Student Competitions and Conferences

Please check out the following forums, competitions, video and essay contests and more. Most of these opportunities are free to apply/enter for U.S. high school students (and some are open to middle school and undergraduates). See listed websites for more details. For additional resources just for students, please click here.

Conferences, Competitions and Service Projects

American Councils for International Education

American Councils administers a variety of cultural exchange, study abroad, and research programs on behalf of both public and private funders. Participation in these programs is through an open, merit-based competition, and facilitates mutual understanding between the United States and Eurasia, Southeast Europe, and South Asia.

Do Something.org- ongoing service projects to join

One of the largest global orgs for young people and social change, our 3.8 million members tackle campaigns that impact every cause, from poverty to violence to the environment to literally everything else. Any cause, anytime, anywhere.

International Cultural Diplomacy: Young Leaders Forums

The International Cultural Diplomacy (ICD) Young Leaders Forums are international networks of like-minded individuals with an active interest in developing and supporting intercultural relations. The first Young Leaders Forum was developed almost a decade ago and ICD have since developed and launched a variety of different bilateral and multilateral Forums that focus on a diverse range of relationships across the world. ICD has developed these Forums to provide a platform for the next generation of leaders to explore the potential of organized cultural exchange in the international environment and to use the networks they become part of to organize their own leadership initiatives. Further information about the next Weeklong Seminar can be found here.

International Essay Contest: Making a Difference

The Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs hosts a yearly essay contest for both students and teachers. Prior topics include sustainability and contemporary ethical dilemmas.

National Geographic Photo Contest- for 18 and older

Do you have a winning shot? Send in your best photos—in categories like Animals/Wildlife, Travel, and Weather—for a chance to win a National Geographic Expeditions to the Galápagos and have your photo published in National Geographic Traveler magazine.

PLURAL

The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) again invite the world’s youth to submit original and creative videos focusing on PLURAL+ themes: migration, diversity and social inclusion.

Refugee Services of Texas Youth Mentor (18 years +)

Refugee Services of Texas’ newly created Youth Program aims to enhance cultural adjustment, self-sufficiency and integration into American society for refugee youth through strengths-based case management, engaging extracurricular activities, academic support and most importantly mentoring. Specifically, RST uses a model incorporating group, peer, and one-on-one mentoring to promote the successful transition of refugee youth to employment, continued learning opportunities, and independent living. The mentoring program uses adult volunteers to commit to advising, supporting, and guiding a refugee youth for a period of at least one year.

STEM National Video Game Challenge

Inspired by the Educate to Innovate campaign, this initiative of President Obama seeks to engage student’s innate interests in playing and designing video games.

Voices of Youth Essay Contest

These features look at issues such as corporate social responsibility programmes and they showcase good examples from around the world.

ALA Girls Nation

Since 1947, ALA Girls Nation has provided aspiring young women leaders firsthand experience with practical insight into how the federal government works. Two participants per state, known as “senators,” are chosen to represent their respective.

American Foreign Service Association High School Essay Contest

This contest, in its tenth year, is part of the AFSA's goal to help you and other young Americans better understand how the men and women of the Foreign Service serve and defend our critical national interests around the globe, possibly leading many participants to consider international careers in service to our country. Participants are asked to write a 750-1000 word essay on a specific topic; Challenges Facing the American Foreign Service in the 21st Century was the 2010 topic. Please check out the website below for rules, guidelines, deadlines and the upcoming topic. You could win $2,500 and $500 for your school plus a paid trip to Washington, D.C. for you and your parents and a chance to meet America's top diplomats!

American Legion scholarships

Time and again we hear about the difference an American Legion Auxiliary scholarship has made in a person’s life, providing unimagined experiences and opening up a world of opportunities. The Auxiliary supports a number of scholarship programs that benefit veterans, the children of our veterans, and the members of the organizations within The American Legion Family.

Association of Childhood Education International

The Student Leadership Award recognizes outstanding student members of ACEI whose leadership activities have been focused on child advocacy. Child advocacy efforts must demonstrate and reflect the mission, vision, and guiding principles of ACEI.

