Here’s a riddle you’ll love!
What has 132 Pulitzer Prizes to its name and is giving you a chance to write for it?
(drum roll….) The New York Times!
Every year, the New York Times hosts an Annual Review Contest where students from all around the world get a chance to play critic and submit an original review. So, if you have unique opinions on art, culture, and current events (you name it!) and have a flair for writing, you should keep reading.
In this ultimate guide, we’ll help you prepare, pace, and ace the New York Times Review Contest! If you’re interested in other writing competitions, check out our guide to the Concord Review or learn about how to write a research paper with us.
If you are seeking ways to publish your work, take a chance and participate in the New York Times 8th Annual Review contest - you have nothing to lose - literally! Yes, it’s completely free.
Who: For students ages 13-19 who enjoy writing, and creative expression
What: Write a 450-word review expressing your opinion on anything related to movies, music, podcasts, fashion, hotels, and more
When: Submit your review on the New York Times website
Why: Stand a chance to have your piece published in the New York Times
Who is this competition for?
This competition is for students between the ages of 13 and 19 (essentially, middle school or high school students may participate). It is also competitive - last year, more than 2,300 people entered this contest, and wrote about everything from local restaurants and art exhibits to comedy shows and hidden architectural gems.
What is the competition about?
The contest aims to test the ‘cultural imagination’ of students. They love something which is unique, opinionated, and original. This is perfect for anyone who enjoys self-expression and sharing personal views.
All contestants are expected to review something as if they are a critic for the creative section of the New York Times.
One of the main guidelines to keep in mind is that you need to write about categories including architecture, art, books, cars, comedy, dance, fashion, hotels, movies, music, podcasts, restaurants, technology, theatre, TV shows, and video games.
Reviews must be 450 words or fewer, not including the title
Essay submissions should be absolute originals, meaning, it should not already be published at the time of submission, whether in a school newspaper, for another contest, or anywhere else
The content of essays should be appropriate for a Times audience — that is, something that could be published in a family newspaper (keep it clean)
Only one entry per student can be submitted
All students must submit work independently and cannot work in teams
All students must have a parent or guardian complete the Parent/Guardian Permission section on the submission form before submitting
All submissions should be submitted by December 14th, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time
Submit your completed reviews on the website submission form
The contest usually opens in November and closes in December of each year. Winners will be announced approximately two months after the deadline.
All winning pieces will be published on The Learning Network, a New York Times website dedicated to offering resources that help people teach and learn with Times content; and will be considered eligible to be published in the print edition of The New York Times!
The New York Times has its own rubric to grade all submitted entries. All entries will be read and judged by New York Times journalists, Learning Network staff members, and educators from around the United States.
Here is an essential breakdown of what they will be looking for:
Opinion: communicate your subjective experience and unique reaction
Attention to detail: share relevant and accurate details
Audience: take into account the audience your writing is intended for
Language: techniques like voice, language, style, tone, correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation will be judged
Tips & resources
If you’re looking for resources to help write this review, the New York Times has culminated lesson plans, writing prompts as well as videos from the Times critics on their website. Here are links to some resources we think will be most helpful!
A lesson plan on reading and writing culture reviews
An on-demand webinar with Learning Network staff and expert educators on teaching review writing with The New York Times
Four short videos by Times critics sharing their favorite review-writing tips
Writing prompts that lead to written, creative and cultural reviews
A video with advice from past student winners
An annotated winning essay describing the writer’s process
Advice on how to write a review by three New York Times critics
The Times’s co-chief film critic, Manohla Dargis’s writing and research process for her review of the 2021 film “Dune”
Samples of winning reviews
One last tip - a great strategy is to explore the works of past winners to understand the kind of writing styles that resonate with the judges. Here are links to some of our favorite winning articles from the last couple of years:
If you’d like to explore more winning work from 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015, click on these links and read away, you’ll see how these articles are formed and the tone they strike. Pro-tip, try to review things that you, as a teenager, are uniquely qualified to review!
One other option – Lumiere’s Research Program
If you’re looking for a more selective, structured research program that allows you to publish your work, check out Lumiere’s Premium Publication Research. This is an online program for students founded by Harvard and Oxford researchers, where the program pairs you with a full-time researcher (PhDs from top institutions) to develop your own independent research project, and has a publication team on board to help you publish your research! You can find the application form here.
Are you looking for more programs and opportunities? Check out some of our other blogs on 15 Research Competitions for High School Students, writing competitions, and programs like The Concord Review: The Complete Guide To Getting In!
Dhvani (the-one-e) is a program manager at Lumiere, in addition to being an entrepreneur, dialogue facilitator, and boxer. She graduated from UC Davis where she studied design, psychology, and sustained dialogue. She has a passion for all things education, inclusion, and empowerment!