10 Science Research Competitions for High Schoolers

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Entering science research competitions offers many benefits to students, including helping them be competitive candidates for college admissions and enabling them to gain experience in an important field. In this post, we’ve put together a list of the top science research competitions for high schoolers.


Why Should You Enter a Science Research Competition?


Entering a science research competition demonstrates that you take initiative and care about academics beyond the grades in your courses, qualities that colleges appreciate in prospective students.


Competitions are not only a strong extracurricular activity, but becoming a finalist could also help you earn scholarships to pay for college. This huge accomplishment can even open doors, such as laying the groundwork for a career in science research and helping you land an internship.


Even if you don’t win or place in the competition, you’ll be able to explore an interest and learn about the field.


11 Science Research Competitions for High Schoolers


1. AAN Neuroscience Research Prize


Grades allowed: 9th-12th

Type: National


In this competition, students investigate problems concerning the brain or nervous system. Monetary prizes of up to $1,000 are on the line, as well as an all-expenses-paid trip to the AAN Annual Meeting, where the winners present their work at a scientific poster session.


2. Envirothon


Grades allowed: 9th-12th

Type: Local, State, and National


The North American Envirothon is hosted in a different location every year to expose students to diverse environmental issues, ecosystems, and topography. Students compete for recognition and scholarships by demonstrating their knowledge of environmental science and natural resource management. Over the course of five days in the summer, students work in teams of five at different training and testing stations.


3. Google Science Fair


Grades allowed: 9th-12th

Type: Regional, State, and National


In this competition, students ages 13-18 submit science research projects that are judged by a panel of scientists and researchers. Generous scholarships, cool gear, and unique opportunities are offered to winners at different levels. Past projects include battery-free flashlights and wearable sensors to improve the safety of Alzheimer’s patients.


4. Intel International Science & Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF)


Grades allowed: 9th-12th

Type: National


The world’s largest international pre-college science competition is an annual forum for more than 1,700 high school students, representing more than 70 countries, regions, and territories. Students showcase independent research and compete for roughly $5 million in awards across 17 categories.


5. International BioGENEius Challenge


Grades allowed: 9th-12th

Type: National


Recognizing outstanding research in biotechnology, this challenge gives students the opportunity to win cash awards for their work. Finalists present their research before a panel of expert biotech judges. They’ll be able to meet top industry professionals and gain valuable advice and insight on their projects.

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6. National Science Bowl


Grades allowed: 9th-12th

Type: National


Hosted by the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C., the National Science Bowl is a highly publicized competition featuring questions on scientific topics in astronomy, biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, earth, computer, and general science. Teams of 4 (plus one alternate) and their coach have the opportunity to attend cutting-edge science seminars and get their hands dirty with scientific challenges.


7. National Science Olympiad


Grades allowed: 9th-12th

Type: State and National


Mirroring the structure of track meets, Science Olympiad consists of 23 team events that reflect the current, ever-changing nature of fields from genetics to mechanical engineering. The competition emphasizes hands-on group participation and encourages involvement from a wide cross-section of students.


8. Regeneron Science Talent Search


Grades allowed: 12th

Type: National


Established in 1942, this talent search is a program of Society for Science & the Public (the Society), and is considered the most prestigious high school science research competition in the nation. In the competition, young scientists present their original research before a panel of nationally-recognized professional scientists. Of the 1,800 entrants, 300 Regeneron STS scholars are selected and they and their schools are awarded $2,000 each. Forty finalists are then picked from the pool of scholars. They receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where they compete for an additional $1.8 million in awards, with a top prize of $250,000.


9. Stockholm Junior Water Prize


Grades allowed: 9th-12th

Type: Regional, State, and National



In this competition, students seek to address the current and future water challenges facing the world. Previous winning topics at the state level include “Protecting the Aquatic Environment from Household Microfibers” and “Optimizing Straw Mulch Use in Agriculture.” State winners receive a medal and an all-expenses-paid trip to the national competition at The Ohio State University. The national winner takes home a $10,000 scholarship and a free trip to the international competition in Stockholm, Sweden. The international winner is graced with $15,000 and $5,000 for their school.


10. TOPPS Competition for High School Psychology Students


Grades allowed: 9th-12th

Type: National


Students submit a 3,000-word essay citing peer-reviewed psychological research on a given topic. The 2019 topic was “non-human animals in psychology research.” A $250 award is at stake, and four winners are selected.


How Can You Find the Best Competitions to Enter?


Looking for more competitions to enter? Here are some places to start.


  • Ask a science teacher or guidance counselor.


Teachers and guidance counselors often have resources and connections to help students find science research opportunities. Perhaps they themselves can even act as an advisor as you undertake these competitions.


  • Speak with a mentor.


Since they’ve likely been in your shoes, mentors can provide guidance about the most suitable competitions for you. You can also learn from their experiences—perhaps they wish they’d done certain things differently and can offer advice on how to make your competition experience go more smoothly.


Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Download our free guide for 9th graders and our free guide for 10th graders. Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from academicschoosing coursesstandardized testsextracurricular activitiesand much more!


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Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.

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