undergraduate section

Composition Program Writing Award Guidelines and Winners

The English Department honors excellent undergraduate writing created in its composition classes by awarding cash prizes to winners of the annual Composition Program Writing Contest. We offer two awards: the Ossip Award for Writing Excellence in Seminar in Composition and the Composition Award for Advanced Courses in the Composition Program.

Each year’s panel of judges looks for thoughtfully crafted essays that explore a subject’s complexity.

To showcase both the range and the quality of work valued by the Composition Program, prize-winning essays from recent years are published here with permission of the student authors (who retain copyright to their work). Each essay is accompanied by commentary from the judges, highlighting what they considered award worthy. It should be noted that most contest winners were first-year students at the time of writing and that papers were not revised or edited for web publication. The essays are not being offered as models of perfected student writing nor as templates for a successful paper; they represent outstanding achievement by students who submitted their work to the writing contest for each academic year.

The submission deadline for Summer or Fall Term courses is January 29, 2017; for Spring Term courses, May 31, 2017. 

If you would like to compete, please open the current contest guidelines (PDF).

Past Winners and Judges' Commentary

2015-16 Contest Winners

2014-15 Contest Winners

2013-14 Contest Winners

2012-13 Contest Winners

2011-12 Contest Winners

2010-11 Contest Winners

2009-10 Contest Winners

2008-09 Contest Winners

2007-08 Contest Winners

2006-07 Contest Winners

2005-06 Contest Winners