Announcing The 3rd Annual NPR Student Podcast Challenge

Sequoia Carrillo, Steve Drummond | October 14, 2020

The NPR Student Podcast Challenge, which has drawn more than 35,000 students around the country into the world of audio storytelling, is back for its third year, with a big new addition: We’re kicking it up a notch to include college students.

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Last year, despite a massive disruption to the school year amid the global pandemic, the contest brought in more than 2,200 podcasts from high school and middle school students in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Ever since the project began in 2018, we’ve been hearing from college podcasters all over the U.S., saying, Hey, what about us?

So this year, we’ll host, in effect, two contests: the traditional Student Podcast Challenge with two categories: grades five through eight and nine through 12; and the new SPC: College Edition. All students, regardless of age, pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, can apply. And for collegiate podcasters we’ve got a separate set of rules and procedures, so check that out here. And the rules for the middle and high school contest are here.

LA Johnson/NPR

And, as always, we’ve got a host of training materials, guides for sound recording and audio production, what you can — and can’t — do with music, lists of do’s and don’ts, and we even made a podcast about making a good podcast!

In both cases, the basics are pretty much the same: Students will create a podcast about a topic they want to explore — and, basically, that can be just about anything. In the past, we’ve had podcasts about climate change and racism and what it’s like to be a kid. Entries about Tater Tots and video games and history and life in a pandemic, and whether skunks or hedgehogs make the best pets.

As in the past, entries from middle and high school students will come from a teacher or a student leader who’s a grown-up. College students — as long as you’re 18 years or older — can enter on their own.

One big change this year: The maximum length of your podcast will be lowered from 12 minutes to eight minutes. We’ve found, after listening to a lot of podcasts, that shorter is better.

And the good news is you’ve got some time to get started. Entries for the Student Podcast Challenge: College Edition will open on Dec. 1, with a final deadline of Feb 15, 2021. For middle and high school students, entries will open on Jan. 1, and close on March 15.

We’ll have lots of updates, training materials, and make sure to sign up for our newsletter with more tips and advice, here!

So, students, we can’t wait to hear from you: Put on your headphones, plug in your microphones, and start recording!!

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