These 11 Essay Contests with Generous Prizes Will Change Your Life

Essay contests are unusual because to win them you have to use your words. If you are a student who aspires to become a journalist, novelist, or poet, then these essay contests are a stepping stone for you to make that dream a reality.

Essay Contests
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Essay contests often ask participants to answer a question in the most original and obvious way. However, each contest will have its own rules and regulations to fulfill. You may have to write an essay on a specific topic and meet word count limits. To enter an essay contest, you must have the ability to write something fresh.

There are several essay contests that are valid for students of all levels of education regardless of nationality. As long as you meet the specified requirements, you may register for one or more of the following essay contests.

1. FIRE Free Speech Essay Contest

FIRE is an organization that aims to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience—the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity.

In this contest, you will be asked to write an essay or persuasive letter in 700 to 900 words on the theme of current events, historical examples, your personal experiences, and other resources posted on the FIRE website. Registration for this contest closes on December 31st, 2020 at 11:59 a.m. EST.

Who should apply?

Open to juniors and seniors in U.S. high schools, including home-schooled students, as well as U.S. citizens attending high school overseas.

What are the prizes of this contest?

One $10,000 first-place prize, one $ 5,000 second-place prize, three $1,000 third-place prizes, and four $500 prizes will be awarded.

2. Ayn Rand Institute Essay Contests

Have you ever read one of Ayn Rand’s thought-provoking novels? Now’s the time! Enter an Ayn Rand Institute essay contest and you’ll have a chance to win thousands of dollars in scholarship prize money.

ARI has held worldwide essay contests for students on Ayn Rand’s fiction for more than thirty years, awarding over $2 million in total prize money! To enter this contest, choose one of the three works of Ayn Rand fiction below and decide what theme you will cover in your essay by answering one of the questions posed on the essay contests web page.

  • Anthem
  • The Fountainhead
  • Atlas Shrugged

You must sign up as a member of the ARI website to find out the deadlines for the contest.

Who should apply?

These essay contests are available for students who are interested in Ayn Rand’s work ranging from grade eight students to postgraduate students. Please note that, however, the eligibility for each contest is different.

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What are the prizes of this contest?

Total prizes to be awarded to the winners are $30,000.

3. AFSA National High School Essay Contest

The United States Foreign Service—often referred to as America’s first line of defense—works to prevent conflict from breaking out abroad and threats from coming to our shores. Peacebuilders work on the ground to create the conditions for peace and resolve conflicts where they are most needed.

Successful essays will identify, in no more than 1,250 words, a situation where diplomats worked on a peacebuilding initiative with partners from the country/region in question, nongovernmental organizations, and other parts of the U.S. government, and then go on to analyze what characteristics and approaches made the enterprise a success.

The deadline for essay submission is April 5th, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

Who should apply?

Students whose parents are not in the Foreign Service are eligible to participate if they are in grades nine through twelve in any of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories, or if they are U.S. citizens/lawful permanent residents attending high school overseas.

What are the prizes of this contest?

$2,500 will be awarded to the writer of the winning essay, in addition to an all-expense-paid trip to the nation’s capital from anywhere in the U.S. for the winner and his or her parents, and an all-expense-paid educational voyage courtesy of Semester at Sea. Runner-up receives $1,250 and full tuition to attend a summer session of the National Student Leadership Conference’s International Diplomacy program.

4. JASNA Essay Contests

Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) conducts an annual student essay contest to foster the study and appreciation of Jane Austen’s works in new generations of readers.

The 2021 Essay Contest topic is tied to the theme of our upcoming Annual General Meeting: “Jane Austen in the Arts.” It encompasses a wide variety of arts, including fine arts, performance arts, decorative arts, and crafts.

The deadline for the essay submissions is June 1st, 2021.

Who should apply?

Students and home-schooled students enrolled at the high school level during the contest year, students enrolled in at least six credit hours of course work at a junior college, college, or university during the contest year, and students enrolled during the contest year in at least three credit hours of graduate course work at a college or university leading to an advanced degree are encouraged to apply.

Membership in JASNA is not required to enter the contest.

What are the prizes of this contest?

JASNA awards scholarships to winners in each of the three divisions:

  • First Place: $1,000 scholarship and free registration and two nights’ lodging for JASNA’s upcoming Annual General Meeting,
  • Second Place: $500 scholarship,
  • Third Place: $250 scholarship.

Winners and their mentors each receive a one-year JASNA membership. Besides, each winner receives a set of Norton Critical Editions of Jane Austen’s novels.

5. The Immerse Education Essay Competition

The Immerse Education Essay Competition provides the opportunity for students aged 13-18 to submit essay responses to a pre-set question relating to their chosen subject. The essay questions are pre-defined according to your age group and preferred subject. You are encouraged to tailor your essay response to reflect your interest in your chosen subject.

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The application for the competition will be closed on January 5th, 2021.

