Essay and writing competitions - it’s not just about winning!

25th April 2022

Want to develop your writing skills? Or are you keen to show that you can work beyond the school syllabus? Competitions are a great way forward.

Essay competitions or writing competitions?

The main difference is that an essay competition will usually have an academic focus while a writing competition is for fiction writing or journalistic fact-based writing. Entering something like the BBC’s Young Reporter Competition, for instance, could also give you the flavour of a professional career.

If you are interested in a writing career, then either type of competition will provide an excellent way to develop and showcase your writing skills and demonstrate your creativity. Both can also enhance your university application or CV.

For university applications to a wide number of courses, essay competitions have some advantages and can help you to:

Structure your time

Essay competitions have strict deadlines and if you are prone to procrastination this can be helpful. With a concrete timeline for you to follow, it is much easier to organise yourself to study a particular subject when there is a purpose and an endpoint.

Think critically and learn

When it comes to learning, writing is better than reading. You will consolidate your understanding and remember details more easily when you have had to frame them into an argument. Having a word limit can also help you to communicate your point with concision. In writing an essay, you become an active learner.

Develop writing and research skills

Research and writing are the key skills you will be using at university, but they are not always easy to develop within the confines of the school curriculum. An essay competition will enable you to dig deeper. You will go beyond textbooks to complete your academic research, and in doing so your research skills will grow. You will also demonstrate to admissions tutors that you can do well at higher-level study.

Make decisions

Essay competitions are an excellent way to explore different fields. The earlier you start the more areas you can explore.  Can’t decide between Art History or Classical Civilisation at university? Why not enter the Write on Art essay competition and the Mary Renault Prize to help you decide? Which one do you enjoy more?

Getting started

Essay competitions

Writing competitions

Top tips

1. Read the instructions!

If you want to have a chance of winning you need to write to the brief the competition has set.

2. Look at previous winners.

This could give you an insight into what the judges look for.

3. Leave time to proof and polish.

Ask somebody else to read your work both for sense-making as well as for spelling and grammar.

4. Enjoy it!

Immersing yourself in a subject you enjoy is valuable in and of itself but will also help your work to shine.

Good luck!