University History Essay Competitions For High School

The World Historian Student Essay Competition is an international competition open to students enrolled in grades K–12 in public, private, and parochial schools, and those in home-study programs. Membership in the World History Association is not a requirement for submission. Past winners may not compete in the same category again.

Dr. Mark Welter, recognizing the importance of encouraging young scholars, established this $500 annual prize, presented in conjunction with the World History Association. A one-year membership in the WHA will also be included with each prize.

Each competitor will submit an essay that addresses the issue: In what way has the study of world history affected my understanding of the world in which I live?

The committee will judge papers according to the following criteria:

  1. clear thesis;
  2. elaboration on the thesis with specific, concrete, personal example(s);
  3. evidence of critical-thinking, such as synthesis and evaluation, when reflecting on the essay question;
  4. organization and fluency; and
  5. overall effectiveness of the student’s ability to communicate his or her personal connection with the study of world history—in other words, how well has the student described the experience of being changed by a better understanding of world history?

Submission Guidelines

Length & Format

Length: Submissions for the K–12 World Historian Award should be approximately 1,000 words.

Formatting: Number all pages except for the title page. All pages are to be double-spaced. Use 12-point Times New Roman Font. Margins are to be 1 inch left and right, and top and bottom.

Submissions must be composed in Microsoft Word.

The author’s identity is to appear nowhere on the paper.

A separate, unattached page should accompany the paper, identifying the author, title of paper, home address, telephone number, e-mail address, and name of school.

Papers that do not adhere to these guidelines will be disqualified.


Entries must be emailed or postmarked by the annual deadline of 1 May.

Winning papers will be announced in early September to early December.

The WHA reserves the right to publish in the World History Bulletin any essay (or portion thereof) submitted to the competition. It will do so solely at its discretion, but full acknowledgment of authorship will be given. If someone’s essay is published in whole or in part, the author will receive three (3) copies of the Bulletin.

E-mail submission

Send the following materials as separate attachments (formatted in MS Word) in the same e-mail, with the subject line World Historian Student Essay:

  • the paper, and
  • a page with identifying information (author, title of paper, home address, telephone number, e-mail address, and name of school).

E-mail to: Susan Smith <>.

Postal submission

Send five copies of the paper and five copies of the page with identifying information. In the lower left hand corner on the front of the envelope write: World Historian Student Essay.

Mail to:

Susan Smith
Maple Grove Senior High
9800 Fernbrook Lane N.
Maple Grove, MN 55369-9747

World Historian Student Essay Competition Committee:

  • Susan Smith, chair
  • Paul Richgruber

Past Winners


  • Vivian Liu, International School of Beijing, Beijing, “History: Bread of the World”


  • Vanessa Yan, Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School (Bradenton, Florida), “World History: The Great Macroscope”


  • Rachel Hughes, Webber Academy (Calgary), “Fostering a Universal Understanding of World History is the Key to a Brighter Tomorrow”


  • Campbell Munson, The Episcopal School of Dallas, “How History Has Affected My Worldview: Economies, Migration, Causality and Disease”


  • Jacob Cooper, North Oconee High School (Bogart, Georgia), “World History: The Basis for Self-Determination, Democracy, and Religion“


  • Luke J. Hamilton, Sword Academy (Bridgeport, Nebraska), “The Present: Living History”


  • David Kim, Wydown Middle School (St. Louis), “History: The Shadow of the World”


  • Elizabeth Mello, Dartmouth High School (Dartmouth, Massachusetts), “Out of Many Threads, One Cloth”

While you probably will want to submit an essay you wrote for a class you took (and this is fine), you should keep in mind that even an outstanding essay written to satisfy the requirements of a specific assignment may not make a good submission without some revision. When an essay is a response to an assignment, the author can often choose to omit information that might be required in a more general essay. However, the readers for the contest will expect to see an essay that is entirely self-contained, that is, that contains within it all the information an intelligent reader would need to know to understand the point of the essay. So you will probably need to revise your essay to make it suitable. Ask yourself these questions as you revise:

  • Does my essay have a real thesis (a position I am arguing for or defending) or is it simply a narrative? An essay that is essentially descriptive will probably not be as strong a competitor as an essay that presents a point of view about the past.
  • Is my essay focused? An essay which has a tight focus is likely to be more effective and persuasive than an essay that ranges far and wide.
  • Are my sources properly cited? Sometimes in a classroom essay, you are only required to cite works by the author’s last name and page number; for this contest all works need a full and proper citation, whether you choose parenthetical citation with a “Works Cited” list at the end or footnotes and endnotes. For more information about citing sources and the Chicago Manual of Style, visit Research and Writing for History J300 & J400.
  • Have I corrected all of the grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors in this essay? An essay containing spelling and grammatical errors is simply not impressive; it does not convince the readers that you have any authority and such sloppiness irritates educated readers.

Deadline: mid-March annually.

Inquire about this year's awards deadline

Qualified undergraduates may submit no more than one essay per prize. Essays should be typed in 12-point type, and the text should be double-spaced, with 1-inch margins. Papers can be submitted at any time before the deadline. Submissions should be emailed to They should include a Word document version of the paper, and the following information in the body of the email:

  • Student name
  • Paper title
  • Title of prize for which essay is being submitted
  • Course for which the essay was written
  • Semester in which the essay was written
  • Your academic year or graduation status
  • Email address (if it will change after the semester in which you submit your essay)

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