Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What topics can students write about?

A. Essays are required to fall under ONE of the four categories of Challenges. Please review the information and examples in the Choose Your Challenge section.

The fourth category of "Together, we can be innovative anywhere" opens up the possibility for students to write about any area of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) that they choose. However, we encourage students to approach any essay with a focus on improvements and positive changes for our world, rather than a straightfoward informative report.

Q. What are the rules of the competition?

A. Please see our Official Rules for details. We also offer additional writing guidelines in the Students section that may be helpful for you and your students to review.

Q. Is still possible to submit my essay through the mail?

A. No. Due to the high volume of essays submitted, all essays must be submitted electronically using the Official Entry Form.

Q. What is the deadline for essay submission?

A. All entries must be submitted using the Official Entry Form by Friday, February 7, 2014.

Q. What are the most common reasons why students' essays are disqualified?

A. A large number of student essays are disqualified for overlooking the following basic competition rules:

  • The student's name cannot appear on the essay.
  • The student must include a word count (not including the bibliography) at the end of the essay.
  • The essay must have a clear connection to science and/or technology.
  • Students may not submit essays below 700 words or above 1000 words.
  • In addition to writing about a noteworthy science and/or technology development, students should write their essays with care observing the standard rules of grammar and mechanics. We very strongly encourage students to proofread their work a few times before submission.

Q. May I submit more than one essay?

A. No, only one essay may be submitted per student.

Q. Will I get a confirmation that my essay has been received?

A. As soon as you finish submitting your essay and bibliography, a Certificate of Participation will appear in your browser window. Your essay title and personal entry code number will be listed here, and you will be given the option of printing it out.

Q. May non-U.S. students in other countries submit essays?

A. Only students from the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, and Guam are able to submit essays.

Q. Can I submit a science report as my essay?

A. No, we make an important distinction between these two writing approaches for the purpose of this competition. Reports and essays are two very different things:

  • A report's purpose is to provide information. An effective report is clearly written and well organized, and it tells readers things that they did not know before about a topic that is worth knowing more about.
  • An essay also provides information—but it does more. An essay not only gives facts about its subject but shows its writer’s enthusiasm for and intellectual involvement with that subject. In an essay, unlike a report, the writer lets his or her personality come through.

See our Research and Writing Tips for more information.

Q. What reference tools for writing would you recommend?

A. It’s a good idea to first discuss this with your science and/or English teacher. One comprehensive resource on grammar and mechanics that has stood the test of time is Strunk & White's Elements of Style. (As Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has stated, "For writers of all kinds and sizes the world begins and ends with Strunk and White's Elements of Style.")

The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook is another reliable resource that offers guidelines on specific style and usage.

For documenting sources in your bibliography, we recommend that you follow the MLA Guidelines, which can be found through an online search.

Q. Can students who attend Department of Defense schools enter The DuPont Challenge?

A. Yes, students at Department of Defense schools may enter following the same official rules and guidelines. On the Official Entry Form, military addresses should be entered as follows:

  • City field: Type in "APO," "FPO," or "DPO"
  • State/Province field: Choose the two-letter region code from the drop-down menu; either "AA (armed forces)," "AE (armed forces)," or "AP (armed forces)"
  • Zip/Postal Code: Type in the 6- or 9-digit ZIP code

How Essays Are Judged
Official Rules