How to Win an Essay Contest

Last week, Cranbrook Kingswood Sophomore Anna Du read her winning essay aloud before members of the Bloomfield Hills Optimist Club, which sponsored an annual contest. In her essay, Anna talked about how her positive attitude and optimism helped her win a school election shortly after arriving at her new school.

Listening to her read the story was inspiring; Anna’s voice was powerful and her words sounded genuine. She answered the essay question, her sentences flowed, and she told a moving story in her own words, and in her own voice. That is how she swayed three judges, including Wow Writing Workshop, to rate her essay tops of all entrees. For her winning prose, Anna will receive a $250 scholarship, and her essay will go on to a regional competition.

Are you thinking about entering an essay writing contest or applying for a college scholarship that requires an essay?

Wow Writing Workshop has judged many essay competition in the past few years, including last week’s contest. In all cases, the winning essays tell real stories about the writers, answer the prompts, follow contest rules and use proper grammar. That’s what Anna did, and it worked.

Whether the prize is a $50 gift card, a trip to the Galapagos Islands or a full-ride college scholarship, your essay needs to shine. Here are some tips to help you spice it up and make the judges smile when they read your story:

  • Tell a story about you.
  • Start at the beginning of the story. You don’t need a long introduction that ends with a thesis statement for a personal essay. Hook the reader early.
  • Answer the prompt. Make sure you follow the directions.
  • Write about something that is meaningful to you.
  • Make every word count. Write a first draft; revise it.
  • Revise it again.

Want to enter a contest or secure scholarship dollars? Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t know where to start? Sign up for Wow Writing Workshop’s upcoming class, Wow Them With Your Scholarship Essay on March 10.

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