John Templeton Foundation: 25 years of

Student Essay Competition

Prizes for essay submissions focusing on these two Big Questions:

    For college students –

  1. What is the origin of the complexity in the universe?
  2. For high school students –

  3. Are we alone in the universe? Or, are there other life and intelligence beyond the solar system?

Student Essay Competition

Overview  |  Essay Winners  |  College  |  High School  |  FAQ


Is the June 15, 2012, 22:00 UTC deadline to submit an essay application a “postmark” deadline or a “received by” deadline?

Answer: Your Essay as well as your Certification and Release Form must be received by June 15, 2012 at 22:00 UTC via your personal account on the ScholarOne website: Documents are sent electronically through this website only. Essay applications will not be accepted via U.S. or international postal services, nor will they be accepted via e-mail. Any applications received after 22:00 UTC will not be considered, and cannot be appealed.

I am a person with a disability who will need specific accommodations when attending the Awards Ceremony. Who do I contact?

Answer: If you are an individual with a disability and require a reasonable accommodation, please contact Julia Brazas at +1 773 702 1683 (000 1 773 702 1683 for international callers), or by email to, as soon as possible.

Is the prize money taxable income?

Answer: Yes. Prizes will be distributed at full face value for United States citizens and residents. It will be the recipients' responsibility to report this income on their individual U.S. federal income tax returns and pay any applicable taxes. Prizes distributed to non-residents will be subject to a 30% withholding for U.S. federal income tax purposes. The recipient may choose to reclaim some or all of this withholding by filing a U.S. federal income tax return.

Are there examples of past prize-winning essays that I can see?

Answer: No. This is the first time the Essay program has been offered.

Can two or more students submit an essay jointly?

Answer: No. Each essay should be the original work of a single author.

How do I know my essay application is complete?

Answer: There are two (2) documents that you must prepare in advance of submitting your application at the New Frontiers in Astronomy & Cosmology Submission Site:

1. Your Essay: Be sure to follow the content and format instructions provided in the "Essay Competition Invitation" document. You must save your essay as a Word file or as an Adobe PDF file.

2. Certification and Release of Liability Form: This form, which includes instructions at the top of the first page, is available on the project website. Please complete the form with inked signatures, scan it, and save it as an Adobe PDF file.

Applicants who fail to submit one or both required documents will not be considered.

If you are over the age of 22, you have additional requirements (see Eligibility FAQs).

Is there a required format for citing references in my essay?

Answer: There are no specified formatting requirements for citations (e.g. APA, MLA, Chicago, etc). Please use the citation format and style guide that you prefer.

Is there a required template or writing style for writing my essay?

Answer: No template is provided for writing your essay. Although essay style is not specified, the “Essay Competition Invitation” document provides guidelines as well as “Criteria of Merit” (page 8). Download: Essay Competition Invitation


I am not a resident of the United States. Can I still apply?

Answer: Yes. There is no restriction on nationality.

I am a full-time undergraduate student, but I am over the age of 22. Am I eligible to enter the college essay contest?

Answer: Yes, you are eligible. However, you must add a statement in your essay explaining the situation that places you at such an institution.

I am an undergraduate student who is enrolled part-time at a college or university. Am I eligible to enter the college essay contest?

Answer: No, you are not eligible. The Category 2 essay contest is open to any undergraduate student currently registered full-time at a college or university at the time of submission.

I am unsure of how to determine my eligibility status. How do I know if I am eligible to apply, and how do I determine whether I can apply to Category 1 or Category 2?

Answer: Your eligibility is determined by your student status as of March 15, 2012. To be eligible to apply, you must be a full-time student on March 15, 2012, and enrolled in a high school, or a college or university (or its equivalent for international students).

The high school equivalent for international students means that you must be in grades 9-12, or have studied between 9 and 12 years since the start of your first grade, given you have had an uninterrupted education.

The college or university equivalent for international students means that you must be studying in a grade higher than grade 12, or have studied for more than 12 years since your first grade, but not yet received a bachelor's, or your highest undergraduate degree.

If an applicant is over the age of 22, please see the FAQ question addressing age in this section.

ScholarOne - Electronic Submission

I electronically submitted my application through ScholarOne and later realized that my application was incomplete or contained errors. What do I need to do to correct this?

Answer: As long as the correction is made before the deadline (June 15, 2012, 22:00 UTC), you may un-submit your submission and repeat the same application process to submit a revised version of your full proposal. If you need to do this, be sure to do the following: (1) Send us an e-mail to to request that we un-submit your initial application; and (2) Once you have received an e-mail notification that your application has been formally un-submitted, you may repeat the same application process to submit a revised version of your proposal. Also, remember to re-submit all content, including the portions that did not need revisions. This way, the new version will arrive to us in one complete package of finalized materials.

I am having trouble with the ScholarOne Manuscript Central site. Where do I go for help?

Answer: If you are having trouble with the ScholarOne system, please contact, or call ScholarOne Support (Monday 12:00am EST – Friday 8:30pm EST): +1 434 964 4100 or +1 888 503 1050 (U.S.).

Conference of  Award Winners October 12–13, 2012

Fifth Floor Conference Center
222 North 20th Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


UChicago News

Scientists, students receive awards for exploring big questions about universe

By Steve Koppes
October 4, 2012

Instructions & Forms

Essay Competition Invitation

Essay Competition Instructions

Certification and Release Form