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The fifth annual NPR Student Podcast Challenge is open for entries!

LA Johnson/NPR
LA Johnson/NPR

Updated January 6, 2023 at 12:00 PM ET

Hey teachers, parents, students: NPR's Student Podcast Challenge is back – for a fifth year! Beginning in January and running through April, we'll once again be hearing from thousands of student podcasters, all competing for our grand prizes and a chance to hear their stories on NPR.

When we launched the contest five years ago, we handed over the mic to young people around the country and asked you to share stories from your classrooms and communities. Since then, we've heard from over 40,000 students in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and from podcasters with incredibly diverse backgrounds, experiences and stories to tell. At some schools, with some very special teachers like these in Illinois, we even saw podcasting become part of their curriculum – with students submitting high-quality entries, being named finalists and receiving honorable mentions year after year.

This year's Student Podcast Challenge will open for entries on Jan. 6, 2023 and close on April 28. As in past years, our judges will choose winners in two categories: grades five through eight and grades nine through 12. Entries must be submitted by an educator or a student leader who's 18 years old or older. And don't forget all the tips, advice and lesson plans we've compiled over the years – more on that below.

And for all the college podcasters out there? Not to worry – the College Podcast Challenge will be back for its third year, in the fall. Entries will open on Sept. 1, 2023 and close at the end of year on Dec. 31, 2023 to give students the entire fall academic term. And, as with last year's, the college contest will award a $5,000 grand prize scholarship and $500 prizes to finalists.

One big change this year: the college contest will be open to students of all ages pursuing an associate's or bachelor's degree, as well as those who are set to graduate in 2023. This means that if you're a college senior entering your final winter/spring term, you can still submit your work in the fall! College podcasters can enter your own work, without going through your school or professor, as long as you're 18 years or older.

For the middle and high school contest opening in January – and for the college competition later in the year – our basic guidelines remain pretty much the same: Students can create a podcast about any topic they wish to explore. To give you an idea, we've listened to stories on everything from social media, tattoos to even tater tots. Some themes we've seen over and over include questions on race and identity and how young people do, or don't, fit in. Your podcast can also be in many different formats: an interview, narrative story or even investigative reporting. You can do it by yourself or with your entire class.

One important rule to keep in mind is that the maximum length of your podcast is eight minutes, and longer entries will be disqualified. After years of listening to student podcasts, we've learned that shorter is better.

To help you get started, we've got a slew of podcasting resources on how to tell a good story, how to warm up your voice and how to use music in your podcast, among other topics. Even, and we're serious about this, how making a pillow fort can make you sound better!

You can find more tips and tricks on The Students' Podcast, our podcast on how to make a good podcast. We also encourage you to get a feel for what we're looking for by listening to last year's winning podcasts which can be found here. And previous years' winners', here (2021) and here (2020).

For more tips, advice and the latest updates on this year's contest, make sure to sign up for our newsletter. Students, we can't wait to hear your stories, so on your mark, get set, record!

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Janet W. Lee
Steve Drummond heads up two teams of journalists at NPR. NPR Ed is a nine-member team that launched in March 2014, providing deeper coverage of learning and education and extending it to audiences across digital platforms. Code Switch is an eight-person team that covers race and identity across the network, and in an award-winning weekly podcast.