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Essay Prizes FAQs

This page contains more information on using our Essay Prizes online submission system for both entrants and their teachers, including how to change submitted essays.

Our Essay Prize portal has two sides - an entrant side for submission and a teachers' side for approval. The system can be used by teachers to run internal competitions within the school - entrants upload their essays as normal and the teacher selects the two best essays for each prize to approve and put forward for consideration by the competition markers. If you can't find the answers to your questions on these pages, please contact us and we'll do what we can to help.

  • For entrants

    What is the word limit? Do captions/quotes/references/citations count?

    The word limit given is the word limit including footnotes, captions, quotes, citations but not the bibliography. Entries over the word limit will not be considered. Entries below the word limit are also encouraged - length is not necessarily related to quality and entrants are advised that sometimes less can be more.

    Can I see previous entrants/winning essays?

    No, it is not possible to see previous winning essays as we do not have the permission of their authors to share their work and we are not prescriptive in what we are looking for! Part of the fun is seeing the different and creative ways entrants approach the questions as we do not believe there is just one way to write a good essay.

    What are the markers looking for?

    Information on how winning essays are selected can be found on the Essay Prizes homepage. In particular, please note that this is an essay prize and entries should conform to the essay format (i.e. a shortish piece of writing conveying an argument) rather than a mini-dissertation or a review of existing literature. Winners are those who best make their arguments, not those who can cram the most history/english/science into the word limit.

    I'm in year 11/13, can I enter?

    The prize is exclusively for students in their penultimate year of school - what England/Wales refer to as Year 12  (i.e. Year 13 in Northern Ireland or S5 in Scotland). Students in other years are welcome to use the questions to direct their own wider reading but will not be eligible for consideration in the competition.

    I'm at school outside the UK, can I enter?

    Yes, you are welcome to enter, provided you are in year 12, or equivalent (penultimate year of school, aged 16-17).

    There are more than two people at my school interested in the prizes

    Your teacher can get in touch to request that we consider extra entries. This request must come from a teacher - we will not respond to students requesting additional entries. In any case, it is unlikely that we would grant more than an extra 1 entry and your teachers are advised to run an internal competition to select the best 2 or 3 entries from your school.

    I've submitted my essay but my teacher hasn't heard anything

    There is a delay between submission and us contacting your teacher as this requires manual approval to reduce the potential for spammers exploiting our system. As a result, teachers will only be contacted during office hours. If you submit at 5pm on a Friday then nothing will happen until at least 9am on the Monday.

    How do I know if my entry has been approved?

    Approval will be done by the teacher you have named in your submission - speak to them if you want to check if your entry has been approved and submitted for consideration. They will be able to log in to the teacher section to view and approve essays and to check the status of your essay.

    I've made a mistake/I want to change my entry

    If the submission deadline hasn't passed, you can make as many changes as you like. Upload the amended version as a new essay and get your teacher to reject the incorrect version and approve the new one. Changes and amendments like this can be done between you and your teacher - please do not contact the College as we are unable to help. After the submission deadline has passed, it is not possible to make further changes.

    When will the winners be announced?

    Winners and their teachers will be contacted directly by post and email once we have selected the winning entries. Winners will then be announced on the Essay Prizes page of this website. Unsuccessful applicants will be contacted by email.

    I have a question - can you help?

    If you have a question and you're sure it isn't answered here, on the essay prizes page or in the pdf guide to each competition, then you can get in touch. Please note that we will only respond during office hours and it may take some time for us to get to your query.

    I didn't win but I'd like feedback on my entry

    I'm afraid we can't provide feedback on entries and you should consult with your teachers if you wish to receive guidance.

    I didn't win, does that mean I shouldn't apply to Cambridge?

    NO! The Essay Prizes are separate from our admissions process and assess different skills. Whilst it is often true that winners can make strong applications to Cambridge or academic courses at other competitive universities, many students who weren't successful at the prizes do also apply successfully each year. The process of researching and writing on a topic outside of the school curriculum is excellent preparation for university-level study and you will have gained useful skills just by entering.

  • For teachers

    There are more than two students at my school interested in the prizes

    First of all, remember that there is only a limit of 2 entries per competition, so in theory your school can submit 6 entries across the three competitions. If you would like to submit more than 2 entries for a specific prize, you are welcome to get in touch to request that we consider extra entries. In any case, it is unlikely that we would grant more than an extra 1 entry and teachers are advised to run an internal competition to select the best 2 or 3 entries from your school. You are welcome to use our essay prize online portal for this - entrants upload their essays as normal and you will be able to download them and can then select the 2 or 3 best essays for each prize to approve and put forward for consideration by the competition markers.

    There are more than two teachers at my school interested in the prizes

    We appreciate that you might not always know if your colleagues are also entering students in the competition. If this happens, we will be in touch before essays are marked to ask that you and your colleagues select the best 2 or 3 entries from your school.

    How do I approve a student's essay?

    We have produced a guide for teachers on using our teachers' system. When initially logging in be careful to log in to the teacher section (where you can read and approve your essays) and not register or log in as an applicant (where all that can be done is upload essays).

    My student wants to amend their essay - what do I do?

    Peterhouse are unable to amend essays and this is between you and your student(s). If the submission deadline has passed then no more amendments are permitted and the essay(s) in question will be judged as submitted. If the entry deadline has not yet passed then your students can make as many changes as they like by uploading amended versions as a new essay and asking you to reject the incorrect version and approve the new one (you can open and read the essays when logged in to check which version is which).