Columbia Scholastic Press Association

CSPA is an international student press association, founded in 1925, whose goal is to unite student journalists and faculty advisers at schools and colleges through educational conferences, idea exchanges, textbooks, critiques and award programs.

Membership FAQ


Online sign-up for CSPA Membership for
2020-2021 is LIVE!

Membership is how student publications
become eligible for entry 
Critiques, Crowns and Circles.




Deadlines to submit

Spring publications/media: June 12, 2020

Fall yearbooks: October 9, 2020



Questions about CSPA membership


Get answers to the most frequently asked questions.

Why is the newspaper & magazine deadline (June 12th) earlier than the yearbook and online deadline (October 9th)?

To permit timely returns of Medalists critiques, it is essential to have all newspapers and magazines submitted in June. We have more adviser-judges available to complete an evaluation at this time. The sooner we receive your publication, the sooner we can get it to an adviser-judge.

Despite the October 9th deadline, we encourage yearbooks to submit their edition as soon as they are printed. Late summer and fall delivery yearbooks have until October 9th to send in their publications.


How do we get our publication evaluated by the CSPA?

Only Regular Members receive a written evaluation (critique) of their publication. Newspapers, magazines, yearbooks and Web sites should complete the online membership application and send it to us as soon as possible.


When does my CSPA membership expire?

All CSPA memberships run from July 1st of the current membership year until June 30th of the following year, regardless of what time of year you submitted your publication for membership.

If we don't want an evaluation/critique this year, can we still be CSPA members?

Associate and Basic Members are CSPA members, yet neither receive a written evaluation/critique of their publication and/or Web site.

Associate Members receive membership in CSPA, entry into the Crown Awards, 30 free Gold Circle entries and a copy of the Special Edition Crown Awards DVD.

Basic Members receive membership in CSPA, 30 free Gold Circle entries and a copy of the Special Edition Crown Awards DVD.

Hybrid members at either level receive 60 Gold Circle entries: 30 print and 30 digital.


When are entries due for 2021 CSPA’s Crown Awards?

CSPA dates its awards by the year in which they are given. If your newspaper, yearbook or magazine was published during the 2019-2020 school year, it should be entered during Spring/Fall 2020 for the Crown Awards that will be announced in March 2021. The Crown Awards final submission deadline is June 12, 2020 for print news, magazines, digital, hybrid, and Spring yearbooks. For Summer/Fall yearbooks the deadline is October 9, 2020.


What do we send for Crown Awards consideration?

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are hoping to limit contact with physical media being shipped through the US Postal Service and private carriers. This is why we have announced a preference for digital PDF entry across all publication types.


  • Print and hybrid members should submit: one (1) PDF for each of the print edition newspapers produced this year, or one (1) PDF for each of the magazine issues produced this year, or one (1) PDF of their 2020 yearbook (if possible).
  • Digital members should continue to provide their URL as part of the member profile.

PHYSICAL ENTRY (only if digital entry is impossible):

  • Regular Members should send two sets of newspapers, two copies of their magazine or two copies of their 2020 yearbook. One set/copy will be sent to a critique judge; the second set/copy stays in our office from Crown judging in Fall 2020.
  • Associate Members will send one set/copy of their publication when sending us their initial materials.

Can we enter just the Crown Awards, without getting an evaluation, this year?

Yes: Associate Members can enter the Crown Awards without receiving an evaluation.

How is the judging for Crowns different from the publication evaluation?

Crown Awards are judged at Columbia by panels of invited judges, working in groups to review all entries.

The Crown process is more of a "holistic" approach to judging the entire publication, as an informed reader would do. Publications are judged on design, photography, concept, coverage and writing. No written results are provided after the judging.

The Medalist Critique process is a detailed "dissection" of the publication, and the completed results are returned to the school with the judge's commentary written alongside the printed judging standards.

The standards used for both judging processes are the same, but they are applied differently from one process (Crown Awards) to another (Medalist critiques).

Is there any written feedback provided after the Crown judging?

No written feedback is provided after the Crown judging has been completed.

Do the Crown judges compare the critique scores when they judge Crowns?

The Crown judges do NOT have access to the Medalist ratings or point scores.


Are the Crowns judged at the same time as the critiques?

No, the two judgings are completed on separate schedules and in separate locations. The Crowns are done at Columbia in a jury style of judging with books, papers or magazines laid out on tables for the judges to consider.

The Medalist critiques are done by a single judge, using standard Critique scorebooks and common instructions, but working independently at home. The critique gives a single adviser-judge an opportunity to measure one book against the standard criteria while praising specific strengths and noting specific weaknesses. The Crown judging lets a group of judges consider a whole publication and compare it against other publications of similar type.


Do the Crown judges separate colleges/universities, high schools and middle/junior high schools?

Colleges/universities form a separate group as do middle/junior high schools and high schools; each are judged separately. All publications are compared against other publications from the same type of school or college.


Can I enter my newspaper and my online news site as a member (for awards consideration)?

News media can be critiqued as print only, digital only or as a hybrid (print/digital).

  • HYBRID – print publication that provides live coverage via website between print editions. Can include expanded content for stories already covered in print. Could also include updates or completely new coverage via website.
  • DIGITAL – Online news reporting only; no print component.  If a print edition co-exists with the digital news site, then it’s a hybrid publication.
  • PRINT - News reporting in print only; no digital (online) component.  If a digital edition co-exists with the print component, then it’s a hybrid publication.

A note about online sites: To be critiqued/evaluated as an online publication and/or site, your website must include material adding web features. Sites offering only PDFs of the existing print publications do not qualify for online news site critique consideration.