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World Historian Student Essay Competition - 8 Reasons Why You Should Participate

The World History Association holds an annual World History Student Essay Competition designed for any and all students of any age and educational background to participate. This prestigious and internationally known organization will offer a monetary and scholarship prize for the winner of the competition.


Participating in nationally acclaimed essay competitions can significantly benefit high school students applying to universities. These competitions foster essential skills like research, critical thinking, and creativity, making applicants more academically prepared. Winning or being recognized as a finalist adds credibility to their portfolios, showcasing their dedication and expertise. All of which could set students apart and strengthen their university applications.


Continue reading to find out more information about the World History Association, the World History Student Essay Competition, and why you should consider participating!


What is the World History Association?

The World History Association (WHA) is a professional organization dedicated to the advancement of the field of world history. Founded in the early 1980s, the WHA brings together historians, educators, scholars, and enthusiasts interested in the study and promotion of global and world history.

The WHA hosts annual conferences, publishes the Journal of World History, and provides a platform for networking and sharing ideas among its members. Over the years, the WHA has played a significant role in shaping the development of world history education in the United States and beyond, advocating for cross-cultural and comparative approaches to history.


What is the World History Student Essay Competition?

The World History Student Essay Competition is one of the many prize competitions hosted by the World History Association. The WHA has a mission to promote an appreciation of world history, especially in young students, through research, publications, and teaching. They have already given over $30,000 to many different scholars through their prize competitions and scholarships. The Student Essay Competition is an international competition open to all students, including high school students. Keep reading for more details about this essay competition.


Is the competition prestigious?

Participating in the World History Student Essay Competition, hosted by the well-known and highly accredited World History Association (WHA), can significantly boost high school students' college applications and admissions prospects. Many students from across the USA submit their essays to this prestigious competition which encourages students to conduct extensive research, fostering a deeper understanding of global events and cultures while enhancing critical thinking and writing skills, valuable for university studies.


The inclusivity of the competition, open to students from diverse educational backgrounds, ensures broad participation. Additionally, it is financially accessible, with no application fees. Winners receive a substantial $500 prize, a one-year membership in WHA, and the opportunity to have their work published in the prestigious World History Bulletin. Such recognition from an internationally recognized organization can greatly strengthen university applications, making participation in this competition a rewarding and impactful experience for students on their educational journey.


What is the essay prompt?

Every year, participating students are asked to write an essay addressing the same prompt: in what way has the study of world history affected my understanding of the world in which I live? As you write, think, “How does this relate to me?”. Personal and ancestral stories are encouraged to support your views of the importance of world history. Such stories could include a family story regarding a historical event, your family's cultural background, or specific regional knowledge that relates to a world-historical event. Take a look at past winners (2023, 2019, 2018, 2017) to get an idea of how to engage with the prompt and add your own experience of being changed by a better understanding of world history.


Things to keep in mind:

  • Finalist essays will be checked against AI internet components and if stock answers are found the essay will be disqualified.

  • Papers that do not adhere to the submission guidelines and paper format will be disqualified.

You can check out detailed submission guidelines here!


Who is eligible to enter the World Historian Essay Competition?

This competition is open to high school students from any educational background: public, private, and parochial schools, as well as homeschooled students, are eligible to participate.


How will the essays be judged?

The WHA will have a committee to read and judge the papers. Your paper will be read by multiple readers. Here is a list of things they will be looking for as they read your paper:

  • A clear thesis. What is your paper about? How are you answering the question, “What way has the study of world history affected my understanding of the world in which I live?”?

  • How the author elaborated upon their thesis. What specific or concrete examples are used?

  • There needs to be evidence of critical thinking. This can include synthesis and evaluation of the prompt and your thesis statement.

  • Organization and fluency of your thoughts throughout the essay.

  • Overall effectiveness to engage with the prompt. Did you answer the question fully? Did you include personal or familial stories connecting you to the prompt?


What are some important dates and deadlines?

All essay entries must be emailed or postmarked by the May 1st deadline to be considered for the competition. Winning papers will be announced online over the summer.



What are the costs of applying and prizes for participating?

There are no costs to submit your essay to the competition. If your essay is chosen as the winner you will receive $500 from the WHA. In addition, the winner will receive a one-year membership in the World History Association. The WHA reserves the right to publish your essay, or any portion of it, in the World History Bulletin (even if you are not the winner), but will fully acknowledge the author of the essay. If your essay (or a part of the essay) is published you will receive three copies of the World History Bulletin for free.



8 reasons why you should participate

Participating in the World History Student Essay Competition hosted by the World History Association (WHA) can be a rewarding experience for high school students. Here are eight compelling reasons why you should consider taking part in this essay competition:


1. It allows you to conduct research across various historical topics

Engaging in this competition will allow you to delve into the study of world history, fostering a deeper understanding of global events, cultures, and perspectives. It encourages your young mind to think beyond your local context and appreciate the interconnectedness of our world.


2. It promotes personal connection to historical events

The essay prompt encourages you to reflect on your personal and ancestral stories, emphasizing how your own life has been shaped by world history. This provides an opportunity for self-discovery and reflection, making history more relatable and relevant. Not to mention writing about yourself in this way is great practice for the personal statements needed in college applications. Administration committees prefer students who can write about themselves, where they came from, and where they hope to go, over stiff and impersonal recounts of your academic successes.


3. Participation is open to everyone

The competition is open to students from kindergarten to senior year of high school, spanning a wide range of educational backgrounds, including public, private, and home-study programs. This inclusivity ensures that students from various educational settings can participate and share their perspectives.


4. Writing in this capacity is an academic challenge

Writing an approximately 1,000-word essay with a clear thesis statement will challenge your research, analytical, and writing skills. The competition offers you a chance to enhance your academic abilities and critical thinking skills preparing you for future educational pursuits. Additionally, learning to write about a broad topic in such few words is great practice for the type of writing required within university-level academics.


5. It is financially accessible

Unlike many competitions that charge application fees, the WHA's Student Essay Competition is free to enter, making it accessible to all interested students. This eliminates financial barriers and encourages broader participation.


6. You stand a chance to win hefty cash prizes

The author of the winning essay will receive a $500 prize, along with a one-year membership in the prestigious World History Association. This monetary reward can support future educational endeavors. Winning a competition like this will also look great on college applications.


7. Your essay can be published in the World History Bulletin

The WHA reserves the right to publish winning essays or parts of them in the World History Bulletin, providing you, a young writer, with a platform to showcase your work to a wider audience. This exposure can be a valuable addition to your academic portfolio for university applications as the WHA is a prestigious internationally known organization. Winning or being recognized as a finalist adds credibility to your portfolio, which could set you apart and strengthen your university applications.


In conclusion, the World History Student Essay Competition offers students of any grade and age a unique opportunity to explore the world's rich history, connect it to their personal experiences, and develop their academic and writing abilities. With no application fees, potential scholarships, and the chance to be published, it's an experience that can have a lasting impact on a student's educational journey.



If you are passionate about history and want to do advanced research, you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that 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.



Samantha Davenport is a socio-cultural anthropologist with experience in qualitative and ethnographic research. With a deep passion for understanding diverse cultures and societies, she has dedicated her career to conducting extensive field research and analysis amongst a variety of research projects. Samantha is driven by a desire to promote cultural understanding and bridge gaps between different groups.


Image Source: WHA logo

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