Medicine Essay Prizes (7 Competitions For Year 12 and 13’s)

Updated on: December 3, 2023
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Written By Dr Ollie

Every article is fact-checked by a medical professional. However, inaccuracies may still persist.

Having a medical essay prize on your CV looks absolutely fantastic when it comes time for you to apply to medical school.

In such an overcrowded marketplace, anything that sets you apart from the crowd in a positive manner is sure to drastically increase your chances of getting an offer.

Although when I was applying to medical school I hadn’t managed to win an essay competition (despite my best efforts!) hopefully you’ll have more luck than me!

To save you some research time, I’ve compiled a list of 7 medicine essay competitions that you can enter this year.

Competitions that if you win will skyrocket your chances of application success.

The Libra Essay Prize

Open toYears 12 & 13
Word count1,500 – 2,000 words
Prize£50

The Libra essay prize is an annual essay prize for all students in years 12 and 13 looking to prepare for university.

Libra Education themselves describe it as:

“An excellent way for 6th-form students to demonstrate that they have the makings of a scholar, the Libra Essay Prize offers a chance to prepare for the academic rigour required by university assignments and provides a great accomplishment to discuss on a personal statement or at an interview.”

Students are free to choose any subject from a list of categories (one of which being science) and then have to write an essay with a title containing a chosen word.

The small pool of words you can choose from change each year but are all generally quite abstract so you can connect and use them in creative ways.

The essay has to be between 1,500 – 2,000 words, with Harvard style referencing which isn’t included in the word count.

Libra accept entries from all over the world, but the essays must be written in English.

First prize wins £50, second prize £30, and third £20, all paid out in book vouchers. There’s also Commended and Highly Commended entries for each category.

Minds Underground Essay Competition

Open toYear 12 and younger
Word count1,000 – 1,500 words
Prize£30 voucher

Minds Underground is an online learning platform, designed to support and enhance the learning and problem-solving of determined young students.

Every year they run a medicine essay competition, primarily aimed at year 12’s (although they do say younger or older students are also welcome to apply).

To enter, you have a choice of three questions, to which you need to write a 1,000 – 1,500 word answer.

“Should all healthcare be free? Discuss.”

“What goes wrong for cancers to develop?”

“Tell us about a key development/invention that you think has been most influential to medicine.”

– Past Minds Underground medicine essay questions

If you’re feeling ambitious, students are permitted to enter an essay for more than one subject- so you could have a crack at the psychology or science one too!

Helpfully, under each question Minds also give you a few pointers to get your creative juices flowing.

Newnham Essay Prizes

Open toFemale students in year 12
Word count1,500 – 2,500 words
Prize£400

Newnham College of the University of Cambridge runs a medicine essay competition with a twist:

Only female students are allowed to enter.

Again, students have a choice of three differing questions.

For example, the questions in the 2021-22 competition were:

  1. How realistic is it to develop a small molecule therapy for Covid-19? Could such a therapy
    be rolled out in a timeframe that it could have an impact on the current pandemic?
  2. Sleep deprivation in clinical health settings. Does it matter?
  3. Looking to the future. Will stem cell therapies be outpaced by machine-brain interfaces for
    the treatment of retinal disease?

Newnham do give you a bit more of a range when it comes to the word count, accepting anything from 1,500 to 2,500 words.

There’s a generous £400 prize for first place, £200 for second and £100 for third.

Unfortunately for you as an individual though, prize money is split 50:50 between the essay prize winner and the funding of resources for their school…

John Locke Institute Essay Competition

Open toCandidates must be 18 years old or younger
Word countLess than 2,000 words
PrizeA scholarship worth $2,000

“The John Locke Institute encourages young people to cultivate the characteristics that turn good students into great writers: independent thought, depth of knowledge, clear reasoning, critical analysis and persuasive style.

The John Locke Institute arguably gives away the most generous prize out of any competition on this list.

You get a scholarship worth $2,000 towards the cost of attending any John Locke Institute program, as well as an invitation to their prize-giving ceremony in Oxford.

The essay questions for each subject are published in January, with the deadline for submission generally being in late June.

As well as the opportunity to secure the prize for medicine, the candidate who submits the best essay overall will be awarded an honorary John Locke Institute Junior Fellowship- which comes with a $10,000 scholarship to attend one or more of their courses!

American Society Of Human Genetics Essay Contest

Open toStudents in grades 9-12
Word countLess than 750 words
Prize$1,000 for the student
$1,000 genetics materials grant

Although this next essay competition comes from America, it’s open to students worldwide.

The American Society Of Human Genetics supports national DNA day through its annual DNA day essay contest: commemorating the completion of the Human Genome Project in April 2003 and the discovery of the double helix of DNA in 1953.

The contest is open to students in grades 9-12 worldwide and asks students to “examine, question, and reflect on important concepts in genetics.”

With a limit of only 750 words, not including reference lists, this is a short but sweet chance to bag yourself a considerable cash prize for your efforts.

In addition to the personal prize money, the ASHG will also provide you with a $1,000 grant towards genetics research or teaching materials.

Although it is a worldwide contest, so undoubtedly will have plenty of entries, there are also 10 honorable mentions up for grabs (in addition to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place) that all come with a $100 prize too.

