"Winning is not the important thing. It is the only thing." — Vince Lombardi

"He that lives on hope will die fasting." — Benjamin Franklin

Congratulations, 2013 Essay Contest Winners

  • First Place: Martijn Appelo, Allendale Columbia School (essay)
  • Second Place: Maria Geba, Our Lady of Mercy High School (essay)
  • Second Place: Lizzie Stewart, Penfield High School (essay)
  • Third Place: Nasiba Aliyeva, Our Lady of Mercy High School (essay)
  • Third Place: Alice Longenbach, Brighton High School (essay)
  • Third Place: Gabriella Longmore, Webster Thomas High School (essay)

Essay Contest 2012-2013

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This year's 1st place winner is Martijn Appelo from Allendale Columbia School. He will receive $100 and the plaque to display at the school.

The two 2nd place winners are from Our Lady of Mercy and Penfield High School. They will each receive $50. The three 3rd place winners are also from Our Lady of Mercy, Brighton and Webster Thomas High School. They will each receive a certificate.

Congratulations to all of our winners!

The competition is open to all eleventh grade high school students in the greater Rochester area. We hope that participating in the contest will help develop your critical thinking and writing skills. In particular, our recent experience demonstrates these skills are critical to success in your college application essay next fall, as well as for your Regents English exam later this spring.

The Cornell Club of Rochester offers the prize; winning or placing favorably in the essay contest in no way implies a favorable admission decision by any of Cornell's seven undergraduate colleges. But we also know from the past years of the competition that most essayists designated as semi-finalists or higher have been accepted to at least one highly selective college!


One of the most important skills that you will continue to develop during the balance of your high school years and in college is the ability to thoughtfully evaluate opposing viewpoints — in other words, to think critically. This skill is important not only for students and scholars, but also for nearly every occupation you might choose, as well as for your personal mental growth and maturity.

The Rules

  1. Select one of the 7 quotation pairs listed below. Here's a hint to keep you on a successful track: Before you start to draft your essay, go over all of the quotations. Think about them. Try to come up with a word or phrase that captures the essence of each pair of quotations.
  2. Pick one of the quotes in the pair you selected and write an essay of no more than 1000 words that supports that quote or demonstrates the relevance of the quote to life.
  3. There are no limits to the range of your responses, but they should imaginatively reflect not only your own experiences (from school, people you've met, extracurricular achievements or failures, jobs, travel, family dinner discussions, etc.) but also insights you've gained from books, movies, songs, etc. Your essay should give the reader a sense of who you are and why you believe the quote is true. Refer to the grading rubric to see the criteria for judging essays.
  4. Then, on a separate page of the same document, use the opposing quotation and outline a half-dozen or so key points to rebut the case you have just made in your essay. This should take no more than a page.
  5. Finally, on a separate page at the end of the same document include:
    1. Your name
    2. Your parents’ or guardians’ names
    3. Your home address, telephone number, and email address where we can contact you
    4. The name of your school
    5. The name of your English teacher with his/her school phone number and email address

  6. Please do not include any identifying information (your name, your teacher's name, etc.) anywhere on the essay and rebuttal pages. This includes the header you use for AP English, your name at the top of the page, and your name within the body of the essay..
  7. All entries must be in Microsoft Word (.docx, .doc, .rtf or .wps) format or text (.txt) format. Please do not submit entries in .odt or .pages format or pasted directly into the body of your email message.
  8. Please double-space your essay and please use 1" margins and 100% magnification.
  9. Submit your essay as a single email attachment to the following email address: CornellEssayContest@gmail.com
  10. All entries must be e-marked no later than January 31, 2013.
  11. Due to the large volume of essays we receive, we cannot send emails confirming receipt of individual essays.

Quotation Pairs

  1. "This country was settled and built by those seeking to be a part of it, and not apart from it." (Robert Bartley editorial, The Wall Street Journal

    "Let us celebrate the multicultural differences that made America great." (Bill Clinton)
  2. "We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal..." (Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence)
    "There ought to be inequality of condition in the world. For without inequality, there is no class; without class, no manners and no beauty; and then people sink into public and private ugliness." (Russell Kirk)
  3. "The middle of the road is all the usable surface. The extremes, left and right, are in the gutters." (Dwight D. Eisenhower)
    "The hottest place in hell is for those who remain neutral in times of moral crises." (Dante)

  4. "Money is life to us wretched mortals." (Hesiod, 8th century BC)
    "Money buys everything except love, freedom, immortality, silence and peace." (Carl Sandburg, 1952)

  5. "Unlike other conflicts, World War II was the good war: it was a victorious struggle over quintessential evil." (Studs Terkel, The Good War)
    "There was never a good war, or a bad peace." (Benjamin Franklin)

  6. "What is past is prologue." (William Shakespeare, The Tempest)
    "We must disenthrall ourselves from the past. Otherwise it becomes a barrier to progress." (Abraham Lincoln)

  7. "People have to believe in their capacity to act and bring about a good result. Leaders must help them keep that enlivening belief." (John W. Gardner, The Tasks of Leadership)
    "The best leader is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it." (Theodore Roosevelt, 1907)


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