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An essay contest is a writing contest that often pays a cash prize. As a rule, you have to write on a specified topic or answer writing prompts paying attention to style, clarity and word count. Winning writers often have their work published and prize money that helps to pay for college. Plus, entrants don’t typically need to fill out a long application or pay an entry fee which makes these contests pretty easy to apply for.
According to a Sallie Mae study, only 21% of students have applied for scholarships in 2019 to 2020. Essay contests could be worth it for college students. It depends on your goals, the competition, and how well you may handle rejection. Writing contests could be fun to get your creative juices flowing. Also, you may win extra funds to help pay for textbooks, tuition, and other fees.
There are writing competitions of all kinds due to the many genres and platforms including social media. Here are a few you should write for:
Another type of essay competition is all about the work of a specific author. Ayn Rand Institute’s essay writing contests ask students for an 800 to 1,600 word essay discussing a book such as ‘Atlas Shrugged‘. Current high school seniors and undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to apply.
Scholarship essay contests are the same but the prize winner may have to verify enrollment for college at an accredited university. This is true for the Race Entry Student Scholarship. It’s an annual $500 scholarship writing contest where you write about why you enjoy running a race.
If you prefer to write what’s on your mind, check out the Think For Yourself College Scholarship Essay Contest. There are four awards (one first place top prize and three runners up). The contest is only for high school students. It asks you to consider the value of free speech, curiosity, and open mindedness in your everyday lives and write on the topic.
You might also pick up your pen to kickstart a writing career. Writer’s Digest helps up and coming writers in all genres with their annual competition. Winning stories (articles, memoirs, poetry etc.) may catch the eye of editors and literary agents alike. One grand prize winner takes away $5,000 in cash, first place is $1,000, second place $500 and another 8 writers also win money. The literary magazine also publishes the names of honorable mentions.
Eligibility for many essay contests vary but there are ones for seasoned and new writers. If you live and study in the United States, see if you qualify for the scholarship essay awards below and apply soon!
Expressing yourself in a unique way that addresses the topic at hand is one aspect of writing a winning scholarship essay contest. When you’re writing a winning essay, consider the following tips.
1. Identify the question or idea to write a clear and personal answer. Is it about leadership, community service, family, etc.? Then find examples of how you led, helped out or interact.
2. Dig into the theme a bit more. Maybe you did not lead a group but you babysat or tutored. Take part in the discussion in the best way for you.
3. Use any key words that the essay asks so that the team looking over your statement knows you read the question.
4. Engage your audience. Some people add quotes or pull in inspiration from others. If it stays on topic, try to show you have a broad experience in some way.
5. If you are applying for a named scholarship, find out about the person’s legacy. Try to show how they inspire or motivate you.
6. Know what criteria the committee is using to evaluate your essay. Try to check them all without it sounding rote.
7. A essay contest is an award and also an investment in your education and future. Make sure to explain how you plan to use your degree and leader skills once you graduate.
8. Many full ride scholarships look beyond grades. If this is the case, you may have to show how you helped others. Apart from stating your experience, relate it to what you learned through giving back.
Many scholarship essays come with prompts to help you format your writing. These guides are useful and necessary to stick to. Read them carefully and follow instructions because this is part of the exercise.
This includes style (e.g. AP, Chicago), double or single spaced, Word or PDF Document, margins and so on.
This is the number of words you have to stick to while answering every question. The judges want to see you understand the questions and answer them in a clear way so don’t attempt to write a full length book.
You may need a title for a short story competition but not always for a scholarship essay contest.
This is where you draw your audience in with opening remarks in 1 to 2 paragraphs. It should include the main points but should not go into detail.
After you introduce your main points, expand on each of them. If you made 3 points (e.g. first generation to go to college, faced a challenge, excited to reach my potential) make each point its own paragraph.
This is where you show how the essay contest could make a difference to your goals and future.
You read and followed directions now go back and double check yourself. Make sure to check your spelling and that you answered each prompt. Proofread to catch mistakes like grammatical errors, run on sentences, and others.
Check out our list of 1,326 essay contests worth $7M.
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The sources for school statistics and data is the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.
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