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Opportunity for High School Students: The John Locke Essay Competition

5 Min Read
November 23, 2023

Hey there, high school students! Get ready to unleash your writing skills and critical thinking with the John Locke Essay Competition. Organized by the John Locke Institute, this contest is all about celebrating and encouraging the next generation of thinkers and writers, just like you. Nestled in the academic heart of Oxford, UK, the John Locke Institute isn't just any organization; it's a place dedicated to nurturing young minds to think independently, dive deep into knowledge, reason clearly, analyze critically, and persuade effectively.

The John Locke Essay Competition Topics and Questions

Applicants can choose one question from the category that resonates with them most. The judges will choose their favorite essay from each of seven subjects, then select the winner of the Grand Prize for the best entry in any subject. There’s also a separate prize for the best essay in the junior category for applicants under 15 years old. 


  1. Do we have any good reasons to trust our moral intuition?
  2. Do girls have a (moral) right to compete in sporting contests that exclude boys? 
  3. Should I be held responsible for what I believe?


  1. Is there such a thing as too much democracy?
  2. Is peace in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip possible?
  3. When is compliance complicity?


  1. What is the optimal global population?  
  2. Accurate news reporting is a public good. Does it follow that news agencies should be funded from taxation?
  3. Do successful business people benefit others when making their money, when spending it, both, or neither?


  1. Why was sustained economic growth so rare before the later 18th century and why did this change?
  2. Has music ever significantly changed the course of history?
  3. Why do civilisations collapse? Is our civilization in danger?


  1. When, if ever, should a company be permitted to refuse to do business with a person because of that person’s public statements?
  2. In the last five years British police have arrested several thousand people for things they posted on social media. Is the UK becoming a police state?
  3. Your parents say that 11pm is your bedtime. But they don’t punish you if you don’t go to bed by 11pm. Is 11pm really your bedtime?


  1. According to a study by four British universities, for each 16-point increase in IQ, the likelihood of getting married increases by 35% for a man but decreases by 40% for a woman. Why? 
  2. There is an unprecedented epidemic of depression and anxiety among young people. Can we fix this? How?
  3. What is the difference between a psychiatric illness and a character flaw?


  1. “I am not religious, but I am spiritual.” What could the speaker mean by “spiritual”?
  2. Is it reasonable to thank God for protection from some natural harm if He is responsible for causing the harm?
  3. Does God reward those who believe in him? If so, why?

Junior Prize – John Locke Essay Competition

  1. Does winning a free and fair election automatically confer a mandate for governing?
  2. Has the anti-racism movement reduced racism?
  3. Is there life after death?
  4. How did it happen that governments came to own and run most high schools, while leaving food production to private enterprise? 
  5. When will advancing technology make most of us unemployable? What should we do about this?
  6. Should we trust fourteen-year-olds to make decisions about their own bodies? 

Entry Requirements & Submission Guideline

Interested in answering one of those questions? Here’s the requirements for further information: 

Registration for John Locke Essay Competition

Open to high school students worldwide, the essay competition requires participants to register by the deadline to ensure eligibility for submission. Remember, only those who have registered before the registration deadline of Friday, 31 May 2024, can enter this year's competition.


All entries must adhere to specific guidelines, including a submission deadline of 11:59 pm BST on Sunday, 30 June 2024. Participants must be eighteen years old or younger, with a separate category for Junior Prize entrants who must be fourteen years old or younger on the submission date. Essays should focus on one question from the chosen subject category, not exceeding 2000 words, and must follow the prescribed PDF naming format. The document should not contain the candidate's name to maintain anonymity during the assessment.

Late Entries

If you miss the initial deadline, a late entry is possible under two conditions: a late entry fee of $20.00 USD payable within twenty-four hours post-deadline, and the essay must be submitted before 11:59 pm BST on Wednesday, 10 July 2024.


The John Locke Institute employs a proprietary grading system, focusing on the essay's knowledge depth, argumentation quality, originality, and more. Entries will be vetted for authenticity and adherence to competition standards.

Key Dates

Important dates range from the opening of registration on 1 April 2024, through to the submission deadlines and the final awards dinner and academic conference dates in September 2024.


Finalists will be notified by 11:59 pm BST on Wednesday, 31 July 2024. These top contestants will be invited to an exclusive academic conference and awards dinner in London, where the winners will be announced.


Prizes include a $2000 scholarship towards any John Locke Institute program for each category winner and a $10,000 scholarship and Junior Fellowship for the overall best essay. Prize ceremonies in London offer a chance for winners to meet judges and faculty, though attendance is not mandatory for winning.

If you’re interested in this high school essay competition, you can learn more about it here! Interested in writing an essay but not familiar with the basics of essay-writing? We can help you! 

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