Georgia Laws of Life Essay Contest

Contest Timeline


Teacher and Rotarian Workshop Luncheon


Students Write Essays Based on Your Curriculum & Schedule


Schools Submit 8 - 12 Essays per Grade for Judging by 2nd Monday


School Winners Announced

Grand Prize

State Winners Announced


Contest winners read essays and receive checks at Rotary Club recognition events

Teachers Love Laws of Life!


How does the Laws of Life assignment work in the classroom?

The contest operates through a high school’s English or Language Arts department. Registered schools receive a Contest Manual with sample writing prompts, sample rubrics, and sample lesson plans, as well as teacher tips and all necessary forms. However, the contest provides each teacher with maximum flexibility so that he or she can fit the writing assignment into every classroom. For example, the essays can be a graded or an ungraded assignment. Some teachers assign the essay as part of an American or World Literature class, while other teachers make writing a Laws of Life essay the first assignment of a school year so that they can become better acquainted with their students.

Does this meet the state mandated character education requirement?

Yes. An unfunded mandate that all Georgia schools provide character education was created in 1999, with the passage of House Bill 605. The Georgia Laws of Life Essay Contest is a free, easy-to-implement way for high schools to simultaneously meet the mandate and support a strong language arts curriculum.

Does the Contest Meet the Georgia Standards of Excellence?

Absolutely! The essay assignments fit easily into the Writing Standards included in the Georgia Standards of Excellence (GSE) English Language Arts (ELA) Writing for grades nine through 12 and allows schools to effectively implement them. The contest meets several writing standards, including:

  • W1: Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive evidence.
  • W2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  • W3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
  • W4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • W5: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.
  • W10: Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
  • SL1: Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners, topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • SL3: Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, emphases, and tone used.

Is the contest endorsed by any professional organizations?

Yes. The Laws of Life Essay Contest has been endorsed by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National School Boards Association, and the Georgia Department of Education.

What is unique about this writing contest?

The Laws of Life Essay Contest invites young people to reflect on and express in their own words the ideals and principles that guide them. The contest requires students to identify their personal values through a challenging and engaging writing activity. Unlike other writing contests, judging focuses more on the thought processes and self-awareness of the writer and less on grammatical ability. The contest allows students of all academic abilities — straight-A students, C-students, special need students, at-risk students and campus leaders — to receive recognition for their essays, something that is not possible in typical essay contests.

Is there a cost to participate in the program?

No, there is no cost to a school to participate. The contest is made possible by generous funding from Rotary Clubs of Georgia, the John Templeton Foundation, and other corporate and individual sponsors.

Are there student awards and participation requirements for awards?

Georgia Laws of Life presents approximately $20,000 a year in student awards and teacher honoraria. The number of school-level student awards depends on a school’s size and the number of students who write a Laws of Life essay. School size & school enrollment are based on grades 9 – 12.

Large Schools with >400 Students
If >400 essays are written schoolwide:

  • For each grade that writes essays, a $50 Grade Winner cash prize will be awarded.
  • One School Winner from among the Grade Winners receives an additional $50, for a total award of $100.

If <400 essays are written schoolwide:

  • If 100+ essays are written for a grade, a $50 Grade Winner cash prize will be awarded.
  • One School Winner from among the Grade Winners receives an additional $50, for a total award of $100.

Medium school with 200 to 399 students

  • If essays are written by at least 80 percent of the grade’s total enrollment, a $50 Grade Winner cash prize will be awarded.
  • If essays are written by at least 80 percent of the school’s total enrollment (grades 9-12), a $100 School Winner cash prize will be awarded.

Small Schools with Less Than 200 Students

  • One $100 School Winner cash prize will be awarded if essays are written by 80 percent of the grades 9 – 12 enrollment.

All School Winners are eligible for State Winner awards consideration.
Additionally among all registered schools, up to four students at each grade level may be recognized as Honorable Mention essays. No cash prizes are awarded for Honorable Mention essays.

Do high performing teachers receive recognition?

Each School Contest Chair who generates essays from at least 25% of his or her school’s enrollment (if the school enrollment is less than 400 students 80% participation is required) receives a $100 honorarium. (There is one designated contest chair per school.) In addition, the English teachers of the State Winner and both Honorary Award student winners receive a $100 honorarium.