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Essay Contest

Summer Reading Program

Essay Contest

The Summer Reading Program Committee is sponsoring an essay writing contest for the 2014 freshman class. All first year students are eligible to submit essays. Essays will be read and evaluated by members of the Summer Reading Program Committee. The winner of the contest will be invited to have dinner with Jay Allison, one of the book editors, on September 9, 2014 and will be given a $100 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble bookstore.

Essay Question

You have encountered the deeply emotional, spiritual, and intellectual explorations of the various contributors to This I Believe II, and now you have the opportunity to add your voices to the body of literature. Editors Jay Allison and Dan Gediman offer the following guidelines for crafting your own This I Believe Essay:

“Tell a story: Be specific. Take your belief out of the ether and ground it in events of your life. Your story need not be heartwarming or gut-wrenching—it can even be funny—but it should be real. Consider moments when your belief was formed, tested, or changed. Make sure your story ties to the essence of your daily life philosophy and to the shaping of your beliefs.

Be brief: Your statement should be between 350-500 words. The shorter length forces you to focus on the belief that is central to your life.

Name your belief: If you can’t name it in a sentence or two, your essay might not be about belief. Rather than writing a list, consider focusing on one core belief.

Be affirmative: Say what you do believe, not what you don’t believe. Avoid statements of religious dogma, preaching, or editorializing.

Be personal: Make your essay about you; speak in the first person. Try reading your essay aloud to yourself several times, and each time edit it and simplify it until you find the words, tone, and story that truly echo your belief and the way you speak.” (247-48)

Technical Guidelines for Submission


  • 350-500 words, 12 pt. standard font, 1" margins
  • MLA citation format, if needed
  • Cover page with the title "Summer Reading Program Essay Contest Submission," your Banner ID, and date. (Please omit name)
  • Staple all pages together at the top left hand corner
  • Submit 3 copies of your essay to Elisabeth Gonzalez, room B-10 Cooper Hall, by September 2, 2014 at 4 p.m.



Last Updated 7/22/14