Rules and Requirements for
the 2020 Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest


  • First Prize - $ 5,000
  • Second Prize - $ 2,500
  • Third Prize - $ 1,500
  • Two Honorable Mentions - $ 500 Each


  • Registered undergraduate full-time Juniors or Seniors at accredited four-year colleges or universities in the United States during the Fall 2019 Semester.

Suggested Essay Topics:

  • Articulate with clarity an ethical issue that you have encountered and analyze what it has taught you about ethics and yourself. Note that the most engaging essays often reflect deeply on a particularly meaningful experience or episode in one’s life. That approach could focus ethical reflection on:
    • a personal issue
    • a family matter
    • a travel incident
    • an academic inquiry
    • a dilemma in literature or film
    • a recent article or editorial in a major newspaper
    • a current conflict in American life
    • an international crisis

Please note: *This topic is only a suggestion. Students may write about any topic they wish, provided it explores an ethical problem, question, issue, or concern.

What the Readers Look for:

  • Clear articulation and genuine grappling with an ethical dilemma.
  • Adherence to guidelines and carefully proofread essays.
  • Observation of rules for Standard English usage (grammar, punctuation, mechanics) in writing.
  • Thoroughly thought-out, tightly focused essays.
  • Originality and imagination.
  • Eloquence of writing style.
  • Intensity and unity in the essay.

Essay Format:

  • In 3,000 to 4,000 words, you are encouraged to raise questions, single out issues and identify dilemmas.
  • Essays may be written in the formal or informal voice, but most importantly, an individual voice should be evident.
  • The essay should be developed from your point of view and may take the form of an analysis that is biographical, historical, literary, philosophical, psychological, sociological or theological.
  • Essay must be the original, unpublished work of one student. Only one essay per student per year may be submitted.
  • All essays must have a title.
  • All essays must be written in English.
  • Essay files should be titled, typed in 12-point easily readable font (such as Times New Roman), double-spaced with 1" margins and numbered pages.
  • Submissions will be judged anonymously. Hence, no name or identifying references (i.e. your name, school, or professor) should appear on the title page or in your document. Our office will put a code on your essay.

Faculty Sponsor:

  • Students entering the contest are required to have a Faculty Sponsor review and electronically verify the essay.
  • Any interested professor at the student's school may act as a Faculty Sponsor.
  • Your Faculty Sponsor will need to verify online that your essay meets the content standards in order for your essay to be judged.
  • All essays must be verified by the deadline on January 21, 2020 at 5pm PST in order to be judged.
  • Upon submitting your entry online, your reported Faculty Sponsor will be emailed with a link to review and verify your submission online.
  • If your Faculty Sponsor declines your submission or does not verify your essay by the deadline, it is disqualified.
  • Please work with your Faculty Sponsor on any necessary edits to your essay before you upload and submit online.
  • Your Faculty Sponsor will be reminded by email in the event your submission is not reviewed near to the deadline, but please check on the status of your submission independently, and work with your sponsor to ensure timely verification.
  • Faculty members should only endorse thought-provoking, well-written essays that fall within the contest guidelines.

Enrollment Verification:

  • The Foundation requires an official letter from your Registrar on your institution's letterhead, or from the National Student Clearing House verifying your enrollment as a full-time undergraduate Junior or Senior in the Fall of 2019. Please obtain this and upload as a PDF as part of your online submission.

Studying Abroad:

  • Students who are studying abroad in the Fall 2019 semester, but are considered enrolled full-time in a four-year accredited college or university in the United States are eligible to apply. Please check with your Registrar and obtain the appropriate documentation to verify your enrollment.

Submission of Materials:

  • Entries must be submitted online through a submission system.
  • Essays will be uploaded as a PDF (.pdf) (maximum file size 8 megabytes).
  • Enrollment verification will be uploaded as a PDF file.
  • The Faculty Sponsor's name and contact information, including email, will be provided.
  • You may edit your unfinished submission at any time but once submitted, you will not be able to edit your entry.
  • You must submit to generate the email to your Faculty Sponsor.
  • All essays must be verified by the Faculty Sponsor by the deadline on January 21, 2020 at 5pm PST in order to be judged.
  • Please note that due to the volume of entries, no materials will be critiqued or returned.
  • No paper or hard-copy submissions will be accepted.

Contest Deadline: January 21, 2020 by 5pm PST

The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity reserves the right to publish the winning essays, in whole or in part.
These essays may not be published elsewhere without written permission from the Foundation.
Please note that due to the volume of entries, no materials will be critiqued or returned.

the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity
555 Madison Avenue - 20th Floor, New York, NY 10022
Telephone: 212-490-7788