Bill of Rights Institute Contests

The Bill of Rights Institute offers students ways to engage in deeper study of American history and political ideas. The Being an American Essay Contest challenges high school students to reflect on the civic values important to good citizenship. To find out how to participate, Click here. Additionally, the Constitutional Academy is a selective program which allows students to spend a week in Washington D.C. This trip is designed to facilitate discussion of American history and politics through the guidance of councilors and professors from local universities.

Department of State HS scholarships to study abroad

Offers merit-based scholarships to study one of seven critical foreign languages: Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Korean, Persian(Tajiki), Russian and Turkish in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Egypt, Ghana, Germany, India, Indonesia, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mali, Morocco, Oman, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Tunisia, and Turkey.

Do Something.org- ongoing service projects to join

One of the largest global orgs for young people and social change, our 3.8 million members tackle campaigns that impact every cause, from poverty to violence to the environment to literally everything else. Any cause, anytime, anywhere.

Doors to Diplomacy

The Department of State and the Global SchoolNet Foundation announce the "Doors to Diplomacy" award competition, recognizing the student-created Global SchoolNet Web projects that best teach others about the importance of international affairs and diplomacy. To qualify, middle school and high school students will work in small teams with teacher-coaches. There are four components to the Doors to Diplomacy challenge: a collaborative web project, a project narrative, the peer review process, and awards. Every team that enters a project will receive a special "Doors to Diplomacy" certificate recognizing their achievement. Each student member of the two winning teams — one American and one international — will also receive a $2,000 scholarship, and the winning coaches' schools will each receive a $500 cash award.

Exchanges Connect Annual Video Contest

This video contest, brought to you by the Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, asks students ages 14 or older worldwide to share their perspective using video submissions. As part of the ExchangesConnect international social network site, the four grand prize winners are eligible to receive an all-expense-paid international exchange program.

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas' Economic Essay Contest

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas' Economics Essay Contest challenges students to step outside the box and see economics in the world around them. Students must choose a narrative that illustrates an economic concept and explain it thoroughly to an audience who is not familiar with the lesson. This contest is open to 11th and 12th grade students throughout Texas, northern Louisiana and southern New Mexico and features cash prizes in the form of savings bonds for finalists.

Global Art Campaign

All children and young people are invited to participate, and schools from around the world are encouraged to get involved in the campaign - which aims to highlight the accomplishments as well as the challenges that PWD have encountered in communities across the globe.

Global Citizen Year

Each year, Global Citizen Year recruits and trains a diverse corps of high school graduates "to engage as apprentices in Asia, Africa or Latin America during a transformative 'bridge year' before college. GCY Fellows spend 10 months in an intensive fellowship learning a new language, becoming integral members of a community and working on the frontlines of today's global challenges. CGY is looking for young people with exceptional passion and potential, and it works with each family to find ways to make the experience financially accessible."

GLOBAL SCHOOL NET CYBER FAIR

Students conduct research about their local communities and use digital media to publish their findings online. Recognition is given to the best projects in each of eight categories: local leaders, businesses, community organizations, historical landmarks, environment, music, art, and local specialties. The annual contest has involved more than 5 million students from 45,500 schools across 115 countries.

Heifer Ranch

A working farm in rural Perryville, AR, the 1,200-acre Heifer Ranch is filled with with gardens and animals. Come and take part in our hands-on, interactive programs and activities promoting sustainable solutions to global hunger, poverty and environmental degradation. Overnight programs.

International Essay Contest: Making a Difference

The Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs hosts a yearly essay contest for both students and teachers. Prior topics include the importance of sustainability and contemporary ethical dilemmas.

Mix It Up at Lunch

A national campaign launched by Teaching Tolerance over a decade ago, Mix It Up at Lunch Day encourages students to identify, question and cross social boundaries.

National Geographic Student Expeditions Scholarship Program

The National Geographic Student Expeditions Scholarship Program provides financial support for students seeking educational summer experiences abroad who could otherwise not afford them.

