Best Tips and Links to Computer Science Competitions for High School Students

college admissions competitions computer science hihg school Dec 04, 2023





Computer Science Competitions for High School Students


Computer Science competitions are a great way to improve your skillset and demonstrate your motivation and dedication in the college application arena. Regardless of whether you win a competition, even participating in them can demonstrate these qualities. They can show college admissions officers your willingness to challenge yourself and grow. If you are passionate about Computer Science, eager to develop your skills, and curious about how to do so – C.S. competitions are the way to go. 

How can you identify the best C.S. competition?

Everyone is at different levels concerning their skills. When choosing competitions to participate in, selecting a competition that would be a fair challenge to your abilities is essential. Here are some tips on selecting the best competitions for you to contest in!


The first thing to do is identify your areas of interest and your strong skills within computer science. This will help you target competitions that align with your strengths and passions.


It is also essential to understand the format of each competition. Some may focus on individual performance, while others encourage team participation. Also, consider the duration of the competition—whether it's a one-time event or spans over a more extended period. 


Lastly, Research and learn from past competitions to understand the types of challenges, topics, and problem-solving techniques involved.


What are the different kinds of Comp Sci competitions?


 a. Programming competitions: If you strongly prefer coding or algorithmic problem-solving, these competitions might interest you. These competitions usually have a strict time frame within which teams of students have to solve a set of programming problems within specific languages. 


 b. Robotics competitions: If you're interested in robotics and CAD (computer-aided design), there are a lot of robotics competitions out there for high school students! These are also team-based in nature and will also test your team's engineering skills. 


  c. Cybersecurity: If you're interested in cybersecurity and computer networking concepts like I.P. addressing, routing, and more, then Cybersecurity competitions are a great way to challenge and develop your skill set. 


While these are the broader competitions, several more are for other specialized interests. There are App Development challenges – as seen in the Congressional App Challenge, or more dynamic development challenges like the Imagine Cup. So with that, here's our compiled list of 15 Computer Science competitions for high school students!


1. USA Computing Olympiad

Location: Virtual / to be announced.


 Eligibility: Must be a high school student.


 Prize: Opportunity to advance to IOI and other international olympiads.


Registration + Submission deadline: To be announced. Please go through the training opportunities.


Competition dates: Between December 16th, 2024, and December 19th, 2024 (tentatively, based on the previous year's schedule). 


This is the national round for the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI). The IOI is one of five international science olympiads. The primary goal of the IOI is to stimulate interest in informatics (computing science) and information technology. UNESCO and IFIP are patrons.

The contest consists of 2 days of computer programming/coding and algorithmic problem-solving. The International Olympiad in Informatics is among the world's most prestigious computer science competitions. In terms of basic skills, the USACO stresses algorithmic thinking. Apart from proficiency in common competitive programming languages (Java, C++, or Python), having a solid understanding of fundamental algorithms and data structures and knowledge of

Big-O notations and algorithm bottlenecks will be valuable. 

You can also check out the competition schedule here.

 Note: Winners from this and other similar national rounds attend the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI).


2. Congressional App Challenge

Location: Virtual


Eligibility: Must be a middle or high school student in a participating congressional district and a resident of such district. Teams may have up to 4 members.


Prize: Winning apps can be displayed in the U.S. Capitol Building and featured on the House of Representatives website. Winners are also invited to attend a reception on Capitol Hill and may be awarded additional sponsor prizes.


 Registration + Submission Deadline: Register here.


 Competition dates: Competition deadline is November 1st, 2023


 U.S. House of Representatives members host this district-wide Congressional App Challenge for middle and high school students. The idea of this competition is to encourage students to problem-solve for real-world challenges through coding. Apart from commonly used programming languages, it would be helpful to familiarize yourself with different app development platforms – like XCode or Kotlin. 

3. FIRST Robotics Competition

Location: Broad variety of locations. You can find them here


Eligibility: High School Students aged between 14 and 18. Teams must have at least ten students with two adult mentors. Teams are usually affiliated with schools or, local educational institutions or organizations, so it's best to check whether such an organization already exists in your community. If not – you can independently organize as well!


