Fall 2016 National Student Writing Competition: Why Bother to Vote?

Want a motivator to take your students' writing to a higher level? Here's an opportunity to write for a real audience, and the chance to get published by an award-winning magazine.
Vote When You Hate Everything on the Ballot

YES! Illustration by Eleanor Shakespeare. 

The YES! National Student Writing Competition is an opportunity for middle school through university students to write about something meaningful, and a chance to write for a real audience—not just you, the teacher.

Each quarter, students are invited to read and write an essay on a selected YES! Magazine article. We divide contestants into four categories: middle school, high school, university, and Powerful Voice (for authors whose essays are powerful and passionate). Winning essays in each category are published on the YES! Magazine website and in our online education newsletter.

Registration for the Fall 2016 student writing competition is CLOSED. Details for our winter contest will be announced on Nov. 10.

Sign up our YES! For Teachers newsletter to be notified about future student writing contests.

Click here for general information about the writing competition.

Read recent featured essays here.


Why Bother to Vote?

This fall, students will read and respond to the YES! Magazine article, Five Reasons to Vote When You Hate Everything on the Ballot. In this article, journalist and millennial Yessenia Funes shares her opinion on why it’s important to vote—even if you hate everything on the ballot. Funes points out what’s at stake, especially for those groups who vote the least, and options if you are dissatisfied with the slate of candidates.


The Writing Prompt

Favorability ratings for presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are at a historic low. Some people say they’re not going to vote because there’s no one on the ballot who deserves their vote, so why bother?

Students, please respond to the writing prompt below with an up-to-700-word essay:
Is not voting a responsible option in a presidential election? Weigh in with your argument.

You might consider these two questions when organizing your argument:
• What should you do if you hate the choices on the ballot?
• Go back to the article. Does the author have it right—or wrong—on why you should vote?


Who is eligible?

You must be a classroom teacher—homeschool cooperative, resource centers, supervised writing groups, and schools outside the U.S. included—for your students to participate.

Student writers should be in grades 6-8, grades 9-12, college/university, or adult continuing education.


How does it work?

• Complete the competition registration form by September 23 (see link at bottom of page).
• Students respond to the YES! article with an essay up to 700 words.
• Submit up to three essays per class period, along with student release forms, by November 4.
• For each of the following categories, YES! staff will select one essay that we feel is well-written, compelling, and captures the spirit of the article:
o Middle School (Grades 6-8)
o High School (Grades 9-12)
o College/university
o Powerful Voice (for an author whose essay is uniquely powerful or thought-provoking)
• The selected essays will be featured on the YES! Magazine website and in our online education newsletter, reaching thousands of YES! readers, including over 16,000 teachers.


Common Core State Standards

This writing competition meets several Common Core State Standards for grades 6-12, including W.9-10.3 and W.9-10.4 for Writing, and RI.9-10.1 and RI.9-10.2 for Reading: Informational Text *
*This standard applies to other grade levels. “9-10” is used as an example.


What are the essay requirements?

• Respond to the article and writing prompt provided by YES!
• Provide an original essay title
• Reference the article
• No more than 700 words
• Must be original, unpublished words
• Teachers must read and submit their students' essays. Remember, the limit is three essays per class period. Please take time to read your students' essays to ensure they have met essay requirements, including correct grammar. Unfortunately, we cannot accept essays sent independently by students.


In addition, we are evaluating essays for (see rubric at bottom of page):

• Grammar
• Organization
• Strong style and personal voice. We encourage writers to include personal examples and insights.
• Originality and clarity of content and ideas


How do I submit the three best essays from my class?

• You must be registered for the contest by Sept. 23.
• E-mail your three best student essays as word-processed document attachments (please convert your Google Docs to Word if you can, and please no pdf or scanned documents) to [email protected] no later than November 4.
• Include a scanned, completed student release form
with each submitted essay. Please make sure student email addresses are legible and visible—preferably typed. NOTE: Submit all student essays by Nov. 4, even if there are missing release forms since we will be evaluating essays on Nov. 7. You may send completed releases at your soonest convenience.


Get Started Here:

Registration Form
Student Release Form
Evaluation Rubric


Writing Competition Calendar 2016-2017

To help you plan for the 2016-17 school year, here are the dates for the fall, winter, and spring writing contests:

Fall 2016

Details announced: August 17, 2016

Registration due: September 23, 2016

Essays due: November 4, 2016

 Winter 2017

Details announced: November 10, 2016

Registration due: December 9, 2016

Essays due: January 20, 2017

 Spring 2017

Details announced: February 1, 2017

Registration due: March 3, 2017

Essays due: April 14


Questions? Please email [email protected]

Thank you for joining us!




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