Winter 2018 National Student Writing Competition: Less Stuff, More Heart

Want to inspire your students to write? Here's an opportunity to write about something meaningful and for an audience beyond the classroom.
It's A Wonderful Life

The YES! National Student Writing Competition is an opportunity for middle school through university students to write for a real audience—not just you, the teacher—and the chance to be published by an award-winning magazine.

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.

Register here. 

Click here for general information about the writing competition.

Read recent featured essays here. 


Less Stuff, More Heart

This winter, students will read and respond to the YES! Magazine article, Less Stuff, More Heart: 5 Gifts On a New Dad’s Christmas List, by Christopher Zumski Finke. In this story, Zumski Finke acknowledges that one way people connect is to exchange gifts—it’s a way to show our appreciation for one another. Now that he’s got a child in the house, Christopher wonders how he should deal with holiday commercialism that’s fixated on buying and giving gifts. 


The Writing Prompt

One Christmas, author and new dad Christopher Zumski Finke found himself reflecting not only on the gifts we give, but also the gifts we receive. What do I want for my son? For myself?  Hint: It’s not “things.”  

Students, please respond to the writing prompt below with an up-to-700-word essay:  

Imagine you’re about to celebrate a special holiday, milestone, or birthday.  If you could ask for any non-material gift, what would you ask for? What would make this gift so special to you?


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 December 8, 2017 (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 Jan. 26, 2018.
  • For each of the following categories, YES! staff (and possibly the author of the article) will select one essay that we feel is well-written, compelling, and captures the spirit of the article:
    • Middle School (Grades 6-8)
    • High School (Grades 9-12)
    • College/university
    • 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 18,000 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:

  • 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 competition by Dec. 8.
  • E-mail your three best student essays as word-processed document attachments (please no pdf or scanned documents) to [email protected] no later than Jan. 26, 2018.
  • Include a scanned, completed student release form with each submitted essay. Please make sure student email addresses are legible and visible —preferably typed. NOTE: Please submit all student essays by Jan. 26, even if there are missing release forms.  Send in completed students releases as soon as you receive them. 

Get Started Here:

Registration Form 

Student Release Form

Evaluation Rubric


Future Writing Contest 

*Spring 2018

Details announced: Feb. 8

Registration due: March 2

Essays due: April 17


Questions? Please email [email protected]


Thank you for joining us!

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