Common Reading Student Essay Contest
Shepherd students are encouraged to enter the Common Reading Student Essay Contest. Please share these guidelines with students and encourage them to enter. Entries should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org and are being accepted now through April 1. The winner will receive $350 towards Shepherd University tuition or the purchase of an education-related device or tech gadget. 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 Girl with Seven Names: Common Reading Essay Contest Prompts
- Hyeonseo Lee writes, “Leaving North Korea is not like leaving any other country. It is more like leaving another universe” (xii). She explains that she still loves her country, though she desperately wants change and reform. Considering North Korea’s place in our modern world, including its fraught relationship with the United States, write an essay in which you explain why readers who know very little about North Korean and its people should read this book. In other words, what does Lee’s book add to the conversation about North Korea and the rest of the world that might help us achieve progress and lasting peace?
- When Lee decides not to marry Geun-Soo (a “safe” choice in many ways) and instead to “escape” on her own, she writes, “I would find a way and fly in life. I didn’t know how, but I would take my chances” (121). This is just one of many dramatic choices Lee makes in The Girl with Seven Names. She also makes some decisions that backfire and, in other places, benefits from what seems like pure luck or good fortune. Most college students won’t face the kinds of challenges Lee describes, yet careful readers can certainly benefit from thinking about her example. Write an essay in which you reflect on the lessons from Lee’s narrative that could benefit a college student in the United States. In other words, when thinking about their own path to success in college and beyond, what can college student learn from Lee?
- When Lee meets Dick Stolp, the Australian who comes to her aid in Laos, she is stunned by his generosity and explains, “My most basic assumptions about human nature were being overturned” (262). This is just one powerful insight she has as she moves between countries and cultures. Write an essay in which you explain what The Girl with Seven Names has to say about why it is important to be exposed to different cultures and people.
A winning entry does/has the following elements:
- 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.
- Textual evidence to support each point and move your argument along. Every claim you make should be supported with evidence from 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.
- A coherent, clear structure. Each paragraph should:
- Move the argument or main idea along.
- Have a strong topic sentence.
- Move to the next section with clear transitions.
- A conclusion. Your piece should have some sort of conclusion that wraps things up, even if all you do is raise more questions.
- Proper formatting. This includes:
- A title for your essay.
- 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.
- No spelling or grammatical mistakes.
- Appropriate length: About 600-750 words (at least 2 full pages).
Special thanks to our judges: Dr. Heidi Hanrahan, Dr. Laura Robertson, and Dr. Julia Sandy