 Prize: scholarships and cash prizes for the top scorers


Registration + Submission Deadline: Team registrations are usually $5000; FIRST offers guidance on fundraising for this amount and aid to teams that need it.

Competition dates: Early January through April, tentatively based on the 2023 schedule. 2024 is yet to be announced. 

FIRST Robotics is a prestigious, competitive, team-based competition. With strict rules and limited time and resources, teams have to build an industrial-sized robot capable of competing in a complex field game at competitions. 

When it comes to preparing for this competition, doing Research on previous years' competitions to better understand what kind of strategy your team should follow will be all the more crucial. Furthermore, this competition also challenges you to fundraise for your team, so you'll also have to flex your non-technical skills.

 Regarding basic skills students need to compete, it might be good to familiarize yourself with prototyping, CAD (computer-aided design), and programming languages like Java, C++, or LabVIEW.

4. Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) (Particularly, the category of Robotics and Intelligent Machines)

Location: Hosted in different cities every year. ISEF 2024 will be in Los Angeles, California.

Eligibility: Must be in grades 9-12 or equivalent and compete in an Intel ISEF-affiliated science fair to be eligible to win the right to attend the Intel ISEF.

Prize: Scholarships and nearly $5 million are available for winning teams in 22 science categories.

Registration + Submission Deadline: Different deadlines depending on the target affiliated fair. Please find the list here. Registration for 2024 may not have opened.

Competition dates: May 2024 (tentatively, based on 2023 schedule)

ISEF is a program of the Society for Science & the Public (the Society) and is the world's largest international pre-college science competition. Contestants are selected from regional, district, and state ISEF-affiliated fairs. Related to computer science, the competition categories include Robotics and Intelligent Machines, Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Engineering Mechanics (Mechanical Engineering), Mathematics, and Earth and Environmental Sciences. Note that projects can be individual or team-based. Each ISEF competition has specific guidelines (to be released) that you should view before picking a competition. It would be good to focus on strengthening your programming skills, data analysis and visualization, research, and general problem-solving skill set. 

5. CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Defense Program

Location: Maryland 

Eligibility: Must be a middle school or high school student. Students in JROTC programs each have their own division.

Prize: Scholarship money (exact amount varies). The top teams will have all expenses covered for the final round in Maryland.

Registration+ Submission Deadline: Registration for 2023-24 is from April 1st to October 3rd, 2024.

There is a registration fee of $205 for Open Division high school teams, with discounts for early registration by July 2024.

Competition dates: From October 2023 to March 2024. You can see the schedule here.

Cyber Patriot's National Youth Cyber Defense Competition is the world's largest cybersecurity competition, open to all schools and approved youth organizations. This is a team-based event where high school and middle school students are placed in the position of newly hired I.T. professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. Through a series of online competition rounds, teams are given a set of virtual operating systems and are tasked with finding and fixing cybersecurity vulnerabilities while maintaining critical services. This means that participants should be prepped or start familiarizing themselves with a solid understanding of computer networking concepts – such as IP addressing, subnetting, routing, switching, and protocols like TCP/IP and DNS. 

Participants should also ensure they are familiar with commonly used operating systems, like macOS, Linux, and Windows. That being said, this competition does want to encourage growth, so feel free to try it if you're a beginner. 

6. Solve for Tomorrow | Investing in Students | Samsung US

Location: TBA for 2024

Eligibility: Middle and High School Students in U.S. public schools. Your teacher will have to register your team and act as a mentor, although all selected teams also have a Samsung employee who serves as a mentor. You can check your school's eligibility here

Prize: A range of cash prizes and awards from regional to national level. 

Registration + Submission Deadline: TBA, tentatively between September and November, based on the 2023 schedule. 

 Competition dates: TBA, multiple dates, with the last round likely to be in May, tentatively based on 2023. 

