Student Essay Contest

Suggested Prompts and Guidelines for Writing a Winning Essay.


Win a $250 gift certificate to the Shepherd University Bookstore and a matching $250 donation to the charitable organization of your choice!

Instructions for writing your Alone Together paper:

  1. Must be 600-750 words (2 full pages minimum).
  2. Must be double spaced.
  3. Must be 12 point Times Roman
  4. Papers used as other class assignments are acceptable
  5. Essays are due April 15, 2015
  6. Submit your essay by emailing it to

Winners will be notified by late April.

Alone Together: Common Reading Essay Contest

Shepherd students are encouraged to enter the Common Reading Student Essay Contest, which this year is specifically focused on community service.

Essay Prompt:

Entries should be emailed to and are being accepted now through April 15, 2015. The winner will receive a $250 gift certificate to the Shepherd University Bookstore and will earn a matching $250 donation for an approved charitable organization their of choice. Entries are judged by a panel of three faculty members using a rubric developed by the English Department. Essays written for a specific class or other assignment are acceptable. The winner will be announced in late April.

A winning entry does/has the following elements:

1) A clear and coherent thesis statement/main idea that appears in the first paragraph and clearly relates to the prompt you have selected. A reader should be able to easily identify this sentence and say “THIS is what this paper is about.” A good response is not a summary of the text.

2) Specific evidence to support each point and move your argument along. Every claim you make should be supported with evidence from your own community service experience and/or the text. Make sure this evidence is integrated into your overall argument. Do not simply drop in quotations without any analysis (explaining how they advance your main idea). Avoid quoting extremely long passages, especially without analysis.

3) A coherent, clear structure. Each paragraph should:
a. Move the argument or main idea along.
b. Have a strong topic sentence.
c. Move to the next section with clear transitions.

4) A conclusion. Your piece should have some sort of conclusion that wraps things up, even if all you do is raise more questions.

5) Proper formatting. This includes:
a. A title for your essay.
b. Typed; double-spaced; in a reasonable font (Times New Roman 12 pt. or Arial 11 pt.); one-inch margins all around; stapled; your name, the course title (if applicable), the instructor’s name (if applicable), and the date in the upper left-hand corner of the first page; page numbers should appear on the upper right-hand corner of each page.
c. No spelling or grammatical mistakes.
d. Appropriate length: About 600-750 words (at least 2 full pages).

Essay Rubric

Evaluative Criteria for Common Read Essay Contest Submissions:

5 - Superior
Originality of thought and effectiveness
Logical, emphatic development of a central idea
Sophisticated, lively, and precise diction
Well-developed, effectively organized essay and paragraphs
Clear, engaging illustrative support
Mature and diversified sentence structure
Absence of errors in punctuation, usage, and spelling

4 - Good
Convincing and engaging expression
Logical development of a central idea
Appropriate, lively, acceptable diction
Effectively organized essay and paragraphs
Detailed support of ideas
Correct, clear, and varied sentence structure
Absence of major errors in punctuation, usage, and spelling

3 - Competent
Clear Communication
Satisfactory development of a central idea
Appropriate diction
Satisfactory organization of essay and paragraphs
Adequate support of ideas
Some variety of sentence structure
Relative absence of major errors in punctuation, sentence structure, usage, and spelling

2 - Deficient
Superficial, unclear, or repetitious content
Some instances of illogical thinking
Immature, simplistic diction
Poor organization of essay and paragraphs
Weak support of ideas
Awkward, monotonous sentence structure
Some gross errors in punctuation, structure, usage, and spelling

1 - Unacceptable
Confusing content
Flawed central idea
Inappropriate, unclear diction
Random organization of paragraphs
Unsupported generalizations
Awkward, wordy, or simplistic sentence structure
Gross errors in punctuation, structure, usage, and spelling

*Adapted from the Department of English Grading Criteria for Composition Courses


Watch this website for updates on the contest!