Young Writers Awards


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About the Contest

Bennington College has a unique literary legacy, including twelve Pulitzer Prize winners, three U.S. poet laureates, four MacArthur Geniuses, countless New York Times bestsellers, and two of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.

In celebration of this legacy, Bennington launched the Young Writers Awards to promote excellence in writing at the high school level. Our goal with this competition is to recognize outstanding writing achievement by high school students.

Each year, students in the 9th-12th grades are invited to enter in one of the following categories with the following submission:

  1. Poetry: A group of three poems

  2. Fiction: A short story (1,500 words or fewer) or one-act play (run no more than 30 minutes of playing time)

  3. Nonfiction: A personal or academic essay (1,500 words or fewer)

A first, second, and third place winner is selected in each category.

We welcome submissions from both US and international students. 

Have questions about the contest? Email

 Download a Young Writers Awards poster to print and hang in your classroom or school. 

Awards & Rules

First-place winners in each category are awarded a prize of $1,000; second-place winners receive $500; third-place winners receive $250.

  • There is no entry fee

  • All entries must be original work reviewed, approved and sponsored by a high school teacher. We will use your sponsoring teacher as a contact for the competition should we have any questions. For homeschooled students, please contact a mentor to sponsor your writing.

Young Writers Award finalists and winners are also eligible for undergraduate scholarships at Bennington. YWA finalists who apply, are admitted, and enroll at Bennington will receive a $10,000 scholarship every year for four years, for a total of $40,000. YWA winners who apply, are admitted, and enroll at Bennington will receive a $15,000 scholarship every year for four years, for a total of $60,000.

The competition runs annually from September 1 to November 1.

Congratulations to our 2020-2021 winners!

2020-2021 Winners




  • First Place,  "Dissecting Matryoshka," Stefania Bielkina, The Dwight School, New York, NY
  • Second Place, "Skin Test," Indigo Mudbhary, Lick Wilmerding High School, San Francisco, CA
  • Third Place, "Gifted," Rebecca Orten, Middlebury Union High School, Middlebury, VT
Fiction Poetry Nonfiction

More About Literature Studies at Bennington

Literature studies at Bennington are grounded in the idea that good writers are good readers. Each year, an exceptional group of Bennington undergraduates is chosen to participate in an MFA summer residency through the Undergraduate Writing Fellowship. At the graduate level, the MFA offered by the Bennington Writing Seminars is one of the best low-residency programs in the United States.

Bennington Programs for High School Students 
The Bennington Early College Program is a new suite of offerings for high school, gap year, and college students, extending the College’s student-directed, interdisciplinary, and experiential approach to education to remote learners anywhere in the world. These one-credit courses, led by Bennington’s distinguished faculty, are designed for students who want to get a head start on their college experience, or for students already in college elsewhere who want to sample coursework available at Bennington. 

Off the Page & Outside the Classroom
Bennington College believes that a writer’s influence extends beyond the printed page. As the steward of the Robert Frost Stone House Museum, Bennington is committed to maintaining and growing Robert Frost’s literary legacy in Southern Vermont and beyond.

Throughout the year, Bennington College welcomes prominent writers and alumni to campus for readings during its Literature Evenings, Poetry at Bennington, and Writers Reading series.

Students at Bennington are invited to contribute to SILO, the student literary and arts magazine, and the student-run journalistic outlet The Bennington Free Press. Bennington Review, a national biannual literary journal based at the College, provides students an opportunity to help edit and produce a professional print literary magazine.

Bennington College Literature students go on to become novelists, poets, journalists, biographers, and more. Explore notable alumni.

Join Us At Bennington

Interested in exploring what a Bennington education can offer? Here are some next steps: 

Past Winners

Each year, over 5,000 students submitted poetry, fiction, and nonfiction to the Young Writers Awards competition. We congratulate all entrants on their extraordinary submissions, and are pleased to share past winning entries.

2019-2020 Winners

read media release


  • First Place: "swimming pool (disambiguation)," Miracle Thornton, Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen, MI
  • Second Place: "Spring" Esther Sun, Los Gatos High School, Los Gatos, CA
  • Third Place: "Prayer for the Finite," Hewson Duffy, Saint Anne’s Belfield School, Charlottesville, VA


  • First Place: "Vanishing Act," Sofia Miller, Westview High School, San Diego, CA
  • Second Place: "Year 2000," Aluna Brogdon, Laguardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, New York, NY
  • Third Place: "Looking for the Century," Alyona Baranova, Berlin Metropolitan School, Berlin, Germany


  • First Place: "Wen-Ying," Hannah Han, Harvard-Westlake School, N Hollywood, CA
  • Second Place: "Pedigrees," Alyssa Wilson, South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville, SC
  • Third Place: "Liturgy," Ana Renee Moore, William Howard Taft High School, San Antonio, TX

2018-2019 Winners



  • First Place: "Haymarket," Cynthia Lu, Belmont High School, Belmont, MA
  • Second Place: "Moon Fever," Kali Puhnaty, Idyllwild Arts Academy, Idyllwild, CA
  • Third Place: "Hardest Hue to Hold, " Lillian Robles, Homeschooled, Glendale, CA


    2017-2018 Winners




    • First Place: "PEEL," Kelley Liu, Troy High School, Troy, MI
    • Second Place: "Ruth," Sophie Paquette, Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen, MI
    • Third Place: "Bingo," Katherine Chou, Hamilton High School, Chandler, AZ


      2016–2017 Winners



      • First Place: "Souvenirs," Catherine Wang, Chinese International School, Hong Kong
      • Second Place: "House of God," Jacqueline He, The Harker School, San Jose, CA


      2015–2016 Winners



      • First Place: "Reddi-Wip," Walker Caplan, The Lakeside School, Seattle, WA
      • Second Place: "Momma Drove Like a Man," Ella Zalon, Oakland School for the Arts, Oakland, CA


      • First Place: "Of Perfumes," Addie Glickstein, East High School, Denver, CO
      • Second Place: "Hair," Luisa Healey, Hunter College High School, New York, NY

      2014–2015 Winners 



      • Second Place: "Mansions," Sophia Gyarmathy, Northside College Preparatory High School, Chicago, IL