to exceed ten pages.)
- short story (One to two separate pieces not to exceed twenty pages.)
- spoken word (Two to three separate poems not to exceed ten pages. Separate video of each poem’s performance must be included.)
Find the complete 2023 application directions here.
Thanks for reading!
I hope you learned something new in this post. I’m a big believer in writing contests and now that the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be mostly in our collective rearview mirror, contests are in full swing again.
I invite you to spend some time on the YoungArts website and become familiar with the application process and guidelines. You just never know how your students will perform in the “real world” until you submit an application to a contest. Good luck!
By the way, I am working on a post about my first foray with my students into the national poetry recitation contest known as Poetry Out Loud. Become a subscriber for free below (and I’ll send you a Treasured Object Poetry handout in return) to catch that Poetry Out Loud post. POL is another contest your students need to know about. It’s awesome and one I highly recommend.
Need a new poetry idea?
Enter your email below and I’ll send you this PDF file that will teach your students to write Treasured Object Poems, one of my favorite poem activities. I know your students will enjoy it!