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Consider These 8 Scholarships for Aspiring Writers

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by Matt Konrad

It's safe to say that if you're in the midst of applying for colleges, scholarships, or financial aid, you're busy doing your fair share of writing already. For some students, this is a chore on par with cleaning the bathroom or shoveling the sidewalk—but if you're looking at taking it a step further and writing for a living, there's plenty of scholarship help out there. Here are eight scholarships for everyone from novelists to journalists to travel writers.

Perhaps the biggest scholarships for high school writers are the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, presented via the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers. The award competition allows students in grades 7 to 12 to submit art and/or written work in nearly 30 different categories (everything from flash fiction and video game design to poetry and architecture); graduating seniors can submit full portfolios as well as individual works. Both regional and national winners are selected, and those winners are eligible for a host of scholarships—some given by the alliance, and some by its partner postsecondary institutions. I'd recommend checking out the submission guidelines and giving it a shot no matter what your writing focus may be.

[Read about how creative writing centers are helping students publish.]

The Free Spirit Scholarship, presented by the Freedom Forum in honor of its founder, USA Today's Al Neuharth, is a $1,000 award; one winner from each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., is invited to attend the Free Spirit Journalism Conference and receive the scholarship. To qualify, you must be in your junior year of high school; you must be planning to pursue a career in journalism (and have at least three samples of your journalistic work to submit); and you must exhibit what the award committee determines as the qualities of a free spirit. (If you're a collegiate junior at an NCAA member institution, the Freedom Forum also sponsors a Sports Journalism Scholarshipwith an upcoming mid-December deadline.)

Among the most prestigious scholarships available for journalism students is the National Press Club's Richard G. Zimmerman Award. While there's only one recipient nationwide each year, the prestige of the award—not to mention the $5,000 scholarship—will go a long way for a young journalist. Once again, all that's required are three samples of your work and a simple application, and all high school seniors are eligible to apply.

[Learn more about why it's a great time to be a journalism major.]

If your writing leans more toward the literary, check out theSignet Classics Student Scholarship Essay Contest, sponsored by Penguin Group. Each year, this contest awards five $1,000 scholarships to students for essays on a selected Signet Classics title—this year, it's Jane Austen's Emma. The program is open to high school juniors and seniors in the United States; you can meet last year's winners and check out examples on the contest homepage. Take note that you'll have to have an English teacher verify and submit your essays on your behalf, so it won't work to watch Clueless instead of reading the book before you write it.

The Go On Girl! Book Club also offers two scholarships for those with a literary bent. Their Aspiring Writer Scholarship provides a $500 award to one full-time sophomore or junior majoring in English, literature, journalism, or a related area of study at aHistorically Black College or University, and requires a 500-word essay about "The Power of the Written Word."

The Unpublished Writer Award, also for $500, is given to one writer annually on the basis of an unpublished short story or novel excerpt. Applications are due in March, and competition can be fierce. One winner, Jacinda Townsend of Indiana University—Bloomington, will be publishing a novel with W.W. Norton next year.

[See U.S. News's list of schools that prioritize writing.]

Finally, if you combine a love of the written word with a desire to see the world, travel writing might be the career for you. And if that's the case, don't hesitate to check out the Family Travel Forum Teen Travel Writing Scholarship. In conjunction with the Society of American Travel Writers, the Forum awards $1,000, $500, and $250 cash prizes for the best blog entries detailing a memorable travel experience. In addition to your description, you can add photos and video. The program typically opens for submissions in early May, so consider keeping some notes on your holiday travels or spring break, and they could pay off!

Matt Konrad has been with Scholarship America since 2005. He is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota and a former scholarship recipient.

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