The Dunbar Prize for Writing

When the Dunbar Student Life Prize was originally conceived in the 1920s, it was described as “an annual contest between, and confined to, undergraduates of [Williams] College, based on entries consisting of articles, essays, or editorials … [about] student life in its social, political, educational, or religious aspects.”

Today, the Dunbar Prize for Writing stays true to the original intention of the prize; it is an award designed to encourage the efforts of promising campus writers and recognizes students who have produced significant written work about campus life in its social, political, educational, and/or religious aspects. Candidates for the prize must be currently enrolled Williams students; first-year students, sophomores, juniors, and seniors are eligible.

Submission Criteria:

  • Entries must be on a topic of student life that focuses on any local, national, or global issue affecting college students.
  • Submissions can fall under any genre of writing; the selection committee seeks writing that is exemplary of its specific genre.
  • Entires must be original written work and should not exceed 15 pages.
    • Prose writers may submit one piece (an essay, article, academic paper, short story or other piece of prose); excerpts of longer works are welcome. (Note: as of 2023, students are not able to submit multiple pieces.)
    • Poets may submit up to three poems.
    • If the work is previously published, please provide an accurate citation.
  • Selection is blind; entries should not include the student’s name.

The deadline for submissions is January 15. Award winners will be announced early in the spring semester, and winning entries will be published in a campus-wide magazine before the end of the academic year.

The number and value of the Dunbar Prizes varies annually, depending on the number of competitive submissions and the income generated by the Dunbar Trust. Awards are likely to be between $500 and $2,000. Each winner is expected to send a note of acknowledgment to Bonnie Dunbar, great-granddaughter of James Robert Dunbar and Harriet Walton Dunbar, for whom the award is named.

To submit to the Dunbar Prize for Writing, please complete this form. The deadline is January 15th.