Site icon ELA Brave and True by Marilyn Yung

Writing Contest: 2023 YoungArts Submissions Now Open

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!

Skim through this video to see prominent winners reading their entries. The readings begin around 13:00.

Never heard of YoungArts?

If you’re unfamiliar with YoungArts, based in Miami, visit their website to learn more. Click here for a link to the FAQs page of the website. Here’s a snippet from the website’s About page:

For many young people, applying to YoungArts may be the first step in affirming “I am an artist.” YoungArts is one of the only organizations in the U.S. that supports artists across 10 disciplines at all stages of development, beginning with the critical moment when they decide to pursue a life in the arts, and continuing throughout their careers.

YoungArts: The national foundation for the advancement of artists
YoungArts headquarters is the Bacardi Annex in Midtown Miami. | Credit: Dan Lundberg, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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:

Amanda Gorman 2017 LOC.jpg | Public domain

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.


Timothée Chalamet recites during the 2013 (theater/spoken only) competition.

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:

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!

Treasured Object Poems



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Featured Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

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