HIR Academic Writing Contest

Who We Are

The Harvard International Review is a quarterly magazine offering insight on international affairs from the perspectives of scholars, leaders, and policymakers. Since our founding in 1979, we've set out to bridge the worlds of academia and policy through outstanding writing and editorial selection.

The quality of our content is unparalleled. Each issue of the Harvard International Review includes exclusive interviews and editorials by leading international figures along with expert staff analysis of critical international issues. We have featured commentary by 43 Presidents and Prime Ministers, 4 Secretaries-General, 4 Nobel Economics Prize laureates, and 7 Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

The Contest

Inspired by our growing high school readership around the world, we created the Harvard International Review Academic Writing Contest to encourage and highlight outstanding high school writing on topics related to international affairs.

Contest Format

Participants in the contest submit a short-form article on a topic in international affairs. Each submission will be read and graded by the Harvard International Review.

A number of contestants will be selected as finalists, who are invited to participate in a virtual HIR Defense Day. At the Defense Day, students will have to opportunity to give a 15-minute presentation and oral defense to Harvard International Review judges. Students will also be able to attend other special events related to international affairs.

Submission Guidelines

All submissions must adhere to the following requirements, as outlined in the Submission Guide below.

For the upcoming Spring 2024 contest, participants will have a choice of two different themes. Please note which prompt you have chosen at the top of your submission.

Theme A: Inequalities in a VUCA World

Our current world is shaped by an acronym called “VUCA”—Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity—these broader themes exacerbate, contextualize, and underpin a broad array of inequalities. Globally, gross inequalities shape the distribution of resources, including military might, education, wealth, capital, and natural resources. These inequalities persist on different political strata, dividing regions of the world (Global North vs. Global South), countries, or different cities/towns in a particular country. They may also divide people based on personal demographics: gender, race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic class, caste, sexual orientation, etc.

Theme B: Global Challenges and Collective Actions

News cycles are dominated by military conflicts, such as those in Ukraine and Israel/Palestine. However, “global challenges” expands far beyond war to include other, more humanitarian crises: discrimination, famine, natural disasters, disease, climate-related displacement, etc. Examples of collective actions to address this broad array of issues include not only multi-state coalitions (such as UNICEF), but also grassroots activism and national social movements.

Content: Articles should address a topic related to international affairs today. Potential categories include (but are not limited to): Agriculture, Business, Cybersecurity, Defense, Education, Employment & Immigration, Energy & Environment, Finance & Economy, Public Health, Science & Technology, Space, Trade, and Transportation

Length: Articles should be at least 800 words but not exceed 1,200 words (not counting diagrams, tables of data, or authorship declaration).

Writing Style: Submissions should present analytically backed perspective on an under-appreciated global topic.  

AI Policy: The usage of ChatGPT is prohibited. Graders will be running all articles through multiple AI checkers, and articles that receive high AI generation scores across multiple checkers will be disqualified.

Excellent contest submissions will aim to present a topic holistically from a balanced perspective. Evidence and nuance are critical. Submissions should be well-researched, well-informed, and formal in style and prose.

The HIR does not accept op-eds, otherwise known as editorials or opinion pieces for its competition. Articles are expected to have a thesis but should not have agenda. Submissions should also not be merely a collection of facts.

As a journalist organization, we ask that submissions follow AP Style's newest edition. We also ask that submissions are culturally sensitive, fact-checked, and respectful.

Examples of pieces that would be considered excellent submissions are below.

The Trade War That No-One Is Talking About
Amid the noise of the United States’ engagement with China, Japan and SouthKorea have recently engaged[https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/12/business/south-korea-japan-trade-war/index.html] in their own trade war. On July 4 of this year, while Americans were celebratingtheir own independence and freedo…
Kashmir: Between a Rock, a Hard Place, and China
With India’s move to repeal Article 370, the historic dispute over land in Jammuand Kashmir has risen to a tipping point. While most of the focus has been onthe potential of military escalation in India and Pakistan, there has beenlittle focus on the third actor that owns a slice of Kashmir: Chin…
Africa’s Growing Scientific Communities: A New Renaissance
Technological change has always been one of the largest dividers betweendeveloped and developing countries. The scientific heavy-hitters havetraditionally included the most economically powerful nations. According to theWorld Bank, every year, the United States, Germany, and Japan all spend upwar…

Citation and Sources: All factual claims must be backed by a citation from a reliable source. All ideas that are not your own must be properly attributed. Citations should be made via hyperlinks. Non-digital sources are welcome but must be cited properly as per AP Style. See the examples above for examples of using hyperlinks for citations.

Contest Dates

There are three distinct submission cycles for the 2024 Contest.

Please note that contestants are requested to register and pay before becoming eligible to submit their articles prior to the submission deadline.  

Admissions are done on a rolling basis! Capacity is limited.

Spring 2024

Submission Deadline: May 31, 2024

HIR Defense Day: June 29, 2024

Summer 2024

Submission Deadline: TBD

HIR Defense Day: TBD

Fall 2024 / Winter 2024/2025

Submission Deadline: TBD

HIR Defense Day: TBD

Contest Prizes

All submissions will receive a letter grade from the Harvard International Review. Contestants that receive a passing grade without qualifying for a HIR Defense Day will receive a Commendation. Finalists will be eligible for the following medals based on their preliminary grade and performance in the HIR Defense Day.

Commendation: HIR Certificate

Bronze Medal: HIR Certificate and name listed on website

Silver Medal: HIR Certificate, name listed on website and 1-year HIR print subscription

Gold Medal: HIR Certificate, name and paper linked on website and 2-year HIR print subscription

All grading and prize decisions are final. The contest will not be able to provide additional detail beyond the grades provided by Harvard graders.

Contest Eligibility:

Submission Fee:

$70 USD

United States

Students are eligible if they are in grades nine through twelve in any of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories, or if they are U.S. citizens/lawful permanent residents attending high school overseas.


Students in countries outside of the United States are also welcome to submit. Submissions are expected to be written in English and with traditional American spelling. For more information on submissions in your country, please contact contest@hir.harvard.edu