Sign up now for our free Feb. 11 webinar about this year’s contest, Teaching Argumentative Writing.
What makes you mad?
What would you like to see change?
What do you wish more people understood?
Over the last seven years, tens of thousands of teenagers from around the world have answered these questions in the form of short opinion essays submitted to our annual spring Editorial Contest.
They’ve made compelling arguments on issues big and small, from climate change, Black Lives Matter, lockdown drills, college admissions and immigration, to Ultimate Frisbee, teen slang, the blessings of selfie culture, and why pineapple pizza deserves more respect.
The best of them — our annual winners — not only ground their claims in strong evidence, but also engage us with voice, style and the kind of rhetorical flourishes you can observe up close if you check out the work of Ananya Udaygiri, Edward Xu and Abel John, the three winners featured in the video above.
Now we’re inviting you to do the same. Make an argument in 450 words or fewer about something that matters to you, and persuade us that we should care, too.
Below are all the details you need, plus many, many resources to help. Please post any questions to the comments here, or write to us at [email protected]
Students ages 11 to 19 anywhere in the world attending middle or high school can participate. We will include links to the submission form on Feb. 23.
1. Choose a topic you care about, and make an argument that will persuade readers to care about that topic, too.
Start by choosing something you are genuinely interested in. We’ve been running student writing contests for over a decade, and one thing we know for sure is that the best writing is inspired by students’ real interests and experiences. You might start by asking yourself the three questions at the top of this post and brainstorming a few answers.
You might also think about what topics you are an authority on, no matter how small. Take some 2019 winners, for example. Maybe, like Tony Xiao, you play a lot of video games and have noticed things about gaming culture that bother you. Or maybe, like Eva Ferguson, you have a health condition that gives you insights others don’t have. Or it could be that, like Isabelle Hwang, you’re just messy — and annoyed that no one understands messiness is a sign of creativity. What issues and topics do you know or care a lot about?
2. Your editorial must not exceed 450 words, so make sure your argument is focused enough that you can still make a strong case.
Let’s say you choose to write about college admissions. While it might be possible to write an essay for this contest that would upend the entire admissions system as we know it, 450 words are probably far too few to take on everything that’s problematic about the process. Instead, try carving out a smaller claim, the way Erin Tan did in 2020 when she focused on how changes wrought by the pandemic could impact college admissions forever. In other words, make a claim that you have room to defend so that you can focus on the logic of your argument.
(Please note: Your title and list of sources are separate and do not count as part of your 450-word limit.)
3. Research and gather evidence to bolster your argument, using at least one source published in The New York Times and at least one source from outside The Times.
At a time when breaking out of one’s “filter bubble” is more important than ever, we hope this contest encourages you to deepen your opinions by using multiple sources, ideally ones that offer a range of perspectives on your chosen issue. Just make sure those sources are reliable ones.
There is no limit on the number of sources you can use, but we ask that you cite at least one Times article and at least one article from outside The Times. There is a dedicated field in the submission form to cite a number of sources, because readers (and judges) should always be able to tell where you got your evidence. (You do not need to provide in-text citations.)
Please be very careful to put quotations around any direct quotes you use, and to cite the source of anything you paraphrase. If we put a sentence from your submission into a search engine, we don’t want to find it anywhere else — unless you’re clearly quoting or citing that source. We take evidence and allegations of plagiarism very seriously.
4. You can write your editorial by yourself or with a group, but please submit only one editorial per student.
Because editorial writing at newspapers is a collaborative process, you can write your entry as a team or by yourself — though, please, only one submission per student.
If you are working as a team, just remember to submit all of your names when you post your entry. And if you’re submitting as part of a team, you should not also submit as an individual.
5. We will use this rubric to judge your work, but the best way to get a feel for what we’re looking for is to read a few essays by previous winners.
We believe in using student work as mentor texts, so much so that we’ve just published a book — and teacher’s guide — with 100 award-winning essays drawn from this contest.
But you don’t have to buy the book to see many examples; just skim through this column of recent winners and choose some that interest you. As you go, ask yourself: What ideas does this give me for my own work? What do I admire? What “writer’s moves” did this student use that I might try to use to make my own piece stronger?
6. All entries must be submitted by April 13 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern using the contest form above.
We provide a small window of time after that deadline to allow for technical difficulties. However, at some point after the deadline, our contest submission form closes and you will not be allowed to submit an entry, so please be mindful of the deadline and submit early.
