Guidelines to remember The contest is open to students at 2-year or 4-year colleges in the 50 states and Washington, D.C. Podcasts must be between three and 8 minutes long. Entries must be created specifically for the Contest. Entries can include original music — in other words music that is originally composed and recorded. But be careful! Our contest rules make clear that you must be respectful of copyright and trademark laws, and our legal team is really serious about this. See the rules for the exact details.
Before starting a podcast, read through the official rules here.
Dates to keep in mind
- You can start submitting your podcast on Dec. 1, 2020
- The contest will close on Feb. 15, 2021
You can create your podcast entry in any class or extracurricular group, on any topic. If it helps, here are some suggestions.
- Tell us a story about your school or community: something that happened there – recently or in the past — that you want your audience to know about.
- What is a moment in history that all students should learn about?
- Go on a journey and take us with you.
- Tell us about a moment that changed your life.
Our judges will use the following criteria to narrow down and choose the winners.
INFORMATION AND STRUCTURE, 40 PERCENT
Does the podcast tell a compelling story or teach us something new and important? Is it structured in a way that makes sense and keeps listeners engaged? Can we easily follow the story you're telling or the information you're explaining? Have you spent time editing — cutting out unnecessary information or repetition and making sure the main ideas come through clearly?
PERSONALITY AND CREATIVITY, 40 PERCENT
We want to listen to this podcast and hear your voices. Do we hear the unique voices of your class and community? Does it have personality, or does it make us want to fast-forward? (Tip: try not to sound like you're reading from a script). Does it make us laugh or cry or leave us deep in thought — Do we feel something? That's what we're looking for.
PRODUCTION, 20 PERCENT
We're not judging you on how fancy your equipment is and we don't expect you to be an expert on recording and editing sound, but we hope you'll try.
Some podcasts may use sound, or audio, in creative ways. Others may be more of an interview format. If you use sound apart from interviews and narration, does it add to the story you're telling? Is the sound clear, and are the volume levels even? Do the transitions sound smooth, without gaps between audio clips? Did you layer the audio and narration? These are some of the things we'll be looking for.
Frequently Asked Questions
Don't I need fancy equipment to make a podcast?
Nope! There are ways to make a podcast without buying expensive microphones and recorders. We're writing this guide with the idea that you can make a podcast with two tools: a smartphone and a computer.
What should we listen to to get a feel for the different types of podcasts?
Head over to our student training guide to find to a few great podcast examples before starting on your own.
What are the rules for the NPR Student Podcast Challenge?
- Your podcasts must be between three and 8 minutes long.
- It must contain original work created by students.
- Your podcast can include some original music. But be careful! (See contest rules here.)
- Students attending a 2-year or 4-year university are eligible for this contest.
Read through the official rules, found here, before you begin working on a podcast.
Do you have some tips on what music is allowed?
This podcast challenge is about showcasing your work, and that's what we want to hear. We want to hear the creative ways you've found to share stories and illustrate ideas with sound.
The legal rules for using music from the Web are complicated, and we'd never want a podcast to be disqualified because you used music you weren't allowed to.
So here are some tips. Make sure your music is originally composed and performed. Can your school's marching band play an original composition throughout your podcast? Yes. Can that band play "Let It Go" or a rendition of music from the Beatles or Drake? No. The important thing here is to make sure your tune isn't copyrighted.
How do students submit?
Our submission form will open on Dec. 1, 2020 and close on Feb. 15, 2021. We'll add the correct link here when it opens.
Before you enter via our submission form, you'll need to upload the podcast to Soundcloud and make it publicly viewable and downloadable, so our judges can listen.
(Need help putting the podcast on Soundcloud and changing the privacy settings? Find guidance here and here.)
Can professors help with the writing, editing or production?
No. The goal is for the contest to represent original student work. Professors can teach about writing, and editing, but the actual podcast entry should represent original creations by students.
Is there a minimum or maximum number of students that can work on a podcast?
I'm a professor. What sorts of resources can I use as my class creates a podcast for this contest?
Our resource guide for teachers is full of information for educators, whether you're leading a class in podcasting or advising an extracurricular group. The guide is currently tailored to younger students, but we'll be rolling out more info for college students in the coming weeks.
Can my local member station be involved?
Your local NPR member station could be a fun and helpful resource. They might be able to schedule a tour or field trip to learn about radio and podcast production and see how a radio station works. Remember, though, they can't help you with your podcast — it has to be your original work.
I'm taking classes remotely right now. Can I still enter the NPR Student Podcast Challenge: College Edition?
Yes! Making a podcast from home is totally possible, we even wrote a guide for it.