Immerse Education Essay Competition

Open toPeople aged 12-18
Word countLess than 500 words (+/- 10%)
Prize100% scholarship to Immerse summer school

Immerse Education run summer programs for over 20 different subjects in Oxford, Cambridge, London and Sydney.

The reason why students get so much value from these courses is because they’re immersed in centers of academic excellence whilst learning from experts in their chosen field.

The good news for you is that their essay competition gives you the chance to attend one of their summer school programs for free.

10 winners receive a 100% scholarship and runners up are awarded partial scholarships of up to 50% to study their chosen subject.

According to Immerse, around 7% of entrants receive scholarship funding to attend a program- which is pretty good odds if you ask me!

“There is no downside to entering the competition. If you win, it is awesome. If you don’t win, you gained an experience. Entering the competition and working as hard as I did for it was one of the most gratifying experiences.”

– Pedro L (100% scholarship winner)

You can find the full list of essay questions, in addition to top tips for writing academic essays (as well as the terms and conditions for the competition), simply by signing up via Immerse’s website.

The RCSU Science Challenge

Open toUK years 10-13
Word countLess than 1,000 words
PrizeVaries from year to year

The Royal College of Science Union (RCSU) is a student union at Imperial College London and run an annual science challenge open to both home and international school students.

The focus of the challenge is communicating scientific concepts in a non-technical manner, so that people without a science background could still understand and enjoy the content.

The big twist with this essay competition is that you don’t actually have to enter an essay!

The idea is to produce a ‘short piece of science communication’ which can be an essay or can be a short video in answer to one of the four questions set by the judges.

Written entries must be less than 1,000 words, whilst video entries must be less than 3 minutes and 30 seconds long.

For this competition, it’s really all about short and snappy responses that will captivate the reader whilst answering the question in a precise but easy to understand manner.

We hope to inspire those who take part in the Science Challenge to explore, develop and use their scientific skills along with their passion for their corner of science to help others see what all the excitement is about.

Why You Should Enter Medicine Essay Competitions

I think it’s fair to say that competition to get into medical school in the UK is insanely high- and it’s only getting worse.

With such large numbers of incredibly qualified candidates, medical schools have to find some way of differentiating them.

One way to make it easy for a university to pick you is to stand out from the crowd by having a medical essay prize on your application.

An essay prize demonstrates your dedication to the subject, scientific knowledge and an ability to write expressively and persuasively- all ideal qualities when it comes to being a doctor.

You may surprise yourself.

Often, not as many people as you might think enter these competitions.

School student writing a medical essay response

Simply by writing the essay, you’re also going to greatly increase your knowledge about that particular topic, which can still come in really handy at interview.

Even if you don’t win, just discussing the fact you entered still looks good in the eyes of an interviewer.

It shows that you’re willing to go above and beyond your school curriculum, to explore subjects you’re interested in and that you’re a highly motivated candidate.

How To Increase Your Chances Of Winning An Essay Prize

Although when I was applying to medical school I didn’t manage to win an essay prize, there are a couple of things I did that would have greatly increased my chances of doing so.

First and foremost, I think you’ve got to cast your net wide.

Don’t limit yourself to just one shot at the target: if you’ve got the time then I’d recommend trying to enter at least a couple of different competitions.

More entries will mean more chances for you to have your essay officially recognised.

Secondly, if you have the choice between entering a local or national competition, I’d always go with the local one.

Although a national prize would look slightly better on your CV, simply due to the number of entries, you’ll have a much higher chance of winning the more local competition.

By local I mean this could be a more regional charity, nearby hospital or university, or even your school.

Even better yet, you could always enter both!

Lastly, I think one of the best ways you can increase your odds of winning a prize is by entering a competition around a topic that you’re genuinely passionate about.

If you’ve no interest in genetics, then I wouldn’t enter the American Society Of Human Genetics’ contest!

Your interest in the subject will come through in your language, depth of knowledge and motivation to go above and beyond for your essay- all of which will put you in a much better position for winning.

Where You Can Find Further Essay Competitions

In addition to the essay prizes described above, there are tonnes of other opportunities available for you to distinguish yourself as a medicine applicant.

Loads of the Royal Colleges run an ever changing variety of prizes and competitions, usually to encourage interest in their specialty.

The opening dates and deadlines for these prizes are always changing so it’s worth keeping an eye out for the perfect essay question or new prize that’s just been announced.

Some of these organisations that run their own competitions include:

But there are many more out there. If you have a particular interest in one specialty or area of science then I’d definitely recommend doing a bit of digging to see if there’s a society or organisation related to that field that runs their own competitions!

Final Thoughts

There really aren’t many downsides to entering one of these competitions.

You get a shot at winning, gain a talking point at interview and develop your scientific knowledge (not to mention technical writing skills).

Although you might feel that some of the smaller prizes aren’t worth your time and effort to write the essay, the real value comes from the boost one of these prizes would give your medicine application.

About the author
After studying medicine at the University of Leicester, Dr Ollie now works as a junior doctor in London. His interests include medical education and expedition medicine, as well as having a strong belief in the importance of widening access to medicine.