A short list of awards open to students and young journalists (and why you should apply)

A short list of awards open to students and young journalists (and why you should apply)


Ever wanted to call yourself an “award winning” journalist? Having such a slogan attached to your name does not just make your Twitter bio look more cool. It can really make you stand out from the crowd as a young journalist and gain wider recognition for your work. But to get there, you first need to put yourself and your work forward for such awards.


This step can be daunting, but putting yourself and your work forward has several benefits and is something you should definitely consider. While the ultimate achievement would be to win an award (and to snap up the prestigious ‘award winning journalist’ slogan), there are more ways in which applying for awards can make you grow as a journalist. 


Long story short: You never know what can come of it. Even if you do not win, you might make the short list and your name will be on the radar of anybody who follows the award. Even if you are not shortlisted, your work will have been read by industry professionals – who you might meet again in future! Finally, I believe that submitting my work has helped me grow in my confidence and has helped me value my work more. I often have self doubts as a young journalist but having to write award applications explaining why I think I could be a good candidate for a certain category has made me value my work and achievements more. 

If this was enough to tempt you, then there are actually a multitude of awards out there that are either specifically for young journalists or have categories for young journalists to enter – most of which have no entry fee. Below is a list of some of the awards young journalists or student journalists can enter for free – good luck!

#1 NCTJ Awards for Excellence -

The NCTJ Awards for Excellence are open to journalism students, apprentices and trainees to “highlight the achievements of individuals with promising journalism careers ahead of them.”

This year’s categories include:

  • News journalism
  • Sports journalism
  • Top scoop
  • Features
  • Podcast journalism
  • Data journalism

The awards are open to submissions until November 12th, 2021 and more information can be found here.

#2 British Journalism Awards

While other categories of the British Journalism Awards are subject to an entry fee, the Marie Colvin Award category is free to enter. It was launched in memory of the late Sunday Times foreign correspondent Marie Colvin who was killed reporting from Homs, Syria, in 2012. The judges are looking for “an outstanding, up and coming journalist of Marie’s calibre.” Previous winners can be found here.

The British Journalism Awards do also waive the entry fee under certain circumstances for other categories. The fees will be waived for anyone that does not have an employer willing to underwrite their application who are also from a non-white ethnic minority, and/or female, and/or have a disability.

The awards are open to submissions until October 1st, 2021 and more information can be found here.

#3 Freelance Writing Awards

This new award (only created and run for the first time this year), was created by journalists Sian Meades-Williams and Anna Codrea-Rado to showcase the talent of the UK’s freelance writers. All writers in the UK who are freelance full-time or on a part-time basis can enter, and there’s no fee to enter the awards. While this year’s awards have passed, this one is worth watching out for on social media. You can find more information about the award and its rules here, and follow the award’s page on Twitter through the link below:  

#4 30 To Watch: Young Journalist Awards

This award was set up to recognise the “ground-breaking” work of “the most talented and influential young journalists across Britain,” and is now in its tenth year running. Categories include: News; City & Business; Culture, Entertainment, Lifestyle; Financial & Consumer Affairs; Health; International Affairs; Politics; Tech; Social Media and Content; Photography; Campaigns & Investigations; and the new award for Depolarisation.

While this year’s award has passed, this one is worth watching out for throughout the year. You can find more information about the award and past winners here.

#5 Student Journalist Awards and Student Journalist Categories:

    • Hugo Young Award: Set up to honour the memory of Guardian political columnist Hugo Young, this award aims to champion independent political journalism and the best political opinion writing amongst students and young people across the UK, by encouraging fresh voices, new perspectives and great writing.” You can find more information and some of the past winners here.
    • SPA Awards: The Student Publication Association runs several awards for student journalists and its member publications throughout the year. There are normally regional awards as well as the annual SPA Conference. ​​You can find more information here.
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  • Other awards with Student Journalist categories: Often awards will let journalism students enter for free, so it is always worth checking whether a student journalist category exists if you see an award you would like to be part of. I, for example, entered my work to the Amnesty Media Awards in the ‘Student Journalist’ category for free, after following Amnesty International’s work. You can find more information about this particular award here.
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