Essay Competition

The Royal Commonwealth Society has a rich history of nurturing the creative talents of young people around the world. In 1883, the RCS established an essay writing competition, which has become highly regarded internationally.

In 2015, the competition was renamed The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition, in honor of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s role as both Head of the Commonwealth and Patron of The Royal Commonwealth Society. Each year, more than 12,000 young people from across the world enter the Competition, sharing their thoughts on the past, experiences of the present, and ideas for the future.

The theme for 2019 is “A Connected Commonwealth.” Building on the 2018 theme, “Towards a Common Future,” this year’s topics call upon young people to consider how they can work to use cultural, technological, and environmental connections for positive change across the globe. It asks young people to consider the potential of shared values, interests, and experiences in strengthening the vast and varied links between citizens.

The Competition is an opportunity for young people – regardless of region, education, or background – to share ideas, celebrate their story, and have their voice heard, all while developing key skills.

The Competition is open to students age 18 and under. US submissions must be made by May 1, 2019. Topics for each age category are listed below.

RCSUSA will identify the top submissions in both the Junior and Senior categories, and those submissions will be sent to The Royal Commonwealth Society in London for review by Competition Judges. The first place winner from the Junior and Senior categories will be awarded a scholarship, and the winner from the Senior category will win a trip to London to attend an Awards Ceremony. For more information about the competition, please see the Terms and Conditions below.



Born between June 2, 2000 and June 1, 2005 (14-18 years of age)
Maximum word count: 1,500 words

  1. “You are the most optimistic, connected generation the world has ever known.” – HRH The Duke of Sussex. How can you use global connections for positive change?
  2. Connected by the oceans; can we work together to protect the environment?
  3. “We are all now connected by the Internet.” – Stephen Hawking. What does the future hold for humankind?
  4. Family, Community, Nation, World. What are the opportunities for shared, sustainable growth?


Born on or after June 2, 2005 (under 14 years of age)
Maximum word count: 750 words

  1. My cultural connections.
  2. An overseas visitor is coming to your town for the first time. How would you connect with them?
  3. A place I feel connected to.
  4. A global community connects people across borders. What can we learn from our neighbors?

Submitting your work

  1. The age category and chosen topic should be identified on the registration form, which must be included with your submission.
  2. All submissions must be submitted online through RCSUSA’s website. The registration form and link for online submission is below.
  3. United States’ entrants should submit their entries through RCSUSA’s website, not through the main RCS website. Any entries submitted via the main RCS platform will not be counted.
  4. After you have completed your online submission, you may email and ask for a confirmation. Confirmations will not be sent unless requested.
  5. Do not include your personal information on the submission itself. This information should be submitted via the online form and included on the registration form so that submissions can be graded anonymously.
  6. Documents should be submitted in PDF format only.
  7. All US entries must be submitted online by midnight (CDT) on May 1, 2019.
  8. RCSUSA will forward the top submissions from each category to RCS by June 1, 2019. Finalists will be notified by email in June. RCS will likely announce the overall winners and runners-up in August.

Terms and Conditions

  1. The RSCUSA essay competition is open to residents of all the United States.
  2. Entrants must select a Senior or Junior topic depending on their age as of June 1, 2019. Senior entrants must be 14-18 years old (born between June 2, 2000 and June 1, 2005); Junior entrants must be under 14 (born after June 2, 2005).
  3. The maximum word counts are 1,500 words for Senior entries and 750 words for Junior entries. These word limits apply to all topics and all formats (essay, poem, letter, etc.). Exceeding the word count will result in automatic disqualification.
  4. The age category and topic should be identified on the submission.
  5. Entries must be written in English.
  6. Only one entry per participant is allowed.
  7. Group entries are not allowed. Each submission must be the work of one individual.
  8. The final copy submitted for the competition must be the entrant’s own work and cannot be excessively corrected or improved by a teacher, parent, or another person.
  9. Plagiarism is not allowed and will result in automatic disqualification. Please see The RCS’s guide to plagiarism before submitting.
  10. Once an essay is submitted, students/teachers will not have the opportunity to revise it. Please carefully check and improve your writing before submitting the final copy. Also ensure that all information is filled in correctly (name, contact details, topic number, etc.) on the submission form.
  11. Final documents should not include the entrant’s personal information, including name, age, school, or state. This information should be input on the online submission form and included on the registration form only.
  12. Essays can only be uploaded in PDF format (.pdf). We will not accept Google Docs (.gdoc), Pages documents (.pages), Word (.doc), or other word processor formats. Note: if we are unable to find or open your essay file (either through an incorrect format or upload error), your entry may not be counted in the competition.
  13. All US entries must be submitted online before midnight (CDT) on May 1, 2019.
  14. By entering the competition, you agree that your personal details including full name, gender, email, school, and essay may be sent to your local RCS branch and any Essay Competition partners. See Clause 4.1.6 of The RCS’s Privacy Policy for more information. Please note: RCSUSA finalists will have their full name, age, school, and photograph displayed on RCSUSA’s website and social media outlets. In addition, the overall RCS Winners and Runners-up will have their full names, schools, essays and photographs displayed on the RCS website and social media channels.
  15. All entrants retain the copyright rights that they have for the pieces they submit, but by entering The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition, each contestant consents to the use of his/her name, and/or pieces or parts thereof in any advertisements, educational materials, corpus research, or media and publicity carried out or produced by the RCS and its local branches without further notice or compensation. The RCS can publish or decline to publish; use or decline to use, any submitted pieces at RCS’s sole discretion.
  16. Entrants should retain a copy of their original work, as RCSUSA is unable to return or provide copies of submissions.
  17. The RCS will only be able to publish content on its website and in its literature that is appropriate for a wide and diverse audience, in line with RCS’s policies. Entrants are encouraged to consider this in relation to their use of language when entering the competition.
  18. The RCS and RCSUSA retain the right to change the prize of the competition if circumstances make this necessary.


  1. Participants are expected to show originality and flair, linked to sound academic standards and competent use of English as a written language. This includes a good standard of spelling and punctuation and neat presentation.
  2. Entries must respond to one of the topics. Each year a number of good entrants are disregarded because they do not fully answer or reflect on what the topic has asked.
  3. Entrants are encouraged to be creative in their response to a topic. Entries can be submitted in a number of different formats: for example, a poem, letter, article, story, essay, or a short play/script.
  4. Illustrations are welcomed, particularly in Junior entries, but they must enhance the written text and add to the overall quality of the entry.


The following guidelines provide some useful insights from previous judges who have had experience recognizing what makes a good piece of writing and may help you get started on your submission:

  1. Choose a topic to answer. You are encouraged to interpret the topic any way you wish.
  2. Think carefully about the form of writing you use to answer the topic. There are a variety of forms and styles to play with. For example, a poem, letter, article, story, essay, or a short play/script.
  3. Make sure to use your own voice and your own words. Judges are very good at spotting work that is not original. For more information about plagiarism, please review the What is Plagiarism? guide.
  4. We understand that English is a diverse language and there are different and innovative ways of using it around the world. We encourage diversity and creativity of language in submissions.
  5. Be attentive to grammar and punctuation throughout writing your piece. Do not submit an entry without proofreading.
  6. Presentation is important. Think about the visual appearance of the entry as well as the quality of the content.

If you have further questions or have trouble submitting your essay, please contact

Issued: February 1, 2019