Ashbourne College English Literature Essay Competition

Each year, Ashbourne hosts its annual English Literature Essay Competition inviting GCSE and A-level students across the world to compete for prizes.

Entrants are asked to write an essay on a different question each year, which is assessed by a panel of judges. A shortlist is then created of the best responses, the authors of which are asked to attend an interview with the Competition Panel. Once all those shortlisted have been interviewed a winner is selected.

  • First prize – £500
  • Runner up prize (up to 10 entrants) – £50
  • Scholarship interviews – in addition to receiving a cash prize, successful entrants will also have the opportunity to undertake an interview for the Ashbourne College Scholarship Programme, should they wish to apply.

Last year’s winner was Lewis Andrews. You can find out more about his essay and how he went about writing it here.


“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers & cities; but to know someone who thinks and feels with us, & who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.”  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Write an essay of no less than 1000 words, (including footnotes and appendices), utilising a relevant literary text of your choice on the theme of isolation and/or community.

Essays will be judged on the following:

  • Quality of argument
  • Quality of English
  • Literary knowledge
  • Use of terminology
  • Literary analysis

The main focus of the essay should be on material not previously or currently being studied by the entrant as part of their GCSE or A-Level study. Entrants may refer to topics that will be studied in future so long as, at the time of the closing date, the entrant has received no formal tuition on the topic in question.

Entrants must focus on one single text in their essay, however others may be referenced to support their argument on the main text. Entrants are advised that the text selected must be an established literary work of fiction, originally written in English. This can be a novel, play or poem.

The essay must include a bibliography, and any secondary sources used should be referenced following either Harvard or MLA referencing systems.

Candidates that are successfully shortlisted will be invited to attend an online interview with a member of Ashbourne’s Competition Panel to discuss their submission in more detail and verify the legitimacy of their work.

Entry requirements

  • Entrants must be aged between 14 and 18 years old and have not yet commenced their studies at university.
  • Entrants name, school and date of birth should appear on the first page of the essay. Please also add page numbers to the essay.
  • Essays must be submitted as a PDF.
  • No late submissions – essays submitted after the deadline will not be considered under any circumstances.
  • Once essays have been submitted it is not possible to make changes; please ensure you are happy with your work before submitting it.

Submission and deadline

Shortlist Interview
Shortlisted entrants will be required to take part in a Skype interview to discuss their submission. Entrants are expected to answer questions and elaborate on their submission and are advised to re-familiarise themselves with their essay prior to the interview. This is an essential part of the selection process and any entrant who does not attend this interview cannot receive a prize.

  • Shortlisted entrants will be notified on Wednesday 30th June
  • Shortlist interviews (via Skype) take place on Wednesday 14 July

Please contact Chris Mutter if you have any queries:

Why Choose Ashbourne College?
My time at Ashbourne was a fun and exciting experience. It had a very relaxed atmosphere which helped me settle in very well. The College’s approach to teaching in the classrooms was very different to traditional 6th form Colleges and a lot more informal which I believe was a great aid in developing my skills in independent study. During my time as a student at Ashbourne, I was passionate about physics and maths as well as music. My teachers and other staff members were very supportive of this and were an incredible assistance in helping me find an ideal course at university which catered to my interest. Thanks to Ashbourne I went on to do a joint degree in Physics and Music at Cardiff University. I graduated in 2018 and have remained at Cardiff to do a masters in Astrophysics.
AmyBSc in Physics and Music and MA in Astrophysics at Cardiff University
Has been given the opportunity to study in a focused and mature way and has thrived in that environment
I see Ashbourne as a place which I feel comfortable to express myself and it creates an environment that encourages me to develop as a leader. I am constantly looking for ways to improve. I am determined to continue to develop myself and I know that this is made more attainable with Ashbourne’s fantastic support and encouragement. I am very lucky to find myself at Ashbourne. It is a truly remarkable place to work.
Dennis FulcherHead of Multi-Media and Social Science Faculty