Harvard International Review Academic Writing Contest (HIR)


Any nationality, 9th-12th grade

Type(s) of Writing

Academic Research

Related Subject(s)

Agriculture, Business, Cybersecurity, Defense, Education, Employment & Immigration, Energy & Environment, Finance & Economy, Public Health, Science & Technology, Space, Trade and Transportation

Expected # of References


Word Limit



May, August or January 2024-2025


Since 1979, the Harvard International Review has existed to address current, urgent topics with fresh voices. The Harvard International Review Academic Writing Contest invites high school students to weigh in on international affairs, and bring their quality research to topics that receive less attention than they deserve. The Harvard International Review asks students to become more than your traditional journalist; they must bring globally-minded, critically-informed thoughts to their articles, contributing to—rather than simply repeating—the facts at hand. 

Students writing for the Harvard International Review can write articles in categories such as Agriculture, Business, Cybersecurity, Education, Employment, Immigration, Economics, Public Health, Technology—and more. Each year, the contest picks a theme that students can address in an 800 to a 1,200-word article. This is your chance to be a sleuth—to identify a niche international issue that fascinates you, research it, and shed light on the challenges, impact, and benefits at large. Students writing for the Harvard International Review are doing as much research as they are independent thinking; they are learning how to back up their opinions with facts. 

J&B helps students brainstorm, narrow down their focus, and craft an article that contributes to global discourse. By working with J&B’s expert team members, high school students interested in journalism—or those who just want to try out new forms of writing—can find their voice and leave a lasting impact on topics that matter. 


Essay Prompts

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.