Ashbourne College English Literature Essay Competition

Each year, Ashbourne hosts its annual English Literature Essay Competition inviting GCSE and A-level students across the country to show off their literary skills and compete for prizes.

Entrants are asked to write a 1000-word 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 to discuss their work. Once all those shortlisted have been interviewed a winner is selected.

“When asked to discuss a piece of literature that changed my perspective, I immediately remembered John Clare’s stanza. It spoke to me. I always have it up on my wall, but this time when I looked at the poem, I went a lot deeper.” Lewis Andrews

Lewis Andrews was the winner of the Ashbourne College English Literature Essay Competition 2020. He now studies English Literature at Cambridge University. Find out how he went about writing his winning essay here.

English Literature Essay Competition 2021

Entrants are asked to write an essay of no less than 1000 words, including footnotes and appendices, on a piece of English Literature based on the given competition question.

QUESTION: This year’s competition question will be released in Spring 2021.

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 are required to write about one single text, which must be an established literary work of fiction, originally written in English; other texts can be referenced to support their argument on the main text.Entrants also must include a bibliography and ensure any secondary sources used are referenced following either Harvard or MLA referencing systems.

Shortlisted entrants will be invited to attend an online interview with a member of Ashbourne’s senior management team to discuss their submission in more detail and verify the legitimacy of their work.

Competition Prizes

  • 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. Please contact Chris Mutter at or +44 7517 651 819 for further details.

How to submit your essay

Please note:

  1. Entrants must be aged between 14 and 17 years old by the final submission deadline date or be a current student at Ashbourne College.
  2. Entrants name, school and date of birth should appear on the first page of the essay. Please also add page numbers to the essay.
  3. Essays must be submitted as a PDF.
  4. No late submissions – essays submitted after the deadline will not be considered under any circumstances.
  5. Once essays have been submitted it is not possible to make changes; please ensure you are happy with your work before submitting it.

Please contact Chris Mutter if you have any queries:

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.

  • Shortlist interviews (via Skype): July 2021
Why Choose Ashbourne College?
During my three-year ride as an Asher, new doors opened up for me to a new world in which I found my true passion. It is encouraging independent learning while providing students with sufficient support when needed, along with its active, lively and friendly atmosphere that give Ashbourne its uniqueness. The location is great and adds to the liveliness of the atmosphere. As far as academia is concerned, the necessary platform for success in most subject areas one might be interested in is provided. The rest is up to the individual
KerryFrench and Management with a Year Abroad at Kings College London
Treated with kindness and respect whilst being taught to grow as an individual personally and academically
Since starting work at Ashbourne in September, I was impressed by the amazing sense of community. The students’ combat differences in culture, age and circumstance to form fantastic relationships, and are strongly aided in the support and friendship from teaching and admin staff. Students are always given the attention they deserve, and these factors create a unique atmosphere for successful learning.
Hannah MartinFormer College Administrator and Welfare Officer