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8 Best Essay Writing Competitions for High School Students in 2024

Updated: 2 days ago

best essay writing competitions for high school students 2024
I recall a time during high school when I was tasked with writing an essay for my English class on “The significance of old age and death” in Shakespeare’s King Lear. While this topic may have intrigued some, it didn’t particularly captivate me. I approached the assignment with less enthusiasm, going through the motions. However, my perspective shifted when I discovered high school essay competitions that allowed me to choose my topic within a specified theme. 

As a budding economics nerd, I decided to explore the “Impact of Hyperinflation on the Working Class” in one of the competitions. Although I didn’t receive any awards, the experience left me with a sense of pride, and the skills I gained continue to benefit me in college. 

Writing essays can seem daunting, especially when the topic fails to ignite one’s passion. However, high school students are fortunate to have numerous opportunities to explore both creative and academic writing. These platforms offer students the freedom to delve into diverse topics, from economics and law to justice, philosophy, climate change, and beyond. 

Renowned institutions worldwide host essay competitions tailored for students, providing them with a platform to showcase their intellect and creativity. Below is a carefully curated list of competitions that might catch the eye of admission officers at your dream college:

Our recommended list of high school essay writing competitions in 2024.

Deadline: December 15th, 2024
Eligibility: All high school students worldwide

Prize: Top five authors win an exclusive internship with one of GRC's university branches at Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, and other renowned schools, supporting a consulting team with a client project from February to May 2025. Additionally, top 6-10 winners will receive academic guidance and support from an Ivy League mentor through at least three coaching sessions and have their work published by the GRC think tank on GRC’s Insights platform.

GRC is a global student-run consulting firm consisting of over 1,000+ members who advise the world’s largest NGOs, governments, charities, and startups. As an international 501(c)(3) non-profit, GRC operates branches at 20 top universities worldwide, including Harvard, UPenn, Imperial College, and Columbia. 

Every year, GRC hosts an essay competition for high school students from across the globe to propose Solutions for Good. This year’s prompt challenges participants to craft an argumentative piece addressing a pressing global issue and proposing a compelling solution. Topics include Technology for Good, Global Health, Sustainable Development & Climate Change, Innovations in the Public Sector, Modern Solutions to Human Rights Issues, and the Role of Education in Promoting Gender Equality & Social Mobility.

Deadline: May 10th, 2024
Eligibility: High school students aged 14 to 18 years from around the world. 

Prizes: Cash awards (up to $150), CCIR Academy scholarship, an invitation for a featured interview on the CCIR podcast and website, and an invitation to the Award Ceremony and Dinner at the University of Cambridge (free of charge).

The Cambridge Centre for International Research (CCIR) was established by a group of Cambridge graduates with a clear understanding and vision of the transformative power of knowledge for society. ​Their mission is to connect leading researchers and scholars from top academic institutions with the broader public, increasing social access to these transformative resources.

Organized by CCIR, the Re:think essay competition encourages critical thinking and exploration of a wide range of thought-provoking and controversial topics. The competition promotes intellectual exploration and challenges established norms and beliefs while offering opportunities for envisioning alternative futures. Societal issues for discussion include nine topics: Religion and Politics, Political Science and Law, Linguistics, Environment, Sociology and Philosophy, Business and Investment, Public Health and Sustainability, Genetics, Biotechnology, Artificial Intelligence, and Neuroengineering. 

The competition is guided and judged by an Advisory Committee comprising academics and experts from elite universities worldwide, including Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, and MIT. 

Deadline: May 31st, 2024
Eligibility: High school students from any country.

Prize: Scholarship worth up to $20K and invitation to dinner and prize-giving ceremony in London, UK.

The John Locke Institute is an independent educational organization that works to embolden the best and brightest students to become more academically ambitious and intellectually adventurous.

The John Locke Global Essay Prize, hosted by the institute, is a prestigious competition that fosters the characteristics that transform good students into exceptional writers. This competition promotes independent thinking, depth of knowledge, clear reasoning, critical analysis, and persuasive writing style, nurturing growth and honing argumentative skills. The essay spans seven subject categories: Philosophy, Politics, Economics, History, Psychology, Theology and Law. 

The judging panel comprises senior academics from renowned universities, including Oxford and Princeton. 

