About the YES! National Student Writing Competition

An opportunity to write something meaningful for an audience beyond the classroom, and the chance to get published by an award-winning magazine.


Details for our fall writing contest, “Honoring Your Roots,” will be announced on Sept. 4.

See our 2019-20 writing contest calendar below.

A meaningful writing opportunity

The YES! National Student Writing Competition isn’t just a contest. It’s a meaningful writing opportunity for middle school through university students to read with purpose, write with passion, and reflect with courage and honesty.

For each contest, students read and write an essay on a selected YES! Magazine article. Provocative writing prompts push students to a deeper questioning of the article’s content and their personal experiences and opinions.

Contests are offered for fall, winter, and spring quarters. We divide contestants into four categories: middle school (grades 6-8), high school (grades 9-12), university, and Powerful Voice (for authors whose essays are powerful and passionate). 

Sign up to receive updates on the YES! Student Writing Contest and resources for teaching social justice. 

Read recently featured essays here.

 Who is eligible?

  •  You must be a classroom teacher—homeschool cooperatives, resource centers, supervised writing groups, and schools outside the U.S. included—for your students to participate.
  • We cannot accept essays or registrations independently sent by students. 
  • Student writers should be in grades 6-8 (middle school), grades 9-12 (high school), college/university, or adult continuing education.

Does this meet Common Core State Standards?

This writing competition meets several Common Core State Standards for grades 6-12, including W.9-10.3 and W.9-10.4 for Writing, and RI.9-10.1 and RI.9-10.2 for Reading: Informational Text *

*This standard applies to other grade levels. “9-10” is used as an example.

What are the essay requirements?

  • Respond to the article and writing prompt provided by YES!
  • Provide an original essay title
  • Reference the article
  • 600 or fewer words
  • Must be original, unpublished work

In addition, we evaluate essays for:

  • Grammar
  •  Organization
  • Strong style and personal voice. We encourage writers to include personal examples and insights.
  • Originality and clarity of content and ideas

How do I submit essays?

  • You must register for the competition by the announced deadline.
  • You may submit up to three essays per class.  
  • A completed student release form must accompany each essay. 

Are there prizes?

  • Winning essays in each category are published on the YES! Media website and in our online education newsletter, reaching thousands of YES! readers, including over 11,000 teachers.
  • One winning essay per contest is chosen by YES! editors to be published in our quarterly print magazine.
  • Regardless of whether the essay is selected a winning essay, we respond to all student writers with a personal note.
  • Teachers who participate in a fall, winter, or spring contest receive one free year of YES!. One lucky participating teacher will be randomly selected to win free YES! swag, too.

What are the dates for the 2019-20 writing contests?

Fall 2019
Details announced: Sept. 4
Registration due: Sept. 27
Essays due: Nov. 1
Winners announced: Dec. 20

Winter 2020
Details announced: Nov. 14
Registration due: Dec. 6
Essays due: Jan. 29
Winners announced: March 13

Spring 2020
Details announced: Feb. 7
Registration due: Feb. 28
Essays due: April 15
Winners announced: May 22

*Dates subject to change. Please consult website or email for calendar updates.

Sign up to receive writing contest notifications, plus social and climate justice resources, tough topics discussion guides, and student writing lessons. 

Even better, apply for a free year of YES!  and you’ll get magazines and an e-newsletter, including writing contest announcements.

Questions? Please email [email protected]

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