Fall Essay Contests: Write for Fun, Honor, & Money

As the new school year begins, students may be wondering how to boost their resumes or earn scholarship money. Essay contests are a great way to prove your writing chops—and you can write on a wide range of subjects, calling from personal experience.

While finding the right contests for your particular interest and age range can be a bit tricky, we’ve got you covered. Below, we’ve compiled a list of essay contests you can enter right now.

Veterans of Foreign Wars – Patriot’s Pen

Deadline: Oct. 31
Age Range: 6th-8th graders
Each year, over 132,000 eligible students across the nation submit 300-400 word essays on a patriotic theme as part of the VFW contest. From the initial pool, winners are chosen at the state level, and the grand prize winner earns $5,000 and a free trip to Washington, D.C.

Bill of Rights Institute – We the Students

Deadline: Feb. 5
Age Range: 8th-12th graders
This year, students are tasked with writing essays on the extent to which the government ought to monitor Internet content. This is their chance to win a grand prize of $5,000. In addition to the overall winner, six runners-up take home $1,250, while eight honorable mentions get $500 checks.

Bennington College – Young Writers Awards

Deadline: Nov. 1
Age Range: 10th-12th graders
Students have the option to submit their original personal or academic essays, kept under 1,500 words, to be judged by Bennington College students and faculty. First-place winners get $500, while second-place winners are awarded $250 each.

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards – Critical Essay

Deadline: Varies by region
Age Range: 7th-12th graders
The Scholastic Awards offer a wide variety of contests, including several in the fine arts.
For the critical essay contest, students are to inform or persuade their readers about a particular topic in a 1,000 to 3,000 word essay. Students are required to cite any sources they use.

New York Times – Review Contest

Deadline: Nov. 14
Age Range: 13 to 19 year-olds
Students can write reviews on a range of topics, from food to travel to theater, and are advised to review something new to them and to back up assertions with context. Reviews are to be kept under 450 words. Winners will have their work published on the New York Times’ website.

NISOD – Scott Wright Student Essay Contest

Deadline: Feb. 2
Age Range: College students
Students enrolled in NISOD colleges (a full list of eligible schools is available here) are invited to write essays describing a faculty or staff member who aided them in their academic journeys. The top three essay writers will receive $1,000, as will their featured faculty or staff members.

JFK Library – Profile in Courage Essay Contest

Deadline: TBA, last year’s was Jan. 4
Age Range: 9th-12th graders
Students must describe an act of courage performed by U.S. political officials after the year 1917. Essays must fall in the range of 700 to 1,000 words and must cite at least five sources. The top winner comes away with a $10,000 prize, while the second-place winner gets $1,000.


When writing your contest, essay, don’t forget to build a bibliography. Cite This for Me can help you build citations in MLA format, APA format, Harvard referencing, and more!