National Peace Essay Contest

The U.S. Institute of Peace is holding a national essay contest on the topic of Security Sector Reform, Political Transition, and Sustainable Peace.

National World War II Museum Essay and Arts Contests

The National World War II Museum of New Orleans offers opportunities for both middle school and high school students to get involved. For the art contest, students from grades 5-8 are asked to create artwork based on annual topics featuring realistic depictions or an abstract representation that are rooted in World War II history. For the essay contest, high school students are asked to write 1,000 word essays on annual topics that relate to World War II and today. Both contests feature cash and other prizes for the winners and have first-come, first-serve entry limits. Topics will be announced in the National World War II Museum website.

NCTE Achievement Awards in Writing Program

Achievement Awards in Writing is a school-based writing program established in 1957 to encourage high school students in their writing and to recognize publicly some of the best student writers in the nation. The National Council of Teachers of English recognize students cited as excellent writers by judges.

One Minute Videos

One minute videos about assigned topics made by youth

PLURAL

The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) again invite the world’s youth to submit original and creative videos focusing on PLURAL+ themes: migration, diversity and social inclusion.

Population Education Video contest

Population Education, a program of Population Connection, is the only national program with a strong emphasis on curriculum and professional development for K-12 educators that focuses on human population issues. Since 1975, the program has developed age-appropriate curricula to complement students’ science and social science instruction about human population trends and their impacts on natural resources, environmental quality and human well-being.

STEM National Video Game Challenge

Inspired by the Educate to Innovate campaign, this initiative of President Obama seeks to engage student’s innate interests in playing and designing video games.

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards: Registration is now open for this national contest encouraging students in grade 7 - 12 to create projects on social change.

Tufts Global Leadership program for high schools

Inquiry is a global issues simulation program from Tufts University for high school students developed by EPIIC. Inquiry provides a unique opportunity for high school students from across the country to participate in a weekend-long intellectual and challenging simulation centered on a pertinent international or domestic issue.

UNAUSA National High School Essay Contest

Each year, the United Nations Association of the United States of America publishes a topic and question of particular importance to the international community. Open to all U.S. high school students, this contest asks students to conduct research and write a response to the question, based not only on the information they have found, but also on their own views and opinions. Three finalists will receive monetary scholarships with the top winner receiving a trip to UN Headquarters in New York to be awarded their prize at the UNA-USA's Member Day.

Voices of Youth Essay Contest

These features look at issues such as corporate social responsibility programmes and they showcase good examples from around the world.

YES Abroad Program Scholarship

The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Abroad Program offers scholarships to American high school students to spend a semester or an academic year abroad. Past destinations include Bosnia & Herzegovina, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mali, Morocco, Oman, Thailand, and Turkey.

Bill of Rights Institute Contests

The Bill of Rights Institute offers students ways to engage in deeper study of American history and political ideas. The Being an American Essay Contest challenges high school students to reflect on the civic values important to good citizenship. Click here to find out how to participate.

Christopher Columbus Awards

A community based science and technology competition for students provides hands-on experience with real-world problems.

Doors to Diplomacy

The Department of State and the Global SchoolNet Foundation announce the "Doors to Diplomacy" award competition, recognizing the student-created Global SchoolNet Web projects that best teach others about the importance of international affairs and diplomacy. To qualify, middle school and high school students will work in small teams with teacher-coaches. There are four components to the Doors to Diplomacy challenge: a collaborative web project, a project narrative, the peer review process, and awards. Every team that enters a project will receive a special "Doors to Diplomacy" certificate recognizing their achievement. Each student member of the two winning teams — one American and one international — will also receive a $2,000 scholarship, and the winning coaches' schools will each receive a $500 cash award.

