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Penn State University Libraries

About Elisabeth S. Blissell Library

This I Believe Essay Contest

Insightful. Inspiring. What do you believe?

This I Believe Essay Contest Winners

1st Place -- Erin Bruce   Lunchtime Blues

2nd Place -- Amanda Mazzei   Taking a Break

3rd Place -- Jonathan McCabe    The Unknown Battles

Thank you to everyone who contributed an essay!


In conjunction with the First Year Summer Reading Program, for which all entering students were asked to read This I Believe: Life Lessons, we are sponsoring a This I Believe essay contest this fall. The contest is open to all students.

What is a This I Believe Essay?

A short (350-500) word statement of the belief that is most important to your worldview. 

What are the prizes?

1st Place: $100 gift card to the bookstore
2nd Place: $50 gift card to the bookstore
3rd Place: $25 gift card to the bookstore

Who will decide on the winners?

A committee made up of Jennifer Gilley (Head Librarian), Lois Rubin (English Faculty), and Laurie Durzo (English Faculty). 

How do I submit my essay?

Email to Jennifer Gilley at by September 30th, 2014

Guidelines for Writing Your Essay:

Tell a story: Be specific. Take your belief out of the ether and ground  it in the events of your life. Your story need not be heart-warming or gut-wrenching—it can even be funny—but it should be real. Consider moments when your belief was formed, tested, or changed. Make sure your story ties to the essence of your daily life philosophy and to the shaping of your beliefs.

Be brief: Your statement should be between 350 and 500 words. The shorter length forces you to focus on the belief that is central to your life.

Name your belief: If you can’t name it in a sentence or two, your essay might not be about belief. Rather than writing a list, consider  focusing on one core belief.

Be positive: Say what you do believe, not what you don’t believe. Avoid statements of religious dogma, preaching, or editorializing. 

Be personal: Make your essay about you; speak in the first person. Try reading your essay aloud to yourself several times, and each time edit it and simplify it until you find the words, tone, and story that truly echo your belief and the way you speak.


For example essays and more information about the This I Believe organization, go to