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15 Awards That High School Students Could Try For

10 minute read

High school is a time of exploration, growth, and discovery, and participating in awards can be a rewarding way to showcase your talents, passion, and achievements. Whether you're academically inclined, artistically gifted, or socially engaged, there are a plethora of awards that cater to a variety of interests. In this article, we'll explore "15 Awards That Any High School Student Should Try For," providing a roadmap to potential recognition and personal development.

1. Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF)

For aspiring scientists, the Intel ISEF is a prestigious platform that brings together the brightest young minds from around the world. This competition celebrates scientific innovation and provides high school students with the opportunity to present their groundbreaking research projects. Winners are bestowed with a suite of prestigious accolades and opportunities in recognition of their outstanding contributions to scientific research. These accolades often include substantial cash awards, with the top prizes reflecting the remarkable achievements across various categories. 

Additionally, winners may be recipients of scholarships to support their educational pursuits, providing financial assistance for their academic journey. Beyond monetary rewards, winners partake in the Intel ISEF experience, gaining the privilege to showcase their projects, connect with esteemed scientists, Nobel laureates, and industry professionals, thus fostering valuable networking opportunities. 

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2. National Merit Scholarship Program

The National Merit Scholarship Program recognizes and rewards academically talented students. To qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program, students embark on a journey that commences with taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) during their junior year of high school. This test evaluates critical reading, mathematics, and writing skills, generating a Selection Index score. 

Eligibility for recognition and scholarship consideration hinges on achieving a high Selection Index score, surpassing a specific cutoff determined by each state. Students who meet or exceed this threshold become eligible for recognition as Commended Students or Semifinalists. While Commended Students are acknowledged for their exceptional performance, Semifinalists advance to the subsequent stage of the competition. This multi-step process not only identifies top-performing students but also opens doors to opportunities for prestigious recognition and scholarship awards through the National Merit Scholarship Program.

3. Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

For the creatively inclined, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards offer a platform to showcase your artistic talents and literary prowess. Categories include visual arts, poetry, short stories, and more. Winning or even being recognized at the national level not only validates your artistic abilities but can also lead to scholarship opportunities and exposure within the arts community.

4. DECA Emerging Leader Honor Award

The DECA Emerging Leader Honor Award recognizes students who have demonstrated exceptional leadership skills and commitment to DECA, an international association that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality, and management. To be eligible for this esteemed honor, students must be active DECA members who have successfully completed at least one semester of coursework in marketing, business, finance, hospitality, or management. 

Additionally, candidates must have participated in DECA activities at the local, regional, or international level, showcasing their dedication to the organization. The award seeks to honor students who have not only excelled academically but have also actively contributed to the DECA community through their leadership roles, participation in conferences, and engagement in projects that align with DECA's mission. Meeting these criteria demonstrates a student's commitment to personal and professional development within the context of DECA, positioning them as emerging leaders within the organization.

5. Congressional Award

The Congressional Award is a program for young Americans that encourages goal-setting and personal development. By engaging in community service, physical fitness, personal development, and expedition/exploration activities, high school students can earn bronze, silver, and gold medals. The Congressional Award not only recognizes your achievements but also emphasizes the importance of community service and personal growth.

Eligible recipients must be between the ages of 13.5 and 23, and they engage in goal-setting activities that align with their personal interests and passions. By completing a set number of hours and achieving specific goals in each program area, participants not only receive recognition for their individual accomplishments but also contribute meaningfully to their communities. 

6. National Speech & Debate Association Honor Society

For eloquent and persuasive speakers, the National Speech & Debate Association Honor Society offers recognition for excellence in debate and public speaking. Earning membership in this prestigious society showcases your communication skills, critical thinking, and ability to articulate complex ideas—a valuable asset in various academic and professional pursuits.

To qualify, students must earn a requisite number of points through their participation in competitive speech and debate events. The accumulation of points is based on achievements and recognitions garnered at tournaments, showcasing the student's proficiency in public speaking, argumentation, and critical thinking. 

7. Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) Awards

FBLA offers a range of awards recognizing excellence in various business-related competitions. Whether it's business ethics, financial literacy, or entrepreneurship, participating in FBLA competitions allows high school students to demonstrate their business acumen and problem-solving skills.

Eligibility for FBLA awards is typically based on active membership in an FBLA chapter, participation in chapter and competitive events, and demonstrated proficiency in business-related skills. Students earn eligibility through their engagement in FBLA conferences, competitions, and community service initiatives. These awards serve as a recognition of students' commitment to business education, leadership development, and the cultivation of essential skills for future success in the business world.