Please read through all the official eligibility and submission rules before submitting your editorial. If you have questions, please see the Frequently Asked Questions section below.
Resources for Teachers and Students
As teachers know, the persuasive essay has long been a staple of high school education, but the Common Core standards seem to have put evidence-based argumentative writing on everybody’s agenda. You couldn’t ask for a more real-world example of the genre than the essays published in newspaper opinion sections every day, and The Times publishes a bounty of them.
Beyond that daily section, however, we have many more resources to help teachers and students plan for this contest:
Our daily Student Opinion feature, a low-stakes opportunity to practice honing arguments for an audience. Anyone 13-19 years old is welcome to post on any question past or present.
A curated selection of argumentative writing prompts: 401 Prompts for Argumentative Writing plus, new for 2021, 300 Questions and Images to Inspire Argument Writing
A free webinar about this year’s contest, Teaching Argumentative Writing. (Feb. 11)
Earlier webinars, now on-demand: “Teach Argumentative Writing With Our Student Editorial Contest” and “Write to Change the World: Crafting Persuasive Pieces With Help From Nicholas Kristof and the Times Op-Ed Page.”
Our video “How to Write an Editorial.”
Our lesson plan: “10 Ways to Teach Argument-Writing With The New York Times” which links to many more resources relevant to this contest, including ideas from educators who teach with it annually.
Our contest rubric.
A new book, “Student Voice,” that collects 100 of the best student essays from this contest all in one place, categorized by subjects like “Teenage Life Online,” “Gender and Sexuality” and “Sports and Gaming” — plus, a related teacher’s guide.
Coming soon: Some new entries in our Annotated By the Author series, featuring student winners from 2020 discussing their work and sharing tips.
Frequently Asked Questions
QUESTIONS ABOUT JUDGING
How will my editorial be judged?
Your work will be read by New York Times journalists, as well as by Learning Network staff members and educators from around the United States. We will use this rubric to judge entries.
What’s the prize?
Having your work published on The Learning Network and being eligible to have your work published in the print New York Times.
When will the winners be announced?
About six weeks to two months after the contest has closed.
If you are a finalist, you will be notified before publication via email. Please check your inbox for a permission form that must be signed by a parent or guardian if you are under 18 years old in order for us to publish your name and work on our site.
My essay wasn’t selected as a winner. Can you tell me why?
We receive thousands of entries for this contest, so unfortunately, our team does not have the capacity to provide individual feedback on each student’s essay.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE RULES
Who is eligible to participate in this contest?
For this contest, we invite students ages 11 to 19 in middle school or high school to write an editorial. For students in the United States, we consider middle school to begin in sixth grade; students outside of the United States must be at least 11 years old to enter.
The children and stepchildren of New York Times employees are not eligible to enter this contest, nor are students who live in the same household as those employees.
If you are not sure if you are eligible for this contest (for example, if you’re taking a gap year), please see our more detailed eligibility rules.
Can I have someone else check my work?
We understand that students will often revise their work based on feedback from teachers and peers. That is allowed for this contest. However, be sure that the final submission reflects the ideas, voice and writing ability of the student, not someone else.
My essay has already been published in my school newspaper. Can I submit it to this contest?
No. We ask that your editorial be original for this contest. Please don’t submit anything you have already published at the time of submission, whether in a school newspaper, for another contest or anywhere else.
Who can I contact if I have questions about this contest or am having issues submitting my entry?
Leave a comment on this post or write to us at [email protected]
QUESTIONS ABOUT TEACHING WITH THIS CONTEST
I’m a teacher. What resources do you have to help me teach with this contest?
Here is our full unit on teaching argumentative writing. We will be adding resources throughout the weeks the contest runs this year, and both this page and that one will be updated.
Do my students need a New York Times subscription to access these resources?
The New York Times is now available to high school students and teachers across the United States for FREE through Sept. 1, 2021. Learn more and invite your classes here. (Please note that once teachers send an invitation, students will need to accept it to get their free account.)
If your students are not yet in high school, and they don’t have a subscription, they can get access to Times pieces through The Learning Network. All the activities for students on our site, including mentor texts and writing prompts, plus the Times articles they link to, are free. Students can search for articles using the search tool on our home page (scroll down past the featured articles to the article stream). In the rest of The Times, they can access up to five free articles a month.
How do my students prove to me that they entered this contest?
After they submit their essays, students should receive an email from The New York Times with the subject heading “Thank you for your submission to our Editorial Contest,” which they can forward to you to show their entry has been accepted.