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South Carolina Honors College

South Carolina High School Writing Contest

The South Carolina Honors College at the University of South Carolina invites your students to enter for cash prizes and a publishing opportunity.

The Honors College is proud to showcase selections from the 8th annual South Carolina High School Writing Contest. Featuring submissions from high school juniors and seniors from across the state, the works are edited by Honors students from our SCHC 384 course.  Read the recent winning entries and other featured selections»

PARTICIPANTS: The contest is open to South Carolina high school juniors and seniors in public, private and home schools.

TOPIC: The topic is “How should we improve the state of South Carolina?” We welcome submissions in all creative genres, including fiction, drama, and poetry. We also welcome straightforward essays and other kinds of writings – diary entries and letters, for example. Submissions must be within 750 words.

HOW IT WORKS: After a student submits their work, 15-20 finalists will be chosen. Finalists will have their work reviewed by the 2021 writing contest judge Ray McManus

DEADLINE: Students must be residents of South Carolina. The deadline is 11:59 PM EST on September 19, 2021.

Cash prizes of $1,000, $500 and $250 will be awarded to the first, second and third place winners. The entries of finalists and winners will be showcased by the South Carolina Honors College on its website.


No. We accept poetry, fiction, drama, short stories, and combinations of those genres. Some students have chosen to submit entries written as letters and diary entries. But essays are acceptable as well.

Submissions will be judged for their originality, creativity, and writing style. We encourage creativity, but not at the expense of clarity. It’s important to respond to our prompt in a way judges can understand.

We hope to have results about which students are finalists by mid-November. We will let each of you know personally, by email, whether or not your work was chosen.

Yes, in both the junior and senior categories combined. The first-place winner (chosen from the junior and senior classes) will receive the Walter Edgar Award, which includes $1,000. The prize is generously funded by South Carolina Honors College alumnus Thad Westbrook and named for the well-known University of South Carolina history professor, author and public radio host. The second and third-place winners (chosen from the junior and senior classes) will receive the South Carolina Academy of Authors awards. Generously funded by the South Carolina Academy of Authors, the second-place prize includes $500 and the third-place prize includes $250. Honorable Mentions may be given. There are no cash awards for Honorable Mentions.

No. The money is yours to do with as you wish.

The contest is a partnership presented by the South Carolina Honors College at the University of South Carolina, the Pat Conroy Literary Center, the South Carolina State Library, the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Sciences, and the South Carolina Academy of Authors and the South Carolina Writers Association.


Yes. You do not have to be college-bound at all.

No. While we recognize the value of spoken word literature, the contest is based on writing skills. Perhaps your spoken word work can be written. 

Yes.  Otherwise we have no idea if the writer is making up facts. Rather than using footnotes, we suggest a more reader-friendly method, i.e., South Carolina has more rabid wild animals prowling its neighborhoods—44 percent more—than any other state, according to a 2014 report from the U.S. Rabid Wild Animal Department.  

It is okay for your teacher to proofread your work, but you should indicate following your submission that you received the help. This is a writing contest, not an editing or grammar contest. We are interested in hearing your voice and your response to the prompt. You can simply write: “I want to thank Ms. Laura Ingalls Wilder, my English teacher, for proofreading my final draft.” Or, “I want to thank Mr. Atticus Finch, my government teacher, for encouraging me to revise the ending.” If your submitted work is entirely your own production, you may indicate that at the end: “I received no proofreading or editing assistance. This submission is entirely my own work.”

Ray McManus earned his MFA in poetry and his Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition from the University of South Carolina. An associate professor of English at the University of South Carolina in Sumter, McManus teaches creative writing, Irish literature and Southern Literature, and has won many awards for teaching and scholarship on southern and Irish culture.  He is the director of the Center for Oral Narrative housed in the Division of Arts and Letters, Writer in Residence at the Columbia Museum of Art, and the Chair for the South Carolina Academy of Authors.  McManus is the founder of Split P Soup, a creative writing outreach program that places writers in schools and communities in South Carolina, and former director of the creative writing program at the Tri-District Arts Consortium. His current outreach project is Re:Verse, a teaching initiative that works with teachers and administrators on developing effective strategies for bringing creative writing back to standard education.

His first book, ­­Driving Through the Country Before You Are Born, was selected by Southern poet Kate Daniels and published by USC Press in 2007. Since then he has gone on to publish three more books: Left Behind (published by Stepping Stones Press in 2008), Red Dirt Jesus (selected by Alicia Ostriker for the Marick Press Poetry Prize and published by Marick Press in 2011), and Punch. (published by Hub City Press in 2014, and winner of the 2015 Independent Publishers Book Award). McManus has recently co-edited an anthology with USC Press called Found Anew.

We prefer Word documents and have no preference about fonts, though one that is easy to read is helpful.

No. The form you complete online will serve as your cover page. It’s nice, but not necessary, to have your byline at the top of your submission.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.