essay competition year 13

Essay  COMPETITION

2024 global essay prize.

The John Locke Institute encourages young people to cultivate the characteristics that turn good students into great writers: independent thought, depth of knowledge, clear reasoning, critical analysis and persuasive style. Our Essay Competition invites students to explore a wide range of challenging and interesting questions beyond the confines of the school curriculum.

Entering an essay in our competition can build knowledge, and refine skills of argumentation. It also gives students the chance to have their work assessed by experts. All of our essay prizes are judged by a panel of senior academics drawn from leading universities including Oxford and Princeton, under the leadership of the Chairman of Examiners, former Cambridge philosopher, Dr Jamie Whyte.

The judges will choose their favourite essay from each of seven subject categories - Philosophy, Politics, Economics, History, Psychology, Theology and Law - and then select the winner of the Grand Prize for the best entry in any subject. There is also a separate prize awarded for the best essay in the junior category, for under 15s.

Q1. Do we have any good reasons to trust our moral intuition?

Q2. Do girls have a (moral) right to compete in sporting contests that exclude boys?

Q3. Should I be held responsible for what I believe?

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Q1. Is there such a thing as too much democracy?

Q2. Is peace in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip possible?

Q3. When is compliance complicity?

Q1. What is the optimal global population?  

Q2. Accurate news reporting is a public good. Does it follow that news agencies should be funded from taxation?

Q3. Do successful business people benefit others when making their money, when spending it, both, or neither?

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Q1. Why was sustained economic growth so rare before the later 18th century and why did this change?

Q2. Has music ever significantly changed the course of history?

Q3. Why do civilisations collapse? Is our civilisation in danger?

Q1. When, if ever, should a company be permitted to refuse to do business with a person because of that person’s public statements?

Q2. In the last five years British police have arrested several thousand people for things they posted on social media. Is the UK becoming a police state?

Q3. Your parents say that 11pm is your bedtime. But they don’t punish you if you don’t go to bed by 11pm. Is 11pm really your bedtime?

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Q1. According to a study by four British universities, for each 16-point increase in IQ, the likelihood of getting married increases by 35% for a man but decreases by 40% for a woman. Why? 

Q2. There is an unprecedented epidemic of depression and anxiety among young people. Can we fix this? How?

Q3. What is the difference between a psychiatric illness and a character flaw?

Q1. “I am not religious, but I am spiritual.” What could the speaker mean by “spiritual”?

Q2. Is it reasonable to thank God for protection from some natural harm if He is responsible for causing the harm?

Q3. Does God reward those who believe in him? If so, why?

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JUNIOR prize

Q1. Does winning a free and fair election automatically confer a mandate for governing?

Q2. Has the anti-racism movement reduced racism?

Q3. Is there life after death?

Q4. How did it happen that governments came to own and run most high schools, while leaving food production to private enterprise? 

Q5. When will advancing technology make most of us unemployable? What should we do about this?

Q6. Should we trust fourteen-year-olds to make decisions about their own bodies? 

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS & FURTHER DETAILS

Please read the following carefully.

Entry to the John Locke Institute Essay Competition 2024 is open to students from any country.

Registration  

Only candidates who registered before the registration deadline of Friday, 31 May 2024 may enter this year's competition.

All entries must be submitted by 11.59 pm BST on  the submission deadline: Sunday, 30 June 2024 .  Candidates must be eighteen years old, or younger, on that date. (Candidates for the Junior Prize must be fourteen years old, or younger, on that date.)

Entry is free.

Each essay must address only one of the questions in your chosen subject category, and must not exceed 2000 words (not counting diagrams, tables of data, endnotes, bibliography or authorship declaration). 

The filename of your pdf must be in this format: FirstName-LastName-Category-QuestionNumber.pdf; so, for instance, Alexander Popham would submit his answer to question 2 in the Psychology category with the following file name:

Alexander-Popham-Psychology-2.pdf

Essays with filenames which are not in this format will be rejected.

The candidate's name should NOT appear within the document itself. 

Candidates should NOT add footnotes. They may, however, add endnotes and/or a Bibliography that is clearly titled as such.

Each candidate will be required to provide the email address of an academic referee who is familiar with the candidate's written academic work. This should be a school teacher, if possible, or another responsible adult who is not a relation of the candidate. The John Locke Institute will email referees to verify that the essays submitted are indeed the original work of the candidates.

Submissions may be made as soon as registration opens in April. We recommend that you submit your essay well in advance of th e deadline to avoid any last-minute complications.

Acceptance of your essay depends on your granting us permission to use your data for the purposes of receiving and processing your entry as well as communicating with you about the Awards Ceremony Dinner, the academic conference for essay competition finalists, and other events and programmes of the John Locke Institute and its associated entities.  

Late entries

If for any reason you miss the 30 June deadline you will have an opportunity to make a late entry, under two conditions:

a) A late entry fee of 20.00 USD must be paid by credit card within twenty-four hours of the original deadline; and

b) Your essay must be submitted  before 11.59 pm BST on Wednesday, 10 July 2024.

To pay for late entry, a registrant need only log into his or her account, select the relevant option and provide the requested payment information.

Our grading system is proprietary. Essayists may be asked to discuss their entry with a member of the John Locke Institute’s faculty. We use various means to identify plagiarism, contract cheating, the use of AI and other forms of fraud . Our determinations in all such matters are final.

Essays will be judged on knowledge and understanding of the relevant material, the competent use of evidence, quality of argumentation, originality, structure, writing style and persuasive force. The very best essays are likely to be those which would be capable of changing somebody's mind. Essays which ignore or fail to address the strongest objections and counter-arguments are unlikely to be successful .

Candidates are advised to answer the question as precisely and directly as possible.

The writers of the best essays will receive a commendation and be shortlisted for a prize. Writers of shortlisted essays will be notified by 11.59 pm BST on Wednesday, 31 July. They will also be invited to London for an invitation-only academic conference and awards dinner in September, where the prize-winners will be announced. Unlike the competition itself, the academic conference and awards dinner are not free. Please be aware that n obody is required to attend either the academic conference or the prize ceremony. You can win a prize without travelling to London.

All short-listed candidates, including prize-winners, will be able to download eCertificates that acknowledge their achievement. If you win First, Second or Third Prize, and you travel to London for the ceremony, you will receive a signed certificate. 

There is a prize for the best essay in each category. The prize for each winner of a subject category, and the winner of the Junior category, is a scholarship worth US$2000 towards the cost of attending any John Locke Institute programme, and the essays will be published on the Institute's website. Prize-giving ceremonies will take place in London, at which winners and runners-up will be able to meet some of the judges and other faculty members of the John Locke Institute. Family, friends, and teachers are also welcome.

The candidate who submits the best essay overall will be awarded an honorary John Locke Institute Junior Fellowship, which comes with a US$10,000 scholarship to attend one or more of our summer schools and/or visiting scholars programmes. 

The judges' decisions are final, and no correspondence will be entered into.

R egistration opens: 1 April, 2024.

Registration deadline: 31 May, 2024. (Registration is required by this date for subsequent submission.)

Submission deadline: 30 June, 2024.

Late entry deadline: 10 July, 2024. (Late entries are subject to a 20.00 USD charge, payable by 1 July.)

Notification of short-listed essayists: 31 July, 2024.

Academic conference: 20 - 22 September, 2024.

Awards dinner: 21 September, 2024.

Any queries regarding the essay competition should be sent to [email protected] . Please be aware that, due to the large volume of correspondence we receive, we cannot guarantee to answer every query. In particular, regrettably, we are unable to respond to questions whose answers can be found on our website.

If you would like to receive helpful tips  from our examiners about what makes for a winning essay or reminders of upcoming key dates for the 2024  essay competition, please provide your email here to be added to our contact list. .

Thanks for subscribing!

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The John Locke Institute's Global Essay Prize is acknowledged as the world's most prestigious essay competition. 

We welcome tens of thousands of submissions from ambitious students in more than 150 countries, and our examiners - including distinguished philosophers, political scientists, economists, historians, psychologists, theologians, and legal scholars - read and carefully assess every entry. 

I encourage you to register for this competition, not only for the hope of winning a prize or commendation, and not only for the chance to join the very best contestants at our academic conference and gala ceremony in London, but equally for the opportunity to engage in the serious scholarly enterprise of researching, reflecting on, writing about, and editing an answer to one of the important and provocative questions in this year's Global Essay Prize. 

We believe that the skills you will acquire in the process will make you a better thinker and a more effective advocate for the ideas that matter most to you.

I hope to see you in September!

Best wishes,

Jamie Whyte, Ph.D. (C ANTAB ) 

Chairman of Examiners

Spring & Summer 2024 Admissions Open Now. Sign up for upcoming live information sessions here .

Discourse, debate, and analysis

Cambridge re:think essay competition 2024.

Competition Opens: 15th January, 2024

Essay Submission Deadline: 10th May, 2024 Result Announcement: 20th June, 2024 Award Ceremony and Dinner at the University of Cambridge: 30th July, 2024

We welcome talented high school students from diverse educational settings worldwide to contribute their unique perspectives to the competition.

Entry to the competition is free.

About the Competition

The spirit of the Re:think essay competition is to encourage critical thinking and exploration of a wide range of thought-provoking and often controversial topics. The competition covers a diverse array of subjects, from historical and present issues to speculative future scenarios. Participants are invited to engage deeply with these topics, critically analysing their various facets and implications. It promotes intellectual exploration and encourages participants to challenge established norms and beliefs, presenting opportunities to envision alternative futures, consider the consequences of new technologies, and reevaluate longstanding traditions. 

Ultimately, our aim is to create a platform for students and scholars to share their perspectives on pressing issues of the past and future, with the hope of broadening our collective understanding and generating innovative solutions to contemporary challenges. This year’s competition aims to underscore the importance of discourse, debate, and critical analysis in addressing complex societal issues in nine areas, including:

Religion and Politics

Political science and law, linguistics, environment, sociology and philosophy, business and investment, public health and sustainability, biotechonology.

Artificial Intelligence 

Neuroengineering

2024 essay prompts.

This year, the essay prompts are contributed by distinguished professors from Harvard, Brown, UC Berkeley, Cambridge, Oxford, and MIT.

Essay Guidelines and Judging Criteria

Review general guidelines, format guidelines, eligibility, judging criteria.

Awards and Award Ceremony

Award winners will be invited to attend the Award Ceremony and Dinner hosted at the King’s College, University of Cambridge. The Dinner is free of charge for select award recipients.

Registration and Submission

Register a participant account today and submit your essay before the deadline.

Advisory Committee and Judging Panel

The Cambridge Re:think Essay Competition is guided by an esteemed Advisory Committee comprising distinguished academics and experts from elite universities worldwide. These committee members, drawn from prestigious institutions, such as Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, and MIT, bring diverse expertise in various disciplines.

They play a pivotal role in shaping the competition, contributing their insights to curate the themes and framework. Their collective knowledge and scholarly guidance ensure the competition’s relevance, academic rigour, and intellectual depth, setting the stage for aspiring minds to engage with thought-provoking topics and ideas.

We are honoured to invite the following distinguished professors to contribute to this year’s competition.

The judging panel of the competition comprises leading researchers and professors from Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Cambridge, and Oxford, engaging in a strictly double blind review process.

Essay Competition Professors

Keynote Speeches by 8 Nobel Laureates

We are beyond excited to announce that multiple Nobel laureates have confirmed to attend and speak at this year’s ceremony on 30th July, 2024 .

They will each be delivering a keynote speech to the attendees. Some of them distinguished speakers will speak virtually, while others will attend and present in person and attend the Reception at Cambridge.

Essay Competition Professors (2)

Why has religion remained a force in a secular world? 

Professor Commentary:

Arguably, the developed world has become more secular in the last century or so. The influence of Christianity, e.g. has diminished and people’s life worlds are less shaped by faith and allegiance to Churches. Conversely, arguments have persisted that hold that we live in a post-secular world. After all, religion – be it in terms of faith, transcendence, or meaning – may be seen as an alternative to a disenchanted world ruled by entirely profane criteria such as economic rationality, progressivism, or science. Is the revival of religion a pale reminder of a by-gone past or does it provide sources of hope for the future?

‘Religion in the Public Sphere’ by Jürgen Habermas (European Journal of Philosophy, 2006)

In this paper, philosopher Jürgen Habermas discusses the limits of church-state separation, emphasizing the significant contribution of religion to public discourse when translated into publicly accessible reasons.

‘Public Religions in the Modern World’ by José Casanova (University Of Chicago Press, 1994)

Sociologist José Casanova explores the global emergence of public religion, analyzing case studies from Catholicism and Protestantism in Spain, Poland, Brazil, and the USA, challenging traditional theories of secularization.

‘The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere’ by Judith Butler, Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, and Cornel West (Edited by Eduardo Mendieta and Jonathan VanAntwerpen, Columbia University Press, 2011)

This collection features dialogues by prominent intellectuals on the role of religion in the public sphere, examining various approaches and their impacts on cultural, social, and political debates.

‘Rethinking Secularism’ by Craig Calhoun, Mark Juergensmeyer, and Jonathan VanAntwerpen (Oxford University Press, 2011)

An interdisciplinary examination of secularism, this book challenges traditional views, highlighting the complex relationship between religion and secularism in contemporary global politics.

‘God is Back: How the Global Rise of Faith is Changing the World’ by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge (Penguin, 2010)

Micklethwait and Wooldridge argue for the coexistence of religion and modernity, suggesting that religious beliefs can contribute to a more open, tolerant, and peaceful modern world.

‘Multiculturalism’ by Tariq Modood (Polity Press, 2013)

Sociologist Tariq Modood emphasizes the importance of multiculturalism in integrating diverse identities, particularly in post-immigration contexts, and its role in shaping democratic citizenship.

‘God’s Agents: Biblical Publicity in Contemporary England’ by Matthew Engelke (University of California Press, 2013)

In this ethnographic study, Matthew Engelke explores how a group in England seeks to expand the role of religion in the public sphere, challenging perceptions of religion in post-secular England.

Ccir Essay Competition Prompt Contributed By Dr Mashail Malik

Gene therapy is a medical approach that treats or prevents disease by correcting the underlying genetic problem. Is gene therapy better than traditional medicines? What are the pros and cons of using gene therapy as a medicine? Is gene therapy justifiable?

Especially after Covid-19 mRNA vaccines, gene therapy is getting more and more interesting approach to cure. That’s why that could be interesting to think about. I believe that students will enjoy and learn a lot while they are investigating this topic.

