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:
Poetry: A group of three poems
Fiction: A short story (1,500 words or fewer) or one-act play (run no more than 30 minutes of playing time)
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.
Awards & Rules
First-place winners in each category are awarded a prize of $500; second-place winners receive $250; third-place winners receive $125.
All entries must be original work and sponsored by a high school teacher.
Judges include Bennington College faculty and students.
We welcome submissions from both US and international students.
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 3 to November 1. The winning submissions will be posted on the website in mid-April.
Congratulations to our 2019-2020 winners! Sign up to be notified before the next contest.
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- 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
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
Bennington+ is a new suite of offerings for learners at every stage of their academic lives—from high school seniors to retired professionals. It includes a series of writing courses from Bennington's acclaimed literature program, an exciting selection of social justice and public action courses, and the opportunity for anyone to take classes from Bennington core curricular offerings. All of these programs are defined by Bennington's distinct student-directed and experiential approach to learning.
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.
Each year, over 2,000 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.
- First Place: "made without hands / My daughter inherits my mouth and my fear of everything / Things Without Mouths: An Index," Sophie Paquette, Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen, MI
- Second Place: "Unneeded Insecurities / My Reason (Outro) / Arrival," Devon Reed-Rivera, Cumberland High School, Cumberland, VA
- Third Place: "Type Girl / Uber Driver / Daughter Said," Karrington Garland, Franklin Academy High School, Wake Forest, NC
- 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
- First Place: "Sundown with Giraffes," Gerardo Azpiri Iglesias, Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen, MI
- Second Place: "Becoming a Woman: A Checklist," Thalia King, Pittsburgh CAPA High School, Pittsburgh, PA
- Third Place: "Transience," Jessica Yu, West Linn High School, West Linn, OR
- First Place: "Manhandling / i. lying ghazal / ii. lying ghazal," Julia Bohm, Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen, MI
- Second Place: "Sext to Absalom / Bildungsroman with Distant Nation / Field Notes on Rough Trade," Aidan Forster, SC Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville, SC
- Third Place: "Art Tatum: Harmonium / Art Plays a Myth / The Panther Room," Darius Atefat-Peckham, Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen, MI
- First Place: "The Seventh Secret," Lilly Hunt, Northpoint Christian School, Southaven, MS
- Second Place: "The Cat You Named Remy," Zane Austill, SC Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville, SC
- 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
- First Place: "Necessary Roughness / Public Enemy No. 1 / Seoul is singing now," Christina Im, Sunset High School, Portland, OR
- Second Place: "Anaerobic / Kintsugi / Lake-Effect Snow," Steven Chung, Monta Vista High School, Cupertino, CA
- First Place: "Souvenirs," Catherine Wang, Chinese International School, Hong Kong
- Second Place: "House of God," Jacqueline He, The Harker School, San Jose, CA
- First Place: "What Made Me / Night Fishing / Dilutions," Letitia Chan, Milton Academy, Milton, MA
- Second Place: "Nanjing Road / Autumn / Glass Familia," Helli Fang, Walnut Hill School, Natick, MA
- 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: "Ebola in Dallas / At Thurgood Marshall / When My Parents Go Out I Eat Breakfast For Dinner and Pee With the Door Open," Rachel Calnek-Sugin, Hunter College High School, New York, NY
- Second Place: "Ling hoards fake eyelashes / Ling traces X's on her collarbone / Ling takes off her left hand wedding ring before she sleeps," Carissa Chen, Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH
- Second Place: "Mansions," Sophia Gyarmathy, Northside College Preparatory High School, Chicago, IL