Cengage Learning, publishers of On Course, announces a unique essay contest for college and university students.

Who can enter?
All students are eligible who are taking (or have taken) a class in which On Course: Strategies for Success in College and in Life is a required text. To read examples of past winning essays, see the 29 “One Student’s Story” essays in your On Course book.
What are the prizes?
Winning essays will be published in the next edition of On Course: Strategies for Success in College and in Life. Each winning student-author will also receive a $100 Tango gift card that can be redeemed at almost any retailer…great for funding the celebration of your success!
What should I write about?
Write about the BIGGEST obstacle that challenged your success in college and the specific On Course strategy you used to help you overcome this challenge. Your story should address three things:

THE CHALLENGE. Tell about the one BIGGEST obstacle that challenged your success in college. Explain the challenge with enough specific details that readers will know exactly what obstacle you faced. Don’t just say something general such as, I had a problem with math anxiety. Instead, describe the problem as you’d tell a good friend who wants to hear all of the specific details.

THE STRATEGY. Explain in detail how you applied ONE specific On Course strategy to overcome the challenge. Don’t just make generalizations such as, “The book really helped me and now I have no more problems.” Instead, name the particular success strategy from On Course and describe how you used it, again using specific details. Your entry will have a slightly greater chance of winning if you choose a specific success strategy from the book that does not already have a student essay written about it.

THE OUTCOME. Finally, end by describing what happened after using the On Course strategy. Again, give specific details.

Who’s the audience for my essay?
Write your essay for fellow college students who’ll be taking a course like yours in the future. Remember, winning essays will be published in the next edition of On Course. In this way, your story can inspire many thousands of college and university students who’ll read how you improved your life by being a Creator and taking positive actions. Winning essays will inspire other students to be Creators, to overcome life’s inevitable obstacles, and to achieve success in college…and in life. They’ll realize that if you can do it, so can they!
How long should my essay be?
500 to 800 words
May I get help with my writing?
Absolutely! This is an ESSAY contest (not a writing contest), so we’re interested in your story (not your grammar). In the spirit of interdependence, ask for all the help you can get with your essay. Ask your instructor, ask a writing tutor, ask your uncle who has a PhD in English. In short, ask anyone who can help you tell your story effectively!
What’s the format?
At the top of the page, type the following information as the heading. Then type your essay (single-spaced) below the heading.
Student Author’s Name                                            Instructor’s Name & Course
Student’s Permanent Phone Number                      College or University
Student’s Permanent Email Address                        Number of Words in the Essay
Student’s Permanent Mailing Address
What’s the deadline?
We are now accepting essays for publication in the next edition of On Course.
How do I submit my essay?
Essays may be submitted only by instructors. Each instructor may submit up to FIVE essays per semester. Instructors, please email each student’s essay as a Microsoft Word attachment, with only one attachment per email. The subject line of the email should read “ESSAY CONTEST – [INSTRUCTOR’S LASTNAME].” Send each email with one student’s essay attached to Skip(at)OnCourseWorkshop.com…change “(at)” to “@” to make this an email address.
If you have read the “One Student’s Story” essays in On Course, you’ve seen what winning essays look like. Perhaps it would also help to see an example of an essay that has great potential but misses the mark:

Until I started my On Course class in June, I sat around and watched TV and blamed others for my failures. At the beginning of summer quarter, I was in an abusive relationship, was about 15 lbs. overweight, and didn’t have any real friends/activities. When I began reading On Course, I recognized a lot of my unhealthy behaviors and took action to correct them and make myself happier. I can’t say that it was solely the book that turned my life around, because it was me who decided to make the changes and took positive action. But On Course definitely helped me to make those corrections. My friends all make fun of me because I quote On Course all the time! I am all about being a Creator, spending my time in Quadrant II, and listening to my inner guide. I really feel like the tools the book presented to me will guide me through college and life.

What a great start on an inspiring essay! The problem is the author has been too vague in explaining 1) her challenges, 2) the On Course success strategies she used, and 3) the outcome she achieved. To be as effective as the winning essays, the author needs to…

1) Describe her specific challenges. For example, did she feel sorry for herself for not having friends and activities, which led to watching TV and snacking every night instead of doing homework, which led to failing marks in her math and English classes and gaining weight, which caused her to blame her teachers and feel even more sorry for herself? At what moment did she realize she was off course? What happened that caused the realization that she had to do something different to improve her life? By adding specific details such as these, readers can better understand her particular challenges and how they affected her both personally and academically.

2) Explain how she applied a specific On Course strategy to overcome her challenges. Even though she says, “On Course definitely helped me make those corrections,” readers don’t really learn how. For example, what specific Creator choices is the author now making: Did she choose to join a college club to meet new friends? What specific Quadrant II actions is she now taking: Instead of watching TV, is she studying every day for all of her classes, using a Next Actions list to keep her on course? And what specific guidance from her Inner Guide is she now hearing: Is her Inner Guide reminding her that when she feels unhappy, she can go for a walk with a friend rather than watch TV and eat?

3) Describe the specific improved results she created by her efforts. For example, what’s her present situation regarding the abusive relationship, what’s happened with her weight, and does she now have more “real friends/activities”? And, important for her readers (fellow college students), how did all of this affect her success in college?

In short, by adding more specifics, this writer could create a great essay that, when published in the On Course text, will be an inspiration to many thousands of college and university students in the future!


Dominic Grasseth (Lane Community College, OR) reads his winning essay that appears in On Course, Chapter 2.