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AnthroDay Unessay Competition

Submissions for this year’s contest are now closed. Please check back in January 2024.

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) invites students to participate in the 2023 AnthroDay Unessay Competition. This year’s theme is Transitions, which is also the theme of the 2023 AAA/CASCA Annual Meeting.

When addressing this year’s theme of “transitions” we invite participants to reflect upon what transitions means to them. Some examples include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Transitions between historical time periods, or between stages in human evolution, or between generations of a family
  • Transitions between life stages, such as the beginning of high school
  • Climate change and environmental justice
  • Human mobility and migration
  • Navigating a post-pandemic world
  • Your own experiences with transition, such as moving or changing schools

The contest is open to students in sixth through twelfth grades. Submissions will be judged in two separate grade divisions:

  1. Middle: 6th – 8th grade
  2. High: 9th – 12th grade

One winning piece will be selected from each division and awarded a $50.00 gift card to Additionally, selected pieces will be published in the online edition of Anthropology News, AAA’s award–winning member magazine.

What is an unessay?

Unlike a traditional essay competition, an unessay invites students to choose the format and product they submit. Students are encouraged to think creatively about the topic and respond to the prompt in a way that is meaningful to them.

Examples of unessay submissions include but are not limited to a comic strip, playlist, podcast interview, script for a play, a game, a film clip, a series of photographs, visual artwork, or a magazine-style article.

Students are welcome to submit entries in any format, including ones not listed above, as long as they meet the following criteria.

Submission Criteria

  1. Students must submit an original piece of work that responds to the theme of “transitions”. This theme is open to the student’s interpretation.
  2. Submissions must comply with the following time limits, word counts, and submission formats:
    1. Maximum of 500 words for any text-based responses, such as poetry and essays.
    2. Maximum of 5 minutes for any audio and video submissions, such as podcasts, music, and performances.
    3. All image-based submissions should be submitted as a JPEG file, such as photos of artwork or photography.
  3. All submissions must be submitted electronically by the deadline February 17, 2023. Students under 13 must have a parent / guardian submit their work.

Evaluation Criteria and Notification

The judges will use the following criteria to evaluate the submissions:

  • Connection to the theme – Using the idea of transitions to better understand some aspect of human life.
  • Creativity and originality
  • Fit of chosen medium to communicate the subject matter.
  • Compliance with any time limits, word counts, and file formats.

The winners of the unessay contest will be notified via email by March 17, 2023. Additionally, winners will be announced on the American Anthropological Association’s official social media accounts.