The Solve for Tomorrow competition encourages students to prototype a solution to a community-based problem. This is a team-based event with at least three students, but your team's primary liaison and contact point will be your school teacher for the event and Samsung. This is an event where you can use your strengths and existing skills – whatever they may be – to your advantage in finding a flexible and sustainable solution to a community problem. But in general, you'll need strong research skills to identify a community-based problem, critical thinking, and analysis to find an approach to the issue and a solid foundation in STEM and C.S.  

7. RoboRAVE International

Location: Germany (for 2024, TBA for 2025)

Eligibility: Age group 1: 10 - 13; Age group 2: 14 - 20. A team consists of two to four members. For detailed eligibility criteria, please see here.

Prize: Varying amounts of prize money.

Registration + Submission deadline: The deadline to register for 2024 was June 18th, 2023. The deadline for 2025 is to be announced. You can register here.

Competition dates: November 17th, 2024. Detailed schedule is available here.

RoboRAVE is an international competition in which self-designed robots made by students compete against each other. This event focuses on having fun while learning, sharing, and working as a team. It is an international competition with participation open for regional and global groups. Founded in Albuquerque (New Mexico, USA), RoboRAVE is hosted on five continents in many countries. This event is also team-based. If you want to participate, practice your skills in languages like Python, Arduino, and Scratch. Ensure you have ample time to practice to improve your robot's performance. 

8. VEX robotics competition

Location: Multiple locations.

Eligibility: High School Students and their schools must be signed up with the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation. The foundation supports new teams – you can find a guide to start a new team and compete at a high level here. 

Prize: Awards but no cash prize

Registration + Submission Deadline: Rolling and not declared – you can create a team at any point. The best time to register will likely be in the May – June period to participate in various scrimmages and rounds. 


Competition dates: likely late April to early May, tentatively based on the 2023 schedule.  


 The VEX Robotics competition is a highly prestigious, annual international event where teams of students design a robot that competes with other robots in a series of challenges and activities. Each round of the Competition is two minutes long, with a 15-second autonomous period and a 1:45-minute controlled driving period. If you want to participate, ensure your school is signed up to the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation. Furthermore, you should practice your skills in RobotC or VEXCode and the design and knowledge of sensors and feedback mechanisms. 

9HPE CodeWars

Location: TBA, but can also be completed remotely

Eligibility: Students between the ages of 13 through 18. Teams of the size of 2 to 3 people and an adult sponsor. Sponsors can be sponsors to a max of three teams. 

Prize: there is a prize pool for raffle winners and an award. 

Registration + Submission Deadline: Registration opens a month before the competition and closes two weeks before the start date. No costs associated – apart from travel expenses to in-person competition. 

Competition dates: March 2nd, 2024

HPE CodeWars is a coding competition for high school students in which a team of 3 students will have 3 hours to solve 30 problems that get progressively more difficult. The programming languages used in the previous year's Competition were C, C++, Java, and Python 3. It might also be worthwhile to practice your skills in problem-solving and data structures and competitive coding techniques like the two-pointer technique, binary search, and other tools to improve algorithm efficiency. 

10. American Computer Science League (ACSL)

Location: Virtual

Eligibility: Must be an elementary, middle, or high school student. Please check if your school has registered for the competition.

Prize: Certificates and cash prizes (amount not disclosed).

Registration deadline + Submission Deadline: To be announced for 2023 – 2024; the deadline will likely be December 31st, 2023, tentatively based on previous years.

 During registration, contestants can purchase the previous year's study materials.

 Competition dates: There are multiple rounds of competitions.

ACSL organizes computer programming and computer science contests for K-12 schools, organizations, and local groups. ACSL offers multiple divisions, providing an appropriate challenge for students of varying ages and abilities. Each season is divided into four contests, testing students on fundamental concepts in computer science, ranging from Number Systems to Boolean Algebra to Digital Electronics. In the upper divisions, each contest also includes a problem to solve by programming using Python, C++, or Java.

11. The Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS)

Location: Hosted in different cities every year.

