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Top Psychology and Neuroscience Competitions for High School and Middle School Students

5 minute read

If you are currently conducting a research project or just completed one, you should consider participating in a psychology/neuroscience competition! While it may seem intimidating in the beginning, there are many benefits to participating in psychology/neuroscience competitions. Here are a few:

  • Develops your ability to explain complex ideas and your research to a new audience 

  • Gives you a deadline, which in turn provides motivation for you to complete your research project

  • Provides opportunities to practice following guidelines and submission requirements, which are skills you will need in high school, college, and beyond

  • Looks great on a college application 

  • You might win! (Don’t sell yourself short!) 

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With that being said, here are the top psychology/neuroscience competitions for high school and middle school students: 

TOPSS Competition for High School Psychology Students

Hosting Institution: TOPSS (American Psychological Association Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools)

Format: Video Submission 

Application Deadline: April 10, 2023

In this competition, high school students submit a three-minute video that demonstrates their grasp of a psychological concept and how this concept can be used to make people’s lives better in the “real world”. The video should fall into one of the following categories: social psychology, personality, multiculturalism and gender, or motivation and emotion. To be eligible to compete, students must have completed or be currently enrolled in a psychology course. Each video submission must include a reference to at least one reputable outside source. Pro-tip: A major part of this competition is explaining the psychological concept and all research that you cite in your own words!

Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS) 

Hosting Institution: Society for Science

Format: Research Paper Submission

Application Deadline: The 2024 application opens on June 1, 2023. Check back on their website for the 2024 deadline. 

This competition goes back to 1942 and is the oldest science and math competition in the United States! High school seniors complete original scientific research projects and submit their findings in a formal research paper. Experts in the appropriate scientific field carefully review each project, leading to the Top 300 and Top 40 finalists. The Top 40 finalists compete in an in-person Finals Week in Washington, D.C., for the Top 10 awards. Each Top 40 scholar receives at least $25,000! ($25,000 seems like a typo, but don’t worry, I double-checked!) 

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Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS)

Hosting Institution: National Science Teaching Association

Format: Research Paper Submission 

Application Deadline: The regional symposiums vary by region, but generally occur in September - December. The national symposium occurs from January - May. 

This competition is for high school students (grades 9 - 12) who have conducted original research in a STEM field. First, students submit a research paper detailing their findings, along with a statement describing their individual contributions to the project. Judges select a portion of those submissions to be considered in the appropriate regional symposium based on the applicant’s location. Winners from the regional round will move on to the national symposium. 

The eight categories of the national symposium are: environmental science, biomedical sciences, life and behavioral sciences, medicine and health, engineering and technology, mathematics and computer science, physical sciences, and chemistry. The medicine and health category specifically identifies neuroscience as a subcategory. However, even if you have a psychology project that doesn’t quite fit into one of those categories, you can still compete! Just make sure to give your project a “spin” so that it fits somewhere. 

Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge (JIC)

Hosting Institution:Society for Science in partnership with Thermo Fisher Scientific 

Format: Submission to a local science fair 

Application Deadline: Varies depending on the local fair 

This competition is unique in that it is only for middle school students (6th, 7th, and 8th grades). These students first compete in a regional fair that is affiliated with the Society for the Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge. Judges at the local fair can then nominate up to 10% of the students to participate in the national competition. The Top 300 students receive awards, and the finalists chosen from the Top 300 travel to Washington, D.C., to compete for awards with even bigger prizes.

Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF)

Hosting Institution: Society for Science

Format: Submission to a local science fair

Application Deadline: Varies depending on the local fair

The Society for Science also hosts this competition, which is essentially the high school version of the Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge (JIC). 9th-12th grade students first compete in a local science fair that is affiliated with Regeneron, and judges at that fair nominate a certain percentage of participants for the international level. These finalists compete for over 600 individual and team awards, with substantial monetary prizes. 

This competition is different from the Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS) because in the ISEF students must first compete in a local science fair. Additionally, STS is for U.S. citizens, whereas ISEF is for both U.S. and international students. Finally, STS only allows high school seniors to participate, but any high school student can participate at ISEF.  

To see our complete guide on how to win at this competition, please read here

United States Army’s eCybermission Competition 

Hosting Institution: United States Army

Format: Scientific report submission 

Application Deadline: Currently closed, but the previous deadline was February 8, 2023. 

This is a team-based STEM competition for U.S. students in the 6th - 9th grades. Students form a group with 2 - 4 members total, along with an adult advisor. The team then completes a scientific research project or designs an engineering prototype to solve a problem in their community. Teams submit a paper describing their experimental research or engineering design process. They can win awards at the state, regional, and national levels. 

If you would like any help conducting research that you want to submit to a competition, please consider applying for our flagship mentorship program here or exploring some other research programs for high school students

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