Ccir Essay Competition Prompt Contributed By Dr Mamiko Yajima

The Hall at King’s College, Cambridge

The Hall was designed by William Wilkins in the 1820s and is considered one of the most magnificent halls of its era. The first High Table dinner in the Hall was held in February 1828, and ever since then, the splendid Hall has been where members of the college eat and where formal dinners have been held for centuries.

The Award Ceremony and Dinner will be held in the Hall in the evening of  30th July, 2024.

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Stretching out down to the River Cam, the Back Lawn has one of the most iconic backdrop of King’s College Chapel. 

The early evening reception will be hosted on the Back Lawn with the iconic Chapel in the background (weather permitting). 

3

King’s College Chapel

With construction started in 1446 by Henry VI and took over a century to build, King’s College Chapel is one of the most iconic buildings in the world, and is a splendid example of late Gothic architecture. 

Attendees are also granted complimentary access to the King’s College Chapel before and during the event. 

Confirmed Nobel Laureates

15

Dr Thomas R. Cech

The nobel prize in chemistry 1989 , for the discovery of catalytic properties of rna.

Thomas Robert Cech is an American chemist who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Sidney Altman, for their discovery of the catalytic properties of RNA. Cech discovered that RNA could itself cut strands of RNA, suggesting that life might have started as RNA. He found that RNA can not only transmit instructions, but also that it can speed up the necessary reactions.

He also studied telomeres, and his lab discovered an enzyme, TERT (telomerase reverse transcriptase), which is part of the process of restoring telomeres after they are shortened during cell division.

As president of Howard Hughes Medical Institute, he promoted science education, and he teaches an undergraduate chemistry course at the University of Colorado

16

Sir Richard J. Roberts

The nobel prize in medicine 1993 .

F or the discovery of split genes

During 1969–1972, Sir Richard J. Roberts did postdoctoral research at Harvard University before moving to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where he was hired by James Dewey Watson, a co-discoverer of the structure of DNA and a fellow Nobel laureate. In this period he also visited the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology for the first time, working alongside Fred Sanger. In 1977, he published his discovery of RNA splicing. In 1992, he moved to New England Biolabs. The following year, he shared a Nobel Prize with his former colleague at Cold Spring Harbor Phillip Allen Sharp.

His discovery of the alternative splicing of genes, in particular, has had a profound impact on the study and applications of molecular biology. The realisation that individual genes could exist as separate, disconnected segments within longer strands of DNA first arose in his 1977 study of adenovirus, one of the viruses responsible for causing the common cold. Robert’s research in this field resulted in a fundamental shift in our understanding of genetics, and has led to the discovery of split genes in higher organisms, including human beings.

17

Dr Aaron Ciechanover

The nobel prize in chemistry 2004 .

F or the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation

Aaron Ciechanover is one of Israel’s first Nobel Laureates in science, earning his Nobel Prize in 2004 for his work in ubiquitination. He is honored for playing a central role in the history of Israel and in the history of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

Dr Ciechanover is currently a Technion Distinguished Research Professor in the Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and Research Institute at the Technion. He is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, the Russian Academy of Sciences and is a foreign associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences. In 2008, he was a visiting Distinguished Chair Professor at NCKU, Taiwan. As part of Shenzhen’s 13th Five-Year Plan funding research in emerging technologies and opening “Nobel laureate research labs”, in 2018 he opened the Ciechanover Institute of Precision and Regenerative Medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen campus.

18

Dr Robert Lefkowitz

The nobel prize in chemistry 2012 .

F or the discovery of G protein-coupled receptors

Robert Joseph Lefkowitz is an American physician (internist and cardiologist) and biochemist. He is best known for his discoveries that reveal the inner workings of an important family G protein-coupled receptors, for which he was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Brian Kobilka. He is currently an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as well as a James B. Duke Professor of Medicine and Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry at Duke University.

Dr Lefkowitz made a remarkable contribution in the mid-1980s when he and his colleagues cloned the gene first for the β-adrenergic receptor, and then rapidly thereafter, for a total of 8 adrenergic receptors (receptors for adrenaline and noradrenaline). This led to the seminal discovery that all GPCRs (which include the β-adrenergic receptor) have a very similar molecular structure. The structure is defined by an amino acid sequence which weaves its way back and forth across the plasma membrane seven times. Today we know that about 1,000 receptors in the human body belong to this same family. The importance of this is that all of these receptors use the same basic mechanisms so that pharmaceutical researchers now understand how to effectively target the largest receptor family in the human body. Today, as many as 30 to 50 percent of all prescription drugs are designed to “fit” like keys into the similarly structured locks of Dr Lefkowitz’ receptors—everything from anti-histamines to ulcer drugs to beta blockers that help relieve hypertension, angina and coronary disease.

Dr Lefkowitz is among the most highly cited researchers in the fields of biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, toxicology, and clinical medicine according to Thomson-ISI.

19

Dr Joachim Frank

The nobel prize in chemistry 2017 .

F or developing cryo-electron microscopy

Joachim Frank is a German-American biophysicist at Columbia University and a Nobel laureate. He is regarded as the founder of single-particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2017 with Jacques Dubochet and Richard Henderson. He also made significant contributions to structure and function of the ribosome from bacteria and eukaryotes.

In 1975, Dr Frank was offered a position of senior research scientist in the Division of Laboratories and Research (now Wadsworth Center), New York State Department of Health,where he started working on single-particle approaches in electron microscopy. In 1985 he was appointed associate and then (1986) full professor at the newly formed Department of Biomedical Sciences of the University at Albany, State University of New York. In 1987 and 1994, he went on sabbaticals in Europe, one to work with Richard Henderson, Laboratory of Molecular Biology Medical Research Council in Cambridge and the other as a Humboldt Research Award winner with Kenneth C. Holmes, Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg. In 1998, Dr Frank was appointed investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). Since 2003 he was also lecturer at Columbia University, and he joined Columbia University in 2008 as professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and of biological sciences.

20

Dr Barry C. Barish

The nobel prize in physics 2017 .

For the decisive contributions to the detection of gravitational waves

Dr Barry Clark Barish is an American experimental physicist and Nobel Laureate. He is a Linde Professor of Physics, emeritus at California Institute of Technology and a leading expert on gravitational waves.

In 2017, Barish was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics along with Rainer Weiss and Kip Thorne “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”. He said, “I didn’t know if I would succeed. I was afraid I would fail, but because I tried, I had a breakthrough.”

In 2018, he joined the faculty at University of California, Riverside, becoming the university’s second Nobel Prize winner on the faculty.

In the fall of 2023, he joined Stony Brook University as the inaugural President’s Distinguished Endowed Chair in Physics.

In 2023, Dr Barish was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Biden in a White House ceremony.

21

Dr Harvey J. Alter

The nobel prize in medicine 2020 .

For the discovery of Hepatitis C virus

Dr Harvey J. Alter is an American medical researcher, virologist, physician and Nobel Prize laureate, who is best known for his work that led to the discovery of the hepatitis C virus. Alter is the former chief of the infectious disease section and the associate director for research of the Department of Transfusion Medicine at the Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. In the mid-1970s, Alter and his research team demonstrated that most post-transfusion hepatitis cases were not due to hepatitis A or hepatitis B viruses. Working independently, Alter and Edward Tabor, a scientist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, proved through transmission studies in chimpanzees that a new form of hepatitis, initially called “non-A, non-B hepatitis” caused the infections, and that the causative agent was probably a virus. This work eventually led to the discovery of the hepatitis C virus in 1988, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2020 along with Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice.

Dr Alter has received recognition for the research leading to the discovery of the virus that causes hepatitis C. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award conferred to civilians in United States government public health service, and the 2000 Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research.

22

Dr Ardem Patapoutian

The nobel prize in medicine 2021 .

For discovering how pressure is translated into nerve impulses

Dr Ardem Patapoutian is an Lebanese-American molecular biologist, neuroscientist, and Nobel Prize laureate of Armenian descent. He is known for his work in characterising the PIEZO1, PIEZO2, and TRPM8 receptors that detect pressure, menthol, and temperature. Dr Patapoutian is a neuroscience professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California. In 2021, he won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly with David Julius.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I participate in the Re:think essay competition? 

The Re:think Essay competition is meant to serve as fertile ground for honing writing skills, fostering critical thinking, and refining communication abilities. Winning or participating in reputable contests can lead to recognition, awards, scholarships, or even publication opportunities, elevating your academic profile for college applications and future endeavours. Moreover, these competitions facilitate intellectual growth by encouraging exploration of diverse topics, while also providing networking opportunities and exposure to peers, educators, and professionals. Beyond accolades, they instil confidence, prepare for higher education demands, and often allow you to contribute meaningfully to societal conversations or causes, making an impact with your ideas.

Who is eligible to enter the Re:think essay competition?  

As long as you’re currently attending high school, regardless of your location or background, you’re eligible to participate. We welcome students from diverse educational settings worldwide to contribute their unique perspectives to the competition.

Is there any entry fee for the competition? 

There is no entry fee for the competition. Waiving the entry fee for our essay competition demonstrates CCIR’s dedication to equity. CCIR believes everyone should have an equal chance to participate and showcase their talents, regardless of financial circumstances. Removing this barrier ensures a diverse pool of participants and emphasises merit and creativity over economic capacity, fostering a fair and inclusive environment for all contributors.

Subscribe for Competition Updates

If you are interested to receive latest information and updates of this year’s competition, please sign up here.

Home › Essay Competition 2024 › Writing Competitions For High School Students

Writing Competitions For High School Students

essay competition year 13

Table of Contents

Do you want to join a high school essay competition? But you’re struggling to find the right one for you? This list of 20 high school essay competitions is a wonderful way to boost your academic confidence.  

Essays exercise your communication and critical thinking skills, and a student’s essay reveals much about their confidence, brain power, social skills, and commitment. There’s a reason why universities require personal statements.

Suppose you want to sharpen your writing skills to outstanding university levels and get a chance to win academic scholarships to renowned institutions, cash prizes and recognition. Then, you need to join high school essay competitions!

Not convinced yet? Here are more reasons why entering (and potentially winning) essay competitions will make your university application more attractive. Universities will see that:

  • You learned more about your chosen subject beyond what your teachers taught you in your high school curriculum.
  • You’re committed and proactive because you went the extra mile.
  • Since you have had to juggle researching and writing for this essay with your other academic and extracurricular commitments, you have superb time management skills.
  • Research and writing are your strengths.
  • You have the confidence to try even if you’re not sure you’ll win!

Afraid you won’t win the competition? Don’t worry! 

Even just entering the competition signals all the good qualities just mentioned. Remember, the effort of applying itself shows how proactive and confident you are. So including your essay writing competition experience in your personal statement and talking about it in your interviews will make you stand out. Your teachers can also write about it on your college application essay or, if you’re going to a UK university, in your UCAS reference. 

Now that you know why you should join high school essay competitions, check out the Top 20 Essay Competitions for high school students. 

1. Immerse Education Essay Competition

In 2012, Immerse Education was founded to provide 13-18-year-old students exceptional educational experiences at the University of Oxford, Cambridge University, University of Sydney, and University College London.

What does “exceptional educational experiences” mean exactly? It means you’ll have the opportunity to learn from world-leading Oxbridge, Cambridge, and Ivy League Tutors. Are you planning to take Architecture at the university? Then taking the Architecture Residential Programme or Online Insights course at Immerse Education will introduce you to topics such as Foundations of Architecture and Architectural Styles through Time. You’ll then present your work on Theoretical Design.

Not only will you have the much-needed exposure to understand university-level architecture, but you’ll also gain like-minded friends for life.

You can choose from over 20 subjects. From architecture and engineering to medicine and law!

Participating in Immerse Education courses will give you a tremendous advantage over your competition. Listing Immerse in your personal essay application will instantly make you stand out. Not to mention the high-level academic writing skills you will have developed at this point.

Now that you know what Immerse is about, why should you apply for the Immerse Education essay competition? 

Because winning will give you a 100% scholarship! 

Over 10 winners will be chosen to receive such a fantastic prize. Runners-up will receive partial scholarships up to 70%.

Who are eligible to join? 13-18-year-old students of all nationalities! You’ve got nothing to lose and lots to gain from joining this essay competition. So don’t let the opportunity pass you by!

Website: https://immerse.education/essay-competition/  

Open For Entries: March 16, 2022

Essay Competition Deadline: August 31, 2022

Entry Fee: None

Award Amount: 10x 100% scholarships and up to 70% scholarships for runner ups

2. Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Essay Competition

The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers has been supporting the future of creativity for 99 years through the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. So what is the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers? It’s a nonprofit organisation aiming to present the creative work of exceptional young talents. In doing so, they give talented students in grades 7-12 opportunities to earn scholarships, exhibitions, and publications.

They have various scholarship awards to offer. For instance, National Medalists are entitled to scholarships amounting to $10,000. For those who wish to explore personal grief and loss through writing, six students can win the National New York Life Award and receive $1,000 scholarships. Then there is the Civic Expression Award offering $1,000 scholarships to six winners whose works spread awareness on social or political issues. 

What about the Exhibitions? Writings from each year’s National Medalists will be displayed in several institutions. Including the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Arnot Art Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. 

Winners also enjoy being featured in several publications, such as Best Teen Writing , Healing Through Creativity, and the yearbook. 

Who are the eligible high school students? Those who live in the US and Canada. Public, private, and home-schooled high schoolers are qualified. How about international students? Those who attend American schools in other countries are also allowed to join. You may want to know that the qualifications may differ per region. So it’s best to check in with your specific address. 

What are the categories for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Essay Competition? The categories include humour, dramatic scripts, flash fiction, novel writing, and poetry.

Website: https://www.artandwriting.org/

Scope: US and Canada

Open For Entries: September

Essay Competition Deadline: Deadlines vary between December and January, depending on your region

Entry Fee: $7 per individual entry and $25 per portfolio.

Award Amount:   $1,000 to $10,000 scholarships

3. National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Essay Competition

What is the purpose of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Essay Competition? To inspire high school juniors to express themselves through writing. As well as to openly recognise the best student writing. 

How can students join the NCTE essay competition? Via nomination by English Teachers in Canada, the United States, the Virgin Islands, and American Schools abroad. Chosen participants will have to submit two types of essays: best writing and themed writing. 

The NCTE shows the themed writing prompts on their website to encourage discussions among teachers and students. The contestants can write their theme write-up in any genre, such as Science & Technical, History, and Social Studies. Any writing format is also acceptable. Think personal essay, scientific report, news article, graphic novel, and more. All entries are submitted electronically in a PDF format. 

