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10 Amazing Tips to Help You Win ASHG's DNA Day Essay Contest

Participating in international essay contests can be a valuable experience as a high school student, providing you with an opportunity to showcase your writing skills, critical thinking abilities, and knowledge on specific subjects. Beyond the intrinsic rewards of intellectual growth and self-expression, such contests can also significantly boost a student's profile when applying to college. Colleges and universities often look for well-rounded individuals who have demonstrated excellence in various aspects of their academic and extracurricular pursuits, and winning an essay contest is a compelling testament to a student's intellectual passions.

One prominent essay contest that not only offers students a chance to demonstrate their abilities in writing but also potentially win prizes ranging from $1,000 to $100 is the DNA Essay Contest.  In this article, we will explore the structure, costs, prompt, eligibility, and other essential information about the ASHG DNA Day Essay Contest. We'll also share 10 valuable tips that’ll help you put your best foot forward and hopefully win the contest! 

What is the ASHG DNA Day Essay Contest?

The ASHG DNA Day Essay Contest is an annual contest organized by the American Society of Human Genetics. This contest aims to encourage high school students to explore and reflect on the advancements, implications, and ethical considerations of genetics. It provides a platform for students to express their thoughts on how genetics shapes our world and influences various aspects of our lives.

Teachers and students around the world are encouraged to celebrate “DNA Day” by participating in the American Society of Human Genetics' (ASHG) annual DNA Day Essay Contest. The essay question each year aims to cover a current topic in genetics that may not be covered in typical biology classes.

Structure of the contest

The contest involves submitting an essay on a specific prompt related to genetics that is updated annually. Participants are required to craft an original, well-researched, and thought-provoking essay that addresses the given topic. The essays are evaluated by a panel of experts in genetics and related fields.

How you will be judged

What are the reviewers looking for when evaluating the essays? The following rubric will give you a sense of how the essays are scored. 

  • The overall accuracy of the science content: 0-6

  • Use of evidence in support of an argument/answer; essay well-focused on the question/topic selected: 0-6

  • Writing quality (clear thesis, composition, grammar, syntax, spelling: 0-5

  • References and citations (quality and appropriateness): 0-3

Total Points: 0-20


One of the appealing aspects of the ASHG DNA Day Essay Contest is that it is free to enter. This inclusivity ensures that students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds can participate without any financial barriers. This aligns with the organization's commitment to promoting education and awareness in the field of human genetics.

What are the prizes?

The prizes range from $100 - 1000 dollars. 

  • $1,000 + $1,000 genetics materials grant for 1st Place Winner

  • $600 + $600 genetics materials grant for 2nd Place Winner

  • $400 + $400 genetics materials grant for 3rd Place Winner

  • $100 each for Honorable Mentions 10 students


The essay prompt for the contest varies each year, challenging participants to think critically about different aspects of genetics. The prompt is carefully crafted to encourage students to explore scientific concepts, ethical dilemmas, and societal implications related to genetics. It is crucial for participants to thoroughly understand and address the specific components of the prompt in their essays.

To give you a sense of the types of prompts typical of the DNA essay contest, the 2024 prompt is the following:

Many human diseases have a genetic component. Some diseases result from a change in a single gene or even multiple genes. Yet, many diseases are complex and stem from an interaction between genes and the environment. Environmental factors may include chemicals in the air or water, nutrition, microbes, ultraviolet radiation from the sun and social context. Provide an example of how the interplay of genetics and environment can shape human health.


  1. The contest is open to high school students around the world. Participants must be in grades 9-12 and submit their essays by the specified deadline. 

  2. The competition is not limited to students studying biology or genetics; students from diverse academic backgrounds are encouraged to participate. This inclusivity allows for a broad range of perspectives and insights, enriching the overall quality of the submissions.

Application Information and timelines

In early January the submission site opens and in early March 2024 the submission site closes. On April 25, 2024, DNA Day, the winners and honorable mentions are announced. To enter the ASHG DNA Day Essay Contest, students need to visit the official contest website to get the most up-to-date information. The application process is streamlined and user-friendly, ensuring that students can easily navigate through the requirements and submit their essays electronically.

Now that we have covered the fundamental aspects of the ASHG DNA Day Essay Contest, let's look at 10 tips that can significantly enhance your chances of winning:

  1. Don’t overemphasize the details

  2. Avoid sweeping overstatements in your essay

  3. Avoid inaccuracy in technical language

  4. Utilize in-text citations

  5. Don’tuse of out-of-date references

  6. Avoid excessive reliance on quotes

  7. Address ethical considerations in your essay

  8.  Avoid any inconsistency in your argumentation

  9. Don’t ignore counterarguments - address them

  10. Seek references from past essays and pay attention to the formatting guidelines


Participating in the ASHG DNA Day Essay Contest will provide you with a unique opportunity to explore the intricate world of genetics while honing your writing and critical thinking skills. By following the 10 tips outlined in this article, aspiring participants will enhance their chances of creating a compelling and winning essay. From thorough research and utilization of official resources to incorporating personal reflections and addressing ethical considerations, these tips are designed to guide you toward success in this prestigious competition.

As you embark on your essay-writing journey, remember that each entry is not just a chance to win but also an opportunity to contribute to the ongoing dialogue surrounding genetics and its profound impact on our world. This is an opportunity that you can use to reflect on with mentors in high school and in your future college admissions process. 

One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are passionate about research in biology and other STEM subjects, you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online program for students I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.

Image Source: ASHG's DNA Day Essay Contest 2023 logo


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lekor adams
15 dic 2023

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