What's New?

Check back soon for announcements about the 2015 contests 


Email lawsoflife@centerforcharacterethics.org

Frequently Asked Questions

The questions most often asked by teachers and contest sponsors

What Teachers Say
About the Contest

“The Laws of Life Essay Contest helped my students with their writing skills...”

Sample Essays

Read and be inspired by the winning essays from past years

Other Laws of Life resources:

Follow us on
Templeton Foundation Laws of Life
Character Counts! Foundations for Life

Ohio Statewide
BBB Laws of Life
Essay Contest

The Ohio Statewide Laws of Life Essay Contest is a competition for winners of local Laws of Life, Foundations for Life, or other character-related essay contests. Ohio Partners in Character Education sponsors the Statewide Contest to recognize the achievements of these exceptional youth who participate in local contests and to encourage schools and communities in Ohio to engage in this enriching and valuable experience.

Entries for the 2014 Essay contest are due:

FEBRUARY 7, 2014

Frequently Asked Questions:

Eligibility for entering
What grade levels can participate?
What is the essay topic and length?
How many entries may be submitted?
Download contest forms
What are the judging criteria?
What awards are given?
Submitting entries by mail
When are entries due?

Eligibility for Entering

Any Ohio school or youth services/community organization that conducts a Laws of Life, Foundations for Life, or other character-related essay contest may submit their best essays to the statewide contest. Only essays that have been selected as a top essay may be submitted to the Statewide Contest.

What grade levels are included?

There are two judging divisions-one for middle school (grades 6-8) and one for high school (grades 9-12).

What is the essay topic and is there a maximum length?

There is no specific essay prompt; essays should follow either the Laws of Life essay contest recommendations or use a "maxim" or quotation as in the Foundations for Life essay contest. You can also use the UncommonSense™ themes. See the new award for a special essay theme suggestion below.

Essays should be no more than 3 typed, double spaced pages. Finalists will be asked to submit an electronic version of their essays, so contest coordinators are encouraged to ask for electronic files from their winners also.

How many entries can each local contest submit to the statewide contest?

In each division, the number of entries is determined by the number of essays written in that division in the local contest, according to the following table:

# of essays written # entries*
1-25 1
26-75 2
76-100 3
101-499 5
500+ 6

*See below for opportunity to submit an additional entry

Timeline and contest award ceremony

All entries must be submitted online or postmarked no later than February 7, 2014. Finalists will be notified in March 2014. Each student finalist, their parents, teacher and the local contest coordinator will be invited to attend the Laws of Life Awards Banquet on May 1, 2014 in Columbus at which time the awards will be announced. Authors of the first place winning essays for middle and high school will be asked to read their essays at the ceremony. Finalists will be notified of this possibility so they can be prepared.

Judging criteria

Only essays that have won a local contest, either Laws of Life, Foundations for Life, or another character-related essay contest may be submitted for judging. Essays will be judged primarily on their content-whether they are positive and life-affirming, include a "law of life" that the author believes will make the world a better place, capture a value or ideal in a special way, or explain and relate a quote or "Timeless Truth" effectively. Some importance to presentation and the mechanics of writing will be considered in judging to the extent that the ideas put forth by the author are clearly understood. In cases where the content is judged as having equal merit, the essay which is better written or presented will be given a higher score. Before submitting essays, local contest coordinators should assure that students have proofed and typed their essays.
Click here for a sample scoring rubric.


Cash prizes will be awarded in both the middle and high school categories. Amounts are indicated below. All student finalists will receive recognition in the banquet program as well as a certificate of recognition signed by the Governor. Teachers and the local contest coordinator will also receive cash awards.

High School

Level Best
Best Male
& Female
Student $500 $200 $150 $100 $50
Teacher* $75 $50 $25 $25 $25
Local Coordinator* $100 $50 $50 $50 $50

Middle School

Level Best
Best Male
& Female
Student $200 $150 $100 $75 $25
Teacher* $50 $50 $25 $25 $25
Local Coordinator* $75 $50 $50 $50 $50

*maximum award $150

Theme Award for 2014

The special theme for 2014 is RESPONSIBILITY. One middle school and one high school essay will be awarded $100 each for the best essay on the theme of RESPONSIBILITY. This does not mean that all essays must be on that topic, but if students choose to write on the topic of RESPONSIBILITY, the best essay in the local contest may be submitted as an additional entry.

Cover design contest

Each local contest that submits essay entries may submit one entry for a design for the cover of the winning essay booklet that is published each year. The cover entry does not have to be judged locally or the result of a competition. The design should be a graphic representation that depicts a student's "law of life". Entries should be full color, not larger than 8.5 x 11, and "portrait" orientation (no "landscape" designs). The cover design can be submitted on paper, but preferably as a .jpg file (no .pdfs). Include an entry form with the student's entry. The winning student will receive $100 and be invited to the Awards Banquet. More info

Submitting entries by mail

To submit entries by mail

  1. Fill out an entry form for each essay to be submitted (see "How many entries" above), forms can be downloaded from the "Documents" list below.
  2. Obtain the student and parent/guardian signatures.
  3. Paperclip (please no staples) the entry form to 5 (five) copies of each essay - one sided and on white paper only. No names or identifying information should appear on the essays.
  4. Complete a Contest Coordinator Questionnaire and submit with your essays.
  5. Entries must be postmarked by February 7, 2014
  6. Send entries and Contest Coordinator Questionnaire postmarked by February 7, 2014 to:
    Lucy Frontera, Ph.D.
    Ohio Partners in Character Education
    1169 Dublin Rd
    Columbus, OH 43215

For further contest information

Email lucy.frontera@charactereducationohio.org
or call 614-486-6531 x137 with questions or for further information.

Contest Forms

Entry form
Contest Coordinator Questionnaire
2014 brochure
Cover design entry instructions
Common Core Links with writing a Laws of Life Essay
Lesson plan - journaling
Sample quotes
Pre-writing student questionnaire
Writing ideas