Your writing needs to reflect independent thinking to increase your chances of winning. Respond to the prompt with a sense of purpose and completeness. Ensure each sentence builds upon the other to cumulate in a thought-provoking piece. 

Website: https://ncte.org/awards/achievement-awards-in-writing/  

Scope: US, Canada, Virgin Islands, American Schools abroad

Open For Entries: Until November 15

Essay Competition Deadline: February 15

Award Amount:   None. Instead, the winner will receive the Superior Writing certificate. All nominated contestants will receive a Recognition certificate. 

4. The Adroit Prizes for Poetry & Prose Essay Competition

High school students worldwide are eligible to compete in The Adroit Prizes. The two genres you can write in are Poetry and Prose. Do you want to submit your writing in prose? You can give up to 3 writings at a time, with a 9,000 word limit across the pieces. For poetry, you can submit 6 at a time, with no word count limit. 

Winning entries will be featured in the Adroit Journal. And their authors will receive a cash prize of $200. So what is the Adroit Journal all about? Founded by poet Peter LaBerge in November 2010, it strives to showcase the future of prose, poetry, and art. 

The Adroit Journal has been featured in notable publications such as The Paris Review, New York Times, Teen Vogue, and Best American Poetry. Do you know it has been the #1 Poetry Market for the past two years? It has had the Most Submission Responses Reported within that period. 

It has heralded brilliant voices through the years, including Rita Dove, Ned Vizzini, Ocean Vuong, and Terrance Hayes. Yours could be next!

Website: https://theadroitjournal.org/adroit-prizes/  

Scope: Worldwide

Open For Entries: Yet to be announced (must subscribe to the email list to stay updated)

Essay Competition Deadline: Yet to be announced (must subscribe to the email list to keep updated)

Award Amount: $200

5. National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) Creative Writing Scholarship Essay Competition

One of the co-founders of National Society of High School Scholars came from the family who instituted the Nobel Prizes. His name? Claes Nobel. Together with James Lewis, Claes established the NSHSS in 2022. To honour academic excellence in top-calibre high school students. 

How? By providing them with the network and resources they need to become the leaders of tomorrow. Of course, that means helping them succeed in college and in their future careers. What are these resources, you ask? College fairs, scholarships, partner discounts, career opportunities and more. NSHSS has a vast network. Connecting promising students with valuable partnerships is key to their future. 

A great example of NSHSS’ initiative is the ​​NSHSS Creative Writing Scholarship. Aspiring high school students who are set to graduate between 2022-2025 are eligible to join. They can submit entries in two categories: Poetry and Fiction. 

If you want to try out Poetry, you’re free to write it according to your personal preference. Whether it be formal verse, free verse, or experimental. Please format it according to how you want it to appear in the publication.

Want to submit Fiction instead? Great! The word limit is 5,000 words in any genre and not single-spaced. You can pass submissions for both entries if you like. Just limit to one per category. If you win, you get $2,000 scholarships, and your work will be published on the NSHSS website!

Website: https://www.nshss.org/scholarships/s/nshss-creative-writing-scholarship/

Scope: Worldwide 

Open For Entries: May 13, 2022

Essay Competition Deadline: October 31, 2022

Award Amount: $2,000 

6. Young Writers Awards Essay Competition

Bennington College created the Young Writers Awards to celebrate its outstanding literary legacy. It raised 3 U.S. poet laureates, 12 Pulitzer Prize winners, and countless New York Times bestsellers throughout its teaching. 

What better way to continue the legacy than by promoting writing excellence at the high school level? Bennington encourages 9th-12th grade students (US and International) to submit their best work in one of the three categories. Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction. 

If you choose to go for Poetry, you’ll need to provide a group of three poems. Going for Fiction instead? You can submit a short story not longer than 1,500 words. A one-act play that runs less than 30 minutes is also welcome. But what if you prefer to write Nonfiction? Awesome! Give an academic or personal essay amounting to 1,500 words or less. 

Bennington will choose 3 winners in each category to fill the positions of first, second, and third place. First-place winners garner a prize of $1,000. For second-place winners? $500. While third-place winners secure $250. 

That’s not all. Should finalists and winners study at Bennington, they’ll have the pleasure of undergraduate scholarship assistance! Finalists gain a $10,000 scholarship yearly, for a total of $40,000 for 4 years of study. What about the winners? They’ll gain a yearly $15,000 scholarship for four years. Adding up to $60,000. 

Website: https://www.bennington.edu/events/young-writers-awards  

Scope: US and International

Open For Entries: September 1

Essay Competition Deadline: November 1

Award Amount:   $1,000 for First-place winners, $500 for second-place winners, $250 for third-place winners; Plus $40,000 worth of scholarships at Bennington for finalists and $60,000 for winners

7. Young Arts Essay Competition

Pursuing arts can be a long, difficult road for young artists without financial and social support. That’s what YoungArts aim to relieve. It’s one of the few US organisations that support artists in all 10 disciplines, including dance, classical music, theatre, and writing. 

Who are eligible to apply? US citizens, permanent residents, or green card holders in high school grades 10-12. Six genres are open to aspiring young writers: Creative Nonfiction, Novel, Poetry, Play or Script, Short Story, and Spoken Word. If you make it to the Finals, you’ll be invited to the National YoungArts Week. Here you’ll meet with the judges and compete with fellow finalists. 

What are the perks of winning in YoungArts? For starters, award winners can receive cash prizes anywhere from $100 to $10,000. 

But it doesn’t stop there. Because once you win YoungArts, they’ll take you under their wing and help you navigate and succeed in your career as an artist. You’ll be part of a robust community of distinguished artists. With mentors who will give you the guidance you’ll need to excel in your field. 

Plus, you’ll have a lifetime of creative opportunities and professional support at every stage of your artistic development. And do you know that you’ll have the chance of getting nominated for the US Presidential Scholar in the Arts? It’s one of the highest honours any high school student can achieve. Exemplifying what it means to be academically and artistically excellent. 

Website: https://youngarts.org  

Open For Entries: June 7, 2022

Essay Competition Deadline: October 14, 2022

Entry Fee: $35

Award Amount: $100 to $10,000

8. Ocean Awareness Essay Competition

Linda Cabot launched Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs in 2011. It’s a nonprofit organisation established in Massachusetts, USA. Do you know where the name “Bow Seat” came from? It’s from a documentary entitled From the Bow Seat that Linda and her daughters filmed. 

The documentary discusses the environmental issues wrecking the Gulf of Maine. It was in this undertaking that Linda discovered the undeniable power of art. How it can move hearts in a way that textbooks and lectures by themselves could not. And so, Bow Seat hopes to inspire the younger generation to use their artistic talent in calling attention and awareness to care for the world’s oceans. 

Who are qualified to join this international contest? Middle and high school students who are 11-18 years old. You can submit pieces in Creative Writing or Poetry. 

For Creative Writing, you can submit both fiction and nonfiction. Short stories are perfect for fiction. For nonfiction? You can write blog posts, journal articles, or personal narratives. 

Do you want to try out Poetry? Spoken word, free, or formal verse are all accepted. Your writing should reflect the theme for the given year (since they change it yearly.) 

Winners receive cash prizes ranging from $100-$1,500 depending on your division (junior or senior) and position (gold, silver, bronze, pearl, or honourable mention).

Website: https://bowseat.org/programs/ocean-awareness-contest/contest-overview/  

Open For Entries: September 2022

Essay Competition Deadline: June 2023

Award Amount: $100-$1,500

For The Junior Division

  • Gold Award – $1,000
  • Silver Award – $750
  • Bronze Award – $250
  • Pearl Award – $150
  • Honourable Mention – $100

For The Senior Division

  • Gold Award – $1,500
  • Silver Award – $1,000
  • Bronze Award – $500
  • Pearl Award – $300
  • Honourable Mention – $250

9. Ayn Rand Essay Competition

The Ayn Rand Essay Competition increases awareness of Ayn Rand’s philosophy and novels. She has over 37 million books sold; among her most notable works are Anthem , The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged . 

Her death in 1982 only increased her presence. You can see her in a US postage stamp, university courses, and an Oscar-nominated documentary. What keeps her voice prevalent? Her philosophy. 

You see, Ayn Rand believes that philosophy is what drives men to shape their individual lives and, ultimately, human history. She calls her particular brand of philosophy “Objectivism.” Or less formally, “a philosophy for living on earth.”

Two categories for the global Essay Competition are available for high school students: Anthem and The Fountainhead . In addition, contestants must discuss specific essay topics in their 600-1,200 word essays. It changes each year, and you can check what they are when the competition begins. 

Cash prizes are available for 5 positions: 1st place (1 winner), 2nd place (3 winners), 3rd place (5 winners), finalist (25 winners), and semi-finalist (50 winners.) 

Who can join the Anthem category? 8th-12th graders. What are the cash prizes for the winners? It ranges from $25 to $2,000. 

What about The Fountainhead? For this category, 11-12th graders can join. The cash prizes for winners range from $25 to $5,000. 

How do the judges choose the winning essays? Depending on how well the student justifies their point of view regarding Anthem’s/The Fountainhead’s philosophy. It doesn’t matter whether the Institute agrees with it or not. What’s essential is how clear, logical, and persuasive the writing is. 

Website: https://aynrand.org/students/essay-contests/#tab-3-anthem-overview  

Open For Entries: Yet to be announced

Essay Competition Deadline: Yet to be announced

Award Amount:   $25 – $5,000

  • 1st Place – $2,000
  • 2nd Place – $500
  • 3rd Place – $100
  • Finalist – $50
  • Semi-Finalist – $25

The Fountainhead

  • 1st Place – $5,000
  • 2nd Place – $1,250
  • 3rd Place – $250
  • Finalist – $100
  • Semi-Finalist -$25

10. River of Words® (ROW) Essay Competition

Saint Mary’s College of California’s Center for Environmental Literacy organised the international River of Words® contest. For what purpose? To inspire students to express their environmental observation through art. ROW has been encouraging students and teachers alike to savour watersheds. 

“Wait, what? Watersheds?” You may ask in wonder. Yes! The theme of the River of Words contest is all about watersheds. What are watersheds, and why are they so important?

A watershed is a land area that receives water via precipitation (rainfall and snowmelt.) The water then drains into the same body of water. Hence, every living and nonliving thing you see is part of your watershed! 

It’s vital to care for watersheds because wherever it is located, the water eventually drains somewhere . And they all create an interconnected system where each affects the other. So a problem in one watershed can have a massive effect on another! Do you want to care for the environment? Start with your own watershed. 

Who are qualified to join the ROW contest? Students who aren’t in college yet. Basically 5-19-year-old children. Raise the banner, high schoolers! 

What types of writing does ROW accept? Poetry not longer than 32 lines. There are several recognitions given to worthy poems. There’s the Monkey’s Raincoat Prize for outstanding haiku poems. And the One Square Block prize for poems that discusses the interaction between the natural world and manmade creations. 

All winning entries will be showcased in the River of Words anthology.

Website: https://www.stmarys-ca.edu/center-for-environmental-literacy/river-of-words  

Essay Competition Deadline: December 1 (except Georgia and Arizona)

Award Amount:   None

11. American Foreign Services Association (AFSA) Essay Competition

The American Foreign Services Association (AFSA) is the sole representative of the US Foreign Service, established in 1924. It serves to protect the well-being and interests of AFSA members. One of the ways to achieve this is to increase awareness among the American populace about AFSA’s vital role in supporting American leadership worldwide.

And so, it established the yearly High School Essay Contest. To help the younger generation become more acquainted with AFSA and its mission for America.

Who are eligible to participate? Students in grades 9-12 in any of the 50 states, US territories, the District of Columbia, and US citizens studying abroad. The winner will receive $2,500 and a scholarship to participate in Semester at Sea. Plus, an all-expense paid trip to Washington DC from anywhere in the US. For the winner and their parents.

The runner-up will get $1,250 and a scholarship for the National Student Leadership Conference’s International Diplomacy Program.

Here’s a glimpse of what the essay looks like. It has to be between 1,000 to 1,250 words. Each year, the AFSA hands out prompts in three questions about national security and US foreign policy.

Website: https://afsa.org/rules-and-guidelines   

Essay Competition Deadline: April (Usually)

Award Amount:   $2,500

12. John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Contest Essay Competition

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Contest is an initiative of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. The library and museum pay tribute to John Kennedy by keeping his memory alive. Scholars and students go here when they need to research the service and political life of the late president. In touring the place, you’ll witness his life, leadership and legacy through historical materials. 

The contest inspires the younger generation to get to know more about the political figures who demonstrated acts of courage and service. Who can join the essay competition? United States high school students grades 9-12.

The theme for the essay is political courage. Choose an elected official who served when John F. Kennedy was born (1917) or after. What service did they do to merit the honour of being described as “courageous?”

Talk about the issue they faced, whether it be of local, state, or national significance, in a 700-1,000 word essay. The winners will receive cash prizes ranging from $100 to $10,000.

Website: https://www.jfklibrary.org/learn/education/profile-in-courage-essay-contest/eligibility-and-requirements  

Open For Entries: September 1, 2022

Essay Competition Deadline: January 13, 2023

Award Amount:   First-place: $10,000 , Second-place: $3,000 , 5 Finalists: $1,000 each, 8 Semi-finalists: $100 each

13. Lewis Center for the Arts Essay Competition

Princeton University offers several programs in the Arts, such as Creative Writing, Visual Arts, and Theater, through its Lewis Center for the Arts. It’s an initiative to expand creative opportunities at Princeton.

Why is it named “Lewis,” you asked? To honour Mr Lewis, who donated an extraordinary $101 million gift to herald in a new age of the arts. What better way to cultivate participation and enrichment for the arts than by sponsoring scholarships and contests?

One such contest is the writing competition. Princeton hosts two contests for 11th-grade high school students: Ten-Minute Play and Poetry. For the Ten-Minute play, participants can only submit one entry with a maximum of 10 pages. That is, one page is equal to 1 minute.

Website: https://arts.princeton.edu/about/opportunities/high-school-contests/  

Scope: US and International 

Award Amount:   $500 for First-place, $250 for Second-place, and $100 for Third-place

14. SPJ/JEA (Journalism Education Association) High School Essay Competition

The Journalism Education Association (JEA) is a nonprofit, scholastic journalism organisation. It serves to educate teachers and advisers on how best to educate students. To achieve this goal, they organise workshops and provide online resources.

One of the excellent ways to promote journalism is by conducting High School Essay competitions. It’s open to US 9th-12th graders.

Each year, JEA gives a writing prompt. The spring 2022 topic revolves around using social media for free speech within ethical bounds. The word limit for the essay is between 300 and 500 words.