GEMUN — Global Elementary Model United Nations

Global Elementary Model United Nations, or GEMUN, is an exciting opportunity for Dallas/Fort Worth elementary and middle school students to role-play as the assemblies of the United Nations. GEMUN is an excellent hands-on approach to learning in a global context. By role-playing delegates to the United Nations, young people from varied backgrounds learn about other countries, cultures and international relationships, while developing a global perspective on real issues confronting the world community today, and acquiring many transferable skills. During the school year, elementary and middle school students and their sponsors receive help through workshops and printed materials. This preparation will culminate in a two-day Model United Nations session.

Global Art Campaign

All children and young people are invited to participate, and schools from around the world are encouraged to get involved in the campaign - which aims to highlight the accomplishments as well as the challenges that PWD have encountered in communities across the globe.

Global Junior Challenge

The Global Junior Challenge is a world-wide competition launched by the City of Rome to award prizes to the best projects using new technologies for education training purposes of youth up to the age of 29. Their webpage has a service to find new partners for your project.

Mix it Up at Lunch

A national campaign launched by Teaching Tolerance over a decade ago, Mix It Up at Lunch Day encourages students to identify, question and cross social boundaries.

National STEM Video Game Challenge

For middle and high school students - almost $200K in cash and prizes.

National World War II Museum Essay and Arts Contests

The National World War II Museum of New Orleans offers opportunities for both middle school and high school students to get involved. For the art contest, students from grades 5-8 are asked to create artwork based on annual topics featuring realistic depictions or an abstract representation that are rooted in World War II history. For the essay contest, high school students are asked to write 1,000 word essays on annual topics that relate to World War II and today. For more information and contest rules, please click here. Both contests feature cash and other prizes for the winners and have first-come, first-serve entry limits. Topics will be announced on the National World War II Museum website.

The Junior National Young Leaders Conference

The Junior National Young Leaders Conference (JrNYLC): Foundations of Leadership I, a six-day Envision program in Washington, DC, is for middle school students who have demonstrated leadership potential, are mature and motivated to learn and excel, and desire the critical leadership skills needed for success in middle school, high school and beyond.

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

Registration is now open for this national contest encouraging students in grade 7 - 12 to create projects on social change.

Unicef Holiday Art Contest

In 1992, the Pier 1 Imports/UNICEF Greeting Card Contest was created as a way to help raise awareness among U.S. schoolchildren about UNICEF’s work for kids around the world. The contest inspires kids in the United States to showcase their creative talents in a meaningful way.

Voices of Youth Essay Contest

These features look at issues such as corporate social responsibility programmes and they showcase good examples from around the world.

Christopher Columbus Awards

A community based science and technology competition for students provides hands-on experience with real-world problems.

GEMUN — Global Elementary Model United Nations

Global Elementary Model United Nations, or GEMUN, is an exciting opportunity for Dallas/Fort Worth elementary and middle school students to role-play as the assemblies of the United Nations. GEMUN is an excellent hands-on approach to learning in a global context. By role-playing delegates to the United Nations, young people from varied backgrounds learn about other countries, cultures and international relationships, while developing a global perspective on real issues confronting the world community today, and acquiring many transferable skills. During the school year, elementary and middle school students and their sponsors receive help through workshops and printed materials. This preparation will culminate in a two-day Model United Nations session.

Geography Awareness Week

Geography Awareness Week will be hosted by the National Geographic Society.

Global Art Campaign

All children and young people are invited to participate, and schools from around the world are encouraged to get involved in the campaign - which aims to highlight the accomplishments as well as the challenges that PWD have encountered in communities across the globe.

Mix it Up at Lunch

A national campaign launched by Teaching Tolerance over a decade ago, Mix It Up at Lunch Day encourages students to identify, question and cross social boundaries.

Trick or Treat for UNICEF

Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF began in 1950 as a way to help kids who need more than candy. Since then, children all over America have raised more than $170 million for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.

Unicef Holiday Art Contest

In 1992, the Pier 1 Imports/UNICEF Greeting Card Contest was created as a way to help raise awareness among U.S. schoolchildren about UNICEF’s work for kids around the world. The contest inspires kids in the United States to showcase their creative talents in a meaningful way.