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Essay Writing Contests: The Ultimate List

Essay Writing Contests: The Ultimate List

Did you know that the very first recorded essay contest can be traced back to the early 16th century, initiated by none other than the renowned philosopher and essayist Michel de Montaigne? In 1580, Montaigne published his collection of essays titled 'Essais,' which not only marked a pivotal moment in the evolution of the essay as a literary form but also contained an implicit challenge to his readers. He encouraged them to engage with his ideas and respond by writing their own essays, essentially laying the groundwork for what we now recognize as essay contests.

Fast forward to the vibrant year of 2023, and this tradition of writing competitions has evolved into a global phenomenon, offering emerging writers from all walks of life a captivating platform to share their thoughts, emotions, and narratives with the world.

Essay Writing Contests: Short Description

In this article, our essay writer will explore the world of essay writing contests, presenting you with an exclusive selection of the most promising opportunities for the year ahead. Each of these competitions not only provides a stage to demonstrate your writing prowess but also offers a unique avenue for personal growth, self-expression, and intellectual exploration, all while competing for impressive writing awards and well-deserved recognition. Whether you're an emerging talent or a seasoned wordsmith, these contests are poised to be the catalyst for your creative aspirations in 2023.

Exploring Top Essay Writing Contests for Participation

If you enjoy expressing your thoughts and ideas through writing, you're in for a treat. Essay writing competitions in 2023 offer you a chance to do just that and win some great prizes in the process. We've put together a list of contests specially designed for students like you. These contests cover various interesting essay topics, giving you a unique opportunity to showcase your writing skills and potentially earn cash prizes or scholarships. So, let's explore these fantastic opportunities to share your voice and make your mark in the world of writing.

essay writing contest

Pivotal Essay Contest

Pivotal Essay Contest invites pre-university students worldwide to join a transformative platform that transcends traditional contests. It's an opportunity to showcase critical and creative thinking skills while addressing global challenges. The top three entrants compete for a prize pool of $25,000, while the top 50 finalists gain access to the prestigious Pivotal Library. The most exceptional 5% earn an exclusive invitation to the intellectual haven of the Pivotal Circle, fostering connections with peers who share their dedication to making a difference. And if you're determined to learn how to overcome writer's block for this contest, we have a wealth of expert tips and strategies to guide you through the process!

Deadline: October 10, 2023


  • 1st Place: $15,000
  • 2nd Place: $7,000
  • 3rd Place: $3,000

Native Voices Award

Don't miss your chance to share your unique voice and stories with the world while preserving your copyrights with the Native Voices Award competition. Open to individuals 18 years or older, particularly indigenous storytellers from Native American, First Nation Australian, and Polynesian communities. Submissions can include an original, unpublished work in English, such as a short story collection, flash fiction, nonfiction essays, scripts, poetry, or visual art collection. Authors and artists must be able to receive prizes through Paypal or an Amazon gift card and permit the winning submission to be published in the Kinsman Quarterly, promotional announcements, and social media outlets. Copyrights for the individual submission remain with the author or artist, while copyrights for the anthology as a collection are reserved by Kinsman Avenue Publishing, Inc.

Deadline: October 31, 2023


  • First Place: $500 cash prize and publication in the Kinsman Quarterly and Native Voices
  • Second Place: $250 cash prize and publication in the Kinsman Quarterly and Native Voices
  • Third Place: $100 cash prize and publication in the Kinsman Quarterly and Native Voices
  • Six Finalists: $25 gift card and publication in the Kinsman Quarterly and Native Voices
  • Six Honorary Mentions: Publication in the Kinsman Quarterly and Native Voices

John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest

High school students across the United States are invited to participate in one of the best writing competitions 2023 - the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest. Craft an original essay, between 700 and 1,000 words that delves into acts of political courage by U.S. elected officials from 1917 onward. Explore their principled decisions, despite political pressures, for the greater good. Utilize a minimum of five varied sources and adhere to contest requirements. This opportunity is open to high school students in the U.S. and those studying abroad, except past winners and finalists, as well as employees of John Hancock Financial Services and their families.