What are the prizes for the winners? Scholarships ranging from $300 to $1,000 – funded by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation. 

Website: http://jea.org/wp/home/awards-honors/high-school-essay-contest/  

Entry Fee: $5

Award Amount: $1,000 scholarship for First-place, $500 scholarship for Second-place, and $300 for Third-place

15. Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) Essay Competition

What is the Jane Austen Society of North America? It’s a non-profit organisation dedicated to garnering as many readers as possible who will appreciate and study Jane Austen’s works and her life. Joan Austen-Leigh, Henry G. Burke, and J. David Grey founded JASNA in 1979. It has grown to become the largest society dedicated to Jane Austen, with over 5,000 members.

JASNA believes that literature is powerful in changing and enriching lives. Especially the writings of great authors, such as Jane Austen herself. To cultivate the new generations’ study and appreciation of Jane Austen’s works, JASNA arranges a Student Essay Contest every year.

Who are qualified to join? High school students from anywhere in the world! College and Graduate students are also invited.

What rewards will the winners enjoy? Scholarships ranging from $250-$1,000. The winners will also receive Norton Critical Editions of Jane Austen’s novels. Plus, one-year JASNA memberships.

Will the winning essays enjoy exposure on the JASNA website? Yes!

Website: https://jasna.org/programs/essay-contest/  

Open For Entries: February 2023

Essay Competition Deadline: date

Award Amount:   $1,000 scholarship for First-place, $500 scholarship for Second-place, and $250 scholarship for Third-place

16. World Historian Student Essay Competition

The primary mission of the World History Association (WHA) is to promote world history. How? By encouraging its publication, research, and teaching. And so, the association engages with teachers, students, and scholars of world history all over the globe. Keeping the conversation and enthusiasm for world history alive. 

To further encourage appreciation of world history, it carries out the World Historian Student Essay Competition. What is it? It’s an international writing competition open to grades K-12 students (take home the bacon high schoolers!) The issue you need to address in the essay is: “In what way has the study of world history affected my understanding of the world in which I live?”

What will the winner receive? $500! Plus a 1-year WHA membership. 

Website: https://www.thewha.org/awards/student-essay-competition/  

Scope: International 

Open For Entries: Before May 1

Essay Competition Deadline: May 1

Award Amount: $500

17. Nancy Thorp Essay Competition

For young sophomore and junior women in high school or preparatory school, the Nancy Thorp Essay Competition is created just for you by Hollins University. Nancy Thorp has been providing prizes, scholarships, and recognition to the best women poets for almost 60 years.

Who is Nancy Thorp? She was a young poet and a part of the 1960 Hollins class. Her family instituted the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest after her death in 1962. To motivate and recognise promising young poets.

What will the winners receive? The first-place winner will receive a $350 cash prize and a renewable $5,000 scholarship at Hollins University if they choose to enrol. For the second-place winner? A renewable $1,000 scholarship at Hollins University.

Website: https://www.hollins.edu/academics/majors-minors/english-creative-writing-major/nancy-thorp-poetry-contest/  

Award Amount:   First-place: $350 cash prize and renewable $5,000 scholarship at Hollins University; Second Place: renewable $1,000 scholarship at Hollins University

18. We The Students Essay Competition

We The Students Scholarship Essay Contest is run by the Bill of Rights Institute (BRI.) Do you know that the BRI is a massive network of over 50,000 civics and history educators? It’s a nonprofit organisation focused on educating civics, teachers, and students on how to live the ideals of a just and free society.

How does it achieve its mission? By developing teaching programmes and educational resources on American government and history. Also, by sponsoring the student essay contest.

Who are eligible to join the We The Students writing competition?14-19-year-old students enrolled in any US school, including any of its territories and districts.

What will the essay be about? Every time the competition opens for new entries, they’ll display an essay prompt on their website. The 2022 essay prompt, for instance, centred on the importance of understanding one’s natural rights to building a free society. Essays should have between 500-800 words.

What will the winners receive? Cash prizes ranging from $500 to $7,500. The First-place winner will receive an additional reward – a scholarship to the Constitutional Academy.

Website: https://billofrightsinstitute.org/we-the-students-essay-contest  

Open For Entries: December 15

Essay Competition Deadline: April 15

Award Amount:   One First-Place Winner – $7,500; 5 Runners Up – $1,500 each; 10 Honourable Mentions – $500 each

19. Voice of Democracy Essay Competition

The US Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFA) established the Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition in 1947. Over 25,000 high school students from all over the country participate in the competition. A total of $2 million worth of educational scholarships and prizes will be divided among the winners.

Who are the VFA? The VFA is a US nonprofit organisation committed to serving veterans. How? By ensuring that the veterans receive the respect and entitlement that they deserve. The members of the VFA are mostly military service members and veterans.

VFA’s Voice of Democracy essay competition furthers this end by helping raise patriotism and appreciation of veterans among the new generations. There’s a different theme for each year. What was the theme for the 2022-2023 entries? It’s about “Why is the Veteran Important?”

Who are eligible to join? American middle school and high school students from grades 9-12. What will the high school winner earn? A $30,000 college scholarship!

Since it’s an audio-essay competition, the participant must submit an audio recording of their essay. The delivery has the same points as the content (35 points.) So speaking in a clear and authoritative voice is paramount!

Website: https://www.vfw.org/PatriotsPen/  

Open For Entries: Before October 31

Essay Competition Deadline: October 31

Award Amount: $30,000 college scholarship

20. John Locke Essay Competition

Who is behind the John Locke essay competition? The John Locke Institute. What does it hope to achieve? To embolden the young to nurture within them the characteristics that transform good students into brilliant writers! These characteristics include critical analysis, independent thinking, a love of knowledge, and clear reasoning.

To fully appreciate this mission, you’ll need to know who John Locke is. John Locke was an Oxford Philosopher in the 17th century. His philosophy of education zeroed in on raising a student to love and esteem knowledge. Not so much with teaching all that is knowable.

And so, entering the John Locke Essay competition is one way of building upon one’s love of knowledge and refining one’s argumentation skills. There are seven categories open for essay writers: History, Economics, Theology, Psychology, Philosophy, Politics, and Law.  

Who are eligible to join? Global students younger than 18 years old (e.g. high school students). There are several questions listed under each category. However, the candidate must answer only one question from their chosen subject.

A category winner will gain a $2,000 scholarship for any John Locke programme. How about the overall best essay winner? They’ll receive a $10,000 scholarship for any of the John Locke gap year courses and/or summer schools.

Website: https://www.johnlockeinstitute.com/essay-competition  

Scope: Global

Award Amount:  $2,000-$10,000 scholarship for John Locke programmes

There you have it! Did you enjoy the round-up of the Top 20 Essay Competitions for high school students? We sure hope you did! 

If you’re unsure what competition to try, you may want to get your feet wet with our essay competition . Thousands of students apply every year to attend our life-changing summer course and Immerse’s essay contest is free to enter. You’ve got nothing to lose and a potential 100% scholarship to gain!

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Year 12 & 13 Lincoln Philosophy Essay Competition

The HPP is delighted to sponsor the 2022 University of Lincoln Philosophy Essay Competition.

Year 12 and 13 students are invited to submit entries of 800-1200 words answering one of the following questions:

essay competition year 13

Can science explain conscious experience?

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Are persons morally responsible for their actions?

Is it morally permissible to eat animals?

A first prize of a £100 Amazon voucher and four second prizes of £25 Amazon vouchers will be awarded. Other outstanding submissions will receive honourable mention.

For more information please visit the competition webpage .

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FT Schools competition: Young Economist of the Year

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Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.

This article is part of the Financial Times free schools access programme. Details/registration  here .

School students across the UK in years 12 and 13 are invited to enter the Young Economist of the Year competition run by the Royal Economic Society in association with the Financial Times. 

Applicants — who need not be studying economics — have until July 25 to write up to 1,000 words on one of the five questions picked for this year.

The winning article will be published in the Financial Times and on the RES website and the author will receive £1,000, with £200 for each of the runners up. 

Entries will be judged on originality, quality of writing, economic content and quality of the economic argument. 

The five questions are:

When, if ever, is it a good idea for central banks to set interest rates below zero? 

How is Brexit going to change the economic geography of the UK?

Will the legacy of Covid-19 be an economically more unequal world?

Technological change means that the wage gap between the skilled and unskilled will simply keep growing. Do you agree with this assessment? 

We will fail to address climate change because Covid-19 showed we are unable to muster a concerted global response to common crises. Do you agree?

The competition is part of the  FT’s schools programme , which provides free access to the FT for students aged 16-19, their teachers and schools around the world.

Supporting ideas and data for entrants can be found in the FT. Full details and information on submission are available on the  RES competition website .

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8 Writing Competitions For Teen Students Under 13 Years Old

  • Last modified 2024-01-15
  • Published on 2023-09-14

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1. River of Words Writing Competitions for Teen

River of Words® (ROW) is a program of The Center for Environmental Literacy, and a part of the Kalmanovitz School of Education at Saint Mary’s College of California. River of Words has established itself as a pioneer in local education, inspiring educators and students alike through the innovative integration of science and art.

River of Words aims to create a network that connects individuals from across the United States and the world, all of whom are committed to teaching young people about local arts and poetry. Since its inception in 1995, River of Words has motivated young individuals to explore and appreciate their surroundings, while also training educators to guide them with passion and inspiration. Through exhibitions, publications, and community projects, River of Words reaches thousands of educators and young people worldwide.

Submission Deadline: January 31, 2024

Suitable for students: The competition is open to students aged 5-19 from around the globe.

Competition Category:

  • Category 1: K-Grade 2 (Primary) or 5-7 years old
  • Category 2: Grades 3-5 (Elementary) or Ages 8-11
  • Category 3: Grades 6-8 (Intermediate) or Ages 11-14
  • Category 4: Grades 9-12 (Secondary) or Ages 14-19

Competition Website: https://www.stmarys-ca.edu/centers-institutes/center-environmental-literacy/river-of-words

2. John Locke Essay Competition

The John Locke Essay Competition is widely recognized as one of the most popular humanities and social science competitions for middle school students. It is organized by the John Locke Institute, an independent education organization based in Oxford, UK. The institute collaborates with esteemed institutions such as Oxford University, Princeton University, Brown University, and the University of Buckingham. Participants in this competition are middle school students from around the world who possess strong analytical and critical thinking skills.

The competition encompasses seven subject groups including Philosophy, Political Science, Economics, History, Psychology, Theology, Law, and the Junior Prize. The Junior Prize specifically caters to children under the age of 15.

Competition Timeline: The 2023 competition has already concluded, and information regarding the 2024 competition has yet to be announced.

Suitable for students: Students worldwide under the age of 15.

Competition Website: https://www.johnlockeinstitute.com/essay-competition

3. Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award

The Foyle’s Young Poets Competition is a prestigious global competition specifically designed for young writers between the ages of 11 and 17. Since its inception in 1998, the competition has grown to become one of the most significant literary events worldwide, drawing aspiring poets from all corners of the globe each year.

This competition provides young writers with a platform to showcase their literary creations, enabling them to gain recognition for their talents. Moreover, winners of the competition receive valuable support and mentorship from established poets, further nurturing their artistic development. Many previous winners have gone on to achieve remarkable success in the literary world, with their works being published and garnering numerous accolades.

Competition Timeline: July 31, 2024 (based on last year’s deadline) 

Suitable for students: Students aged 11-17 from all over the world.

Competition Website: https://poetrysociety.org.uk/competitions/foyle-young-poets-of-the-year-award/

4. Ocean Awareness Writing Competition

The Ocean Awareness Contest serves as a platform for young individuals to engage with environmental issues through artistic expression and creative communication. It encourages participants to deepen their understanding of the changing world and their role in it, fostering their ability to advocate for positive change.

This annual competition focuses on themes revolving around environmental protection, which resonates strongly with many students. It provides an excellent opportunity for them to explore and showcase their artistic talents while raising awareness about pressing environmental concerns. However, it’s worth noting that the actual writing in the contest can be challenging, as it tests students’ writing skills and proficiency in English.

Submission Deadline: June 10, 2024.

Suitable for students: Students worldwide aged 11-18

Competition Group: Junior group 11-14 years old / Senior group 15-18 years old

Competition Website: https://bowseat.org/programs/ocean-awareness-contest/contest-overview/

5. Betty Award Writing Competition

The Betty Award Writing Competition is specifically designed for children between the ages of 8 and 12, with the aim of fostering their passion for writing and nurturing their imagination and creativity.

There are two competitions each year; one in the spring, and another in the autumn; children from all around the world are encouraged to participate. Entries should not exceed a length of 1,000 words. Students can freely choose the appropriate theme for their writing, as long as it is suitable for the specified age group. It can be in the form of fiction, non-fiction, or poetry. It is important to note that all entries must be original and unpublished works.

Submission Deadline: May 4, 2024.

Suitable for students: Students worldwide aged 8-12

Competition Awards: 1ST – $300 USD / 2ND – $200 USD / 3RD – $100 USD

Competition Website: http://www.thebettyaward.com/

6. Tadpole Press 100-Word Writing Contest

Amber Byers, founder of Tadpole Press or the organizer of the competition, is an accomplished author, editor, and writing coach. Amber Byers has received recognition for her work, including winning the 2019 American Moonlight Children’s Book Gold Award for her book “Sophie and Spot.” Tadpole Press is dedicated to supporting writers in rediscovering their passion for writing, and helping them produce outstanding literary works.

In this competition, each entry must be limited to 100 words. There are no restrictions on the subject matter or the number of submissions. Additionally, the competition is open to contestants of any age, gender, or region.

Competition Timeline: The competition is currently open for submission until November 30

Competition Awards: 1st place: $2,000 USD. / 2nd place: Writing coaching package valued at $450 USD. / 3rd place: Developmental and diversity editing package valued at $250 USD.

Competition Website: https://www.tadpolepress.com/100-word-writing-contest

7. "It's All Write!" Teen Writing Contest

The Ann Arbor District Library is proud to announce the upcoming 31st annual “It’s All Write!” Teen Writing Contest, scheduled for Winter 2023. This contest is a highly anticipated event, and each year it attracts renowned Young Adult authors who serve as judges. These esteemed authors carefully read and select the winning stories from the submissions.

To ensure fair competition and appropriate recognition, the contest is divided into the following three groups based on age and grade level:

  • Grades 9-10
  • Grades 11-12

In each group, the top three winners will be awarded generous prizes in recognition of their outstanding writing achievements.

Competition Timeline: January 9-March 5, 2023

Suitable for students: For 2023, the competition is open to Michigan residents only.

