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Announcing NPR's third annual College Podcast Challenge

the college podcast challenge image

Three years ago, NPR announced their College Podcast Challenge; opening a window into unexpected times and places in young people’s lives as they tried to make sense of the pandemic lockdown. Podcasts were recorded and produced in childhood bedrooms, stories were told about family, friends, and loved ones, and there were a lot of young adults trying to better understand who they are and where they come from.

Fast forward three years: NPR College Podcast Challenge is back, with $5,000 grand-prize scholarship, more training materials and support, and the opportunity to have your voice, your story, reach our NPR audience and beyond. So, whether it's your first-ever podcast assignment, a longtime passion project, or just something you want to get off your chest – you've got plenty of time to figure it out!

This year's College Podcast Challenge is open for entries Oct. 6, 2023, and will close on Jan. 5, 2024. (You can submit your podcast here.) And yes, as with last year, NPR will award the winner a $5,000 scholarship, with $500 prizes for our 10 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 have already graduated earlier in 2023. This means that if you're a recent grad who didn't have the opportunity to enter due to our new timeline, you can still submit your work!

As in past years, there's one key difference between the college competition and the Student Podcast Challenge for students in grades 5-12: Those younger entrants must have a grownup submit their work. College podcasters, you can enter your own work, without going through a professor, mentor or your school, as long as you're 18 years or older.

How it works

For this contest, students can create a podcast on any topic they wish to explore. To give you an idea, here are examples on what it's like to live in an isolated dorm roomthe history and legacy of a student mariachi band in Texas, and the joys of rediscovering one's love of learning at age 65. Your podcast can be in different formats: an interview, narrative story, or even investigative reporting. You can do it by yourself, with a friend, or with your entire class.

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

Where to begin

To get you started, NPR provided this Sound Advice page that includes a slew of podcasting resources on how to choose a topic, how to write in your own voice, how to edit audio and use music in your podcast, among others. Even how making a pillow fort can make you sound better! (It's a trick NPR reporters and producers still use when they’re on the road!)

More resources

You can find more tips and tricks on The Students' Podcast, NPR’s podcast on how to make a good podcast – new episodes coming soon, so please keep an eye out! NPR also encourages you to listen to last year's winning podcast, which can be found here. And previous years' winners', here: Miriam Colvin and Anya Steinberg.

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