A Tailored List of Writing Contests for 2020


Posted January 12, 2020
Last modified January 12, 2020

23 mins read



A comprehensive list of writing contests in 2020, tailored for Singaporean students.

Update: if you have questions about mental health, for example, whether employers can ask about your mental health conditions, check out my other article where I talk about mental health: https://owlcove.sg/article/will-having-a-mental-disorder-affect-my-job-prospects-and-other-common-questions-on-mental-health :)

There are many compilations of writing contests out there, but I wanted to create something tailored for you. So I compiled a list of writing contests based on a few selection criteria which I believe befits you, the Singaporean student: age range (I chose age ranges of secondary-to-undergraduate students), language (English being the main one), admission fee (either nothing, or something very cheap), entry requirements (either Singaporean or international), and prestige (because who would want to participate in the Unofficial Hello Kitty Flash Fiction contest?).

Admittedly, there are probably many, many writing contests out there which I didn’t discover while researching for this article. So if you do find any one which you think will suit the article, feel free to leave a comment on any of the SGExams platforms (I promise I’ll read it).

(Note: the competitions underneath have no entrance fee unless specified. Non-Singapore citizens and non-PRs may want to check eligibility status for the contest first.)

(Note 2: Italicised parts are done by my lovely editor, Wilson.)


The Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition 
Category/Theme: Prose, this year's theme is related to climate change; prompts on the website. Link: https://thercs.org/youth-and-education/the-queens-commonwealth-essay-competition  Prize: The first place and runner-up winners get a cash prize and a visit to the UK with various other awards that are revealed upon winning. Gold, silver, and bronze certificates are also given. Age range: 18 and below. Fun fact: I won a silver in this back in 2016, I think.

The Goi Peace Foundation International Essay Competition for Young People

Category/Theme: Prose; the exact theme this year is TBA, but generally associated with the concept of peace.

Link: https://www.goipeace.or.jp/en/work/essay-contest/ 

Date: (Announced by the end of January 2020)

Prize: The first prize winners of the contest will win a trip to Tokyo to participate in a prize-giving ceremony, where they will receive the Minister of Education Award. Other winners will receive gifts and cash prizes, and honorable mentions will also receive certificates.

Age range: 25 and below.

Remarks: Can be written in English, Spanish, French, or German.

The New York Times Asia-Pacific Writing Competition

Category: Prose

Link: TBA

Date: TBA

Prize: All participants receive four free weeks of NYTimes.com digital subscription. Category winners will have their writing published in the International NYTimes, receive a $50 gift voucher and a trophy. Runner-ups will receive a $25 gift voucher and trophy.

Age range: Entrants must be undergraduate or secondary students (secondary school or junior college).

Remarks: Alongside this, The Times frequently hosts writing contests (https://www.nytimes.com/spotlight/learning-contests) for students. GP bufflords might want to try out this competition, heh.

The Economist Open Future Essay Competition

Category/Theme: Prose; often related to current affairs

Link: TBA

Date: TBA

Prize: TBA

Age range: 16-25.  

Remarks: The quality is really high for this competition, with many high profile winners writing argumentative prose that exhibits a high maturity of thought yet retaining brevity. It might be a good challenge for GP gods too.

The Harvard Undergraduate Economics Association | Harvard College Economics Review International Essay Competition

Category / Theme: Academic analysis, mostly on economic trends.

Link: https://www.thehuea.org/international-essay-contest

Date: TBA

Prize: Winners will receive a cash prize and have their essays published in the Harvard Economics Review.

Age range: 15-18

Remarks: $5 USD entrance fee.

The World Wildlife Fund Young Reporters for the Environment National Competition

Category / Theme: Academic - environmental issues / problems

Link: https://www.wwf.sg/wwf_education/wwf_national_competition/

Date: Before 31st January 2020

Prize: Winners will receive cash prizes.

Age range: 11-25

Remarks: More of a PW based concept here - this competition requires you to highlight and investigate specific environmental issues, and subsequently propose solutions to it and heighten awareness as a video, photos or prose. Great way to garner attention to that environmental problem that the world seems to be oblivious to!

The Princeton University Ten-Minute Play Contest

Category: Literature - Drama

Link: https://arts.princeton.edu/about/opportunities/high-school-contests/ten-minute-play-contest/

Date: Before 31st March 2020
Prize: Winners will receive a cash prize and publishing on a Princeton University website.

Age range: Grade 11 students or equivalent (JC1 or secondary five, or, up to your interpretation (:).

