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The 2021 Re:think

Essay Competition 

An annual international high school essay competition, judged by leading Cambridge academics.

This year's theme: "The Stories, the Science, and the Significance of COVID-19" 


Submission Deadline: 15 July, 2021

About Re:think

Re:think is an annual interdisciplinary essay competition open to high schoolers around the world, judged by leading Cambridge academics, and sponsored by the Cambridge Center for International Research (CCIR).

The purpose of Re:think is to invite students from different backgrounds to come together to investigate, reflect on, and discuss the most significant issues confronting humanity today. The winners of this competition will be awarded a cash prize of 150 GBP along with scholarships that range from 700GBP - 1000GBP to one of the CCIR Academy programmes. In addition, competition finalists will be invited to an online conference, where they will get the opportunity to discuss their work with leading academics from Cambridge in an intimate setting.


Key Information


  • Re:think is open to all current high school students (graduating years 2021-2024).

  • To participate, students must submit an application and pay a 15 GBP entry fee.*

*The entry fee may be waived for students in need. Please email us at for more information.

Key Dates

  • Registration is rolling until the submission deadline.

  • Submission Deadline: 15th July 2021.

  • The Finalist Shortlist: To be released on 22nd July 2021.

  • The Conference: The weekend of 30th July 2021, where we will announce the overall winners of the competition.

Essay Requirements

  • Word Count: The length of your essay must not exceed 2000 words, not including the references, footnotes, and bibliography.

  • Original Work: While we are happy to consider your own past work, plagiarism of any sort will result in immediate disqualification. All submissions will be run through an online plagiarism checker.


This Year’s Theme:

The Stories,

the Science,

and the Significance of COVID-19

For the 2021 Re:think Essay Competition,  we want to invite you to document, to investigate, and to reflect upon the COVID-19 pandemic.

​COVID-19 pandemic will likely be the single most significant event to affect our generation. Through writing about COVID-19, we hope that you can not only get a chance to think deeply and carefully about the impact of this historical crisis we are in, but moreover, we hope that through writing, you will also discover here a channel of creative catharsis—a chance to put into words, and thus shed light on, this dark moment we find ourselves in. (For more information on this year’s theme, and on the essay categories, please click the link on the bottom left of the page to download the brochure for Re:think 2021.)


Essay Categories

Since the title of this year’s competition is “The Stories, the Science, and the Significance of COVID-19”, we have split up the competition accordingly into three broad categories:

The Stories of COVID-19: Creative Nonfiction

Life during the COVID-19 Pandemic will be remembered for being many things—tragic, lonely, exhausting, strange, but also, at times, inspiring, warm, and even beautiful. For this category, we want to hear your stories—learn about COVID-19 from the perspective of your lived experience, and the lived experiences of those around you.

The Science of COVID-19: Popular Science

Perhaps more than any other historical event, the COVID-19 Pandemic has made clear just how invaluable science is for humanity. As we have learned, however, in many cases, the effective utilization of science is impossible without effective public messaging. So for this essay, we want you to choose one aspect of the science of COVID-19 and to write a popular piece that explains it to the public.

The Significance of COVID-19: Humanities and Social Science

What will COVID-19 mean for humanity, moving forward? For this essay, we want you to explore COVID-19’s implications for the future of politics and society—for race, gender, global justice, climate change, democracy, and beyond. Discuss and reflect on one way in which you think COVID-19 will fundamentally alter the future of humanity.


Our Judges

It is our distinct honour to have three distinguished Cambridge scholars—Dr. Tom McClelland (Cambridge, Philosophy), Dr. Hande Güzel (Cambridge, Sociology), and Dr. Daniele Casesse (Cambridge, Economics)—on our judging panel this year.

Dr Tom McClelland

Dr Tom McClelland is a lecturer in the faculty of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. In his research, Dr. McClelland covers a range of topics in philosophy of mind, the philosophy of artificial intelligence, psychology, metaphysics, aesthetics and the philosophy of business.

Dr. Hande Güzel

Dr. Hande Güzel is a Research Affiliate and Teaching Associate in the faculty of Sociology at the University of Cambridge, where she also received her PhD. In her academic work, Dr. Güzel explores issues including the sociology of gender, the body, health and illness, sexuality, with a regional focus on Turkey and the Middle East.

Dr Daniele Cassese

Dr Daniele Cassese is a lecturer in the faculty of Economics at University of Cambridge. In his research, he focuses on game theory, mathematical modelling, and dynamical processes in networks. More recently, he has been interested in the potential applications of economic and mathematical tools in the domain of public health and epidemiology, and he has explored how these tools can be used to manage and understand COVID-19.


Prizes and Honours

  • For each category, we will select one overall winner and one runner-up. 

  • The overall winner for each category will receive a cash-prize of 150 GBP and a 1000GBP scholarship for a CCIR Academy Programme. 

  • The runner-up for each category will receive a 700GBP scholarship for the CCIR Academy. 

  • All finalists will be invited to a conference where they will get the opportunity to discuss their work with our judges. 

  • All finalists applying to any of our CCIR Academy programmes will be automatically admitted to the programme of their choice.  

  • All finalists will receive a certificate issued by CCIR Academy, signed by CCIR’s director and the competition judges, to certify the student as a CCIR Re:think Scholar. 

  • Finally, with our finalists' permission, we will publish all the winning essays on our website.

How to participate

  1. Complete the Registration Form

  2. Upon completion of the form, you will be directed to the Payment Portal to complete your registration. 

  3. Once your registration is complete, you will receive an email containing detailed submission guidelines and a dropbox link.

  4. Submit your essay via the dropbox link before the deadline on 15th July 2021