8. National Geographic GeoBee

If you have a passion for geography and global awareness, the National Geographic GeoBee is the perfect stage for you. This competition tests students' knowledge of geography, cultures, and world events. Winning the GeoBee not only demonstrates your geographic expertise but also fosters a deeper understanding of the world around you.

9. National History Day

For history enthusiasts, National History Day offers a platform to delve into historical research and present findings in creative ways. The competition encourages students to explore historical topics in-depth, fostering critical thinking and research skills. 

10. Google Science Fair

The Google Science Fair is an online competition that invites students to showcase their scientific curiosity and innovation. Participants can submit projects that address real-world problems and present their findings to a global audience. It is open to students aged 13 to 18 from around the world who are passionate about scientific inquiry and innovation. Eligible participants can submit projects that address real-world problems and showcase their creativity, curiosity, and commitment to making a positive impact. 

The competition encourages students to explore various scientific disciplines, from biology and chemistry to physics and environmental science. Winning the Google Science Fair not only brings prestige but also offers opportunities for mentorship and collaboration with leading scientists, researchers, and industry experts. 

11. Art Institutes Poster Design Competition

For aspiring graphic designers, the Art Institutes Poster Design Competition provides a chance to showcase your artistic skills. The competition challenges students to create visually captivating posters on specific themes. The eligibility criteria typically involves enrollment as a student at one of the Art Institutes campuses. Students from various creative disciplines, such as graphic design and visual arts, are invited to submit original poster designs that showcase their artistic talents and conceptual thinking. The competition often provides a platform for emerging artists to demonstrate their skills and creativity. Specific eligibility details may vary, so participants are advised to check the official guidelines for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

12. International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO)**

The International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) is a prestigious competition for high school students under the age of 20. Eligibility is typically determined by national qualification processes, where students compete in local or national mathematical contests to earn the chance to represent their country. Participants should demonstrate strong mathematical aptitude and problem-solving skills. Specific eligibility details may vary by country, and interested students are advised to check with their national mathematical organizations for accurate information.

13. Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship

The Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship recognizes high-achieving high school seniors for their leadership, community service, academic excellence, and dedication to making a meaningful difference in their schools and communities. Since its inception, the program has supported over 6,750 scholars with $81 million in educational assistance, awarding 150 students annually with a $20,000 scholarship from its 35th class in 2023. This scholarship is not just about the financial reward; it's about joining a community of like-minded individuals committed to making a positive impact in the world.

14. YoungArts Awards

The YoungArts Awards, facilitated by the National YoungArts Foundation, is a distinguished program designed to recognize and uplift emerging artists aged 15 to 18 in various disciplines such as visual arts, writing, design, theater, dance, music, cinematic arts, and photography. Through a rigorous application process, young artists submit portfolios or performances to be evaluated by experts in their respective fields, with recognition levels including Finalist, Honorable Mention, and Merit. 

Finalists are invited to participate in YoungArts Week, an immersive experience in Miami that features masterclasses, workshops, and performances, fostering artistic growth and networking. Beyond the week-long event, participants become part of a supportive alumni network, gaining access to ongoing opportunities, mentorship, and career development programs. 

The YoungArts Awards not only celebrates the diverse talents of young artists but also provides a transformative platform that propels their artistic journeys and connects them to a dynamic community of peers and mentors.

15. FIRST Robotics Competition

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition stands as a global beacon for inspiring high school students to dive into the exciting intersection of sports, science, and technology. Guided by mentors from various industries, these teams engage in a dynamic, team-based challenge centered around a unique game theme unveiled each year. The competitive spirit is not only about robot performance but also emphasizes core values like "Gracious Professionalism," fostering a culture of respect, integrity, and collaboration.

The top-performing teams progress to national and international championships, transforming their school-based projects into thrilling real-world competitions. Beyond the technical aspects, FIRST places a strong emphasis on STEM education and community outreach, encouraging students to share their passion for science and technology with their communities. The program not only equips students with valuable technical skills but also instills in them a sense of leadership, innovation, and a commitment to making a positive impact on society.

Final Thoughts

Participating in awards and competitions during high school is not just about winning accolades; it's about personal growth, exploration, and honing valuable skills. Whether you're interested in science, arts, business, or community service, there's an award out there waiting for you. The journey of striving for these awards not only adds to your high school experience but also sets the stage for a future filled with passion, purpose, and achievement. So, go ahead—embrace the challenge and make your mark!

Research and Prepare for your Competition or Fair

Polygence pairs you with an expert mentor in your area of passion. Together, you work to create a high quality research project that is uniquely your own. Our highly-specialized mentors can help guide you to feel even more prepared for an upcoming fair or competion. We also offer options to explore multiple topics, or to showcase your final product!