High School Essay Contest

The PLATO High School Essay Contest awards will be given to the best philosophical essays written by high school students, in response to the year’s contest essay question.


See below for our 2016-2017 Essay Contest Winners and read their essays!

The 2017 PLATO High School Essay Contest Question is:
How do we define art or determine what things count as art objects?

Download the directions here

Contest Rules:

All high school students in the U.S. are eligible to enter.


The papers are read and judged by a panel of high school philosophy teachers and philosophy professors.


January 31, 2017



  • First place – $250
  • Second place – $150
  • Third place – $100


All winning essays are published in PLATO’s journal
Questions: Philosophy for Young People.


Format Requirements
The first page of the entry should be a cover page that includes a one-paragraph bio, your name, contact information (phone and email), grade and school. The essay should begin on page 2 (please make sure your name is not listed on the pages containing the essay). Your essay should be saved as a word document (.doc or .docx file format)


Essay length
2,000 words maximum

Submission Process:
Please submit the essay after filling out your details in the form below as either a .doc or .docx file.

Provide school website if possible. Please enter full URL (e.g. http://www.your-highschool.com)
Please check all that apply. Your answers will not be provided to reviewers selecting winners.
Please check all that apply.
Please check all that apply.
Your answer will not be given to reviewers who will determine the winners.
Allowed file extensions are doc, docx. Max file size is 16 MB.

2017 High School Essay Contest Directions (CONTEST CLOSED)

Question: How do we define art or determine what things count as art objects?


All winning essays will be published in Questions: Philosophy for Young People, PLATO’s official journal


For more information or questions about the PLATO High School Essay Contest, please email: info@plato-philosophy.org

Past PLATO High School Essay Contest Winners



First place
Keith Murray
Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics & Humanities
Muncie, Indiana
“Art is more than Beauty, it’s a Whetstone”
Second place
Zack Walter
Williamsville High School
Williamsville, Illinois
“Defining a Masterpiece”
Third Place
Tadhg Larabee
Richard Montgomery High School
Rockville, Maryland
“The Anatomy of Artistic Experience”

Read the winning essays

First place
Jack Jordanides
Boston College High School
Boston, MA
“Hidden Animals and Ethical Considerations”
Second place
Grace Passannante
Convent of the Sacred Heart
Greenwich, CT
“Suffering Unites All”
Third Place
Will Youman
Conestoga High School
Berwyn, PA
“Animals: Subordinates or Equals?”

Read the winning essays


First place
Syra Mehdi
Noble and Greenough School
Dedham, MA
“Aristotle’s Theory of Friendship Tested”
Second place
Julia Walton
Academy of Notre Dame du Namur
Villanova, PA
“In the Place Beyond Utility and Pleasure”
Third Place
Brendan Bernicker
Radnor High School
Radnor, PA
“So Tyler, Did Jamie Cheat?”

Read the winning essays



First place
Jared Corbett
Oak Park and River Forest High School
Oak Park, IL
“Probablistic Chains”
Second place
Sydney To
Valley Christian High School
San Jose, CA
“Freedom in Degrees”
Third Place
James Drueckhammer
The Stony Brook School
Stony Brook, NY
“Libertarian Free Will Through Agent Causation”

Read the winning essays