Not all of you know that it’s actually possible to win prizes for solid writing skills. Essay contests are not only a way to improve your writing but also to earn money. However, how is it possible to craft an essay that will stand out among thousands of others?
Our experienced writers have collected the most important tips that will definitely help you to win an essay contest, not depending on the topic and deadlines. And as a bonus, we’ll introduce you to the best essay contests available right now. Read the article attentively and start writing!
Get familiar with contest rules attentively
The first thing you must do to increase your chances of winning an essay contest is to read all the guidelines and rules attentively. Overlooking details may prevent you from winning and wasting a great essay. Even unintentionally.
Pay careful attention to the following issues:
- Start date and deadlines of the contest;
- Frequency of entrance;
- The number of words;
- The theme of the contest;
- Criteria for picking the winners;
- Additional sponsor requirements.
We recommend printing out the main rules and highlighting crucial elements, making notes, and keeping them on the table while working on the essay. When summarizing all the rules in the form of a checklist, it will be much easier to make sure that your essay meets all the requirements.
Surely, writing is creative, but who said that planning shouldn’t be an additional tool in your arsenal?
Carefully brainstorm ideas
Most people want to start writing an essay immediately after seeing the contest description. However, our experience shows that it’s always better brainstorming a few ideas before writing. Often the first impulse is not the best solution.
Take some time to think about how you can personalize the topic and highlight it from different points of view. Your task is to stand out from other contestants: there may be thousands of them with unique stories to tell. Are you able to make ideas unexpected? Can you create a funny story?
Write down all the ideas, take time to analyze them, and only then choose the most suitable issue.
Choose a topic, which fits the sponsor and theme
When selecting a topic, keep in mind the theme of the contest, as well as the potential target audience. Look at the ideas and pick the one, which is suitable in a particular situation. Are you able to include sponsor’s products into the text? Does your idea fit the company’s image?
You may write a perfect essay, but it will fail if you are writing about your favorite Marvel character for a Samsung contest.
Remember about a hook sentence
Now, when you are well aware of the rules and have found a great topic to discuss, it’s the right time to start writing an essay. Remember, the first sentence is often the most important one. If you fail to create a strong picture from the very beginning, most likely, your essay will end up in a bin in a matter of seconds.
If it’s still hard for you to start the essay with an intriguing, powerful, and catchy sentence, leave it to later. But always start the introduction with a hook that reflects the topic. Be appropriate: it’s not the best idea to start with an anecdote when writing about World War II.
Start with the first draft
Any experienced writer will tell you that it’s impossible to create a great essay, especially for a contest without several unsuccessful drafts. Thus, the first version should solely concentrate on your ideas and arguments: don’t bother to polish vocabulary and grammar.
We recommend focusing on the plot and your language: whether your emotional notes are appropriate, how the story comes across, and whether you are discussing everything that was planned.
Remember, first drafts are extremely important because they help to overcome the fear of blank space. Yes, the text may seem awkward at first, but you’ll have plenty of time to polish it. Just tell the story and share everything you wanted to discuss without fear of being judged.
Find your own style and language
Every day thousands of people take part in essay contests. Each of them has a unique style and story, so it’s quite challenging to stand out. The only way to win is to be different and to come up with your own writing style.
It can include inner rhymes, alliteration, coined words, puns, and so on. Consider humor, the play of words, and emotional swings to grab and hold the audience. Of course, when writing the first draft, it may be difficult to keep every detail in mind, but there’s no need to worry. Later you’ll be able to polish the text and to make your voice stand out.
While for most academic assignments getting familiar with examples may be good advice, we don’t recommend following it if you’re willing to learn how to win an essay contest. Someone else’s words and ideas may shade you from those of your own, and you’ll fail to craft a unique and customized essay.
Structure and flow always matter
When you have finished the first draft, read it again, and make sure that all the points are clear and easy to understand. Did you manage to engage all the arguments using transition words? Does the whole text make sense? Does it sound smooth when reading aloud?
At this stage, you must replace or even delete complex and unnecessary words, and to make sure that the number of characters doesn’t exceed the required quantity.
Have you read Stephen King’s On Writing? He writes that once received a rejection, which stated that the formula to success equals first draft minus 10%. This means that the second draft should also contain fewer elements and must be freed from unnecessary words or even sentences.
Self-editing is a very difficult skill, but it’s definitely worth mastering. Even if you don’t win an essay contest, in the future, it will be much easier to create a powerful and catchy paper.
Put the essay aside and relax
Now, when you have a polished draft, put the essay aside, and do other things. If you have enough time before the delivery date, don’t touch the draft for a few weeks. Thus, your mind will relax and won’t be disturbed by the topic.
You’ll be surprised how often students notice typos or other imperfections right after pressing the submit button. Putting the contest essay aside helps to come with new ideas and noticing mistakes before it’s not too late to fix everything.
Revise the essay again
At this stage, you have a final chance to polish the essay. Did you manage to say everything you intended to? Is your point of view clear? Does the essay sound great when it’s read aloud?
We recommend asking your relatives or friends to help. Let them read your essay and check the reaction: were they smiling while reading? Were they confused? Did they get the main point of the story?
If you doubt whether your language skills are strong enough, ask your friends or relatives to check grammar and spelling. Even computer checking programs make mistakes, so asking another person for help is a great decision.
Read essay contest rules once again
If you have been following our guidelines attentively, you know how important it is to read all the rules and requirements attentively. Now, when your final draft is ready, and all the mistakes are fixed, it’s a great idea to read the requirements once again and make sure you haven’t missed anything.
In case you already have a checklist with requirements, go through it step-by-step and make sure you meet all the rules. Voila! Your contest essay is ready, and you should only press the submit button. And no matter how worried you are, don’t forget to enjoy the process!
Best writing contests
Now, when you know how to win an essay contest, it’s the right time to choose the one that meets your goals. We have made a list of the most popular and rewarding contests that you can participate in:
- We The Students;
- The Scholastic Art and Writing Award;
- SPJ / JEA Essay Contest;
- American Foreign Service Essay Contest;
- Jane Austin Society Essay Contest;
- John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Contest;
- Bennington Young Writers Award;
- Signet Classics Student Scholarship;
- The Princeton Ten-Minute Contest.
Order a contest essay
Above, we have told you how to win an essay contest or at least how to create a powerful paper that you can be proud of. Unfortunately, students not always have enough time to write a perfect paper or to devote enough energy to each of the sections.
If you want to participate in an essay contest but don’t know where to start or how to edit an existing paper, let us offer our help. Our experienced writers and editors will create a unique essay from scratch or will polish your final draft. We guarantee that the result will exceed your expectations!