Competition Website: https://aadl.org/events/itsallwrite

8. EngineerGirl Engineer Girl Writing Contest

The Engineer Girls website organizes an annual competition that focuses on engineering and its impact on the world. The specific theme and detailed description of the competition are typically announced in September. Participants are then given several months to work on their submissions, as the deadline for entry is February 1 of the following year.

The awards and recognition for the competition are typically announced in the spring of the same year. This allows ample time for the judges to review the submissions and select the winners in each category.

The competition is divided into different groups based on the age and academic level of the participants. These groups are as follows:

  • Elementary School (Grade 3-5)
  • Middle School (Grade 6-8)
  • High School (Grade 9-12)

For each grade level, students will receive different prompts for their writing submissions.

Competition Timeline: The 2023 competition closed in February, and the 2024 competition information has not yet been released.

Suitable for students: Students from all over the world in grades 3-12

Competition Website: https://www.engineergirl.org/148000/2023-Contest

Further Your Writing Skills with Aralia

Aralia is also offering various year-round preparation programs for writing competitions for teen and high school students, along with academic writing courses for students worldwide. Our teachers are more than regular tutors because we are committed to bringing the best personalized support for students’ growth.

Writing Competition Aralia Education

This class is offered in the summer every year. Students from 13 to 18 years old wanting to learn how to shape their written English into effective and publishable creative pieces will find this particular Writing Competition course very exciting. The class will be shown a range of tools to learn the nuances of controlled, purposeful writing, including: figurative language, effective structuring and specific forms that they will apply to their own pieces.

  • Extracurricular Activities

Expert Guide to the John Locke Essay Competition Theology Questions

Interested in learning more?

Aralia Education is an innovative online education platform for ambitious middle and high school students worldwide. Aralia’s instructors propel students forward by helping them build a strong foundation in traditional academic courses. They also actively engage and guide students in exploring personal interests beyond their school curriculum. With this holistic approach, Aralia ensures its students are well-prepared for college and equipped for success in their future careers.

  • College Accelerator Program
  • Comprehensive Introduction to High School
  • Academic Empowerment Program
  • Test Preparation Bootcamp
  • Private Lessons
  • Student Awards
  • Competitions

Give us a call: +1 (603) 932 7897

Email us: [email protected]

Add us on WhatsApp:

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Best Essay Writing Contests in 2024

Showing 48 contests that match your search.

Share Your Story

FanStory.com Inc.

Genres: Essay and Memoir

Write about an event in your life. Everyone has a memoir. Not an autobiography. Too much concern about fact and convention. A memoir gives us the ability to write about our life with the option to create and fabricate and to make sense of a life, or part of that life.

💰 Entry fee: $10

📅 Deadline: September 15, 2022 (Expired)

Work-In-Progress (WIP) Contest

Unleash Press

Genres: Crime, Essay, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Novel, Novella, Poetry, Science Fiction, Science Writing, and Young Adult

We aim to assist writers in the completion of an important literary project and vision. The Unleash WIP Award offers writers support in the amount of $500 to supplement costs to aid in the completion of a book-length work of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. Writers will also receive editorial feedback, coaching meetings, and an excerpt/interview feature in Unleash Lit.

Additional prizes:

Coaching, interview, and editorial support

💰 Entry fee: $35

📅 Deadline: July 15, 2024

Environmental Writing 2024

Write the World

Genres: Essay and Non-fiction

The writer and activist Bill McKibben describes Environmental Writing as "the collision between people and the rest of the world." This month, peer closely at that intersection: How do humans interact with their environment? Given your inheritance of this earth, the world needs your voices now more than ever.

Runner up: $50 | Best peer review: $50

📅 Deadline: April 22, 2024

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Creative Nonfiction Prize

Indiana Review

Genres: Essay, Fiction, and Non-fiction

Send us one creative nonfiction piece, up to 5000 words, for a chance at $1000 + publication. This year's contest will be judged by Lars Horn.

💰 Entry fee: $20

📅 Deadline: March 31, 2024 (Expired)

The Letter Review Prize for Unpublished Books

The Letter Review

Genres: Crime, Essay, Fantasy, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Horror, Humor, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Novel, Novella, Poetry, Romance, Science Fiction, Science Writing, Short Story, Thriller, and Young Adult

Free to enter. Seeking 0-5000 word (poetry: 15 pgs) excerpts of unpublished books (Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction), including most self-published and indie-published works. 2-4 Winners (publication of extract is optional). We Shortlist 10-20 writers. Open to writers from anywhere in the world, with no theme or genre restrictions. Judged blind.

Optional Publication of Excerpt, Letter of Recommendation

📅 Deadline: April 30, 2024

100 Word Writing Contest

Tadpole Press

Genres: Essay, Fantasy, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Humor, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Science Fiction, Science Writing, Thriller, Young Adult, Children's, Poetry, Romance, Short Story, Suspense, and Travel

Can you write a story using 100 words or less? Pieces will be judged on creativity, uniqueness, and how the story captures a new angle, breaks through stereotypes, and expands our beliefs about what's possible or unexpectedly delights us. In addition, we are looking for writing that is clever or unique, inspires us, and crafts a compelling and complete story. The first-place prize has doubled to $2,000 USD.

2nd: writing coach package

💰 Entry fee: $15

Lazuli Literary Group Writing Contest

Lazuli Literary Group

Genres: Essay, Fiction, Poetry, Short Story, Flash Fiction, Non-fiction, Novella, and Script Writing

We are not concerned with genre distinctions. Send us the best you have; we want only for it to be thoughtful, intelligent, and beautiful. We want art that grows in complexity upon each visitation; we enjoy ornate, cerebral, and voluptuous phrases executed with thematic intent.

Publication in "AZURE: A Journal of Literary Thought"

📅 Deadline: March 24, 2024 (Expired)

A Very Short Story Contest

Gotham Writers Workshop

Genres: Essay, Fantasy, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Humor, Memoir, and Non-fiction

Write a great short story in ten words or fewer. Submit it to our contest. Entry is free. Winner of the bet gets a free Gotham class.

📅 Deadline: May 31, 2024

NOWW 26th International Writing Contest

Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop (NOWW)

Genres: Essay, Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, and Short Story

Open to all writers in four categories: poetry, short fiction, creative nonfiction, and critical writing.

2nd: $100 | 3rd: $50

💰 Entry fee: $7

📅 Deadline: February 29, 2024 (Expired)

Hispanic Culture Review Contest 2022-2023

Hispanic Culture Review

Genres: Essay, Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, Short Story, and Flash Fiction

As the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano once said, "the best that the world has is in the many worlds that the world contains." Therefore, this year we invite you to reflect on the following questions: How do you or your community celebrate these connections? How do you value those experiences with those people who leave a mark on your life? 1 work will be awarded in each category: 1) photography & visual arts, 2) poetry, and 3) narrative/essay/academic investigation.

Publication

💰 Entry fee: $0

📅 Deadline: February 01, 2023 (Expired)

Literary and Photographic Contest 2023-2024

Genres: Essay, Fiction, Memoir, Non-fiction, and Poetry

As we move forward we carry our culture wherever we go. It keeps us alive. This is why we propose the theme to be “¡Hacia delante!”. A phrase that means to move forward. This year we ask that you think about the following questions: What keeps you moving forward? What do you carry with you going into the future? How do you celebrate your successes, your dreams, and your culture?

Publication in magazine

📅 Deadline: February 07, 2024 (Expired)

swamp pink Prizes

From January 1st to January 31st, submit short stories and essays of up to 25 pages or a set of 1-3 poems. Winners in each genre will receive $2,000 and publication.

📅 Deadline: January 31, 2024 (Expired)

Narratively 2023 Memoir Prize

Narratively

Genres: Essay, Humor, Memoir, and Non-fiction

Narratively is currently accepting submissions for their 2023 Memoir Prize. They are looking for revealing and emotional first-person nonfiction narratives from unique and overlooked points of view. The guest judge is New York Times bestselling memoirist Stephanie Land.

$1,000 and publication

📅 Deadline: November 30, 2023 (Expired)

Jane Austen Society of North America Essay Contest

Jane Austen Society of North America

Genres: Children's and Essay

JASNA conducts an annual student Essay Contest to foster the study and appreciation of Jane Austen's works in new generations of readers. Students world-wide are invited to compete for scholarship awards in three divisions: high school, college, and graduate school.

Two nights’ lodging for JASNA’s Annual General Meeting

📅 Deadline: June 02, 2022 (Expired)

Young Sports Journalist 2024

The Young Sports Journalist Competition, 2024, seeks well-argued articles from aspiring journalists aged 14-21. Winning entries will be published online and printed in the Summer Issue of Pitch. Critiqued by our panel of accomplished judges, winners will also receive a £50 cash prize and offered work experience here at PITCH HQ. The competition runs from 7 February 2024 to 5 April 2024. And winners will be announced in May.

Publication in magazine and online

📅 Deadline: April 05, 2024

International Voices in Creative Nonfiction Competition

Vine Leaves Press

Genres: Essay, Memoir, Non-fiction, and Novel

Small presses have potential for significant impact, and at Vine Leaves Press, we take this responsibility quite seriously. It is our responsibility to give marginalized groups the opportunity to establish literary legacies that feel rich and vast. Why? To sustain hope for the world to become a more loving, tolerable, and open space. It always begins with art. That is why we have launched this writing competition.

Book publication

💰 Entry fee: $25

📅 Deadline: July 01, 2024

Personal Essay Competition 2024

We want to hear about an experience in your life, rife with characters and description and conflict and scene… but we also want to hear how you make sense of this experience, how it sits with you, and why it has surfaced as writing. Open a window into your life and invite your readers to enter.

📅 Deadline: June 24, 2024

Military Anthology: Partnerships, the Untold Story

Armed Services Arts Partnership

Genres: Essay, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Humor, Memoir, Non-fiction, Poetry, and Short Story

Partners are an integral aspect of military life, at home and afar, during deployment and after homecoming. Partnerships drive military action and extend beyond being a battle buddy, wingman, or crew member. Some are planned while others arise entirely unexpectedly. Spouses, family, old or new friends, community, faith leaders, and medical specialists all support the military community. Despite their importance, the stories of these partnerships often go untold. This anthology aims to correct that: We will highlight the nuances, surprises, joy, sorrow, heroism, tears, healing power, and ache of partnerships. We invite you to submit the story about partnerships from your journey, so we can help tell it.

$250 for each genre category (prose, poetry, visual art)

📅 Deadline: March 01, 2024 (Expired)

International Essay Competition 2023/24

Avernus Education

Genres: Essay

Welcome to our prestigious International Essay Competition. At Avernus Education, we are thrilled to provide a platform for young minds to showcase their prowess in Medicine, Engineering, Law, Economics, Psychology, History and Politics. These varied subject categories underscore the importance of interdisciplinary study, a crucial foundation for future leaders in our increasingly interconnected world. Winners receive an exclusive Avernus Education Scholarship worth over £5000 - granting them free entrance to our exclusive summer camp at Oxford University! Outstanding Runners Up receive 5 hours worth of Credits for Avernus Education courses, conferences and tutoring services.

Partial scholarship

📅 Deadline: February 19, 2024 (Expired)

Journalism Competition 2024

What are the most important issues taking place close to home? Perhaps a rare bird sighting near your town? Or a band of young people in your province fighting for access to higher education? This month, immerse yourself in a newsworthy event inside the borders of your own country, and invite us there through your written reporting.

📅 Deadline: July 22, 2024

The Letter Review Prize for Books

Genres: Crime, Essay, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Novella, Poetry, Romance, Science Fiction, Science Writing, Short Story, Thriller, and Young Adult

The Letter Review Prize for Books is open to writers from anywhere in the world. Seeking most unpublished (we accept some self/indie published) novels, novellas, story collections, nonfiction, poetry etc. 20 entries are longlisted.

📅 Deadline: October 31, 2023 (Expired)

Brink Literary Journal Award for Hybrid Writing

Genres: Essay, Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Memoir, Non-fiction, Poetry, Science Writing, and Short Story

The Brink Literary Journal Award for Hybrid Writing will be administered to the winner of a literary contest designed to champion innovative hybrid and cross-genre work.

💰 Entry fee: $22

📅 Deadline: February 16, 2024 (Expired)

Solas Awards

Best Travel Writing

Genres: Essay, Non-fiction, and Travel

Extraordinary stories about travel and the human spirit have been the cornerstones of our books since 1993. With the Solas Awards we honor writers whose work inspires others to explore. We’re looking for the best stories about travel and the world. Funny, illuminating, adventurous, uplifting, scary, inspiring, poignant stories that reflect the unique alchemy that occurs when you enter unfamiliar territory and begin to see the world differently as a result. We hope these awards will be a catalyst for those who love to leave home and tell others about it.

📅 Deadline: September 21, 2024

WOW! Women On Writing Quarterly Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest

WOW! Women On Writing

Genres: Non-fiction and Essay

Seeking creative nonfiction essays on any topic (1000 words or less) and in any style--from personal essay and memoir to lyric essay and hybrid, and more! The mission of this contest is to reward bravery in real-life storytelling and create an understanding of our world through thoughtful, engaging narratives. Electronic submissions via e-mail only; reprints/previously published okay; simultaneous submissions okay; multiple submissions are okay as long as they are submitted in their own individual e-mail. Open internationally.

2nd: $300 | 3rd: $200 | 7 runner-ups: $25 Amazon Gift Cards

💰 Entry fee: $12

Anthology Travel Writing Competition 2024

Anthology Magazine

The Anthology Travel Writing Competition is open to original and previously unpublished travel articles in the English language by writers of any nationality, living anywhere in the world. We are looking for an engaging article that will capture the reader’s attention, conveying a strong sense of the destination and the local culture. Max 1000 words.

💰 Entry fee: $16

📅 Deadline: November 30, 2024

Askew's Word on the Lake Writing Contest

Shuswap Association of Writers

Genres: Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, Essay, Memoir, and Short Story

Whether you’re an established or emerging writer, the Askew’s Word on the Lake Writing Contest has a place for you. Part of the Word on the Lake Writers’ Festival in Salmon Arm, BC, the contest is open to submissions in short fiction (up to 2,000 words), nonfiction (up to 2,000 words), and poetry (up to three one-page poems).

💰 Entry fee: $11

Bacopa Literary Review Annual Writing Contest

Writers Alliance of Gainesville

Genres: Essay, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, and Short Story

Bacopa Literary Review’s 2024 contest is open from March 4 through April 4, with $200 Prize and $100 Honorable Mention in each of six categories: Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Flash Fiction, Free Verse Poetry, Formal Poetry, and Visual Poetry.

