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10 Art/Design Competitions for High Schoolers

What’s Covered:

 

Why Should You Enter an Art/Design Competition?

 

Sports stars and singers have a distinct advantage when it comes to conveying their talents to college admissions committees. After all, it’s easy to list “soccer team” or “choir” on your application. Other extracurricular activities, such as photography, graphic design, and sculpture, tend to be more difficult to describe.

 

If you have an artistic passion, you might be struggling to showcase your skill and enthusiasm to colleges. Here’s where art competitions come in. Competitions are one way to show how your skills stack up against other students. One thing to note- these competitions can be very selective. Even if you don’t win, you have produced something of quality, which could serve you well on college applications—perhaps in an arts supplement. If you’re considering submitting an arts supplement, be sure to get the feedback of an honest professional or art mentor. Arts supplements will only help your application if they are exceptional, and will hurt you if they’re only so-so.

 

Ready to gear up for a competition? Here are 10 that can help you stand out.

 

10 Art/Design Competitions for High Schoolers

 

1. Congressional Art Competition

 

Are you skilled in the visual arts? If so, consider applying to the Congressional Institute’s Art Competition. Designed to acknowledge and celebrate talented young artists, this contest is open to high school students around the country. The winning artwork hangs in the Cannon Tunnel of the US Capitol for one year- seen every day by members of Congress, international visitors, and thousands of tourists!

 

Grades: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Competition Type: National

 

2. Doodle 4 Google

 

Google is famous for its drawings and doodles, and now the search engine juggernaut is offering high schoolers a chance to get in on the fun. To enter, students create an illustration using a medium of their choice, and write artist statements explaining their work and why it’s meaningful to them. Along with their artwork being displayed on the Google Homepage, the national winner will also receive a $30,000 college scholarship, a $50,000 technology package for their school/non-profit organization, Google hardware, and Google swag!

 

Grades: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Competition Type: National

 

3. NSHSS Visual Arts Competition

 

This visual arts competition supports artists with various mediums, including painting, drawing, printmaking, ceramics, photography, and mixed media. To apply, you will need to submit digital files of your artwork, a color headshot, an academic resume, a current transcript, and an educator recommendation. This competition offers three $2000 awards for photography, and three $2000 awards for painting, drawing, mixed media, and digital art. 

 

Grades: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Competition Type: National

 

4. Vans Custom Culture

 

Vans created this contest to empower high school artists and designers while bringing attention to dwindling arts budgets. This national competition asks that high school students use a blank Vans shoe as a canvas to showcase their creativity around specific themes. The grand prize winner’s school will receive $50,000 toward expanding their arts program, with four runner-ups receiving $15,000 each. 

 

Grades: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Competition Type: National

 

5. NSHSS Film and Video Production Scholarship

 

This visual arts competition supports video creators, judging based on theme, storyline, script, creativity, production quality, and editing. To apply, you will need to submit a title and description of your submission, your video, a color headshot, an academic resume, a current transcript, and an educator recommendation. This competition offers three $2000 awards.

 

Grades: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Competition Type: National

 

6. Ned Smith Center Youth Art Contest

 

This annual competition changes themes every year, and is meant to inspire a new generation of wildlife artists. As the theme changes from year to year, students should study the theme closely when preparing to begin their art piece. The 2023 contest will be the 30th anniversary, so it should be very exciting! Winners are announced at the end of July each year, and include 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Honorable Mention. 

 

Grades: 10th, 11th, 12th

Competition Type: National

 

7. Teen Ink Contests

 

Teen Ink is a magazine that holds many contests throughout the year to showcase art by teens. Winners and top nominees will be published in the magazine. Previous contests include creative portraits, poetry, nature photography, and pet photography. 

 

Ages 13-19

Competition Type: National

 

8. NSHSS Performing Arts: Dance Scholarship

 

This arts competition supports dancers interested in pursuing their studies in the performing arts. To apply, you will need to submit a video of your performance, a short description, a brief statement on what inspired you to become an artist, a color headshot, an academic resume, a current transcript, and an educator recommendation. This competition offers three $2000 awards. 

 

Grades: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Competition Type: National

 

9. Embracing Our Differences Art Exhibition

 

Annually, Embracing Our Differences hosts an international art exhibition in Sarasota. The exhibit holds 50 billboard-sized artworks, each with an accompanying inspirational quote. Awards are given for “Best in Show Adult”, “Best in Show Student”, and “People’s Choice”. Winning students receive $2000 to be split with their school’s art or writing program. Students should submit a digital file that is horizontal in orientation, with a brief “Artist Statement” explaining their art, creative process, and/or what the theme means to them. 

 

Grades: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Competition Type: International

 

10. Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest

 

In the fall of each year, Bow Seat offers the Ocean Awareness Contest as a catalyst for students to learn about environmental issues through art. The theme changes each year, so be sure to thoroughly review the information before planning your artwork! There are several categories available for submission, and you can submit one entry per category. Along with your artwork, you will need to submit a reflection on your piece. High school students in the Senior Division can win between $250 and $1,500. 

 

Grades: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Competition Type: International

 

How Do Art/Design Competitions Affect My Admissions Chances?

 

As you are preparing for college, these and other art competitions can help set you apart from other applicants by showcasing your passion and creativity. Depending on the prestige of the competition, these contests can land in various tiers of extracurriculars. What are the tiers? Here’s a brief overview:

 

1. Tier one activities are rare and special. They require exceptional achievement or leadership, and are extremely impactful to admissions officers. Winning the Congressional Art Competition or Doodle for Google would be an example of a tier one activity to include. 

 

2. Tier two activities show high levels of achievement and leadership, but are a little more common than tier ones. Embracing Our Differences or the NSHSS contests would likely fall under tier two. These are respectable on your application, and still serve to set you apart. 

 

3. Tier three activities don’t have the special distinction of tiers one and two, but still show your passion and ability. Winning a local or regional art competition would land in tier three.

 

4. Tier four activities are fairly common, and are used to show the person behind the grades. These would include entering local or regional competitions and winning a lower-tier or not winning at all. 

 

Pay attention to these tiers, as extracurriculars are a key criteria colleges review when deciding who to accept- even up to 25% of an admissions decision. Though grades are straightforward, these activities give admissions officers the chance to see you as an individual student, and more roundly evaluate how you would fit into the student body. Having particularly prestigious extracurriculars can also demonstrate a readiness for college, as a strong tiered profile, along with good grades and test scores show you are able to juggle multiple activities and commitments. 

 

For more information on your admissions chances, check out our CollegeVine chancing engine. Our data-driven, free online tool helps students gauge their chances of acceptance to thousands of colleges and universities based on many factors, including extracurriculars. All you need to access the chancing engine is a free CollegeVine account


Short Bio
Hi! I’m Cheyenne. I help educational institutions inform stakeholders and the wider public about the offerings available to them.

After graduating with my BA in History, and MA in Teaching, I knew education was my passion. Maverick Educational Copywriting was born out of my desire to make all levels of education accessible to students, families, alumni, and all other potential stakeholders. I believe education is at the heart of a healthy society, and making it understandable is a huge start! When not writing, I am usually spending time with my husband and dog, most likely hiking a new trail!