The Fourth Annual South Carolina

High School Writing Contest



Pam Durban, Aiken native, winner of the 2001 Lillian Smith Award for Fiction
Nikky Finney, Conway native, winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry

How it works

In 750 words or less, writing in any genre or combination of genres (essay, short story, poem, play, etc.), answer this question: “How should we improve the state of South Carolina?”

Submissions are evaluated based on originality of response and quality of writing. First-Round Winners, selected from the initial submissions, will be invited to the University of South Carolina Columbia campus to participate in the Second Round Competition in March 2017. The Second Round will consist of an impromptu 40-minute essay response to be written that day.


The contest is open to all high school students who are residents of South Carolina and are seniors or juniors in October 2016.

Award Details

The First-Round Winners will be published in a USC Press anthology in the Young Palmetto Books series; will be recognized in press releases; will tour USC Libraries’ Special Collections and other USC campus highlights; will be reimbursed for travel expenses (in accord with state guidelines); and will receive formal certificates of award. For each grade level, the Grand Prize Winners, as selected by the judges, will receive additional cash awards: First Prize–$1000; Second Prize–$500; Third Prize–$250.

All finalists will receive:


1st Place Prize for Seniors is named for Dr. Walter Edgar and funded by Thad Westbrook.

1st Place Prize for Juniors is named for Dorothy Skelton Williams and funded by an anonymous donor.

Sponsored by the University of South Carolina Honors College, the University of South Carolina Press, the Pat Conroy Literary Center, the South Carolina State Library, Young Palmetto Books, and the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Sciences.

Finalists will be notified via email.



High School Information

Click the submit button below to finish your entry.