📅 Deadline: April 04, 2024

High School Academic Research Competition

Columbia Undergraduate Science Journal

The High School Academic Research Competition is where talented students from around the world compete to publish high-quality research on any topic. SARC challenges students to sharpen their critical thinking skills, immerse themselves in the research process, and hone their writing skills for success.

Indigo Research Intensive Summer Program

📅 Deadline: March 20, 2024 (Expired)

African Diaspora Awards 2024

Kinsman Avenue Publishing, Inc

Up to $1000 in cash prizes for the African Diaspora Award 2024. African-themed prose and poetry wanted. Top finalists are published in Kinsman Quarterly’s magazine and the anthology, “Black Butterfly: Voices of the African Diaspora.”

Publication in anthology, "Black Butterfly: Voices of the African Diaspora" and print and digital magazine

📅 Deadline: June 30, 2024

Great American Think-Off

New York Mills Regional Cultural Center

The Great American Think-Off is an exhibition of civil disagreement between powerful ideas that connect to your life at the gut level. The Cultural Center, located in the rural farm and manufacturing town of New York Mills, sponsors this annual philosophy contest.

📅 Deadline: April 01, 2024

The Letter Review Prize for Nonfiction

Genres: Essay, Memoir, Non-fiction, Crime, Humor, and Science Writing

2-4 Winners are published. We Shortlist 10-20 writers. Seeking Nonfiction 0-5000 words. Judges’ feedback available. Open to writers from anywhere in the world, with no theme or genre restrictions. Judged blind. All entries considered for publication + submission to Pushcart.

Publication by The Letter Review

💰 Entry fee: $2

Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award

Killer Nashville

Genres: Crime, Essay, Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Novel, Poetry, Science Fiction, Script Writing, Short Story, and Thriller

The Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award is committed to discovering new writers, as well as superlative books by established authors and, upon discovery, sharing those writers and their works with new readers. There are a large number of both fiction and non-fiction categories you can enter.

💰 Entry fee: $79

📅 Deadline: June 15, 2024

Climate Change Writing Competition

Genres: Essay, Memoir, and Non-fiction

This month, dear writers, ahead of COP27, help us raise the voices of young people in this urgent fight. In a piece of personal narrative, tell the world’s leaders gathering in how climate change impacts you. How has this crisis changed your environment, your community, your sense of the future? Storytelling, after all, plays a critical role in helping us grasp the emergency through which we are all living, igniting empathy in readers and listeners—itself a precursor to action.

Runner-up: $50

📅 Deadline: October 18, 2022 (Expired)

Tusculum Review Nonfiction Chapbook Prize

The Tusculum Review

A prize of $1,000, publication of the essay in The Tusculum Review’s 20th Anniversary Issue (2024), and creation of a limited edition stand-alone chapbook with original art is awarded. Editors of The Tusculum Review and contest judge Mary Cappello will determine the winner of the 2024 prize.

World Historian Student Essay Competition

World History Association

The World Historian Student Essay Competition is an international competition open to students enrolled in grades K–12 in public, private, and parochial schools, and those in home-study programs. Membership in the World History Association is not a requirement for submission. Past winners may not compete in the same category again.

📅 Deadline: May 01, 2024

Discover the finest writing contests of 2024 for fiction and non-fiction authors — including short story competitions, essay writing competitions, poetry contests, and many more. Updated weekly, these contests are vetted by Reedsy to weed out the scammers and time-wasters. If you’re looking to stick to free writing contests, simply use our filters as you browse.

Why you should submit to writing contests

Submitting to poetry competitions and free writing contests in 2024 is absolutely worth your while as an aspiring author: just as your qualifications matter when you apply for a new job, a writing portfolio that boasts published works and award-winning pieces is a great way to give your writing career a boost. And not to mention the bonus of cash prizes!

That being said, we understand that taking part in writing contests can be tough for emerging writers. First, there’s the same affliction all writers face: lack of time or inspiration. Entering writing contests is a time commitment, and many people decide to forego this endeavor in order to work on their larger projects instead — like a full-length book. Second, for many writers, the chance of rejection is enough to steer them clear of writing contests. 

But we’re here to tell you that two of the great benefits of entering writing contests happen to be the same as those two reasons to avoid them.

When it comes to the time commitment: yes, you will need to expend time and effort in order to submit a quality piece of writing to competitions. That being said, having a hard deadline to meet is a great motivator for developing a solid writing routine.

Think of entering contests as a training session to become a writer who will need to meet deadlines in order to have a successful career. If there’s a contest you have your eye on, and the deadline is in one month, sit down and realistically plan how many words you’ll need to write per day in order to meet that due date — and don’t forget to also factor in the time you’ll need to edit your story!

For tips on setting up a realistic writing plan, check out this free, ten-day course: How to Build a Rock-Solid Writing Routine.

In regards to the fear of rejection, the truth is that any writer aspiring to become a published author needs to develop relatively thick skin. If one of your goals is to have a book traditionally published, you will absolutely need to learn how to deal with rejection, as traditional book deals are notoriously hard to score. If you’re an indie author, you will need to adopt the hardy determination required to slowly build up a readership.

The good news is that there’s a fairly simple trick for learning to deal with rejection: use it as a chance to explore how you might be able to improve your writing.

In an ideal world, each rejection from a publisher or contest would come with a detailed letter, offering construction feedback and pointing out specific tips for improvement. And while this is sometimes the case, it’s the exception and not the rule.

Still, you can use the writing contests you don’t win as a chance to provide yourself with this feedback. Take a look at the winning and shortlisted stories and highlight their strong suits: do they have fully realized characters, a knack for showing instead of telling, a well-developed but subtly conveyed theme, a particularly satisfying denouement?

The idea isn’t to replicate what makes those stories tick in your own writing. But most examples of excellent writing share a number of basic craft principles. Try and see if there are ways for you to translate those stories’ strong points into your own unique writing.

Finally, there are the more obvious benefits of entering writing contests: prize and publication. Not to mention the potential to build up your readership, connect with editors, and gain exposure.

Resources to help you win writing competitions in 2024

Every writing contest has its own set of submission rules. Whether those rules are dense or sparing, ensure that you follow them to a T. Disregarding the guidelines will not sway the judges’ opinion in your favor — and might disqualify you from the contest altogether. 

Aside from ensuring you follow the rules, here are a few resources that will help you perfect your submissions.

Free online courses

On Writing:

How to Craft a Killer Short Story

The Non-Sexy Business of Writing Non-Fiction

How to Write a Novel

Understanding Point of View

Developing Characters That Your Readers Will Love

Writing Dialogue That Develops Plot and Character

Stop Procrastinating! Build a Solid Writing Routine

On Editing:

Story Editing for Authors

How to Self-Edit Like a Pro

Novel Revision: Practical Tips for Rewrites

How to Write a Short Story in 7 Steps

How to Write a Novel in 15 Steps

Literary Devices and Terms — 35+ Definitions With Examples

10 Essential Fiction Writing Tips to Improve Your Craft

How to Write Dialogue: 8 Simple Rules and Exercises

8 Character Development Exercises to Help You Nail Your Character

Bonus resources

200+ Short Story Ideas

600+ Writing Prompts to Inspire You

100+ Creative Writing Exercises for Fiction Authors

Story Title Generator

Pen Name Generator

Character Name Generator

After you submit to a writing competition in 2024

It’s exciting to send a piece of writing off to a contest. However, once the initial excitement wears off, you may be left waiting for a while. Some writing contests will contact all entrants after the judging period — whether or not they’ve won. Other writing competitions will only contact the winners. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind after you submit:

Many writing competitions don’t have time to respond to each entrant with feedback on their story. However, it never hurts to ask! Feel free to politely reach out requesting feedback — but wait until after the selection period is over.

If you’ve submitted the same work to more than one writing competition or literary magazine, remember to withdraw your submission if it ends up winning elsewhere.

After you send a submission, don’t follow it up with a rewritten or revised version. Instead, ensure that your first version is thoroughly proofread and edited. If not, wait until the next edition of the contest or submit the revised version to other writing contests.

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Medical School Expert

Medicine Essay Prizes (7 Competitions For Year 12 and 13’s)

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Every article is fact-checked by a medical professional. However, inaccuracies may still persist.

Having a medical essay prize on your CV looks absolutely fantastic when it comes time for you to apply to medical school.

In such an overcrowded marketplace, anything that sets you apart from the crowd in a positive manner is sure to drastically increase your chances of getting an offer.

Although when I was applying to medical school I hadn’t managed to win an essay competition (despite my best efforts!) hopefully you’ll have more luck than me!

To save you some research time, I’ve compiled a list of 7 medicine essay competitions that you can enter this year.

Competitions that if you win will skyrocket your chances of application success.

INCLUDED IN THIS GUIDE:

The Libra Essay Prize

The Libra essay prize is an annual essay prize for all students in years 12 and 13 looking to prepare for university.

Libra Education themselves describe it as:

“An excellent way for 6th-form students to demonstrate that they have the makings of a scholar, the Libra Essay Prize offers a chance to prepare for the academic rigour required by university assignments and provides a great accomplishment to discuss on a personal statement or at an interview.”

Students are free to choose any subject from a list of categories (one of which being science) and then have to write an essay with a title containing a chosen word.

The small pool of words you can choose from change each year but are all generally quite abstract so you can connect and use them in creative ways.

The essay has to be between 1,500 – 2,000 words, with Harvard style referencing which isn’t included in the word count.

Libra accept entries from all over the world, but the essays must be written in English.

First prize wins £50, second prize £30, and third £20, all paid out in book vouchers. There’s also Commended and Highly Commended entries for each category.

Minds Underground Essay Competition

Minds Underground is an online learning platform, designed to support and enhance the learning and problem-solving of determined young students.

Every year they run a medicine essay competition, primarily aimed at year 12’s (although they do say younger or older students are also welcome to apply).

To enter, you have a choice of three questions, to which you need to write a 1,000 – 1,500 word answer.

“Should all healthcare be free? Discuss.” “What goes wrong for cancers to develop?” “Tell us about a key development/invention that you think has been most influential to medicine.” – Past Minds Underground medicine essay questions

If you’re feeling ambitious, students are permitted to enter an essay for more than one subject- so you could have a crack at the psychology or science one too!

Helpfully, under each question Minds also give you a few pointers to get your creative juices flowing.

Newnham Essay Prizes

Newnham College of the University of Cambridge runs a medicine essay competition with a twist:

Only female students are allowed to enter.

Again, students have a choice of three differing questions.

For example, the questions in the 2021-22 competition were:

  • How realistic is it to develop a small molecule therapy for Covid-19? Could such a therapy be rolled out in a timeframe that it could have an impact on the current pandemic?
  • Sleep deprivation in clinical health settings. Does it matter?
  • Looking to the future. Will stem cell therapies be outpaced by machine-brain interfaces for the treatment of retinal disease?

Newnham do give you a bit more of a range when it comes to the word count, accepting anything from 1,500 to 2,500 words.

There’s a generous £400 prize for first place, £200 for second and £100 for third.

Unfortunately for you as an individual though, prize money is split 50:50 between the essay prize winner and the funding of resources for their school…

John Locke Institute Essay Competition

“The John Locke Institute encourages young people to cultivate the characteristics that turn good students into great writers: independent thought, depth of knowledge, clear reasoning, critical analysis and persuasive style. “

The John Locke Institute arguably gives away the most generous prize out of any competition on this list.

You get a scholarship worth $2,000 towards the cost of attending any John Locke Institute program, as well as an invitation to their prize-giving ceremony in Oxford.

The essay questions for each subject are published in January, with the deadline for submission generally being in late June.

As well as the opportunity to secure the prize for medicine, the candidate who submits the best essay overall will be awarded an honorary John Locke Institute Junior Fellowship- which comes with a $10,000 scholarship to attend one or more of their courses!

American Society Of Human Genetics Essay Contest

Although this next essay competition comes from America, it’s open to students worldwide.

The American Society Of Human Genetics supports national DNA day through its annual DNA day essay contest: commemorating the completion of the Human Genome Project in April 2003 and the discovery of the double helix of DNA in 1953.

The contest is open to students in grades 9-12 worldwide and asks students to “examine, question, and reflect on important concepts in genetics.”

With a limit of only 750 words, not including reference lists, this is a short but sweet chance to bag yourself a considerable cash prize for your efforts.

In addition to the personal prize money, the ASHG will also provide you with a $1,000 grant towards genetics research or teaching materials.

Although it is a worldwide contest, so undoubtedly will have plenty of entries, there are also 10 honorable mentions up for grabs (in addition to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place) that all come with a $100 prize too.

Immerse Education Essay Competition

Immerse Education run summer programs for over 20 different subjects in Oxford, Cambridge, London and Sydney.

The reason why students get so much value from these courses is because they’re immersed in centers of academic excellence whilst learning from experts in their chosen field.

The good news for you is that their essay competition gives you the chance to attend one of their summer school programs for free.

10 winners receive a 100% scholarship and runners up are awarded partial scholarships of up to 50% to study their chosen subject.

According to Immerse, around 7% of entrants receive scholarship funding to attend a program- which is pretty good odds if you ask me!

“There is no downside to entering the competition. If you win, it is awesome. If you don’t win, you gained an experience. Entering the competition and working as hard as I did for it was one of the most gratifying experiences.” – Pedro L (100% scholarship winner)

You can find the full list of essay questions, in addition to top tips for writing academic essays (as well as the terms and conditions for the competition), simply by signing up via Immerse’s website.

The RCSU Science Challenge

The Royal College of Science Union (RCSU) is a student union at Imperial College London and run an annual science challenge open to both home and international school students.

The focus of the challenge is communicating scientific concepts in a non-technical manner, so that people without a science background could still understand and enjoy the content.

The big twist with this essay competition is that you don’t actually have to enter an essay!

The idea is to produce a ‘short piece of science communication’ which can be an essay or can be a short video in answer to one of the four questions set by the judges.

Written entries must be less than 1,000 words, whilst video entries must be less than 3 minutes and 30 seconds long.

For this competition, it’s really all about short and snappy responses that will captivate the reader whilst answering the question in a precise but easy to understand manner.

We hope to inspire those who take part in the Science Challenge to explore, develop and use their scientific skills along with their passion for their corner of science to help others see what all the excitement is about.

Why You Should Enter Medicine Essay Competitions

I think it’s fair to say that competition to get into medical school in the UK is insanely high- and it’s only getting worse.

With such large numbers of incredibly qualified candidates, medical schools have to find some way of differentiating them.

