The Vellacott History Prize, the Kelvin Science Prize and the Thomas Campion English Prize are open for entries until the end of March.

Carrying out a piece of independent research and presenting your findings to Cambridge academics in an essay gives a small taste of what it is like to study here.

Carrie Boyce, Peterhouse Schools Liaison Officer.

All Year 12 or Lower Sixth students at school in the UK are welcome to apply, while applicants who would like to take part from outside the UK should contact Peterhouse to establish their eligibility.

All three competitions have a top prize of £500 and a second prize of £250. Several further essays will be highly commended.

The competitions are organised by Peterhouse, Cambridge’s oldest College, and offer students the opportunity to consider an unfamiliar topic of their own choice in depth, to carry out their own research on it, and to have their work assessed critically by Cambridge academics.

Mr Scott Mandelbrote, Admissions Tutor for Peterhouse, advises that in order to write an essay that impresses, entrants should:-

  • Think carefully about your choice of question: choose something that you are interested in and that you think you have the skills and resources to investigate further in the time available.
  • Make good use of school and public libraries, rather than relying exclusively on the internet.  When using the internet, if possible consult databases of published and refereed material, such as JSTOR, rather than relying on open websites.
  • Read critically and assess whether your research gives you the basis to take a balanced, informed and critical view.
  • Plan your work carefully and write to the word limit.

In addition to the cash prize, all winners and highly commended entrants are invited to a presentation and celebration lunch at Peterhouse in the summer, where they will have the opportunity to discuss their essays with leading academics.

Last Year's Winners:

  • The Vellacott History Prize 2013 was won by James Wells, from Tonbridge School. James considered whether population growth was the principal cause of economic change in early modern Europe.
  • The Kelvin Science Prize 2013 was won by Alice Rogers, from Maidstone Grammar School. She discussed the quote 'Science is always wrong. It never solves a problem without creating ten more.' (George Bernard Shaw)
  • The Thomas Campion English Prize 2013 was won by Abigail Scruby, from Nonsuch High School for Girls. Her winning essay considered what effects novelists achieve through the manipulation of time and/or point of view.

“Carrying out a piece of independent research and presenting your findings to Cambridge academics in an essay gives a small taste of what it is like to study here,” explains Peterhouse Schools Liaison Officer Carrie Boyce.

“The standard of entries is always high and it is very hard to choose our winners.”

"We hope that schools will make it even harder for us by joining in and encouraging their high-flyers to take part in the competition this year.”

Entries can be submitted until 21 March 2014.

Further details are available online at www.pet.cam.ac.uk/prospective-students/essay-prizes, and from the Admissions Office by email or on 01223 338223


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