Contest Topic: Describe and analyze an act of political courage by a U.S. elected official who served during or after 1917.

Deadline: Submissions open on September 1, 2023, with a deadline of January 12, 2024.


  • First Place: $10,000
  • Second Place: $3,000
  • Five Finalists: $1,000 each
  • Ten Semifinalists: $100 each

The AIIRA Writing Contest

The A.I. Institute for Resilient Agriculture is dedicated to advancing A.I. in agriculture. This contest seeks to spark discussions, promote A.I. education, inspire creativity, and provoke nuanced thought about A.I.'s role in shaping careers and industries.

Contest Topic: How will AI change the landscape of your career within the next decade?

Deadline: September 30, 2023.


  • First Place: $500 USD
  • Second Place: $400 USD (x2)
  • Third Place: $250 USD (x3)

OxBright Essay Competition 

Join the OxBright Essay Competition 2023 by submitting your essay exploring the role of long-term thinking in fostering optimism about the future, including the perspective of women in STEM and various subject categories. Being 15-18, you stand a chance to win over £100,000 worth of academic prizes, including exclusive opportunities and recognition. Submit your entry by September 30, 2023, and get ready for a chance to shape the future.

Deadline: September 30, 2023


  • Most Outstanding Essay: Win a place on the Oxford Scholastica Academy's residential Oxford summer school worth £6,495.
  • Best Essay (per subject category): Get an OxBright online course or internship worth £995.
  • Highly Commended: The top 20% of entries receive a certificate of achievement

essay writing contests

Bennington Young Writers Awards

The Bennington Young Writers Awards celebrate the literary talent of high school students, offering recognition and substantial prizes. Whether you excel in nonfiction, fiction, or poetry, this competition welcomes fiction writers to submit their original work. Not only can you win up to $1,000, but exceptional students may also secure scholarships valued at up to $60,000 for Bennington College.

Deadline: November 1, 2023


  • First-place winners in each category: $1,000
  • Second-place winners: $500
  • Third-place winners: $250

Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest

The Atlas Shrugged essay writing contest, inspired by Ayn Rand's epic masterpiece, is a global platform for students to explore and express their ideas. Atlas Shrugged is a heroic mystery novel written by Ayn Rand. Participants are invited to choose a prompt and craft an 800-1,600-word essay that delves into the novel's themes and philosophy. This contest is open to students from around the world, offering them the opportunity to engage with Rand's thought-provoking work and compete for significant cash prizes.

Deadline: November 6, 2023


  • First prize: $10,000
  • Three second prizes: $2,000 each
  • Five third prizes: $1,000 each
  • 25 finalists: $100 each
  • 50 semifinalists: $50 each

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The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers

This is one of the top poetry contests, hosted annually by the esteemed Kenyon Review, and is a celebration of young literary talent. Established in 2007, this prize aims to honor exceptional young poets who exhibit promise and creativity. Winners of this prestigious prize not only receive scholarships to the Young Writers Workshop but also the opportunity to see their work in print through publication. If you're in grades 10 or 11 and have a passion for poetry, this competition is the perfect platform to showcase your skills and gain recognition.

Deadline: November 1-30, 2023


  • Scholarships to Young Writers Workshop
  • Publication

The Heartland Review 

ElizabethTown Review Press invites writers to submit their best creative nonfiction pieces during their Fall 2023 open call. With a generous word limit and an open canvas for topics, your work can stand alone or be a glimpse of your larger literary journey. Submissions must not exceed 5,000 words and can be flash pieces or chapters from your unpublished book (in the U.S.). Upon publication, rights revert back to you. Be part of the first 50 submissions in August and September for your chance to be featured in our upcoming journal.

Deadline: November 15, 2023


  • Publication

Book Prize - Unleash Press

Calling all authors, Unleash Press invites submissions of novels, short story collections, and creative nonfiction manuscripts across a diverse array of genres, including Essays, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Memoirs, Novels, Short Stories, and Nonfiction. If you're looking for resources like free Harvard online courses to hone your writing skills, consider entering this competition. The coveted Editors' Prize offers not only a $1,000 cash reward but also the prestigious opportunity to secure a publication contract with Unleash Press, catapulting your work into the literary spotlight. Plus, the winner receives ten printed copies of their final book to proudly share with friends and family. With additional prospects for outstanding manuscripts, this competition opens doors for both emerging and seasoned writers.