One way to make it easy for a university to pick you is to stand out from the crowd by having a medical essay prize on your application.

An essay prize demonstrates your dedication to the subject, scientific knowledge and an ability to write expressively and persuasively- all ideal qualities when it comes to being a doctor.

You may surprise yourself.

Often, not as many people as you might think enter these competitions.

essay competition year 13

Simply by writing the essay, you’re also going to greatly increase your knowledge about that particular topic, which can still come in really handy at interview.

Even if you don’t win, just discussing the fact you entered still looks good in the eyes of an interviewer.

It shows that you’re willing to go above and beyond your school curriculum, to explore subjects you’re interested in and that you’re a highly motivated candidate.

How To Increase Your Chances Of Winning An Essay Prize

Although when I was applying to medical school I didn’t manage to win an essay prize, there are a couple of things I did that would have greatly increased my chances of doing so.

First and foremost, I think you’ve got to cast your net wide.

Don’t limit yourself to just one shot at the target: if you’ve got the time then I’d recommend trying to enter at least a couple of different competitions.

More entries will mean more chances for you to have your essay officially recognised.

Secondly, if you have the choice between entering a local or national competition, I’d always go with the local one.

Although a national prize would look slightly better on your CV, simply due to the number of entries, you’ll have a much higher chance of winning the more local competition.

By local I mean this could be a more regional charity, nearby hospital or university, or even your school.

Even better yet, you could always enter both!

Lastly, I think one of the best ways you can increase your odds of winning a prize is by entering a competition around a topic that you’re genuinely passionate about.

If you’ve no interest in genetics, then I wouldn’t enter the American Society Of Human Genetics’ contest!

Your interest in the subject will come through in your language, depth of knowledge and motivation to go above and beyond for your essay- all of which will put you in a much better position for winning.

Where You Can Find Further Essay Competitions

In addition to the essay prizes described above, there are tonnes of other opportunities available for you to distinguish yourself as a medicine applicant.

Loads of the Royal Colleges run an ever changing variety of prizes and competitions, usually to encourage interest in their specialty.

The opening dates and deadlines for these prizes are always changing so it’s worth keeping an eye out for the perfect essay question or new prize that’s just been announced.

Some of these organisations that run their own competitions include:

  • The Royal Society of Medicine
  • Royal College of Emergency Medicine
  • British Orthopaedic Association
  • British Society for Haematology
  • Royal College of Pathologists
  • Royal College of Psychiatrists
  • British Association of Dermatologists

But there are many more out there. If you have a particular interest in one specialty or area of science then I’d definitely recommend doing a bit of digging to see if there’s a society or organisation related to that field that runs their own competitions!

Final Thoughts

There really aren’t many downsides to entering one of these competitions.

You get a shot at winning, gain a talking point at interview and develop your scientific knowledge (not to mention technical writing skills).

Although you might feel that some of the smaller prizes aren’t worth your time and effort to write the essay, the real value comes from the boost one of these prizes would give your medicine application.

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Five Takeaways From Nikole Hannah-Jones’s Essay on the ‘Colorblindness’ Trap

How a 50-year campaign has undermined the progress of the civil rights movement.

essay competition year 13

By Nikole Hannah-Jones

Nikole Hannah-Jones is a staff writer at the magazine and the creator of The 1619 Project. She also teaches race and journalism at Howard University.

Last June, the Supreme Court ruled that affirmative action in college admissions was not constitutional. After the decision, much of the discussion was about its impact on the complexions of college campuses. But in an essay in The Times Magazine, I argue that we were missing the much bigger and more frightening story: that the death of affirmative action marks the culmination of a radical 50-year strategy to subvert the goal of colorblindness put forth by civil rights activists, by transforming it into a means of undermining racial justice efforts in a way that will threaten our multiracial democracy.

What do I mean by this? Here are the basic points of my essay:

The affirmative-action ruling could bring about sweeping changes across American society.

Conservatives are interpreting the court’s ruling broadly, and since last summer, they have used it to attack racial-justice programs outside the field of higher education. Since the decision, conservative groups have filed and threatened lawsuits against a range of programs that consider race, from diversity fellowships at law firms to maternal-health programs. One such group has even challenged the medical school of Howard University, one of the nation’s pre-eminent historically Black universities. Founded to educate people who had been enslaved, Howard’s mission has been to serve Black Americans who had for generations been systematically excluded from American higher education. These challenges to racial-justice programs will have a lasting impact on the nation’s ability to address the vast disparities that Black people experience.

Conservatives have co-opted the civil rights language of ‘colorblindness.’

In my essay, I demonstrate that these challenges to racial-justice programs often deploy the logic of “colorblindness,” the idea that the Constitution prohibits the use of race to distinguish citizens and that the goal of a diverse, democratic nation should be a society in which race does not determine outcomes for anyone. Civil rights leaders used the idea of colorblindness to challenge racial apartheid laws and policies, but over the last 50 years, conservatives have successfully co-opted both the rhetoric and the legal legacy of the civil rights era not to advance racial progress, but to stall it. And, I’d argue, reverse it.

Though the civil rights movement is celebrated and commemorated as a proud period in American history, it faced an immediate backlash. The progressive activists who advanced civil rights for Black Americans argued that in a society that used race against Black Americans for most of our history, colorblindness is a goal. They believed that achieving colorblindness requires race-conscious policies, such as affirmative action, that worked specifically to help Black people overcome their disadvantages in order to get to a point where race no longer hindered them. Conservatives, however, invoke the idea of colorblindness to make the case that race-conscious programs, even to help those whose race had been used against them for generations, are antithetical to the Constitution. In the affirmative-action decision, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, embraced this idea of colorblindness, saying: “Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it.”

The Supreme Court’s decision undermines attempts to eliminate racial inequality that descendants of slavery suffer.

But mandating colorblindness in this way erases the fact that Black Americans still suffer inequality in every measurable aspect of American life — from poverty to access to quality neighborhoods and schools to health outcomes to wealth — and that this inequality stems from centuries of oppressive race-specific laws and policies. This way of thinking about colorblindness has reached its legal apotheosis on the Roberts court, where through rulings on schools and voting the Supreme Court has helped constitutionalize a colorblindness that leaves racial disparities intact while striking down efforts to ameliorate them.

These past decisions have culminated in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, which can be seen as the Supreme Court clearing the way to eliminate the last legal tools to try to level the playing field for people who descend from slavery.

Affirmative action should not simply be a tool for diversity but should alleviate the particular conditions of descendants of slavery.

Part of the issue, I argue, is that the purpose of affirmative action got muddled in the 1970s. It was originally designed to reduce the suffering and improve the material conditions of people whose ancestors had been enslaved in this country. But the Supreme Court’s decision in the 1978 Bakke case changed the legally permissible goals of affirmative action, turning it into a generalized diversity program. That has opened the door for conservatives to attack the program for focusing on superficial traits like skin color, rather than addressing affirmative action's original purpose, which was to provide redress for the disadvantages descendants of slavery experienced after generations of oppression and subordination.

Working toward racial justice is not just the moral thing to do, but it is also crucial to our democracy.

When this country finally abolished slavery, it was left with a fundamental question: How does a white-majority nation, which wielded race-conscious policies and laws to enslave and oppress Black people, create a society in which race no longer matters? After the short-lived period of Reconstruction, lawmakers intent on helping those who had been enslaved become full citizens passed a slate of race-conscious laws. Even then, right at the end of slavery, the idea that this nation owed something special to those who had suffered under the singular institution of slavery faced strident opposition, and efforts at redress were killed just 12 years later with Reconstruction’s end. Instead, during the nearly 100-year period known as Jim Crow, descendants of slavery were violently subjected to a dragnet of racist laws that kept them from most opportunities and also prevented America from becoming a true democracy. During the civil rights era, when Black Americans were finally assured full legal rights of citizenship, this question once again presented itself: In order to address the disadvantage Black Americans faced, do we ignore race to eliminate its power, or do we consciously use race to undo its harms? Affirmative action and other racial-justice programs were born of that era, but now, once again, we are in a period of retrenchment and backlash that threatens the stability of our nation. My essay argues that if we are to preserve our multiracial democracy, we must find a way to address our original sin.

Nikole Hannah-Jones is a domestic correspondent for The New York Times Magazine focusing on racial injustice. Her extensive reporting in both print and radio has earned a Pulitzer Prize, National Magazine Award, Peabody and a Polk Award. More about Nikole Hannah-Jones

The Cambridge University Boat Club women’s blue boat during a training session in freezing fog on the River Great Ouse in Cambridgeshire during February 2024.

Pulling together: how Cambridge came to dominate the Boat Race – a photo essay

The race along the River Thames between England’s two greatest universities spans 195 years of rivalry and is now one of the world’s oldest and most famous amateur sporting events. Our photographer has been spending time with the Cambridge University Boat Club over the past few months as they prepare for 2024’s races

T he idea of a Boat Race between the two universities dates back to 1829, sparked into life by a conversation between Old Harrovian schoolfriends Charles Merivale, a student at the time at St John’s College Cambridge, and Charles Wordsworth who was at Christ Church Oxford. On 12 March that year, following a meeting of the newly formed Cambridge University Boat Club, a letter was sent to Oxford.

The University of Cambridge hereby challenge the University of Oxford to row a match at or near London each in an eight-oar boat during the Easter vacation.

From then, the Cambridge University Boat Club has existed to win just one race against just one opponent, something Cambridge has got very good at recently. Last year the Light Blues won every race: the open-weight men’s and women’s races, both reserve races, plus both lightweight races – six victories, no losses, an unprecedented clean sweep. Cambridge women’s open-weight boat, or blue boat, has won the last six Boat Races while the men’s equivalent have won five out of the last seven. In such an unpredictable race, where external factors can play a large part, this dominance is startling.

Rough water as the two Cambridge women’s boats make their way along the River Thames near Putney Embankment during the Cambridge University Boat Race trials in December 2023.

Thames trials

Rough water as the two women’s boats make their way along the River Thames near Putney Embankment during the Cambridge University Boat Race trials.

It’s a mid-December day by the River Thames. The sky and water merge together in a uniform battleship grey and the bitter north wind whips the tops off the waves. Outside a Putney boathouse two groups of tense-looking women dressed in duck-egg blue tops and black leggings with festive antlers in their hair are huddling together, perhaps for warmth, maybe for solidarity. The odd nervous bout of laughter breaks out. For some of them this is about to be their first experience of rowing on the Tideway, a baptism of fire on the famous stretch of London water where the Boat Race takes place. “Perfect conditions,” remarks Paddy Ryan, the head coach for Cambridge University women, for this is trial eights day, when friends in different boats duel for coveted spots in the top boat.

A couple of hours later these women along with their male equivalents will have pushed themselves to the absolute limit, so much so that several of the men are seen trying to throw up over the side of their boats at the finish under Chiswick Bridge. This may be brutal but it’s just the start. For these students the next few months are going to be incredibly tough, balancing academic work with training like a professional athlete. Through the harshest months of the year they will be focused on preparing for the end of March and a very simple goal: beating Oxford in the Boat Race.

Agony for one of the men’s boats after the finish of the race on the River Thames near Chiswick Bridge during the Cambridge University Boat Race trials in December 2023.

Agony for one of the men’s boats after the finish of the race near Chiswick Bridge during the Cambridge University Boat Race trials.

Two of the Cambridge University Boat Club women’s boats head out in the early morning for a training session on the Great Ouse, Cambridgeshire on 28 February 2024.

Ely early mornings

Two of the women’s boats head out in the early morning for a training session on the Great Ouse.

Early winter mornings on the banks of the Great Ouse, well before the sun has risen, can be pretty bleak. In the pitch black a batch of light blue minivans drop off the men and women rowers together at the sleek Ely boathouse that was opened in 2016 at the cost of £4.9m – it’s here that all Cambridge’s on-water training takes place. Very soon a fleet of boats carrying all the teams takes to the water for a training session that may last a couple of hours. Then it’s a quick change, a lift to the train station and back to Cambridge for morning lectures.

The Cambridge University Boat Club women’s squad are dropped off at their Ely boathouse by minibus at 6am for a training session on the Great Ouse.

The women’s squad head into the Ely boathouse after a 6am drop-off.

As a rower descends the stairs to the bays where the boats are stored, there is a clear indication of why it was built and why they are there. “This is where we prepare to win Boat Races,” a sign says. Since this boathouse was built, Cambridge have won 30 of the 37 races across all categories.

The Cambridge University Boat Club men’s squad stretch in the boathouse before an early morning training session at their Ely training site in Cambridgeshire.

Top: The men’s squad stretch in the boathouse before an early morning training session and a member of the men’s blue boat descends the stairs into where the boats are kept. Below: One of the men’s teams set off for early morning training and the women’s blue boat rows past the women’s lightweight crew during a training session.

It’s a far cry from the old tin sheds with barely any heating and no showers. These current facilities are impressive, enabling the entire men’s and women’s squads to be there at the same time and get boats out.

The Cambridge University Boat Club men’s blue boat prepare to derig their boat at their Ely training site before packing it on a trailer to be transported down to London for the Boat Race.

Top: The men’s blue boat prepare to derig their boat at their Ely training site. Above: The women’s blue boat put their vessel back in the boathouse after a training session on the Great Ouse.

But it’s not just the boathouse that has contributed so much, it’s also the stretch of water they train on. In a year when floods have affected so many parts of the country it has really come into its own. Paddy Ryan, the chief women’s coach, explains: “Along this stretch the river is actually higher than the surrounding land. The water levels are carefully managed by dikes and pumps. As a result we haven’t lost a single session to flooding. That’s not the case for Oxford. I believe their boathouse has been flooded multiple times this year, unable to get to their boats. We’ve had multiple storms but we’ve been able to row through them all.”

The Cambridge University Boat Club men’s third boat practises on the Great Ouse at their Ely training site on 20 March 2024.

The men’s third boat practises on the Great Ouse.

It’s a flat, unforgiving landscape, especially in midwinter, definitely not the prettiest stretch of water, but Cambridge don’t care. Ryan says: “It might be a little dull on the viewing perspective but we could row on for 27km before needing to turn round. We have a 5km stretch that is marked out every 250m. We are lucky to have it.”

The men’s blue boat practise their starts on the long straight on the Great Ouse at their Ely training site on 20 March 2024.

The men’s blue boat practise their starts on the long straight on the Great Ouse.

Members of the Cambridge University Boat Club men’s squad using a mirror to look at their technique during a session on ergo machines at the Goldie boathouse in Cambridge during February 2024.

