Wells Chapter Xi of New York

High School Essay Contest

About the Contest

Our ΦΒΚ essay contest began spring 2011 to encourage high school juniors and seniors in surrounding districts to reflect on liberal arts education at a time when learning is expected to pay dividends

Past Contests

2011 (Inagural Contest)


When will I *ever* use this in my life?" is a question familiar to high school teachers. Even if students don't ask the question aloud, it's often there. It is true that, unless you become a math teacher, engineer, architect, or carpenter, you may never use the Pythagorean Theorem meaningfully after high school or college math class. It also is true that, unless you become an English teacher, editor, or literary critic, you may never analyze the imagery and metaphors in a poem after high school or college. And yet ... it is the position of Phi Beta Kappa (a co-sponsor of this contest) that there is great present and future value--to yourself and to your neighbors near and far--in learning to wrestle with ideas, skills, and texts that you may never encounter or use directly again.

Do you agree or disagree with this position? Well-written essays that disagree with Phi Beta Kappa's position are welcome. Defend your answer in an essay of 750 words or less.


There were 8 entries from surrounding school districts. Second prize was awarded to Emily Cosbar of Skaneateles High School, and First prize to Emily Latanyshyn of Tyburn Academy.