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3 Writing Contests for High Schoolers Interested in Government and Politics


Back when I was in high school 800 years ago, I knew very little about American government and politics. Sure, I excelled in AP Gov and watched The Colbert Report religiously, but I can’t say I engaged very deeply with our political system or spent a lot of time reflecting on its inner workings.


Much has happened since that time, including the election, presidential term, and failed re-election of Donald Trump, the reignition of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the ongoing government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though it’s difficult to say which events in particular have resonated the most with American teenagers, it’s impossible to deny the fact that high schoolers are now more politically engaged and vocal about public issues than they were a decade ago. In my opinion, increased civic engagement can only be a good thing, and I commend all young people who are doing the work and thinking critically about the systems so many of us take for granted.


To those students interested in government and politics, I suggest 3 writing contests that are prepared to reward you handsomely for your answers to some of our democracy’s biggest questions.


Disclaimer: In many cases, the writing prompt has been abbreviated and/or condensed for length. For full prompt details and requirements, visit each contest’s website at the links provided.


1. United States Institute of Peace National High School Essay Contest


Prompt: What characteristics lead to a successful effort by diplomats and peacebuilders to mediate or prevent violent conflict?


Successful essays will identify, in no more than 1,250 words, a situation where diplomats worked on a peacebuilding initiative with partners from the country/region in question, nongovernmental organizations, and other parts of the U.S. government, and then go on to analyze what characteristics and approaches made the enterprise a success.

Deadline: April 5, 2021


Prizes: The first place winner will receive a $2,500 cash prize, an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., and a full-tuition paid voyage with Semester at Sea upon the student’s enrollment at an accredited university. The second place winner will receive a $1,250 cash prize and a full scholarship to participate in the International Diplomacy Program of the National Student Leadership Conference.


2. The Bill of Rights Institute’s We the Students Essay Contest


Prompt: What is the relationship between Equality and Justice? Answering this question requires considering each of these principles and analyzing the relationship between them.


To truly explore this question in an essay that is between 500-800 words, you’ll need to go beyond "dictionary definitions," and express your understanding and reasoning about the connection between these two principles.


Deadline: April 15, 2021


Prizes: The one winner of the National Grand Prize will receive $7,500. Five runners-up will win $1,500 each, while ten honorable mentions will each receive $500.


3. The Federal Bar Association’s Civics Essay Contest


Prompt: This year’s question is “What does it mean to support and defend the Constitution?” The maximum essay length in the Middle School Division is 500 words, and the maximum length is 1,000 words for high school entries.


Deadline: March 31, 2021


Prizes: For the Middle School Division, first place wins $750; second place, $500; and third place, $250. High School Division winners receive $1,500, $1,000, and $500, respectively.


Writing is hard! Trust me. I live this struggle every day! If you’d like help crafting an award-winning essay for one (or several!) of these contests or just need a bit of guidance in your English class, ask the experts at ThinquePrep about our academic coaching services.

Nina Calabretta is a college English instructor, tutor, and writer native to Orange County, CA. When she’s not writing or helping students improve their skills as readers, writers, and critical thinkers, she can be found hiking the local trails with friends and family or curled up with a good book and her cat, Betsy. She has been part of the ThinquePrep team since 2018.


With offices located in beautiful Orange County, ThinquePrep specializes in the personalized mentorship of students and their families through the entire college preparation process and beyond. With many recent changes to college admissions - standardized tests, financial aid, varied admissions processes - the educational landscape has never been more competitive or confusing. We’re here from the first summer program to the last college acceptance letter. It’s never too early to start thinking about your student’s future, so schedule your complimentary consultation today!

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