Top Programming, Software Development, and Cybersecurity Competitions for High Schoolers

Programming, software development, and cybersecurity competitions are a great way for high school students to showcase their computer science knowledge and programming skills in a highly competitive environment. Many of these competitions are hosted at a national and international level, which means you’ll be competing against some of the best high school programmers and developers in the world. In competitive programming, there are two formats: short-term contests and long-term contests. In short-term contests, the competitions last for around a few hours. However, in long-term contests, the competitions can last for days and even months. These are some of the best programming, software development, and cybersecurity competitions for high schoolers.

United States of America Computing Olympiad (USACO)

USACO is a programming competition dedicated to providing computing education on an international level for high school students. USACO provides around six competitions each year for students of all skill levels. The top four students in the United States can represent the country in the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI), which is one of the most prestigious international programming competitions for high schoolers. Although USACO competitions and training are open to everyone, you must be a pre-college student to be a finalist for USACO’s training camp or to represent the U.S. for IOI. Initially, all participants start in the bronze division. If you score high enough, you can be promoted to the next division for future competitions. Once you get promoted once, you never have to repeat the stages before the promotion. For instance, if you get promoted from the bronze division to the silver division, you never have to compete in the bronze division in the future. Participation in USACO is free.

Imagine Cup

The Imagine Cup is an annual competition where teams of up to four people create a technological solution or innovation to tackle global issues. To participate in this competition, each team member must be 16 years or older. The competition has more than 2,000,000 student competitors from over 100 countries. By participating in The Imagine Cup, students can network with professionals, gain valuable skills, and win prizes.

Congressional App Challenge

The Congressional App Challenge is a competition designed for students to showcase their knowledge of STEM topics by creating an app for mobile devices or computers. The competition is sponsored by the Internet Education Foundation (IEF). In order for a student to participate, your district must be participating (you can find this out through their website). Teams can consist of up to four members of middle school or high school students. Winners are displayed on their website and additional prizes may be awarded.

American Computer Science League (ACSL)

The American Computer Science League organizes computer science and programming contests for K-12 students. Last year, approximately 500 teams from across the globe participated in these contests. ACSL has multiple divisions for different age groups and skill levels. Each season has four contests that test students on different concepts such as number systems and Boolean algebra. At the end of each year, the top students are eligible to compete in a Finals competition. All contests are hosted online and teams consist of 3-5 students.

CyberPatriot’s National Youth Cyber Defense Competition

CyberPatriot's National Youth Cyber Defense Competition is the world’s largest cybersecurity

competition. The competition is divided into three divisions: the Open Division (consisting of high school students from schools, scouting units, Boys and Girls Clubs, home school programs, STEM programs, etc.), the All Service Division (consisting of high school students in JROTC programs/Civil Air Patrol units/Naval Sea Cadet Corps Units.), the Middle School Division (consisting of Middle school students from schools, scouting units, boys and girls clubs, STEM programs, etc.). Each team consists of a coach, 2-6 competitors, a technical mentor, and a team assistant. More information about the eligibility requirements of these roles can be found on the competition’s website.

Many of these competitions are highly competitive and assess various skills. High schoolers who place highly in these competitions can show colleges and future employers their skills in programming, software development, and cybersecurity, which is highly beneficial if you’re applying to a computer science undergraduate/graduate program, internship, or job.



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