The sweat box

Members of the men’s squad check on their technique with the use of a mirror at the Goldie boathouse.

The old-fashioned Goldie boathouse is right in the centre of Cambridge perched on the banks of the River Cam. Built in 1873, its delicate exterior belies what goes on inside. This is the boat club’s pain cave, where the rowers sweat buckets, pushing themselves over and over again; it’s a good job the floor is rubberised and easy to wipe clean.

A wreath to the founder of the Boat Race, Charles Merivale, in the upstairs room at the Goldie boathouse which commemorates Cambridge crews that have competed in the Boat Race from 1829.

A wreath to Charles Merivale, the founder of the Boat Race, and wood panelling in the upstairs room at the Goldie boathouse which commemorates Cambridge crews that have competed in the Boat Race from 1829.

Seb Benzecry, men’s president of the Cambridge University Boat Club, sweats profusely during a long session on an ergo machine at the Goldie boathouse, Cambridge in February 2024.

(Top) Seb Benzecry, men’s president of the Cambridge University Boat Club, and (above) Martin Amethier, a member of the reserve Goldie crew, sweat during sessions on ergo machines.

Iris Powell of the women’s blue boat of the Cambridge University Boat Club, performing pull-ups during a training session at the Goldie boathouse, Cambridge on 5 March 2024.

Iris Powell of the women’s blue boat (above) performs pull-ups during a training session.

Hannah Murphy, the cox of the women’s blue boat, urges on four of her crew – Gemma King, Megan Lee, Jenna Armstrong and Clare Hole – as they undertake a long session on the ergo machines at the Goldie boathouse, Cambridge.

Above left: Hannah Murphy, the cox of the women’s blue boat, urges on four of her crew (left to right) Gemma King, Megan Lee, Jenna Armstrong and Clare Hole, as they undertake a long session on the ergo machines. Above right: Kenny Coplan, a member of the men’s blue boat crew, looks exhausted then writes in his times after his session on an ergo machine (below).

Kenny Coplan from the USA writes in his timings after a session on an ergo machine at the Goldie boathouse, Cambridge.

Brutal sessions on the various ergo machines, where thousands of metres are clocked and recorded, are a staple of the training regime set in place. If there is any slacking off the students just need to look up at one of the walls where a map of the Boat Race course hangs. The “S” shape of the Thames has been carefully coloured in the correct shade of blue and record timings for various key points on the course have been written in for both men and women. All but one record, and that one is shared, is held by Cambridge.

Four members of the men’s squad open up the doors of the Goldie boathouse looking out on the River Cam as they undertake a long session on the ergo machines.

Paddy Ryan, the women’s chief coach, talks to the women’s blue boat during a training session on the River Great Ouse in February.

A key ingredient in any successful team is the coaching. Cambridge’s setup is stable and well established. Paddy Ryan is the chief women’s coach, a genial, tall Australian, he has been part of the women’s coaching team since 2013. The care and devotion to his squad is perfectly clear. “I have my notebook next to my bed so I can jot things down. I wake up in the middle of the night going: am I making the right decisions? I care about them as people and I need to manage them … We joke as coaches that we are teaching some of the smartest people on the planet how to pull on a stick.”

Rob Baker, the chief men’s coach, has Cambridge rowing in the blood. Born and bred in the city, his father was a university boatman for 25 years. He even married into the sport – his wife, Hayley, rowed for Cambridge as a lightweight – so it was no surprise that he became part of the coaching setup way back in 2001. He was the first full-time women’s coach in 2015 then moved to take over the men in 2018.

Rob Baker, the men’s chief coach for the Cambridge University Boat Club, talks to his blue boat at their Ely training site in Cambridgeshire on 20 March 2024.

Rob Baker, the men’s chief coach, talks to his blue boat at their Ely training site.

Apart from an obvious role in the development of rowing skills, a key part of their job is making sure there is a balance for their student athletes. They understand they have to juggle training needs. “Every week we have a general plan,” says Baker, “but then someone might have an extra class or supervision they’ve got to do so we have to move around it. They are studying at one of the most competitive universities in the world with the highest standards so you’ve got to give them space to do that properly.” He goes on: “But when they get on the start line for their race, they’ll be just as competitive as if they were professionals.”

Jenna Armstrong and Seb Benzecry, the respective women’s and men’s presidents of Cambridge University Boat Club, hold a meeting to discuss their plans in the Great Hall at Jesus College on 5 March 2024.

The presidents

Jenna Armstrong and Seb Benzecry discuss their plans in the Great Hall at Jesus College.

Every year one man and one woman are elected presidents to represent Cambridge University Boat Club. They are the captains and leaders, not only responsible for helping design the training programme in conjunction with the coaches but also making budgetary and tactical decisions along the way. This year both of them, Jenna Armstrong and Seb Benzecry, are from the same college, Jesus, which helps the communication between the two of them. They share ideas and knowledge, thoughts and worries. Their lives, for these intense few months, are a juggling act.

Armstrong is a 30-year-old from New Jersey, and doing a PhD in physiology. Once a very keen competitive junior skier she was forced to abandon her hopes of a career on the slopes after a number of serious knee injuries. She only started rowing in 2011 and only became aware of the Boat Race when she saw it on TV a couple of years later.

Jenna Armstrong, the women’s president of the Cambridge University Boat Club, cycling down the Chimney, the grand entrance to Jesus College where she is a member, to go to the other side of the city to carry out more of her PhD research at the department of physiology, development and neuroscience.

Jenna Armstrong, cycling down the Chimney, the grand entrance to Jesus College, to go to the other side of the city to carry out more of her PhD research at the department of physiology, development and neuroscience.

The research she carries out at the university labs could be turn out to be life-saving. “I study mitochondrial function in placentas from women from all over the world to learn how genetic and environmental factors during pregnancy can influence placental metabolism and impact the health of both mother and baby. I’m particularly interested in growth restriction which affects about 10% of babies worldwide. That can have lifelong implications for these babies and currently we don’t have any treatment for this.”

Benzecry, 27, is studying for a PhD in film and screen studies, and comes from a completely different rowing background. He grew up just a stone’s throw from the Boat Race course and went to a school on the banks of the Thames. This will be his 14th year of competitive rowing but his fourth and last Boat Race.

“ I remember one year my birthday fell on race day and we watched after my birthday party. Because we live fairly close to the course, I’ve always felt connected to the race.”

Seb Benzecry, the men’s president of the Cambridge University Boat Club, stands next to an Antony Gormley statue in the Quincentenary Library at Jesus College as he conducts research for his dissertation as part of his PhD in film and screen studies.

Seb Benzecry stands next to an Antony Gormley statue in the Quincentenary Library at Jesus College as he conducts research for his dissertation which forms part of his PhD in film and screen studies.

Talking about how hard it is to get the right balance between academic student life and rowing, Benzecry says: “I guess you have to accept there are many, many things you can’t do, you just don’t have time for during the season. You have to put the blinkers on.”

Armstrong says: “I have to be very prepared, very strategic and organised. I pack everything the night before, and then once I leave my room in the morning, I don’t go back. That allows me to go to training, go to the lab, go to training again. It’s surreal actually, to come to a place like Cambridge, have one of the best educations in the world on top of the most incredible rowing experiences in the world. We have a thing now in the boat, when we are doing something incredibly hard, I say this is my ideal Saturday, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I would rather be here than in bed or on a date. And I make everyone else say it with me too. I’d rather be nowhere else.”

Benzecry states: “When it’s really bad, when training is so hard, we say Oxford aren’t doing this, they could never do this. It’s an incredibly powerful thing to be thinking we work harder than them, our culture is better than them. They don’t want to go hard as we do – they might think they do but they don’t, they just don’t have it.”

The Cambridge University Boat Club men’s and women’s blue boats during a training session on the Great Ouse, Cambridgeshire on.

Integration

The men’s and women’s blue boats during a training session on the River Great Ouse in February.

Until 1 August 2020, there were three separate university boat clubs in Cambridge: one for open-weight men, one for lightweight men, and one for open-weight and lightweight women. Since they merged to become one club, it has undoubtedly helped with everyone sharing the same resources and motivating and inspiring one another. No one is more important and everyone has a key part to play in the result. This year, Oxford have followed suit.

Baker says: “I definitely feel, for the athletes themselves, it makes a big difference. They all feel like they’re contributing to one common goal. Every cog in the wheel has to do its job but for sure it feels like one big team on a mission.”

Benzecry explains: “We’re seeing each other train, we’re all out on the water at the same time, we’re supporting each other throughout the season, building a sense of momentum for the whole club towards the races. Everyone’s just inspiring each other all the time and I think that’s been such a sort of cultural shift for Cambridge.”

The men’s blue boat pack their boat on to a trailer for the trip down to London for the Boat Race at their Ely training site, Cambridgeshire.

The men’s blue boat pack their craft on to a trailer at their Ely training site ready for the trip down to London for the Boat Race.

Siobhan Cassidy, the chair of the Boat Race, knows from first-hand how the integration has helped. She rowed for the Light Blues in 1995 and had a key role in the transition. “We could see the advantages of working together, collaborating as a bigger team, the positive impact we felt that could have on performance. But not just the output, actually the whole experience for the young people taking part.”

Siobhan Cassidy, the chair of the Boat Race, poses for a portrait in the Thames Rowing Club at Putney Embankment.

Siobhan Cassidy, the chair of the Boat Race, pictured at the Thames Rowing Club at Putney Embankment.

This Saturday, if the weather holds, an estimated 250,000 people, the vast majority of whom have no allegiance to one shade of blue or the other, will pack the banks of the Thames to see these races. It’s one of the largest free events in Britain. Broadcast live on BBC One, the race is also beamed to 200 countries across the world.

The starting stone for the University Boat Race at Putney Embankment.

The starting stone for the University Boat Race and pavement inscription: “The best leveller is the river we have in common” at Putney Embankment.

A map of the Boat Race course at the Goldie boathouse, with the Thames coloured in Cambridge blue and record timings written in for men and women showing almost total Cambridge dominance.

A map of the Boat Race course at the Goldie boathouse, with the Thames coloured in Cambridge blue and record timings written in for men and women showing almost total Cambridge dominance.

A sporting pinnacle being contested on a fast-flowing, unpredictable river by two teams of university students – it’s pretty bizarre. But maybe it’s that quirkiness that keeps the race, after almost two hundred years, still going strong. And even more bizarre to think that Cambridge, the current dominant force in the Boat Race, a sporting event that can’t shrug off its elitist stereotype, owes so much of that success to such egalitarian principles.

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As robotics field grows, small town team makes it to state competitions for the very first time

PIERSON, Fla. — For the very first time in school history, students at T Dewitt Taylor Middle High School went to state competitions for robotics. Just as their team has grown in its short 3-year history, the field of robotics is also growing and offering new opportunities to students post-graduation.

What You Need To Know

T dewitt taylor middle high school is located in a rural part of volusia county, where staff say historically it's been difficult to entice students into robotics or related fields despite only consisting of a handful of students, and their team only existing for a few short years, students were able to prove their skills and head to state competitions robotics is a growing field with many options for careers, according to officials at ucf data from the international federation of robotics shows the total number of robots sold for professional use increased by 48 percent in just one year.

The small town of Pierson, Florida, was buzzing with excitement after a small group of teens were able to hold their own and make it to state competitions this month.

Pierson, which is known as the “Fern Capital of the World,” is a distinctly agricultural community.

“Getting kids involved in robotics and programming out here has been a struggle,” said Jonathan Herstein, a T Dewitt Taylor Middle High teacher and sponsor of the club. “But they just kept fighting. They just kept doing things and getting better, and got over a lot of their fears.”

Students say they spent many hours outside of school to get their robot together.

“It’s an after-school club, so there’s not much time here at the school to really do a lot of building,” said 8th-grade robotics team member Sebastian Kavanah. “Most of the time we take it to my house and we do a lot of building in my dad’s garage.”

Originally, students jokingly dubbed their robot I.N.G, standing for “It No Go.” However, the robot did not live up to its namesake after  it did go , winning the Innovate Award, which led them to state competitions.

During state competitions, the team learned they would not be heading to national competitions this year. However, officials at UCF say succeeding in robotics is all about trial and error.

“When you work with robots, failure is bound to happen. You are going to fail,” said Dr. Crystal Maraj, UCF Assistant Research Professor. “It’s taking that failure and turning it into success. That’s really where we want to hit, and failure around the way — just part of the process.”

UCF is currently training the next generation of robotics specialists and engineers. Dwight Howard II, who heads up their robotics club, says the field has a wide range of opportunities for those willing to learn.

“People are really scared of how advanced robotics is, and a lot of people don’t realize how simple it can be,” said Howard, President of the Robotics Club of Central Florida at UCF. “Robotics can be anything from the automation of a device, all the way up to a full self-driving car.”

UCF officials say chip and car manufacturing are fast-growing industries in the U.S., offering many job prospects to future grads.

Worldwide, the field is growing. According to the International Federation of Robotics, the total number of  robots sold for professional use increased by 48 percent  in just one year.

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THE QUEEN'S COMMONWEALTH ESSAY COMPETITION

Since 1883, we have delivered The Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition, the world's oldest international schools' writing competition. Today, we work to expand its reach, providing life-changing opportunities for young people around the world.

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ENTER THE QCEC 2024

The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2024 is now live!

Find out more about this year’s theme

'Our Common Wealth' and make sure to enter by 15 May 2024!

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140 years of The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition

The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition (QCEC) is the world’s oldest international writing competition for schools and has been proudly delivered by the Royal Commonwealth Society since 1883. 

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ABOUT THE COMPETITION 

An opportunity for young Commonwealth citizens to share their thoughts, ideas and experiences on key global issues and have their hard work and achievement celebrated internationally.

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Frequently Asked Questions for the Competition. Before contacting us please read these.

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MEET THE WINNERS 

In 2023 we were delighted to receive a record-breaking 34,924 entries, with winners from India and Malaysia. Read their winning pieces as well as those from previous years.

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TERMS AND CONDITIONS

Terms and Conditions for entrants to The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition. Please ensure you have thoroughly read them before submitting your entry.

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  5. The Queen'S Commonwealth Essay Competition

    The Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition is the world's oldest international writing competition for schools, proudly delivered by the Royal Commonwealth Society since 1883. Find out more about the competition and how to enter. ... Find out more about this year's theme 'Our Common Wealth' and make sure to enter by 15 May 2024!

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    The Immerse Education annual essay competition is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win a scholarship to a Cambridge or Oxford summer school . If you're aged 13-18 and you're interested in applying to the Immerse Education essay competition then please visit our essay competition page for more details.

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