Strengthening Your Essay Entry

Tips for Strong Entries

  • Try to avoid template essays, if at all possible.

For example, having every essay follow the exact same format for each paragraph. Often, the essays that catch the judges eyes are the essays that exhibit a student's individuality. Although providing a template for students to follow makes it easier for the entire class to participate, when every student follows one template it dilutes the power of the essay.

  • Encourage the students to truly visualize the town, in which they live, when answering the questions vs. choosing a generic problem for everyone to solve.

The essay judges like to know that the students, even at age 8 or 9, understand what challenges exist within their community. Although having all the students answer how they'd tackle pollution makes it easier for the entire class to participate, the essays that break through tend to exhibit a genuine knowledge of the problems plaguing a student's community - from their perspective.

  • Encourage students to write in their unique voice

It may be tempting to squash a student's inner comic or quirky voice and make them focus on the very serious task, at hand. However, some of the strongest essays have come from students whose voice resonates loud and clear from the page.

  • Make sure students understand how municipal government works

Each year thousands of 4th graders enter our "If I Were Mayor, I Would..." Essay Contest. Essays are judged by municipal officials, experts in how municipal government works. So, one of the best ways to strengthen your students' chance of winning is to make sure they understand how municipal government works and what the role of mayor involves.

There are several ways to help students understand how municipal government works, including hearing directly from a municipal official and checking out our fun facts on cities and towns below.

Requesting a Visit from a Municipal Official

If you're interested in a school visit from a municipal official, contact the city/town manager, administrator, or clerk, and request a visit from your mayor or a councilperson. Officials are often willing to do visits November through mid-March to talk about municipal government, its role in the community, and the essay contest theme.

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