START Diversity Essay Contest Details

Eligibility, Criteria, Timeline and other details to submit an entry for the START Essay Contest

Essay Question:

Describe what a society that is equitable and efficient for all would look like. How would this society function in terms of class, politics, social norms, and trade? What would need to happen in our modern society to attain this new society that ensures the inclusion of identity, gender, ability, culture, and different ways of thinking?

Disclaimer:  Please note that the use of plagiarism is a violation of the Smeal Honor Code. Please use your own thoughts and ideas to formulate an effective essay.


You must be a full-time undergraduate student enrolled at any Penn State campus to submit an essay for consideration in the START Essay Contest.


Your submission must meet the following criteria: 

  • Must be a written expression i.e., essay, poem, or story 
  • Cover page MUST include: title of paper, student name, major, semester standing, and Penn State email address 
  • 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced, one-inch margins 
  • Written expressions are to be no longer than 5 pages 
  • No group submissions allowed 
  • Students may only enter the contest one time 
  • Submissions must use a Penn State email address ( In addition, please note how you heard about the START Essay Contest. Otherwise, the submission will not be accepted. 
  • If chosen as a finalist, presentations must last between 4-7 minutes. Winners will be recognized and are required to present their submission at the START Conference on Wednesday, March 27th, 2024
  • Submissions must be submitted to Pauline Hough at by January 16th, 2024 by 5:00pm EST

Criteria for Judging

  • Quality of writing
  • Relevance of topic
  • Creative expression
  • Adherence to guidelines


  • After the submission deadline, the student committee will select a slate of finalists according to the criteria set forth.
  • These finalists will be contacted via email to schedule a time to present their work to the START Conference Committee. The winners will be selected from this round and invited to present at the START Conference. 
  • Contestants will present their submissions after the lunch keynote speaker in random order. They will not be told where they place until all three presentations are completed. At that time, contestants will be presented with their awards.


Members of the START Committee will select the finalists and winners. The Committee includes undergraduate students from first-year to senior standing, many but not all pursuing a major in the Smeal College of Business, in addition to the graduate assistants in the Office of Diversity Enhancement Programs.


  • First place -      $3,500
  • Second place -  $2,500
  • Third place -     $1,500

*Winners will be recognized and are required to present at the START Conference.


Please note that if at any time your scholarships, grants, and other types of student financial aid are in excess of your federally computed “financial need” or your “cost of attendance”, it may be necessary for the Office of Student Aid to make adjustments to your previously awarded aid sources.

In order to receive the scholarship, you must be enrolled as a full-time student in good academic standing at the Pennsylvania State University. If you are planning to be on internship, are registered for less than 12 total credits, or if you are studying abroad through a non-Penn State program, your scholarship funds will be forfeited and awarded to another deserving student. It is your responsibility to notify our office of your change in enrollment.