Deadline: December 15, 2023


  • $1,000 cash prize
  • Publication contract with Unleash Press
  • Ten printed copies of the final book
essay writing contests

Editor's Choice Award

Are you a poet or writer with a penchant for pushing the boundaries of traditional genres? The Editor's Choice Award beckons you to submit your most intriguing hybrid creations—whether they are lyric essays, prose poems, short-shorts, collages, or micro-memoirs, and let your imagination roam freely. Get set to participate as the competition swings open its doors for entries starting May 1, 2023. With an impressive word limit of 8,000, there's ample room for your artistic expression.

Deadline: October 16, 2023


  • $1,000

Anthology Poetry Competition 

Renowned as one of the premier writing contests of 2023, the Anthology Poetry Competition stands as a beacon for poets seeking recognition and a platform for their work. Established with the noble goal of recognizing and fostering excellence in the art of poetry, this competition welcomes original and previously unpublished poems in the English language, transcending borders and inviting poets from all corners of the world to participate. Your poetic creations should not exceed 40 lines, giving you the canvas to craft a concise and impactful piece. The competition is open to multiple entries per person, each requiring a separate entry form and a modest entry fee of €18.

Deadline: October 31, 2023


  • First Place: €1,000 cash prize + the honor of seeing their work published in an upcoming Anthology issue
  • Second Place: €250
  • Third Place: €150

The Chilling Pen Award

The Chilling Pen Award 2023 invites writers from across the globe to explore the multifaceted theme of betrayal in both fiction and nonfiction pieces, transcending personal, political, and societal dimensions. If you have an interest in participating in essay writing contests, this competition offers a unique platform. With a maximum word limit of 1,000 words and an open embrace of all genres and styles, entrants are encouraged to craft original, unpublished works. Submissions must be free from A.I. assistance and can be submitted via our designated form on Google Drive. Winners will be revealed on October 31, 2023, with first, second, and third-place entries showcased on our website and social media platforms.

Deadline: October 1, 2023


  • $500, $300, $100

The SmokeLong Grand Micro Competition 

The SmokeLong Quarterly Micro Fiction Writing Competition beckons writers of literary fiction, nonfiction, and hybrid genres to craft compelling micro-narratives of up to 400 words (excluding the title). The entry fee is a modest $13, and submissions can be in any language accompanied by an English translation, fostering inclusivity. Authors and translators may equally share the prize money. Entries, both previously published and unpublished, are welcome, with blind judging conducted by a panel of 15 SmokeLong editors from around the world. The competition closes on November 10, 2023, and all shortlisted entries will be featured in the December 2023 issue of SmokeLong Quarterly.

Deadline: November 10, 2023


  • Grand Prize of $1500
  • Second Place at $500
  • Third Place at $300

The Moth Nature Writing Prize

A beacon among the notable writing contests of 2023, The Moth Nature Writing Prize is a celebration of the exquisite craft of nature writing. This prestigious award, open to writers of short stories, essays, and poetry, seeks to foster a deeper connection with the natural world. With a generous word limit of 4,000 words, entrants have ample space to craft their narratives. Open to individuals aged sixteen and above, as long as the work is original and previously unpublished, this competition stands as a testament to the harmonious blend of literary excellence and reverence for the natural world.

Deadline: September 30, 2023


  • €1,000 cash prize for the 1st prizewinner + an enriching week at Circle of Misse in France
  • A 2nd prize of €500
  • A 3rd prize of €250

To Sum Up

In 2023, the world of writing competitions offers a diverse tapestry of opportunities for writers across the globe. From exploring the depths of nature to delving into the mysteries of microfiction, these competitions beckon with enticing prizes and platforms for your creative voice. So, pick your favorite, sharpen your pen, and embark on a journey of literary excellence!

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