Eligibility: Must be living in the U.S. and attending their last year of secondary school (regardless of citizenship). Students who are U.S. citizens living abroad may also qualify.

Prize: Scholarships and prizes of close to $3.1 million.

Registration + Submission Deadline: The 2024 application is open and will close on November 8th, 2023.

Competition dates: March 6th, 2024, to March 13th, 2024. You can check the entire schedule here.

Regeneron STS is the nation's oldest and most prestigious science competition for high school seniors, providing an essential forum for original research that is recognized and reviewed by a national jury of professional scientists. While this isn't strictly a C.S. competition, it's an excellent opportunity to gain research skills and explore, ask questions, and learn more about C.S. and its expansive nature. This is an individual effort, and in terms of fundamental skills required, you'd need only a sincere commitment to the scientific method and critical thinking. 

 Note: This next one is a highly competitive event where you will compete with college students!

12. Microsoft's Imagine Cup

Location: Virtual

Eligibility: Must be 16 or older. You're welcome to imagine any solution you're passionate about that includes a Microsoft Azure component and considers diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. Maximum four (4) members per team.

Prize: Each winning team is awarded $100,000, mentorship, and grant money from Microsoft experts.

Registration + Submission Deadline: December 2023, please register here.

Be sure to complete the student-focused training to help you through the competition! 

Competition dates: After the submission, there are multiple rounds. The schedule is available here.

This competition will honor the most innovative, accessible, ground-breaking, and appealing software built with Microsoft tools and technology. The competition may be structured differently based on the country/region you are representing. Please make sure to read your local country/region competition rules. This is a team-based event. Your team can choose one of three streams – AI, Social Impact, or Mixed Reality – and accordingly design and propose a technological project that could address an issue in the relevant stream. Apart from using Microsoft tools and tech, you'll need to practice your  UI and UX design skills. 

13. Stanford ACM | Stanford ProCo 

Location: Stanford Campus

Eligibility: High School Students in the Bay Area, teams of a maximum of three people. 

Prize: A variety of prizes are offered, TBA. Previous years have included Raspberry Pi, Nintendo 3DSes, and iPad mini. 

Registration + Submission Deadline: Registration opens a month and a half before ProCo. 

Competition dates: TBA for 2024, could be mid-April tentatively based on the 2023 schedule.

Stanford ProCo is a coding competition for high school students modeled after the college-level ACM-ICPC. Teams of up to three people compete in solving algorithmic problems. The contest lasts 3 hours and consists of 9 to 15 unweighted problems. Submissions are accepted in C, C++, Java, and Python 3.6. This competition will test your algorithmic thinking and exercise your skills in effectively debugging and troubleshooting your code. The ProCo has both novice and advanced categories. 

14. Harker Programming Invitational 

Location: Harker Upper School Campus, San Jose, California

Eligibility: High school students in teams of 1 to 3 people. 

Prize: Awards and trophies are given to winners, and the top 8 teams receive certificates. 

Registration + Submission Deadline: month to a month and a half before competition day. 

Competition dates: TBA for 2024, likely to be in March based on the 2023 schedule. 

Harker Programming Invitational is a coding competition for high school students that models its question USACO style but is also parallel to Stanford ProCo. It lasts 2 hours, during which teams must solve ten unweighted problems. Solutions to problems must be coded in either Java, Python, or C++. They have both novice and advanced categories. 

15. Technology Student Association Competitions

Location: Hosted in different cities every year.


Eligibility: Must be in grades 7 to 12. Detailed eligibility criteria are provided here.


Registration + Submission Deadline: To be announced for 2023-24.


Competition dates: To be announced for 2023-24.


The Technology Student Association invites middle and high school students with a proven STEM aptitude to participate in various challenges. They host diverse local, state, and national competitions – where categories extend from coding, computer-aided design, robotics, and more. Due to the vast number of competitions that the TSA conducts, you can usually find both team-based and individual events. Also, owing to the vast number and types of competitions the Technology Student Association works, problem-solving is the most crucial skill you'll need to have across all of them. 


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