Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What does "first language" mean?
    Your first language is the language you grew up speaking - for example at school or at home.
  2. What is meant by Language of Instruction?
    Language of instruction means the principal language in which most of your primary and secondary school classes were taught.
  3. I grew up speaking two languages and speak them fluently, can I write in one of them if it is an official language of the United Nations?
    One purpose of this contest is to encourage multilingualism and the study of a new language. Therefore, if you grew up speaking one of the official languages of the United Nations (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish) or received your primary or secondary education in one or more of those languages, you cannot write your essay in any of those languages.
  4. I am a graduate student - can I enter the contest?
    Yes, anyone 18 years of age and older by the contest deadline, and currently enrolled full-time in a college or university degree program can enter the contest.
  5. I am a high school student and graduating this year - can I enter the contest?
    Only full-time college or university students, aged 18 years or older at the time of the contest deadline may enter the essay competition.
  6. I am enrolled in a language program at a college but it is not at a degree level - can I apply?
    No, only students enrolled in a full-time college or university degree program are eligible to participate.
  7. Why am I required a sponsor/Faculty/Authorized University Reference?
    One of the requirements of the contest is that your application is supported by a Faculty Member or University Administrator at the institution where you are currently studying. The Institutional Representative is required to attest that you have followed all of the contest rules and that you meet the eligibility requirements. After you write your essay, please share it with your Institutional Representative who should then be able to attest to your work by filling out the Faculty Member/University Administrator Reference Form. We advise that s/he print and sign a copy of the Faculty/University Reference form with the university’s seal as a supporting document and have it ready if needed for further verification.
  8. Who can complete the Faculty or University Reference Form?
    The person providing your reference must be a competent authority from your university or college (e.g. professor, dean of studies or college administrator). The reference should know you well enough to be in a position to attest that: a. you are a full-time student of the institution in good standing, b. your essay is written in a language that is not your first language, nor was it the principal language of instruction during your primary or secondary education. AND c. The reference must also attest that your essay is your original, unaided work.
  9. The link to the Student Entry Form is not working. What do I do?
    If this happens, please clear your browser history and your cache and try again.
  10. How long should my essay be?
    Your essay must be 2,000 words or less
  11. Can I include citations/bibliography as part of my essay? Will they be included in the word limit of 2,000?
    Please add citations and references as appropriate, and to avoid plagiarism. The references, including citations, footnotes, endnotes and bibliography will not count toward the word limit of the essay.
  12. If I win the contest, do I have to pay to visit the US for the Global Youth Forum?
    ELS Educational Services, Inc. (ELS) will pay for each contest winner’s travel, room and meals throughout their participation in the Global Youth Forum and Conference. However, winners are required to pay for the expenses related to their passports and visas. For detailed information on the contest rules, please visit:
  13. If you are experiencing issues loading the form or are having trouble submitting your essay, please try using another browser

If you have any questions not mentioned here, please write us at: