Virtual Mentor Essay Contest House

One seemingly unstoppable real estate trend this year has been the write-an-essay-win-a-housecontest, in which homeowners who want to sell their properties in a quicker, more meaningful, or potentially more profitable transaction "gifts" the house to the winning essay writer while recouping costs by amassing entry fees (typically $100 to $200.) As it turns out, this is far from a new scheme. In fact, the folks who offered to give away their historic Maine inn last spring
—a headlining-making event that seemed to have spurred a string of similar contests in recent months—actually acquired the property through an essay contest to begin with, way back in 1993. It's just that the Internet and social media in particular make it easier for these endeavors to go viral and, more importantly, draw enough entries (and accompanying fees) to make it all worthwhile.

As detailed in a new story on The New York Times, however, these contests are not entirely as twee and feel-good as they appear on Facebook feeds. So you want to run or enter a win-a-house essay contest? You'd better read this.

1. First, the math—The Maine inn contest managed to draw over 7,000 entries, which translated into more than $906,000—or just about the property's estimated value. But according to the Times, many similar contests haven't been so successful. Without enough entries to recover costs, owners are often forced to terminate the contests and begin refunding entry fees. Oof.

2. It's not all warm-fuzzies—After the winner of the Maine inn was announced this past June, a Facebook group was created to unite people who thought the contest was rigged. "Fifteen complaints were lodged with the Maine attorney general's office, which led to an inquiry by the State Police," the Timesreports. (The State Police ultimately ruled everything lawful.) And a caveat for any potential contest winners: beware of sore losers. The lucky guy who now runs the Maine inn says losing contestants keep leaving one-star reviews of the place on TripAdvisor and paying him "nasty visits and phones calls."

3. In fact it's more like a part-time job—To avoid the kind of controversy seen in the Maine inn contest, a Virginian couple running a competition for their 35-acre horse farm has gone all out to ensure the process is completely legitimate. These measures include: hiring a trustee to accept entries and remove identifying details, establishing a panel of anonymous judges to make a final decision from 25 finalists chosen by the couple, and setting up a Facebook page that details all the rules for potential contestants. The couple reportedly spendsfour hours a day reading essay entries and explaining rules to possible entrants.

4. Beware, unexpected visitors—A Houston-based realtor who tried a win-a-house essay contest had this to say to the Times: "There were always people walking around and driving by slowly. If someone else does it, I would suggest maybe not living in the place."

5. There's a site for all this—Carolyn Berry, who's behind the Virginia horse farm contest, is chronicling win-a-house contests popping up across the country on this Facebook page; inevitably, she also updates when a contest has been canceled due to insufficient entries.

Do check out the full story on the New York Times.

∙ All House of the Day posts [Curbed]
∙ Write a 200-Word Essay, Win a Historic Inn in Maine [Curbed]
∙ Oh Great, Another of Those Write-an-Essay-to-Win-a-House Contests [Curbed]

​Looking for a way to challenge your skills, inspire growth in yourself, and motivation to try your hardest? Check out this list of 50 competitions that might help you do just that!

Academic

  • National Economics Challenge - While not available in all states, EconChallenge is an online competition for high school students. Winning teams can eventually compete at the national level.
  • LifeSmarts - Run by the National Consumers League, LifeSmarts competitions encourage high schoolers to learn more about the issues faced by consumers today.
  • MIT Inspire - MIT Inspire is the nation's first comprehensive research competition in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. High school students in the US can apply.
  • National Geographic Bee - This competition held by National Geographic encourages students to learn more about geography.
  • National High School Mock Trial Championship - Initiated in Iowa, this championship allows high school students to achieve a greater understanding through competition and education.
  • Kids Philosophy Slam - The Philosophy Slam tests kids' critical thinking skills. Winners can earn the title of "The Most Philosophical Student in America".
  • National History Day Competition - The National History Day program is a year-long education program that culminates in a national contest every June.
  • University Interscholastic League - UIL offers academic competitions in several areas such as Journalism, Speech & Debate, STEM Activities, and Theatre & Film.
  • American Model United Nations International - Model UN strives to create a realistic simulation of a United Nations conference, allowing students to practice diplomacy.

ART and MUSIC 

  • National YoungArts Foundation - Talented individuals age 15-18 who get accepted to the competition participate in week long intensives in their discipline. During these intensives, students are judged and have a chance to win up to $10,000 in cash rewards and are eligible for a nomination as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the arts.
  • Doodle 4 Google - Submit a design to Google for a chance to have your artwork appear on millions of computer screens as the Google Logo.
  • Vans Custom Culture - In this competition, Vans encourages high schools to come together to submit a custom design based around a specific theme. The winning high school will receive $50,000 towards their school's art program.
  • Congressional Art Competition - This competition sponsored by the Congressional Institute recognizes high school students' artistic talents. Winning artwork is displayed in the White House for one year.
  • National Geographic Student Photo Competition - Talented photography students grades 9-12 can submit their photos that capture the student's sense of exploration and adventure.
  • International Children's Painting Competition on the Environment - An annual international competition held by the UN Environment program for kids aged 5-13. It focuses on environmental awareness and global peace.
  • The Lynn Freeman Olson Competition - This competition sponsored by the National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC) provides monetary awards to students of various ages who enter their composition.
  • Stillman Kelley/Thelma Byrum Awards - This instrumental competition, also sponsored by NFMC honors talented musicians under the age of 19.
  • MTNA Student Competitions - The Music Teachers National Association holds 5 annual competitions in which students compete at state, division, and national levels for merit based awards.
  • American Protege - Singers of all ages can compete in an American Protege competition which has categories for vocalities, string instrumentalists and more.
  • NATS Singing Competition - The National Association of Teachers of Singing holds a series of competitions to showcase young, talented, singers.