Who should apply?

The essay contests are available to students of all nationalities who will be aged 13-18 during the summer of 2021.

What are the prizes of this contest?

First-place winners will be awarded a 100% scholarship to study their chosen subject with Immerse. There will be 10 first place winners across the Immerse Education Competitions. Runners up will be awarded partial scholarships of up to 70% to study their chosen subject with Immerse.

6. Fraser Institute Student Essay Contest

Showcase your ideas on public policy and the role of markets by entering this essay competition. Construct an essay exploring the importance of Joseph Schumpeter’s concept of creative destruction in understanding entrepreneurialism and economic progress in today’s world. You may choose to analyze a particular industry or business (during any time-period) as a case study to bolster your essay.

The essay submission for the contest will be closed on June 1st, 2021.

Who should apply?

This essay contest is open to high school, undergraduate, and postgraduate students.

What are the prizes of this contest?

$9,000 in cash prizes will be awarded $3,000 of this designated just for high school students. Winning essays may be published in Fraser Institute journals and authors will have the opportunity to experience the peer-review process.

7. Optimist International Essay Contests

This essay contest is sponsored by Optimist International to give young people the opportunity to write about their own opinions regarding the world in which they live. The approach can encompass a young person’s personal experience, the experience of their country, or a more historical perspective.

In addition to developing skills for written expression, participants also have the opportunity to win a college scholarship. The topic for the academic year of 2020-2021 is “Reaching your Dreams by Choosing Optimism”. All essay contests are held by early February.

Who should apply?

Youth under the age of 19 as of October 1st, 2020 (and is not enrolled as a degree seeking student of a post-secondary institution) in the United States, Canada, or the Caribbean are eligible for entry. There is no minimum age.

What are the prizes of this contest?

Winners have the opportunity to receive scholarships of up to $2,500.

8. 2021 We the Students Essay Contest

We the Students Essay Contest expects the participants to explore the relationship between equality and justice in an essay with 500 to 800 words. Applicants are encouraged to bring emotion, creativity, specific examples, and well-researched facts into what they write. The deadline for entry is April 15th, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. PT.

Who should apply?

Students in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Armed Forces schools abroad, and students in United States territories are eligible to participate in the contest. In addition to going to school in a contested state, you must be in grades 8-12 and between the ages of 14-19.

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What are the prizes of this contest?

A total of $7,500 will be awarded to the first winner. The second winner and honorable mentions will receive $1,500 and $500, respectively.

9. Student Essay Contest Sponsored by AWM and Math for America

To increase awareness of women’s ongoing contributions to the mathematical sciences, the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) and Math for America co-sponsor an essay contest for biographies of contemporary women mathematicians and statisticians in academic, industrial, and government careers.

The essays will be based primarily on an interview with a woman currently working in a mathematical sciences career. Essay submissions are open from December 1st to February 1st.

Who should apply?

Participation is open to middle school, high school, and undergraduate students.

What are the prizes of this contest?

The winners (including honorable mentions) receive a monetary prize, a membership in the AWM, a certificate, and their name and affiliation published in the Newsletter for the AWM. Also, all of the essays are published online and the essay of the Grand Prize winner is published in the AWM Newsletter.

10. Civics Education Essay Contest

Every year, in honor of Law Day, NCSC hosts a Civics Education Essay Contest. The goal of the contest is to get students engaged and ponder the importance of civics at home and in the classroom. The contest question is based on the American Bar Association’s annual theme. ABA’s 2021 Law Day theme is “Advancing the Rule of Law Now.”  Submissions are due by 11:59 p.m. EST on February 26th, 2021.

Who should apply?

Students from grades three through twelfth are invited to enter these essay contests.

What are the prizes of this contest?

For the 9th-12th grade winners:

  • One (1) First Place: $1,000
  • One (1) Second Place: $500
  • One (1) Third Place: $250

For the 6th-8th grade winners:

  • One (1) First Place: $400
  • One (1) Second Place: $200
  • One (1) Third Place: $100

For the 3rd-5th grade winners:

  • One (1) First Place: $300
  • One (1) Second Place: $150
  • One (1) Third Place: $100

11. St. Gallen Symposium Global Essay Competition

Compete in this Global Essay Competition and be one of the top 100 contributors to qualify for all-expenses covered participation as a Leader of Tomorrow in the world’s premier opportunity for cross-generational debates: The St. Gallen Symposium. Submissions are due by  February 1st, 2021, 11:59 p.m. last time zone (UTC-12).

However, if you are not a fan of essay contests, then this no-essay scholarship might interest you: Bold No Essay Community Scholarship: Easy Scholarship to Enter in 2020.

Who should apply?

To be eligible, you must be enrolled in a graduate or postgraduate program (master level or higher) in any field of study at a regular university and born in 1991 or later.

What are the prizes of this contest?

Win prize money of CHF 20,000 split amongst the three winners.

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