5 Poetry Scholarships and Awards to Help You Pay for College

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Do you have both a passion and talent for poetry? If so, you could potentially win one of several poetry scholarships or awards available.

Every dime you may earn from a poetry scholarship or prize could mean less student debt you have to take on to pay for college or graduate school. Here are five poetry scholarships, awards and fellowships you might consider if you are an aspiring bard.

  1. The Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships
  2. The Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry
  3. Frame My Future Contest
  4. 1800wheelchair.com Scholarship
  5. The Narrative Prize

Plus:

1. The Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships

Five of these poetry fellowships — in the amount of $25,800 each — are distributed annually by the Poetry Foundation. These awards are also not specifically for college students, but they are, according to the foundation, “intended to encourage the further study and writing of poetry.” This generous prize, therefore, might be used to help pay for graduate study in poetry (many undergrads may be ineligible, as you must be at least 21 to enter).

The fellowship program was established in 1989 by Ruth Lilly, the last surviving heir to the fortune amassed by pharmaceutical magnate Eli Lilly, her great-grandfather. It’s estimated that she gave away at least $500 million in her lifetime to various causes, including $100 million to Poetry magazine, which rejected her submissions many times.

You must submit 10 pages of poetry with a 250-word introduction to your work. The website notes that, in some years, if more than one entry merits an award in a specific category, prizes may be divided between winners.

Who’s eligible: To win this award, you must be a U.S. citizen or resident between the ages of 21 and 31. Given the very generous amount of the award, it’s likely this contest is extremely competitive and for the most serious of poets only. Many past winners have already earned their MFAs and are active in the professional world. This is a “stretch” award for younger poets who have not yet gone to graduate school.

Annual deadline: April

2. The Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry

The University of Tulsa offers two annual Pablo Neruda poetry scholarships: one for $2,000 and the other for $1,000. The awards honor the legacy of Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Nerdua, lauded as one of the great poets of the 20th century.

Students must submit either one poem or a series of poems that total three to 10 pages. A cover letter with titles and subtitles must be included. No previously published works are eligible. You will have to pay a $20 submission fee, but with this, you will receive a one-year subscription to University of Tulsa’s Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry. Submissions may be published in the magazine.

Who’s eligible: U.S. (and eligible non-U.S.) students who are high school seniors or older. The award can go toward undergraduate or graduate school.

Annual deadline: April

3. Frame My Future Contest

This poetry scholarship, sponsored by framer Church Hill Classics, is open to creative students of all kinds, including poets (as well as painters, graphic designers, photographers and more). The first prize is a generous $5,000 scholarship and custom frame. The second prize is $1,000 and a custom frame, while the third prize is $500 and a custom frame.

Finalists are selected based on the creativity of their entry, which must include an image to go along with text. All entries must adhere to the theme “This is how I frame my future,” which should outline how you envision your professional and personal life after college. The website notes that sharing your entry on social media might help it gain more attention.

Who’s eligible: Any U.S. student who will be enrolled in college for the academic year following their submission.

Annual deadline: April

4. 1800wheelchair.com Scholarship

This $500 poetry scholarship, established in 2006, is given annually to one or two poets by 1800wheelchair.com, a website that sells mobility equipment like wheelchairs and scooters.

Every year, a new theme for the contest guides applicants as they produce a visual poem and essay of 500 to 1,000 words. Themes in the past have included overcoming personal challenges and managing mobility issues on campus.

Who’s eligible: Undergraduate and graduate students and high school seniors (at least 16 years old) who have a GPA of 3.0 or higher are welcome to apply. Although the contest is affiliated with a mobility equipment provider, there is no entrant requirement regarding physical abilities.

Annual deadline: May

5. The Narrative Prize

This $4,000 award isn’t a poetry scholarship specifically, and you do not have to be a student to enter. That said, if you are a student, you can put your winnings toward college expenses. This prize is given annually for the best work published by a new or emerging writer in Narrative Magazine, including short stories, plays and poems.

Poetry submissions may contain up to five poems, which should be in a single file. The website states that submissions should well demonstrate your style and range. All forms and genres are accepted.

Who’s eligible: Any new or emerging writer whose work has appeared in Narrative within the past year is eligible for this award. You can submit up to five poems.

Annual deadline: June

How to find more poetry scholarships

Once you start looking, you’ll find there are plenty of poetry scholarships and awards out there for aspiring poets. Here are three tips to keep in mind during your search:

  1. Check out your school’s English department for other awards
  2. Look for local opportunities
  3. Broaden your horizons

Check out your school’s English department for other awards

Some universities administer poetry scholarships to current students. The University of Southern California, for example, gives a varying amount each year through the Beau J. Boudreaux Poetry Award to graduating seniors who majored in creative writing with an emphasis in poetry. Illinois State University offers the William Morgan Poetry Award to undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in poetry and its critical study.

Look for local opportunities

Some colleges and nonprofit organizations offer poetry scholarships and other awards to residents of their state or city. Talk to your financial aid office about campus opportunities or to be pointed in the right direction.

Broaden your horizons

If you’re interested in other forms of writing, such as essays or short stories, you might be able to find additional scholarships. Or perhaps you’re an aspiring poet that majors in something else, opening the door to a whole other set of awards.

Check out our scholarship resources for more majors …
Art
Business
Communications
Computer science
Criminal justice
Education
Engineering
History
Journalism
Business
Music
Photography
Medical school
Nursing school

Cut down on college costs in other ways

While applying for poetry scholarships is a smart idea, there are other ways to afford college if you don’t win the awards you were hoping for. For example, you can reduce your college expenses or use federal or private student loans to help cover the cost of your education.

There are also any number of scholarships out there in various categories aside from poetry and the arts. Scholarship search tools can do a lot of the work for you.

Andrew Pentis and Rebecca Stropoli contributed to this report.

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