Physical Activity

  • Dance Masters of America - Members of Dance Masters of America can compete in various categories and several types of dance media.
  • NASKA - Members of the National American Sport Karate Association can compete in competitions in their division.
  • Ski Team - You can find a ski team near you to participate in statewide and nationwide ski and snowboarding competitions.
  • UCA Cheer - The Universal Cheerleaders Association holds camps and competitions around the nation.
  • Jiu-Jitsu - Interested in competing in Jiu-Jitsu? The North American Jiu-Jitsu Federation has all the information about training and competitions.
  • Figure Skating - The US Figure Skating Association has information regarding state Elementary, Middle and High School figure skating competitions that can eventually lead to National or even International competitions.

STEM Competitions

  • Society for the Science and Public Science Fairs - Win a SSP affiliated science fair and get an automatic nomination to the Broadcom MASTERS (grades 6-8) or ISEF (grades 9-12) competitions.
  • AEOP - The Army Education Outreach Program provides both students and teachers a collaborative, cohesive, portfolio of Army-sponsored STEM programs that effectively engage, inspire, and attract the next generation of STEM talent through K through college programs and expose them to DoD STEM careers.
  • Google Science Fair - This is a science and technology competition for anyone, team or individual, around the world ages 13-18. Participants are rewarded for being creative, inspiring, and designing projects that will make an impact on local or global communities.
  • STEM Video Game Challenge - This competition aims to encourage critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and communication in Middle School and High School students by challenging them to create an original video game.
  • Stockholm Junior Water Prize - The Water Environment Federation has created a competition for students in grades 9-12 who have conducted a water-science research project.
  • FIRST Lego League - FLL aims to create future problem-solvers by asking students to apply STEM concepts to real-world problems. The presentation of the project also challenges the students' communication and creativity.
  • Technology Student Association - The TSA believes in the need for a technology literate society. Middle School and High School students can create a variety of projects applicable to agriculture, web design, and many other fields.
  • Verizon App Challenge - In this competition, Verizon Innovative Learning invites 6-12th graders to create a mobile app that will solve a problem in their community.
  • Mathcounts - MATHCOUNTS enables middle school students of all abilities to gain confidence in their math ability. Not only can students participate in one of their competitions, but members can also enter their own teaching videos into a video challenge.
  • Science Bee - The National Science Bee takes place during the Academic Bee and Bowl. Students K-8 are asked to answer a set of 35 science related questions ranging from biology to the history of science.
  • FIRST Robotics - FIRST Robotics competitions allow members to embrace their competitive side. Under the supervision of a mentor, students build robots to play a field-game against other competitors.
  • Math Bee - The National Math Bee is an online math competition for children in grades 1-6, allowing them to hone their math skills. After succeeding in the classroom, school wide, district and state competitions, students compete in the National Math Bee Championship.
  • Caribou Mathematics Competition - There are six online competitions held throughout the year offered for students in grades 3-12. 
  • CleanTech - CleanTech asks students to use STEM concepts in order to research and design a product that will deal with an environmentally related issue.

Volunteering

  • Destination Imagination - Students form teams of up to 7 and design and carry out a project that will help their community. This organization also provides Fine Arts and STEM challenges.
  • President's National Service Award - The President's National Service Award encourages people of all ages to volunteer. By volunteering at a Certifying Organization for the required number of hours, you will be recognized the this award.
  • National Student Volunteer Award - Volunteering students are rewarded for their dedication, leadership, innovation, and impact they have made on their community. Your school needs to apply for this award.
  • Governor's Volunteer Award - Governor's Volunteer Awards are meant to recognize accomplished volunteers in an individual state, and therefore vary based on where you live.
  • C-Span's Student Cam - Students in grades 6-12 can submit a short documentary about topics that affect our communities and nation.

Writing

  • Anne Frank Essay Contest - Sponsored by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, students in grades 5-8 can submit an essay for the chance to win three round trip tickets to visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
  • Americanism Essay Contest - Open for students grades 7-12, students are awarded a monetary prize and plaque for the winning essay.
  • Ayn Rand Institute Contest - This contest is open to students grade 8-12 and offers cash prizes for the top Ayn Rand-themed essays.
  • Creative Communication Poetry Contest - Open for students of all ages, this contest aims to highlight the work of talented writers by publishing the winners in a book.
  • National High School Essay Contest - This contest sponsored by the U.S. Foreign Service, gives high school students important international topics to think and write about.

This list covers only a small number of the many competitions out there, but hopefully it opens your eyes to the many types of contests out there!​

** We just added 40 More Competitions Every Student Needs to Know About​

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