The Princeton University Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize

Category: Literature - Poetry

Link: https://arts.princeton.edu/about/opportunities/high-school-contests/poetry-contest/

Date: TBA

Prize: The top three winners will receive a cash prize and publishing on a Princeton University website.

Age range: Grade 11 students or equivalent.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Category: Prose - Short story

Link: http://www.commonwealthwriters.org/our-projects/the-short-story/

Date: Closed for 2020, TBA for 2021

Prize: Winners will receive cash prizes.

Age range: Above 18

Remarks: Can be written in English, Bengali, Chinese, French, Greek, Kiswahili, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Tamil and Turkish. Recommended for literature fanatics, winning entries seem to go along the direction of the portrayal of certain demographics or subject matter - which is very common in contemporary literary texts. This might be your first step to be the next Kuo Pao Kun or Catherine Lim!


The National Arts Council Golden Point Award Category: Short story/Poetry Link: https://www.nac.gov.sg/events/golden-point-award.html Date: TBA Prize: Winners will receive cash prizes. Age range: All ages Remarks: $16 entrance fee. Must be a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident. Separate categories for English, Chinese, Malay, or Tamil poetry and short stories. I can't really comment on the Malay and Tamil entries but the winners for the English and Chinese Poetry are very refined; for the Lee Tzu Pheng wannabes.


Category: Poetry

Link: http://www.singlitstation.com/singpowrimo

Date: April (the whole month, see remarks)

Prize: None (see remarks)

Age range: All ages

Remarks: This isn’t so much of a competition as it is a month-long challenge for poets across Singapore to write, and share their poetry on the internet. There are no prizes, but winning poems will be published in the SingPoWriMo anthology. Maybe a good program to practice your poetry writing skills before submitting them to the NAC.

The Asian Scientist Writing Prize

Category: Academic - Themes vary but always related to scientific communication

Link: https://www.asianscientist.com/aswp/

Date: TBA

Prize: Winners will receive a cash prize, a trip to Bintan, or some book vouchers. Winning entries will also be published in the Asian Scientist Magazine.

Age range: All ages

Remarks: For the science geeks and scientist wannabes; often the most important bit of science is to be able to explain its impact in simple terms to the world. Note that this competition requires topics to be linked to its relevancy in an Asian context.

The Economics Society of Singapore Essay Competition

Category: Academic analysis, mostly on economic trends and current affairs.

Link: http://ess.org.sg/ess-essay-competition/

Date: TBA

Prize: Winners will receive a cash prize, certificate and be invited to attend the Economic Society of Singapore Annual Dinner.

Remarks: “The competition invites submissions from Polytechnics, Centralised Institutes, International Schools and Junior Colleges as well as full-time national servicemen who have completed their pre-University education." Rather than just an essay, this competition demands more of a close-context analysis of the question with citations - similar to a PW report.

SG75: Our Singapore Competition

Category: Academic Prose - the theme is related to Singapore.

Link: https://www.sg75.sg

Date: TBA

Prize: Winners will receive cash prizes.

Age range: All ages


theprose.com Writing Challenges

Category: Prose

Link: https://theprose.com/challenges/newest

Date: Open all year

Prize: Winners will receive cash prizes.

Age range: All ages

Remarks: For the people who hang around at /r/writingprompts. this competition has probably the wackiest prompts that I've seen so far.

Write the World Monthly Competitions

Category: Prose

Link: https://writetheworld.com/competitions

Date: Open all year

Prize: Winners will receive cash prizes.

Age range: 13-18

Creative Writing NZ Flash Fiction Competition

Category: Flash fiction

Link: https://creativewriting.co.nz/creative-writing-nz-flash-fiction-competition/

Date: Open all year

Prize: Winners will receive cash prizes.

Age range: Above 18

Remarks: Only one entry per month. Possibly an interesting competition if you like to write vignettes instead of longer prose, as there is a hard word limit of 1000 words. There are no theme restrictions, so write the craziest episode that you can imagine.

The Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest

Category: Joke-writing - no form; puns galore!

Link: https://www.bulwer-lytton.com

Date: Open all year

Prize: None

Age range: All ages

The Lytton Lyttle Contest

Category: Joke-writing - no form; puns galore!

Link: http://adamcadre.ac/lyttle.html

Date: Open all year

Prize: None

Age range: All ages

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Author @Jaden

"Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds." —Oppenheimer

Editor @ws_ong

Born and bred in Singapore, Wilson is currently a PhD student in the United States, where he works in the field of Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology. When not mixing random chemicals in the lab, his recent hobbies involves writing articles on science education in his personal blog , visiting obscure islands around the world and gawking at maine coons. Visit his personal academic blog at http://isomerism.home.blog