Deadline: May 31, 2024
Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students residing in the US or internationally

Prize: Certificate and recognition on the website

The Harvard International Review bridges the worlds of academia and policy through outstanding writing and editorial selection. The Review has featured exclusive interviews and editorials by 43 Presidents and Prime Ministers, 4 Secretaries-General, 4 Nobel Economics Prize laureates, and 7 Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

The Harvard International Review Academic Writing Contest, initiated in 2020, aims to promote and highlight exceptional high school writing on topics about international affairs, grounded in analytically-backed perspectives. 

The competition is organized by season, and for the upcoming Spring 2024 edition, participants can choose between two distinct themes: “Inequalities in a VUCA World” and “Global Challenges and Collective Actions”.

Entries should explore the specified themes from a global standpoint rather than focusing solely on US politics. Potential topics include Agriculture, Business, Cybersecurity, Defense, Education, Employment & Immigration, Energy & Environment, Finance & Economy, Public Health, Science & Technology, Space, Trade, and Transportation

Deadline: June 1st, 2024
Eligibility: Grade 9-12 students residing in the US or internationally

Founded in 2001, the Columbia Political Review (CPR) is Columbia University’s premier undergraduate publication for multi partisan political discourse. Its mission is to provide an open forum for political thought on issues of local to global significance. 

The mission of CPR is to cultivate the next generation of politically engaged writers. In doing so, they host an annual high school essay contest, inaugurated in 2017. Through this initiative, CPR seeks to amplify the voices of talented high school students amid global challenges such as pandemic, conflicts, and uncertainty, offering a platform for innovative and creative solutions to the world’s most pressing issues.

The essay prompt for this year’s contest encourages students to delve into the political landscape of one of the 64 countries expected to hold a national election. Participants are tasked with researching and writing about the most critical issue at stake in the chosen country’s election.

Deadline: June 21st, 2024
Eligibility: High school students, below Grade 12 level, internationally.

Prize: The winning essay will be published on the CULR website, and winners will be invited to a speaker event hosted by CULR.

The Columbia Undergraduate Law Review (CULR) was founded to provide the Columbia University community and the public with a platform for discussing law-related ideas and publishing undergraduate legal scholarship. Many undergraduates and non-law students find legal issues unapproachable or complex. The CULR’s mission is to create a space where students can engage in debate and discourse about the law, supported by scholarly research. 

The CULR is launching the 2024 High School Essay Content, focusing on the principle of “Freedom of Speech '' enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution and its application on social media platforms. The prompt challenges participants to consider the balance between protecting against harmful ideas, combating misinformation, and upholding the principle of free speech. Specifically, participants are asked to discuss whether removing harmful ideas is a viable strategy to combat misinformation and societal harm, such as COVID-19 medical misinformation or hate speech while considering the value of free speech. Additionally, participants must reference at least one court case or legal document in their essays.

Deadline: June 24th, 2024
Eligibility: Canadian high school students at or below the Grade 12 level.

Prizes: Cash Awards up to $500.

The University of Toronto Department of Philosophy, in collaboration with the Ontario Philosophy Teachers’ Association, presents the annual Aristotle Contest. This contest aims to recognize and evaluate the best philosophical work by current Canadian high school students. It offers students interested in philosophy a chance to have their work reviewed and acknowledged by the largest post-secondary Department of Philosophy in North America.
Participants are invited to submit their finest philosophical work on one of three main topics: the potential of artificial intelligence to produce art of aesthetic value, the significance of human free will, and the morality of pet ownership.

Deadline: January 2025 (pre-registration has commenced)
Eligibility: High school students, below Grade 12 level, internationally.

Prize: Exclusive internships with The Harvard Crimson, published work on the official HCGEC website, Crimson credit with Crimson Education to help reach individual goals and generous cash prizes.

The Harvard Crimson, the nation's oldest continuously published daily college newspaper, was founded in 1873 and incorporated in 1967. The Crimson has a rich tradition of journalistic integrity and counts among its ranks of editorship some of America's greatest journalists. More than 40 Crimson alumni have won the Pulitzer Prize; many of their portraits line the walls of The Crimson.

The Harvard Crimson Global Essay Competition (HCGEC) serves as a platform for ambitious high school students aged 13 to 18 worldwide, cultivating their passion for writing and encouraging the expression of ideas through creative, argumentative, and journalistic forms.  

The competition comprises two key rounds: regional qualifiers across five regions, followed by the global finals. To advance to the global round, participants must secure a position in the top 15 of their respective regional qualifiers. 

While the 2024 competition has concluded, pre-registration for the 2025 edition is now open.


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