And, we have heard from many teachers that writing these statements is immensely helpful to students. Often, doing the metacognitive work of stepping back from a piece and trying to put into words why and how you made craft choices, what you wanted to express, and how the work connects to a larger theme can help you see your piece anew and figure out how to make it stronger.
We hope you’ll compose your statement as carefully as you do your main piece since, as you can see from our rubric, it is an important part of the submission overall.
There are so many options, both for format and for message. How do I even begin?
We know that choosing what to say and how to say it might be the hardest part of this challenge, so we’ve created a step-by-step guide to help. We will also soon publish a wide range of mentor texts from the winners of the 2020 contest that can provide inspiration.
Here are some questions to get started:
What would you like others to know about who you are now? Has some part of your identity — as a family member; friend; student; worker; member of a racial, religious or ethnic group; athlete; artist or anything else — been challenged or changed? What can you show or tell us that others may not know or understand? What aspects of your life — whether big or small, serious or silly, fleeting or fundamental — seem important or interesting to share with others at this moment?
What have you noticed not only about yourself but about others in your generation? Is there something many teenagers have experienced during this time that adults may not know about or fully understand? How can you document or express that?
How can I make my submission stand out?
It is safe to say that, as in all our contests, we’ll prize original work that has a strong voice and goes beyond cliché to show or tell us something new.
Here are three pieces of advice we find ourselves repeating often, but which are especially important for this contest, no matter what kind of work you are submitting. You can find them described in more detail here.
1. Create from who you are and what you genuinely care about.
The finalists in this contest last year showed us memorable aspects of their real lives, whether their submission was about obsessively playing Among Us, the feeling of being trapped in one room, learning to catch lobsters, participating in the George Floyd protests, or experiencing the death of a loved one. The pieces that impressed us most felt genuine and grounded in details that made a specific time, place and set of concerns, observations or questions real, honest and meaningful.
2. Focus on something small to tell a larger story.
Describing the time you made brownies with your stepbrother at 4 a.m. might say much more about the experience of quarantine than trying to write an essay capturing an entire year of family interactions.